Standing orders for insurgencies

John Robb at Global Guerrillas has a comprehensive series on what modern insurgencies need to do to be successful. If some of them sound like what the open source software movement does, well, that’s precisely his point. He calls such insurgencies “open source warfare.”

  • break networks
  • grow black economies
  • virtualize your organization
  • repetition is more important than scale
  • coopetition not competition
  • don’t fork the insurgency
  • minimalist rule sets work best
  • self-replicate
  • share or copy everything that works
  • release often and early
  • co-opt, don’t own, basic services

Go to the GG home page and start reading. He plans to have them in PDF form soon.


  1. Interesting. When I compare this list with the tactics of the LTTE, one of the first and (until recently) most successful post-modern insurgencies, I note some differences. LTTE never virtualized, they eliminated (not cooperated with) other groups, and they definitely had a strong central command with very firm rules. But in the end, it was breaking that last rule that (apparently) brought them down: they set themselves up as a state. Ironic that the nominal realization of their goal opened them up for eventual defeat.

    This suggests a hypothesis: 4GW insurgencies are useful for destroying what is, but less useful for creating something new. The very strengths that give them advantage aginst the State prevent them from achieving constructive goals.

    • 4GW insurgencies don’t really want to destroy the state, just weaken it so they can function, thrive, and be a major player in it, I think.

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