One upshot of the Nature article on open source warfare, is that it has already provoked some push back from the academic community. The most interesting of these is from Drew Conway at ZIA (a nice blog btw). His critique is emblematic of the stumbling blocks faced by those of us trying to communicate a new conceptual structure for warfare:
The role of the media is central to the decision model proposed by the authors, which is illustrated in the figure above. Again, however, this presents a logical disconnect. As the figure describes, the authors claim that insurgents are updating their beliefs and strategies based on the information and signals they receive from broadcast news, then deciding whether to execute an attack. For lack of a better term, this is clearly putting the cart before the horse. The media is reporting attacks, as the authors’ data clearly proves; therefore, the insurgents’ decision to attack is creating news, and as such insurgents are gaining no new information from media reports on attacks that they themselves have perpetrated. Rather, the insurgents retain a critical element of private information, and are updating based on the counter-insurgency policies of the state—information they are very likely not receiving from the media. The framework presented here is akin to claiming that in a game of football (American) the offense is updating their strategy in the huddle before ever having seen how the defense lines up. Without question updating, in football both sides are updating strategy constantly, but it is the offense that dictates this tempo, and in an insurgency the insurgents are on offense.
Unfortunately, this critique assumes only two decision making cycles (insurgent and counter-insurgent -- offense and defense). This is a very serious assumption error. There are many groups involved. It also doesn't even cross his mind that media coverage is a means of stigmergic communication for cross group communication (despite the clarity of the graphic in the paper -- to the left).
The second bad assumption is that counter-insurgency responses aren't covered by the media. In most cases, they are broadcast, in an attempt to dampen public fear and a loss of legitimacy. Second, if these responses are truly secret, there's very little chance a small group could uncover them until an attack failed. That failure serves as a signal to the other groups via media coverage.