James's Reviews > Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization

Brave New War by John   Robb
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Nov 13, 10

bookshelves: culture-and-politics, economics, history, military, general-science-math-technology, regional
Recommended for: Everyone interested in security and social issues
Read in August, 2008

90% outstanding and 10% really coming up short... I'd have given this 5 stars if the author, John Robb, had done as good a job in the last section as in the rest.
He did a superb job analyzing the flaws in conventional military thought, and in the current administration's strategy or lack thereof, when it comes to dealing with Al Qaeda, Iraq, and modern guerrilla and terrorist movements in general. A lot of the content of this book is in line with General Rupert Smith's thinking in The Utility of Force, which has earned the respectful attention of military professionals worldwide.

The place where Robb fails is in his proposed solution, which amounts to simply decentralized pure capitalism applied to counterinsurgency. There are two problems with his vision. The first is that it offers nothing in the way of safety or quality of life for the vast majority of the world's population who happen to be poor; his vision of a world of self-sufficient enclaves leaves out everyone who isn't rich or at least upper middle class, and those categories make up a distinct and shrinking minority. The second problem is that although he pays lip service to the need to convert our energy economy to renewables, he ignores the fact that we're already past the point where we could have created enough renewable energy technology before the fossil fuels run out to sustain us in the lifestyle to which we've gotten accustomed.

I would like this book a lot better if Robb acknowledged the existence of a social contract or of any sense of mutual obligation by which we had a responsibility to help each other out, even those who don't have deep enough pockets to pay for an equal share of security. And after all, although Robb makes no mention of it, it's generally accepted that reducing the hardships of widespread poverty would do a lot, though not all that's needed, to reduce the population of those willing to become guerrillas or terrorists in the first place. I also wish he'd been more realistic about the impact of peak oil (followed closely by peak natural gas, peak coal, and even peak uranium) on the other factors he considers.
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