Thursday, November 16, 2006

closing thoughts on open source

We've come full circle and I find myself naturally led to review Christine's comments that were quoted in the second post on this blog.
... what I think is happening is an “open source” movement in public diplomacy – sort of like the open source software movement of the last decade, where developers decided to work together, on the Internet, voluntarily, to improve software (Linux OS resulted from open source software development).

Some things are just too important to leave in the hands of the experts, or the bureaucrats, or certainly the State Department. If, as Clausewitz said, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means…” , then the asymmetric warfare being waged against Western civilization requires a countering asymmetric “politics” – an internet based, “open source” movement committed counter-attack against the internet based jihadist ideologues.

Unlike the current blogosphere, open source was highly disciplined, in a kind of milling-about, “wisdom of crowds” complex system way – they did have a final product they were working towards, and everyone just kept trying to improve it and use it at the same time.
While I don't think Christine specifically meant to contrast open source with 4gw, our conversations have led us to do so, particularly because of the fact that organizational choices have moral and social consequences. Compared to 4gw, open source feels wholesome and clean. Leadership in open source culture is strictly merit based, participation is always self selecting and self directed, and the basic organizational model is "follow me".

An open source political model would necessarily be transparent and, because of that, invite principled behavior among its participants. That's nothing like 4gw which, as we saw, excels to the extent that its participants exploit their host society. That should call to mind a few comparisons between government models. It also illustrates how easy it is to draw the practical distinctions that will keep projects on the better path, even though both styles share a lot of buzzwords like asymmetric, distributed and networked. None of these superficial similarities can make up for the huge differences in the underlying ethos of these two ideas.

Most open source projects never attract participation from anyone beyond the original creator. On the bright side, the effort to work up to public standards is a good excersize and there is always the hope that someone will show up later to extend the work. That's a familiar set of conditions for most academic work, not surprisingly.

In an open source work environment, work tends to speak for itself and people show up to do work rather than talk about it. It's like showing up at the gym instead of, say, a coffee shop. In many publicly viewable projects, you're lucky if you find much more than the code itself and an out of date readme file. In a political context, more chit chat is to be expected, but one can still hope to find more project tables than chat rooms in a community that is aiming to work along open source lines.

This post, low key as it is, wraps up what I'll call chapter 1 of this blog, so I want to finish by reemphasizing the idea that has dominated my thinking about The 910 Group. That idea, and I know I'm beating it to death but repetition is necessary in these things, is that the defenders of a culture inevitably shape that culture. Therefore all the choices that are made and all the habits that are cultivated have consequences beyond the group itself. In the same way that Michel Corleone could not protect his family from violence by embracing violence, The 910 Group can only protect the values of western society by fully embracing those values within itself.


Blogger No Apology said...

Yes, we are the new fighter class, or following an analytical model, a set. The fighters who compose this set are men and women who have already passed through the initial crucible of life to arrive in the company of fighters whose roots extend down deep, past the arid dust of ideologies. Such fighters have the system within themselves to combat evil.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...

I like the way you put that.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Thunder Pig said...

I still think we are 4GW/5GW Warriors using open source tools in our war.
I think perhaps this guy explains it better than I can.

I guess it may be a matter of perspective. I do agree that we are a new warrior class that has evolved, although my ideologies are dearly held, and examined closely for fresh motivation and clarification as my understanding increases.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...


thanks for the link. I was actually more impressed, though, with the contents behind the link at the bottom of that page, the opposite of 4gw where it is argued that the best weapon we have to fight an information war is practicing openness and transparency in ever more radical ways. The example given, a good one, is military blogs, which do more to educate the world about our real intentions in the world than any amount of spinning and message massaging can do.

An amazing idea. In an information war, tell the truth.

I think if you look at 4gw in concrete terms, not just abstractly, you'll find that more often than not it means engaging in practices that undermine your own integrity.

Since in this war, legitimacy is everything - it's the prize both sides fight for a well as the sword used in battle - one should hesitate to squander ones integrity.

Open source tools can give us all the practical abilities we need, including distributed work and implied organizational structures rather than explicit ones, without any of the destructive ideological baggage of 4gw.

But I also do believe that the higher moral standard is the more powerful weapon. Freedom is the ultimate viral agent. Not only do free people not need 4gw, it's a step backwards for them.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...

if any of you would like to engage in a more formal debate on this topic, please write to me at or leave a comment here with contact info so I can reach you.

I'd like to do something like that here, but it will require someone (not me) on both sides of the argument, for and against 4gw.

I'll take extra measures to ensure a good forum for a debate if I can find two people who are up to having one.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Thunder Pig said...

I too, was struck by that article.
Unfortunately, we have an entire political movement that makes it impossible to be completely transparent due to their virtual monopoly on mass communication, and an agenda that prevents the truth from reaching the general public. They give the general public a "false reality" view of whatever they wish. If that isn't 5GW, I don't know what is.
We must use 4GW guerrilla tactics of placing our information in public places (analogous for the placing of ordinance), we must disrupt their information dissemination by providing other places for people to go to get reliable information. We must be able to place videos in the hands of the public, lifting the viel of deception from their eyes, converting them to our world-view once they see the utter duplicitness of the media.
We must point them to websites that are reporting truth, and allowing honest debate on the issues.
I apologize if I have gone off on a rant, Off Topic, and out of bounds.
I think because we are a new fighter class, as no apology says, we are having trouble with definitions as we attempt to identify this emergence.
I also think it is okay if we quibble on a few basic definitions, as long as we all agree that we are fighters, and as such, we will fight to the best of our abilities.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...

feel free to rant.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

It is time then for a statement of ethics - the robust (meaning simple and not fragile and therefore applicable in widely varying conditions) set of expected behaviors - the list of virtues, and in some way, the sense of those crises which will invoke those virtues. Some beginning political experiments, in real-life, are being developed against Islamist groups, possibly in parallel to the thought-experiments of the blogosphere.

I'm all for theory, and the OODA model has always been a good one - still being taught at national defense university and the war colleges - but I believe more strongly in getting out in the field, doing some political action, developing lessons learned and feeding that back into the theoretical system. Cases, cases are what tune any system into focused performance.

About 99.99% of the blogs in this field covering Islamist incursion into the U.S. (think deep OODA) cover just the other side - potentially a kind of obsessive, perseverating, and paralyzing cycle of situational awareness.

I am more interested at this point in what we do in response, knowing that some tactical experiments can be useful inputs to developing long term strategy. Grand strategies interest me less - I prefer spiral, prototyping development of strategy developed from a dialogue between strategic analysis and lots of tactical experiments. I see 910group as a source of those tactical experiments, feeding back into the broader system of many groups across the net performing the strategic analysis.

But if everyone is just blogging and not acting, there's little tactical work developing lessons learned.

So if we can find cases of anti-jihadist 4GW and 5GW (and I still think there's overlap there) and open source/anti-taquiyya actions - news about political actions conducted by our side - perhaps those could be fed back into the strategic discussion here? If the "worst case" of 5GW given in one of the links was to be in the midst of a war and not even know it, perhaps a corollary bad case is to have increasing awareness of threat in a network, but unawareness of those nodes that are fighting back?

2:14 AM  
Blogger Abu Nopal said...

Yes, Christine, I agree with you completely. There's no shortage of blogs devoted to situational awareness, as you call it, and I run this blog specifically to cover the home team effort.

If you want to bring case studies here for analysis - anything like that - its a perfect use of this blog.

Were you going to make a statement of ethics? You opened with that idea, but I don't see it.

I'm very much looking forward to the new portal. If the hopes I've expressed in this article are fulfilled, that it will have more project tables than chat rooms and encourage individual unguided initiative, I hope to both use it and tie the discussions here to the projects that unfold in that space. I strongly believe in a workshop environment directly mirroring what one finds at sourceforge. Provide an umbrella space to let people start as many projects as they wish and let natural selection determine which ones grow to maturity.

FWIW I haven't found this abstract discussion to be at all useless. Maybe it's just a difference in temperament. I like dealing with abstractions.

I've come away with the following conclusions:

1) 4GW is their forte, not ours, and is a natural expression of anti-state ideology.

2) 5GW is almost certainly misunderstood. Because 4GW effectively terminates the series of GW (where each G is an expression of state power until 4GW is finally a challenge to the state itself, the idea of a linear series of the OODA variety is necessarily wrong. Behavior series are never linear in that way in any case.

5GW will be a response to 4GW. Rather, there will be many responses to 4GW, but the one that works will be called 5GW. It's methods, so far, appear to include financial siege (apparently effective against Hamas) and the political isolation of abettor states. Interestingly, the Iraq Study Group (Baker commission) seems bent on taking those tools away.

But the total scope of what makes up 5GW is going to be determined by the outcomes of your experiments, among other things, so predictions are hard to make. I plan to have a lot more to say about it.

8:46 AM  

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