The Mathematical Structure of Terrorism from PhysOrg.com makes reference to a paper titled Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism. From the paper's abstract:
"We report a remarkable universality in the patterns of violence arising in three high-profile ongoing wars, and in global terrorism. Our results suggest that these quite different conflict arenas currently feature a common type of enemy, i.e. the various insurgent forces are beginning to operate in a similar way regardless of their underlying ideologies, motivations and the terrain in which they operate. We provide a microscopic theory to explain our main observations. This theory treats the insurgent force as a generic, self-organizing system which is dynamically evolving through the continual coalescence and fragmentation of its constituent groups."
These patterns observed in the research referenced above are reflective of the emerging phenomenon that John Robb refers to as "Open Source War". The advancement of globalization, communications and transortation technology has created a medium that small and distributed groups can use to network, share information about tactics, and transport weapons and supplies. A quote from Robb's article:
"The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid - demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq)."
Robb also mentions that the insurgency groups in Iraq collaborate effectively, and "have subordinated their individual goals to the common goal of the movement."
In a recent post to his weblog, Global Guerillas, John Robb discusses the "melting map" that is emerging from people struggling for new identities apart from nation-states and/or large corporations. Robb says that this struggle has lead many people to turn to ethnic and religious identity, often organized on smaller scales in what at first may seem like a tribalistic fashion. Yet, these "tribes" are unlike our classic notion of "tribes", in that they are capable of sacrificing their local group goals for a greater goal against a top-down organized opponent.
It is worth considering that these groups only appear to be willing to sacrifice their local goals to a greater goal so long as there is a common enemy to fight. The Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism paper I referenced above reflects a pattern that "suggest(s) that modern insurgent wars tend to be driven by the same underlying mechanism: the continual coalescence and fragmentation of attack units." This pattern is observed in diverse areas of geography, ethnicity, ideology, and religion. This pattern is enhanced by the evolution of globalization, and the lowering of the barrier of access to technologies that allow these groups to network more efficiently. When and if the common enemy is gone, these groups who choose warfare as a way to reshape their landscape may end up turning on each other in the end. This was a suggested solution by US Generals, according to John Robb's Open Source War article:
The disparate groups in an open-source effort are held together by a common goal. Once the goal is reached, the community often falls apart. In Iraq, the original goal for the insurgency was the withdrawal of the occupying forces. If foreign troops pull out quickly, the insurgency may fall apart. This is the same solution that was presented to Congress last month by our generals in Iraq, George Casey and John Abizaid.
One thread that is missing from the discussion is the notion of "Glocalization ", and the employment "open source" humanitarianism to help improve conditions on local levels in the places where global maps are melting. It may be that groups of people from more stable/wealthier areas could directly help people who are struggling for new identities apart from nation-states and large corporations. Not just with aid, but with different forms of investment in infrastructure and sharing of knowledge that are now possible via the same networking dynamics that make "open source warfare" possible.
A good introduction to these possibilities is Yochai Benkler's new "Wealth of Networks" book, (available for free download at the link above). The introduction to the book sums up the the direction that an "open source" humanitarianism could take:
"Information, knowledge, and culture are central to human freedom
and human development. How they are produced and exchanged in
our society critically affects the way we see the state of the world as it is
and might be; who decides these questions; and how we, as societies
and polities, come to understand what can and ought to be done."
It may be possible that the "melting of maps" will not just spawn a controlled chaos of "open source warfare", but also new avenues for people to connect and mutually improve their collective existence.