January 23, 2006
|Economic Warfare By Targeting Systems Infrastructure||War and Peace|
More from John Robb. Iraq is teaching global guerrillas that the West's Achilles heel is systems disruption via targeted attacks against economically-important infrastructure. Robb:
Recent information indicates that the concept [of attacking the West by attacking economically-important infrastructure] has become the topic of widespread discussion among members of Jihadi forums. On these forums there is a growing realization that the only way to damage the West strategically (without a nuclear weapon) is through the destruction of critical global economic networks. Stephen Ulph of Jamestown summarizes recent activity on these forums. His group found detailed documents that provide explicit instructions on facilities and pipelines that are termed global "economic joints". For example, one set of instructions provided data on the Alaskan oil distribution infrastructure and recommendations for maximizing the value of the attack.
While this effort is still in its adolescence, Ulph has detected signs of the type of collaborative open source development we have seen among guerrilla groups in Iraq. If so, it will advance to maturity rapidly. As that happens, be prepared to see a growing emphasis on the selection of targets...that cause cascading system failures...
NOTE: It's important to remember that in this epochal war, the guerrillas don't need to achieve either an absolute moral or economic victory. All that is needed in this hyper-competitive globalized economic environment is an effort that damages the ability of the target state to compete — Adam Smith's invisible hand will quickly take care of the rest. [Emphasis added]
The most developed countries are the most vulnerable to this kind of attack, given their dependence on complex, tightly-coupled systems/networks. And given the enormous number of possible targets, defense is going to be very, very difficult.