April 01, 2008

Cell phones and Mass

Kip became a member of the AM blogging team entirely on false pretenses, I now realize.

In the beginning, this Iraq/Afghan veteran came to AM and Charlie and said he would be interested on blogging on the confluence of technology and insurgency. And they said yes. And now, such posts account for about one in every 714. Global Guerrilla is just so much better than me at this stuff...

Anyway, the world is flattening in an increasingly interesting way. Industrial mobilization for industrial war left the world awash in arms that when employed among the people prevented industrially organized armies from defeating opponents in the ways in which they had become accustomed. The information revolution came into full bloom later and yet it has further flattened the world. Hierarchical military organizations allowed the complicated practice of the operational art by maneuvering men and machines into mass at the point of decision. Yet today, few opponents will ever present us with this mass due to the benefits of a strategic defense dispersed among the population. The development of large tonnage weapons, particular nuclear weapons, allows for the destruction of a massed army should a decision have to be made between preserving the army and the use of WMD. This further undermines the logic of mass at the theater or operational level (although not at the tactical level).

A dispersed strategic defense with tactical achievement of mass only works if armed men can operate with the will of the populace. The population provides logistics, intelligence, force protection (cover and concealment), maneuver, and moral support.

This makes mobilization of the populace incredibly important, a matter of political will recognized by all Revolutionary War theorists. As such, communication tools such as the cell phone that allow one to cheaply reach a large audience are as important as rifles. The smart phone, one manifestation of this strange new weapon, has the potential of not only as a propaganda weapon for mobilizing the masses but also for mobilizing soldiers. With embedded GPS and software capabilities, it takes the logic of Smart Mobs a step further by allowing flat organizations to achieve tactical mass and command and control while maintaining organizational flexibility and defensive dispersion. Smart phones can allow insurgents to know one another's whereabouts (or to not know them but communicate with one another), rapidly achieve tactical mass at a point of weakness, achieve brief tactical victory, and then immediately broadcast it.

Cleverly employed, the Smart Phone becomes the insurgent's "blue force tracker," except working over a faster, global network. And, with software, the fighter can encrypt his communications even over open networks; he can even post encrypted messages to websites serving as the technological intermediary to enable a dispersed, cellular structure. And, unlike the Army's situational awareness tools, it will not take him decades to develop updates.