Countering Evolved Insurgent Networks
The first step in meeting the challenge facing
us in Iraq today or in similar war zones tomorrow is to understand
that insurgency and counterinsurgency are very different tasks.
The use of special forces against insurgents in Vietnam to "out-guerrilla
the guerrillas" provided exactly the wrong solution to the
problem. It assumed that the insurgent and the counterinsurgent
can use the same approach to achieve their quite different goals.
To define insurgency, I use Bard O'Neill from Insurgency and Terrorism.
He states: "Insurgency may be defined as a struggle between
a nonruling group and the ruling authorities in which the nonruling
group consciously uses political resources (e.g., organizational
expertise, propaganda, and demonstrations) and violence to destroy,
reformulate, or sustain the basis of one or more aspects of politics."1
Counterinsurgency, as defined by Ian Beckett,
"is far from being a purely military problem . . . co-ordination
of both the civil and military effort must occur at all levels and
embrace the provision of intelligence . . . ."2
On the surface, these definitions suggest that
insurgency and counterinsurgency are similar because each requires
political and military action. However, when one thinks it through,
the challenge is very different for the government. The government
must accomplish something. It must govern effectively. In contrast,
the insurgent only has to propose an idea for a better future while
ensuring the government cannot govern effectively.
In Iraq, the resistance does not even project
a better future. It simply has the nihilistic goal of ensuring the
government cannot function. This negative goal is much easier to
achieve than governing. For instance, it is easier and more direct
to use military power than to apply political, economic, and social
techniques. The insurgent can use violence to delegitimize a government
(because that government cannot fulfill the basic social contract
to protect the people). However, simple application of violence
by the government cannot restore that legitimacy. David Galula,
in his classic Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, expresses
the difference between insurgency and counterinsurgency very clearly:
"revolutionary warfare . . . represents an exceptional case
not only because as we suspect, it has its special rules, different
from those of the conventional war, but also because most of the
rules applicable to one side do not work for the other. In a fight
between a fly and a lion, the fly cannot deliver a knockout blow
and the lion cannot fly. It is the same war for both camps in terms
of space and time, yet there are two distinct warfares [sic]-the
revolutionary's, and shall we say, the counterrevolutionary's."3
Enduring Traits of Insurgency
Mao Tse-tung wrote his famous On Guerilla War
[Yu Chi Chan] in 1937. Despite the passage of time, many of his
basic observations about insurgency remain valid. First and foremost,
insurgency is a political, not a military, struggle. It is not amenable
to a purely military solution without resorting to a level of brutality
unacceptable to the Western world. Even the particularly brutal
violence Russia has inflicted upon Chechnya-killing almost 25 percent
of the total population and destroying its cities-has not resulted
The second factor has to do with the political
will of the counterinsurgent's own population. If that population
turns sour when faced with the long time-frame and mounting costs
of counterinsurgency, the insurgent will win. This has been particularly
true whenever the United States has become involved in counterinsurgency
operations. insurgents have learned over the last 30 years that
they do not have to defeat the United States militarily to drive
us out of an insurgency; they only have to destroy our political
will. Today's insurgents in both Afghanistan and Iraq understand
this and have made the political will of the U.S. population a primary
target of their efforts.
A third unchanging aspect of insurgency involves
duration. Insurgencies are measured in decades, not months or years.
The Chinese Communists fought for 27 years. The Vietnamese fought
the U.S. for 30 years. The Palestinians have been resisting Israel
since at least 1968. Even when the counterinsurgent has won, it
has taken a long time. The Malaya emergency and the el Salvadoran
insurgency each lasted 12 years.
Finally, despite America's love of high technology,
technology does not provide a major advantage in counterinsurgency.
In fact, in the past the side with the simplest technology often
won. What has been decisive in most counterinsurgencies were the
human attributes of leadership, cultural understanding, and political
judgment. In short, the key factors of insurgency that have not
changed are its political nature, its protracted timelines, and
its intensely human (versus technological) nature.
Emerging Traits of Insurgency
While these hallmarks of insurgency have remained
constant, the nature of insurgency has evolved in other areas. Like
all forms of war, insurgency changes in consonance with the political,
economic, social, and technical conditions of the society it springs
from. Insurgencies are no longer the special province of single-party
organizations like Mao's and Ho Chi Minh's. Today, insurgent organizations
are comprised of loose coalitions of the willing, human networks
that range from local to global. This reflects the social organizations
of the societies they come from and the reality that today's most
successful organizations are networks rather than hierarchies.
In addition to being composed of coalitions,
insurgencies also operate across the spectrum from local to transnational
organizations. Because these networks span the globe, external actors
such as the Arabs who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan,
the Afghans who fought in Bosnia, and the European Muslims who are
showing up in Iraq, are now a regular part of insurgencies.
In a coalition insurgency, the goals of the
different elements may vary, too. In Afghanistan today, some of
the insurgents simply wish to rule their own valleys; others seek
to rule a nation. Al-Qaeda is fighting for a transnational caliphate.
In Iraq, many of the Sunni insurgents seek a secular government
dominated by Sunnis. Other Sunnis-the Salafists-want a strict Islamic
society ruled by sharia. Among the Shi'a, Muqtada Al-Sadr operated
as an insurgent, then shifted to the political arena (while maintaining
a powerful militia and a geographic base in the slums of Sadr City).
Although temporarily out of the insurgent business, his forces remain
a factor in any armed conflict. Other Shi'a militias are also prepared
to enter the military equation if their current political efforts
do not achieve their goals. Finally, criminal elements in both Afghanistan
and Iraq participate in the unrest primarily for profit.
At times, even their hatred of the outsider
is not strong enough to keep these various coalition groups from
fighting among themselves. Such factionalism was a continuing problem
for anti-soviet insurgents in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and savvy
soviet commanders exploited it at times. We see major signs of the
same symptom in Iraq today.
This complex mixture of players and motives
is now the pattern for insurgencies. If insurgents succeed in driving
the Coalition out of Afghanistan and Iraq, their own highly diverse
coalitions of the willing will not be able to form a government;
their mutually incompatible beliefs will lead to continued fighting
until one faction dominates. This is what happened in Afghanistan
when the insurgents drove the soviets out. Similar disunity appeared
in Chechnya after the Soviets withdrew in 1996, and infighting only
ceased when the Russians returned to install their own government.
Early signs of a similar power struggle are present in the newly
evacuated Gaza strip.
The fact that recent insurgencies have been
coalitions is a critical component in understanding them. For too
long, American leaders stated that the insurgency in Iraq could
not be genuine because it had no unifying cause or leader; therefore,
it could not be a threat. The insurgents in Afghanistan, Chechnya,
and Palestine have never had a unified leadership or belief other
than that the outside power had to go. Yet these insurgents have
driven out the soviet Union and continue to contest the United States,
Russia, and Israel. The lack of unity in current insurgencies only
makes them more difficult to defeat. It is a characteristic that
we have to accept and understand.
Showing the adaptability characteristic of
successful organizations, many insurgencies are now transdimensional
as well as transnational. As Western efforts have reduced the number
of insurgent safe havens, insurgents have aggressively moved into
cyberspace. There, the high capacity of broadband has greatly increased
the Internet's utility for insurgents. Expanding from simple communications
and propaganda, insurgents and their terrorist counterparts have
moved to online recruitment, vetting of recruits, theological indoctrination,
training, and logistical arrangements. Insurgents never have to
meet an individual recruit until they feel comfortable; then they
can use the Internet as a meeting site that they control. The wide
availability of password protected chat rooms allows insurgents
to hold daily meetings with very little chance of discovery. Not
only do Western intelligence agencies have to find the insurgents'
chat room among the millions out there and crack the password, but
they also must do so with a person who can speak the insurgents'
language and who is convincing enough to keep the other chat participants
from simply logging off. And, of course, insurgents can also move
out of the larger chat room into private chat, which makes the infiltration
problem even harder.
Another major change in insurgencies is that
they are becoming self-supporting. Modern insurgents do conventional
fundraising, but they also run charity organizations, businesses,
and criminal enterprises. In the past, most insurgencies depended
on one or two major sponsors, which the United States could subject
to diplomatic or economic pressure. Now, the insurgents' more varied
money-raising schemes, combined with the ability to move funds outside
official banking channels, make it increasingly difficult to attack
Enduring Characteristics of Counterinsurgency
Just as insurgencies have enduring characteristics,
so do counterinsurgencies. The fundamental weapon in counterinsurgency
remains good governance. While the insurgent must simply continue
to exist and conduct occasional attacks, the government must learn
to govern effectively. The fact that there is an insurgency indicates
the government has failed to govern. In short, the counterinsurgent
is starting out in a deep hole.
The first governing step the counterinsurgent
must take is to establish security for the people. Without effective,
continuous security it does not matter if the people are sympathetic
to the government-they must cooperate with the insurgent or be killed.
Providing security is not enough, however. the government must also
give the people hope for a better future-for their children if not
for themselves. Furthermore, this better future must accord with
what the people want, not what the counterinsurgent wants. The strategic
hamlets campaign in Vietnam and the ideological emphasis on freedom
in Iraq are examples of futures the counterinsurgent thought were
best, but that didn't resonate with the population. In Vietnam,
the peasants were intensely tied to their land; in Islamic culture,
justice has a higher value than freedom.
The view of the future must address the "poverty
of dignity" that Thomas L. Friedman has so clearly identified
as a driving motivator for terrorists.4
the people must have hope not just for a better life as they see
it, but also for the feeling of dignity that comes from having some
say in their own futures.
There has been a great deal of discussion recently
about whether the war in Iraq has progressed from terrorism to an
insurgency and then to a civil war. While this is very important
from the insurgent's point of view, it does not determine the first
steps a counterinsurgent must take to win. As always, the first
step is to provide security for the people. If the people stop supporting
the government out of fear of insurgents, terrorists, or other violent
groups, the government can only begin winning back its credibility
by providing effective security. How that security is provided can
vary depending on the threat, but the basic requirement is nonnegotiable.
Thus, the fundamental concepts of counterinsurgency remain constant:
provide security for the people and genuine hope for the future.
Emerging Characteristics of Counterinsurgency
The counterinsurgent must also come to grips
with the emerging characteristics of insurgency. To deal with the
networked, transnational character of insurgents, the counterinsurgent
must develop a truly international approach to the security issues
he faces. In addition, he must counter not just a single ideology,
but all the ideologies of the various groups involved in the insurgency.
This is daunting because attacking the ideology of one group might
reinforce that of another. Successful ideological combat also requires
the counterinsurgent to have deep cultural and historical knowledge
of the people in the conflict. Success in this kind of fight will
be difficult to achieve, but it can be attained if the government
attacks the insurgents' coalition by exacerbating individual group
Finally, the government must find a way to
handle the numerous external actors who will come to join the insurgency.
The true believers among them can only be killed or captured; the
rest must be turned from insurgents to citizens. If possible, the
counterinsurgent should keep foreign fighters from returning to
their homes to spread the conflict there. Obviously, this will require
a great deal of international cooperation. However, the nations
involved should be anxious to cooperate to prevent these violent,
potentially rebellious fighters from returning home.
Visualizing the Insurgency
With the mixture of enduring and emerging characteristics
in insurgencies, the question arises as to how best to analyze the
modern form. A clear understanding of the insurgency is obviously
essential to the counterinsurgent. Unfortunately, recent history
shows that conventional powers initially tend to misunderstand insurgencies
much more often than they understand them. In Malaya, it took almost
3 years before the British developed a consistent approach to the
communist insurrection there. As John Nagl has noted, "Only
about 1950 was the political nature of the war really grasped."5
in Vietnam, it took until 1968 before General Creighton Abrams and
Ambassador Robert Komer provided an effective plan to deal with
the Viet Cong in the south. In Iraq, it took us almost 2 years to
decide that we were dealing with an insurgency, and we are still
arguing about its composition and goals.
To fight an insurgency effectively, we must
first understand it. Given the complexity inherent in modern insurgency,
the best visualization tool is a network map. The counterinsurgent
must map the human networks involved on both sides because-
_ A map of the human connections reflects how
insurgencies really operate. A network map will reveal the scale
and depth of interactions between different people and nodes and
show the actual impact of our actions against those connections.
_ A network map plotted over time can show
how changes in the environment affect nodes and links in the network.
Again, such knowledge is essential for understanding how our actions
are hitting the insurgency.
_ Models of human networks account for charisma,
human will, and insights in ways a simple organizational chart cannot.
_ Networks actively seek to grow. By studying
network maps, we can see where growth occurs and what it implies
for the insurgent and the government. By studying which areas of
the insurgent network are growing fastest, we can identify the most
effective members of the insurgency and their most effective tactics,
and act accordingly.
_ Networks interact with other networks in
complex ways that cannot be portrayed on an organizational chart.
_ Network maps show connections from a local
to a global scale and reveal when insurgents use modern technology
to make the "long-distance" relationships more important
and closer than local ones.
_ Networks portray the transdimensional and
transnational nature of insurgencies in ways no other model can.
Networks can also reveal insurgent connections to the host-nation
government, the civilian community, and any other players present
in the struggle.
_ Finally, if we begin to understand the underlying
networks of insurgencies, we can analyze them using an emerging
set of tools. In Linked: The Science of Networks, Albert-Laszlo
Barabasi points to these new tools: "A string of recent breathtaking
discoveries has forced us to acknowledge that amazingly simple and
far reaching laws govern the structure and evolution of all the
complex networks that surround us."6
We should also use network modeling when we
consider our own organizations. Unlike the hierarchical layout we
habitually use when portraying ourselves, a network schematic will
allow us to see much more clearly how our personnel policies affect
our own operations. When we chart an organization hierarchically,
it appears that our personnel rotation policies have minimal effect
on our organizations. One individual leaves, and another qualified
individual immediately fills that line on the organization chart;
there is no visual indication of the impact on our organization.
If, however, we plotted our own organizations as networks, we could
see the massive damage our personnel rotation policies cause. When
a person arrives in country and takes a job, for some time he probably
knows only the person he is working for and a few people in his
office. In a network, he will show up as a small node with few connections.
As time passes, he makes new connections and finds old friends in
other jobs throughout the theater. On a network map, we will see
him growing from a tiny node to a major hub. Over the course of
time, we will see his connections to other military organizations,
to U.S. and allied government agencies, host-nation agencies, nongovernment
organizations (NGOs), and so forth. Just as clearly, when he rotates
we will see that large hub instantaneously replaced by a small node
with few connections. We will be even more alarmed to see the massive
impact the simultaneous departure of numerous hubs has on the functionality
of our network.
To assist us in building our network maps,
we can use any of a number of sophisticated anti-gang software programs
that allow us to track individuals and visualize their contacts.
Essentially sophisticated versions of the old personalities-organizations-incidents
databases, these programs allow us to tie together the intelligence
reports we get to build a visual picture of the connections revealed.
For instance, we pick up a suspect near a bombing site, check him
against the database, and find that although he has not been arrested
before, he is closely related to a man we know to be involved in
a political party. We can then look at other members of the family
and party to see if there are other connections to the incident,
to the person we arrested, or to the organization possibly involved.
Good software will allow for instant visualization
of these relationships in a color coded network we can project on
a wall, print out, or transmit to other analysts. Good software
almost instantly accomplishes the hundreds of hours of scut work
that used to be required to tie isolated, apparently unrelated reports
together. It allows us to look for third- and even fourth-level
connections in a network and, thus, to build a much more useful
network map. In particular, we will be able to see the gaps where
we know there ought to be connections.
Ten years ago, software of this analytical
quality was available and being used to track gang activity in the
United States. I am uncertain of the status of current DOD human
intelligence software, but I doubt it reaches down to the critical
company and platoon levels of the counterinsurgency fight. We have
to take aggressive action to get better software and make it work.
If cities can give this kind of information to policemen on the
streets, we owe it to our companies and platoons.
By mapping the human connections in insurgent
networks and then applying cultural knowledge and network theory
to the networks, we can understand them more clearly. We can also
apply the commonsense observation that most networks grow from pre-existing
social networks. In fact, such an approach has already been used.
Marc Sageman has done a detailed study of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated
organizations, mapped the operational connections, and then compared
them to pre-existing social connections.7
his work points the way to much more effective analysis of insurgent
and terrorist organizations.
Sageman's studies have revealed the key nodes
and links in each of Al-Qaeda's parts and how changes in the operating
environment over time have affected those parts. Sageman has also
identified both the real and virtual links between individuals and
Al-Qaeda's constituent organizations. Most important, however, the
studies give us a starting point from which to examine any network:
the preexisting social connections of a society. Rather than starting
from scratch, we can analyze the limited intelligence we do obtain
within the social and cultural context of the insurgency. In short,
Sageman's approach allows us to paint a picture of the enemy network
that we can analyze.
Security not Defensive
For the counterinsurgent, the central element
in any strategy must be the people. The counterinsurgent has to
provide effective government in order to win the loyalty of the
people. This is easy to say, but helping another country establish
good governance is one of the most challenging tasks possible. The
conflict in Iraq highlights how difficult it is to help establish
a government in a fractious society. Beyond the discussion of whether
or not there is a civil war in Iraq, we can't even agree on whether
a strategy that focuses on the people is inherently offensive or
defensive. Obviously, if our approach is perceived to be a defensive
one, most strategists will be reluctant to adopt it, simply because
defense rarely wins wars.
In fact, in counterinsurgencies, providing
security for the people is an inherently offensive action. No one
questions that during conventional wars, attacks that seize enemy
territory to deny the enemy resources, a tax base, and a recruiting
base are considered offensive actions. But for some reason, when
we conduct population control operations in counterinsurgency, they
are considered defensive even though these operations have the same
effect: they deny the insurgent the things he needs to operate.
A population control operation is the most
offensive action one can take in a counterinsurgency. Just like
in conventional war, once you have seized a portion of the enemy's
territory, you cannot then evacuate it and give it back to him.
If you do so, you simply restore all the resources to his control
while eroding the morale of the government, the people, and your
In a counterinsurgency, big-unit sweeps and
raids are inherently defensive operations. We are reacting to an
enemy initiative that has given him control of a portion of the
country. We move through, perhaps capture or kill some insurgents,
and then move back to our defensive positions. In essence, we are
ceding the key terrain-the population and its resources-to the insurgent.
We might have inflicted a temporary tactical setback on our enemy,
but at a much greater cost to our operational and strategic goals.
The fact that we sweep and do not hold exposes the government's
weakness to the people. It also exposes them to violence and does
little to improve their long-term security or prospects for a better
Clearly, population control operations are
the truly offensive operations in a counterinsurgency. Just as clearly,
host-government and U.S. forces will rarely have sufficient troops
to conduct such operations nationwide at the start of the counterinsurgent
effort. Thus, we need to prioritize areas that will receive the
resources to provide fulltime, permanent security; population control,
and reconstruction. The clear, hold, and build strategy is the correct
one. However, it must recognize the limitations of government forces
and, for a period, cede control of some elements of the population
to the insurgent to provide real protection for the rest of the
population. This is essentially the "white, grey, and black"
approach used by the British in Malaya.8
As Sir Robert Thompson has noted, "Because a government's resources,
notably in trained manpower, are limited, the [counterinsurgent]
plan must also lay down priorities both in the measures to be taken
and in the areas to be dealt with first. If the insurgency is countrywide,
it is impossible to tackle it offensively in every area. It must
be accepted that in certain areas only a holding operation can be
Further, by focusing our forces to create real
security in some areas rather than the illusion of security across
the country, we can commence rebuilding. the resulting combination
of security and prosperity will contrast sharply with conditions
in insurgentcontrolled areas. When we have sufficient forces to
move into those areas, the people might be more receptive to the
Command and Control
There is an old saying in military planning:
Get the command and control relationships right, and everything
else will take care of itself. It is a common-sense acknowledgement
that people provide solutions only if they are well-led in a functional
organization. Thus the first and often most difficult step in counterinsurgency
is to integrate friendly-force command and execution. Note that
I say "integrate" and not "unify." Given the
transnational, transdimensional nature of today's insurgencies,
it will be impossible to develop true unity of command for all the
organizations needed to fight an insurgency. Instead, we must strive
for unity of effort by integrating the efforts of all concerned.
While the U.S. military does not like committees,
a committee structure might be most effective for command in a counterinsurgency.
There should be an executive committee for every major political
subdivision, from city to province to national levels. each committee
must include all key personnel involved in the counterinsurgency
effort-political leaders (prime minister, governors, and so on),
police, intelligence officers, economic developers (to include NGOs),
public services ministers, and the military. The political leaders
must be in charge and have full authority to hire, fire, and evaluate
other members of the committee. Committee members must not be controlled
or evaluated by their parent agencies at the next higher level;
otherwise, the committee will fail to achieve unity of effort. This
step will require a massive cultural change to the normal stovepipes
that handle all personnel and promotion issues for the government.
One of the biggest hindrances to change is that many think the current
hierarchical organization is effective. They think of themselves
as "cylinders of excellence" rather than the balky, inefficient,
and ineffective stovepipes they really are.
Above the national-level committee, which can
be established fairly quickly under our current organization, we
need a regional command arrangement. Given the transnational nature
of modern insurgency, a single country team simply cannot deal with
all the regional and international issues required in effective
counterinsurgency. Thus we will have to develop a genuine regional
team. The current DOD and Department of State organizations do not
lend themselves well to such a structure and will require extensive
realignment. This realignment must be accomplished.
Once the national and regional committees are
established, Washington must give mission-type orders, allocate
sufficient resources, and then let in-country and regional personnel
run the campaign. Obviously, one of the biggest challenges in this
arrangement is developing leaders to head the in-country and regional
teams, particularly deployable U.S. civil leaders and host-nation
leaders. An even bigger challenge will be convincing U.S. national-level
bureaucracies to stay out of day-today operations.
Once established, the committees can use the
network map of the insurgency and its environment to develop a plan
for victory. The network map provides important information about
the nature of the interaction between the key hubs and smaller nodes
of the insurgency. While the hubs and nodes are the most visible
aspects of any network, it is the nature of the activity between
them that is important. We must understand that well to understand
how the network actually functions. This is difficult to do, and
what makes it even more challenging is that one cannot understand
the network except in its cultural context. Therefore, we must find
and employ people with near-native language fluency and cultural
knowledge to build and interpret our map.
Speed versus Accuracy
For counterinsurgencies, Colonel John Boyd's
observation-orientation-decision-action (OODA) loop remains valid,
but its focus changes.10 in conventional
war, and especially in the aerial combat that led Boyd to develop
his concept, speed was crucial to completing the OODA loop-it got
you inside your opponent's OODA loop. We have to use a different
approach in counterinsurgency. stressing speed above all else in
the decision cycle simply does not make sense in a war that can
last a decade or more.
In counterinsurgency, we still want to move
speedily, but the focus must be more on accuracy (developed in the
observation-orientation segment of the loop). The government must
understand what it is seeing before it decides what to do. To date,
network-centric concepts have focused on shortening the sensor-to-shooter
step (Boyd's decision-action segment). Now, we must focus on improving
the quality of the observe-orient segment. Even more important,
the OODA loop expands to track not just our enemy's reaction, but
how the entire environment is reacting-the people, the host-nation
government, our allies, our forces, even our own population.
Attacking the Network
Because effective offensive operations in a
counterinsurgency are based on protecting the people, direct action
against insurgent fighters is secondary; nevertheless, such action
remains a necessary part of the overall campaign plan. Once we understand
the insurgent network or major segments of it, we can attack elements
of it. We should only attack, however, if our attacks support our
efforts to provide security for the people. If there is a strong
likelihood of collateral damage, we should not attack because collateral
damage, by definition, lessens the people's security. In addition,
the fundamental rules for attacking a network are different from
those used when attacking a more conventional enemy. First, in counterinsurgency
it is better to exploit a known node than attack it. Second, if
you have to attack, the best attack is a soft one designed to introduce
distrust into the network. Third, if you must make a hard attack,
conduct simultaneous attacks on related links, or else the attack
will have little effect. Finally, after the attack, increase surveillance
to see how the insurgency tries to communicate around or repair
the damage. As they are reaching out to establish new contacts,
the new nodes will be most visible.
An integral part of counterinsurgency is an
effective information campaign. It must have multiple targets (the
host-country population, U.S. population, international community,
insurgents and their supporters); it must be integrated into all
aspects of the overall campaign; and it can only be effective if
it is based on the truth-spin will eventually be discovered, and
the government will be hard-pressed to recover its credibility.
Furthermore, our actions speak so loudly that
they drown out our words. When we claim we stand for justice, but
then hold no senior personnel responsible for torture, we invalidate
our message and alienate our audience. Fortunately, positive actions
work, too. The tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in 2004 and
2005 had a huge effect on our target audiences. Consequently, our
information campaign must be based on getting information about
our good actions out. Conversely, our actions must live up to our
To study a highly effective information campaign,
I recommend looking at the one conducted by the Palestinians during
intifada I. A detailed examination of how and why it was so successful
can be found in Intifada, by Schiff and Ya'ari.11
Today's counterinsurgency warfare involves
a competition between human networks-ours and theirs. To understand
their networks, we must understand the networks' preexisting links
and the cultural and historical context of the society. We also
have to understand not just the insurgent's network, but those of
the host-nation government, its people, our coalition partners,
NGOs, and, of course, our own.
Counterinsurgency is completely different from
insurgency. Rather than focusing on fighting, strategy must focus
on establishing good governance by strengthening key friendly nodes
while weakening the enemy's. In Iraq, we must get the mass of the
population on our side. Good governance is founded on providing
effective security for the people and giving them hope for their
future; it is not based on killing insurgents and terrorists. To
provide that security, we must be able to visualize the fight between
and within the human networks involved. Only then can we develop
and execute a plan to defeat the insurgents.
1. Bard E. O'Neill, Insurgency
and Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare (Washington,
DC: Brassey's Inc, 1990), 13.
2. Ian F. W. Beckett,
ed., Armed Force and Modern Counter-Insurgency: Armies and Guerrilla
Warfare 1900-1945 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985), 8.
3. David Galula, Counterinsurgency
Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers,
4. Thomas l. Friedman,
"A Poverty of Dignity and a wealth of rage," New York
Times, 15 July 2005, <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/15/opinion/15friedman.
&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&e mc=rss>, accessed
7 July 2006.
5. John Nagl, Learning
to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya
and Vietnam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 71.
6. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi,
Linked: The New Science of Networks (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing,
2002). See also Lewis Sorley, A Better War (New York: Harcourt,
Brace, Jovanovich, 2003).
7. Mark Sageman, Understanding
Terror Networks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
8. Used by the British
in Malaya, the white-grey-black scheme is a corollary of the clear-hold-build
strategy now in use in Iraq. White areas were those declared completely
cleared of insurgents and ready for reconstruction and democratic
initiatives. Grey areas were in dispute, with counterinsurgents
and insurgents vying actively for the upper hand. Black areas were
insurgent-controlled and mostly left alone pending the reallocation
of government resources from other areas. See Sir Robert Thompson,
Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Vietnam and Malaya
(New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966), Chapter 10.
9. Thompson, 55.
10. COl John Boyd
articulated the OODA loop concept in a lengthy slide presentation.
For a discussion of the OODA loop and other Boyd theories, see "Boyd
and Military Strategy," <www.d-n-i.net/second_level/boyd_military.htm>,
accessed 10 July 2006.
11. Zeev Schiff and
Ehud Ya'ari, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising-Israel's Third Front
(New York: Simon and Schuster, March 1990).
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