Monthly Archives: October 2014

Book Review- Brave New War

Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization
By John Robb, 2007


I’ve been interested in the problems of securing essential utilities and improving national security for a few years. This book gives a modern view of terrorism and suggests new strategies for security. I found some of the insights very interesting. Terrorists in the twenty-first century have entered a new era and attacks have some attributes that were not seen previously. First, with the interconnectedness of society, attacks on infrastructure (electricity, oil, etc.) have huge multiplier effects, which allow terrorists to cause thousands or millions of dollars in damage for every dollar they spend on the attack. Second, terror cells are quickly evolving their tactics by watching other cells. Effective techniques are quickly duplicated and improved. Third, the enemy in the war on terrorism is rarely a nation-state. Small groups have the ability to wage war, and they are able to use our country’s size against us in battle. Many small groups tend to cluster together under one umbrella cause (hatred of the US/infidels or defense of homeland from western crusaders) and fight, though there are individual differences in motivation or technique between groups. Using the established practice of targeting leaders of these groups won’t work because they are so easily replaced and because no one leader controls a significant portion of the various terror cells/groups.

The book explains why the US had such trouble with guerrilla insurrection and infrastructure instability in Iraq post-Saddam. New techniques of attack and defense are necessary in the new world of terrorism. On the defense side, we need to build open platforms upon which different groups can innovate and layer security. If the electric grid were better understood by the average innovator, it would be open to improvements in security and redundancy. Putting all of our faith in one organization, such as the Dept of Homeland Security, to protect us from attack will result in disaster every time. Personally, I’m most worried about the electrical grid going down in an attack. Think about how dependent EVERYTHING is on electricity. If a significant portion of the country went dark for a month, chaos would ensue. I hope we don’t see anything like that in the future, but I expect it to happen eventually.

New Technique for Theory Posts

I’ve decided to stop selecting haphazard topics for the Theory Tuesday/Thursday sequence of posts.

My field of study goes by many names: operations research, operations management, decision science, industrial engineering, management science, etc. I want to create a useful repository of knowledge about my field. I envision it as filling two roles:
-Serving as an introduction to the field for the interested but uninitiated student
-Serving as a roadmap for learning specific topics for current analysts

I want to first create a list of topics to cover (e.g. probability, supply chains, optimization, etc.). Then I want a big list of sub-topics to hit under each topic. Each post will be about one of these sub-topics and you’ll be able to reference the entire list to see where it fits within the topic.

As I study for my qualifying exams for the spring, these lists will be built and augmented. Then I will slowly type up and add to the repository of knowledge.

If I get enough time, I would also like to create short video lectures to supplement my text-based theory notes. I’m envisioning something similar to MRUniversity. I’ve created video lectures in the past, while working. It would be fun to create optimized short lectures that deliver the information quickly and convincingly. Add this to my ever-increasing list of things I want to do but don’t really have time to do.

I will be updating the way the theory posts are stored on the website in the next couple weeks. Once an initial list of topics and sub-topics to cover is created, I will start knocking out the sub-topic posts. Stay tuned.