Last year, open source warfare received some exciting validation in the form of a scientific study that reached the cover of Nature Magazine (although the theory reached the pinnacle of scientific validation, nobody in the DoD noticed -- wow, seriously, is there anybody with a working brain still working there?). Now Scott Atran, a sharp anthropologist that has been studying terrorism scientifically (although from his narrow area of specialization), has noticed some shifts in terrorist behavior that align more closely to Global Guerrillas using open source warfare than traditional Jihadis. Here's a summary from some Congressional testimony he recently gave.
- The threat today is from a Qaeda –inspired viral social and political movement... which is particularly contagious among Muslim youth who are increasingly marginalized — economically, socially, politically — and are in transition stages in their lives, such as immigrants, students, and those in search of friends, mates and jobs.
- Economic globalization, which has led to greater access by humankind to material opportunity, has also led to a crisis, even collapse, of cultures, as people unmoored from millennial traditions flail about in search of a social identity. Today's most virulent terrorism is rooted in rootlessness and restlessness.
- Individuals now mostly radicalize horizontally with their peers, rather than vertically through institutional leaders or organizational hierarchies. They do so mostly in small groups of friends — from the same neighborhood or social network — or even as loners who find common cause with a virtual internet community.
- Entry into the jihadi brotherhood is from the bottom up: from alienated and marginalized youth seeking out companionship, esteem, and meaning, but also the thrill of action, sense of empowerment, and glory in fighting the world's most powerful nation and army.
- The boundaries of the newer terrorist networks are very loose and fluid, and the internet now allows anyone who wishes to become a terrorist to become one, anywhere, anytime. More and more, terror networks are intertwined with petty criminal networks: drug trafficking, stolen cars, credit card fraud, and the like.
- Although lack of economic opportunity often reliably leads to criminality, it turns out that some criminal youth really don't want to be criminals after all. Given half a chance to take up a moral cause, they can be even more altruistically prone than others to give up their lives for their comrades and cause.