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Success Against a Networked Enemy

| 91 Comments

I want to take a moment and talk about what may be happening in Iraq - why it is that we're seeing such a precipitous drop in attacks, how we may have gotten there, and some things to think about in terms of what comes next.

A lot of attention is (rightly) being paid to the specific tactics being employed by our military leadership, and that's obviously a key point to keep in mind. But I want to raise a slightly more subtle one, which is that there may be a structural reason for the collapse of the insurgency.

One issue we struggle with is the notion that we can't defeat a networked guerilla force (see John Robb). That truism has pretty well taken hold, and is reinforced by our perceptions of the power of networks - particularly the scale-free networks that provide good models for the Internet, for fads - and for political movements. There are many heads, and so you can't decapitate such a network, the argument goes. And since every violent act against a member of the network damages the network, and simultaneously helps it heal (by, for example, recruiting others to join the network), the issue is the ratio between damage/healing, and the attacker risks facing an impossible task, since the more damage they do the network, the stronger it may get.

The best book I know of for beginners on networks is 'Linked' by Albert-Lazlo Barabasi. He discusses his efforts to take networks apart:

Motivated by the DARPA proposal, in January 2000 we performed a series of computer experiments to test the Internet's resilience to router failures. Starting from the best available Internet map, we removed randomly selected nodes from the network. Expecting a critical point, we gradually increased the number of removed nodes, waiting for the moment when the Internet would fall to pieces. To our great astonishment the network refused to break apart. We could remove as many as 80 percent of all nodes, and the remaining 20 percent still hung together, forming a tightly interlinked cluster. This finding agreed with the increasing realization that the Internet, unlike many other human, made systems, displays a high degree of robustness against router failures. Indeed, a University of Michigan-Ann Arbor study had found that at any moment hundreds of Internet routers malfunction. Despite these frequent and unavoidable breakdowns, users rarely notice significant disruptions of Internet services.

Soon it became clear that we were not witnessing a property unique to the Internet. Computer simulations we performed on networks generated by the scale-free model indicated that a significant fraction of nodes can be randomly removed from any scale-free network without its breaking apart. The unsuspected robustness against failures is that scale-free networks display a property not shared by random networks. As the Internet, the World Wide Web, the cell, and social networks are known to be scale-free, the results indicate that their well-known resilience to errors is an inherent property of their topology - good news for the people who depend on them.

Which represents pretty much the Standard Model for our perception of fighting networked enemy forces - we kill or capture a member (a 'node' in the model), and the system routes around the damage. So it's hopeless, right?

Maybe not so much.

Because one property of scale-free networks is that they are hierarchical - some nodes (Huffington Post, Instapundit) are better-connected than others (Winds of Change) who are in turn better connected than others (The Concerned Troll). That's also a property of scale-free networks (power-law distribution). And it is apparently a property that can be exploited. Here's Barabasi:

Mimicking the actions of a cracker who brings down the Internet's largest hubs one after the other,' we embarked on a new set of experiments. Like MafiaBoy and those involved in Eligible Receiver, we no longer selected the nodes randomly but attacked the network by targeting the hubs. First, we removed the largest hub, followed by the next largest, and so on. The consequences of our attack were evident. The removal of the first hub did not break the system, because the rest of the hubs were still able to hold the network together. After the removal of several hubs, however, the effect of the disruptions was clear. Large chunks of nodes were falling off the network, becoming disconnected from the main cluster. As we pushed further, removing even more hubs, we witnessed the network's spectacular collapse. The critical point, conspicuously absent under failures, suddenly reemerged when the net¬ work was attacked. The removal of a few hubs broke the Internet into tiny, hopelessly isolated pieces.

Many people (including me) have been kind of mocking about the steady stream of 'high-value targets' that have been killed or captured in Iraq over the last year. But I've got to believe that the patient work of chasing connections and neutralizing higher and higher value 'nodes' in the insurgent network actually may be paying off as the network begins it's sudden collapse.

Indeed, our group observed an equally spectacular breakdown when we removed the highly connected proteins from the protein interaction network of the yeast cell. The same collapse was seen by ecologists when they deleted highly connected nodes from food webs. Two subsequent papers, one by Havlin's research group and another by Duncan Callaway from Cornell University, working together with Mark Newman, Steven Strogatz, and Duncan Watts, provided the analytical backing for this observation. They demonstrated that, when the largest nodes are removed, there is a critical point beyond which the network breaks apart. Therefore, the response of scale-free networks to attacks is similar to the behavior of random networks under failures. There is a crucial difference, however. We do not need to remove a large number of nodes to reach the critical point. Disable a few of the hubs and a scale-free network will fall to pieces in no time.

So it's possible to degrade and the destroy the effectiveness of networked insurgencies - and they will collapse as rapidly as they came into being.

The problem, as I'm so fond of saying, is What Next?

How do we take advantage of the opportunity opened by the collapse?

I've thought it ridiculous that people are declaring the surge a failure because a month in ther was no political reconciliation. Clearly, that is something that will lag far behind security conditions.

But it can't lag forever.

And for that, I wonder if we can't thank Joe Biden, which has provided the Iraqi poltical sphere with a common enemy. The next six months will be darn interesting.

Fixed incomprehensible sentence in 3rd paragraph.

91 Comments

Unfortunately, Al-Masri is still not captured.

Also, what if a newer, deadlier, more savvy AQI leader emerges - like a tech-savvy Zarqawi? Then we would be in even bigger trouble.

A.L.,

Excellent and important observation. Do we have reason to believe that our forces are following this policy? (Petraeus wrote the book. Are these ideas in it?)

This is a very knowledge-intensive strategy. You need to know who to target, and you need to be right most of the time. One of the spectacular ways to fail (which we have indulged in frequently over the past years) is to attack some group of suspected terrorists or insurgents, and along with a few genuine bad guys, we kill or capture a lot of "false positives" --- that is, innocent victims.

It's the innocent victims that are really damaging to our side, because that act converts their surviving relatives and friends friends from neutrals or supporters into enemies. This is worse than deleting random nodes from the networks. It is recruiting new nodes into the network of our opponents.

But let's assume that the insurgency is a scale-free network, and that we can acquire the knowledge to attack it in this way, and successfully disrupt it. Your next question is the absolutely critical one --- what next?

This amounts to saying, what should we have been doing back in 2003? Can we somehow implement parts of that, even from the hole we're standing in now? Has anyone been planning for this? Is anyone going to start now?

Furthermore, given that the people in power now have consistently made a hash of things, can we trust them to implement a sensible strategy now, even if we have the technical concept to make one possible? Is there any way to make sure that this is implemented by people in the "reality-based community", not the political specialists or the blind ideologues?

Is there any way to make sure that this is implemented by people in the "reality-based community", not the political specialists or the blind ideologues?

In my experience, those who proclaim themselves to be in the "reality-based community" tend to be the most delusional, and the most blindly ideological.

AL,

Thanks for the correlation to the concept of scale-free networks, of which I was previously unfamiliar.

As with many metaphoric constructs that are intended to approximate unrelated subjects, I don't think the concepts discussed here are explicitly defined in the new COIN manual or the doctrine it describes.

However, I think it parallels a lot of the net result of many of the tactics suggested by COIN, and I believe we may well be seeing the spectacular collapse of the scale free network of AQI and associated enemies.

I think this may be analogous to other voluntary, cooperative social arrangements. In churches, non-profits, communities, political organizations, even US taxpayers, 80% (or more) of the cost and effort are born by 20% (or fewer) of participants. The majority of participants can continue to play, without even covering their own net zero share, and the system works fine.

If you knock out even a few of the heavy hitters, the ones doing most of the work or paying the largest cost, such a voluntary network will collapse quickly.

Interesting to note, the significant difference between AQ and the Viet Cong, for example. AQ is extremely hierarchical in terms of financing, operational control, motivation, even level of commitment. Keep concentrating on the key nodes, and it collapses (hypothesis). AQ maintains adherance and allegiance by money, inttimidation, much more than by ideology. Much more susceptible to network disruption.

Versus our efforts against the Viet Cong, much more uniform, less hierachical, higher level of ideological commitment, not a paid for allegiance. We spent years trying to break or shatter, and only achieved success when they (rather unwisely) threw themselves wholly into the militarily unsuccessful Tet Offensive. Of course, by then the forces were at work that would ensure our political defeat.

A useful connection of domains. A point missing from many studies of scale-free and other networks is the dynamics of their origin and demise. Those dynamics has been 'studied', albeit almost entirely anecdotally, in the world of Internet entrepreneurs and investors, for probably obvious reasons. It's given rise to catch phrases that have been so overhyped as to become banal, but I'm going to drag some of them into the discussion anyway, because they may illuminate the "what now" question to some extent. (Googling any of the terms in quotes will get you more than you ever wanted to know...)

A "network effect" occurs when the value of participating in a network grows as the number of other participants grows. The canonical, though anecdotal, statement of this is "Metcalfe's Law" stating that the value of participation grows as the square of members in the network.

The graph of Metcalfe's Law is a parabola - the value of participation increases steeply, but is low at small numbers. When the number of participants is high, then the diffusion of the network may appear to be "viral" - happening without further cost or effort by the network sponsor. Below that critical "tipping point", it may in fact take a great deal of effort (marketing $$, for instance), to gain adherents to the network (as learned the hard way by many investors.)

Speed and eventual maximum "diffusion" of the network in a target population is related to attactiveness of the offering, and reaching "influencers" (highly connected nodes) early in the process. When two or more networks are inherently competitive (for allegiance, time, money) then the particular time course of diffusion of each offering to influencers may become critical to which grows and survives ("path dependency").

Application of some of this to networked insurgencies seems fairly obvious. The value of an AQI or Ba'athist revanchist network grows with participation - less chance of being knocked off by a rival, and better chance of intimidating the remaining population. Below some tipping point it may require external organization, funding and recruits from AQ Central or exiled Saddamites, but once it reaches the tipping point it goes viral and recruits its thugs and cooerces funding locally. Recruit or intimidate the remaining local influencers - sheiks, imams, other big men - and further diffusion is likely.

So far straightforward, but what might happen in the current stage when the 'head of the tail' of the scale-free network has been at least partly dismantled? Will the network regrow?

One change will definitely be the desirability of the 'offering'. AQI fouled its own nest, and the local population is not likely to want their return, given alternatives. We've also created the disincentive that network membership is likely to mean a sudden, kinetic end. But both of these might decay when we leave an area, if some residue of the network survives and can begin to diffuse once again, intimidating both the population and indigenous forces.

It would seem the obvious "what next?" reply is that we must help stand up a competing, successful network. That network cannot rely upon us as the influencers, or it will collapse when we leave. It also seems that we are attempting exactly that, or have at least borrowed the pattern begun in the Anbar Awakening and are attempting to propagate it. I've noted here before that the rhetoric coming out of the 'surge' points largely to local leaders, locally recruited volunteers and local liasion to our forces, rather than the top-down show case political exercises of the past.

That all looks righteous as a next move, and barring other factors, a very decent chance for a win in the Sunni territories, given the current embed reporting. The view is less clear in Baghdad and the Shi'a territories. Is the average Ali sick of Badr, Sadr, and Qods and ready to sign up for a competing network? That may be the most critical piece of missing data, and it therefore suggests the next moves.

But I've got to believe that the patient work of chasing connections and neutralizing higher and higher value 'nodes' in the insurgent network actually may be paying off as the network begins it's sudden collapse.

The model for network collapse seems reliant on the assumption that the forces that drive the creation of new network components (or "nodes") is, at best, steady-state.

If it is, then yes, a particular network will collapse, eventually, when nodes are destroyed.

This does not mean, of course, that a new network won't come into existence to replace it.

On the other hand, if a network is expanding, then destroying nodes will only slow growth but will not prevent it. Depending on the rate of and nature of growth, it is also possible that the network could become adaptive to such losses, which in the end could end up strengthening it.

An added complication is that there are likely to be multiple networks that only partially overlap,

I would argue that what we are doing in Iraq is simultaneously destroying nodes (perhaps purposefully, perhaps haphazardly) while a the very same time providing the motive force to inspire new network growth from lower levels.

In my view, it seems clear we are doing too much of the latter and are therefore not really capable of staying ahead of it by doing the former. It's a futile effort using the current approach.

In other words, ask yourselves whether you believe that any dip in violence in Iraq is likely to be lasting or temporary, and if not why?

I like your use and application of the network analogy, and utilizing the concept of hubs, contra Robb's analogy.

You are off on the "main" hubs, which have been targeted, and how they have been targeted.

Mainly, there HAS been political reconciliation, of a sort:

a. Co-opting, and making common cause with Sunni leaders in the Anbar province. Providing funds, weapons, etc.
b. Co-opting, making common cause, with Sadr. Sadr has stopped trying to go after the U.S., and is instead, in the main, working with the U.S., the existing government, to shore up his power, and the U.S. is working with him as well.

Those are your two largest nodes right there, but the shift HAS been political. Sunnis in Anbar can't afford to fight the U.S. AND the Shiites, who keep encroaching north of Baghad, into their areas. Sadr is basically fighting a sporadic gang war against other Shiite elements, in Baghdad, and specifically in Basra.

In both cases, the U.S. is the lesser of two evils, and has both weapons and money, to work with.

The other big issue is, "there's no one left to kill", as most of the simmering civil war has happened, and Sunnis are holed up with Sunnis, Shiites, with Shiites. This has happened because 3 million people have been killed, or fled, to a safer area, or left the country.

Congrats on that.

Now, this might be setting the stage for a greater civil war later, as the boundaries of the semi-autonomous regions are setup, patrolled, consolidated by the local powers, and eventually these regions will "go to war" with each other. Or, this is simply the first coalescing stage for region-states, or new city-states.

But back to your example, you place far too much emphasis on Al Queda, when the causes of the shift are bound up in local interests.

The parabolic cost/growth curve that Tim Oren [#5] describes has some further important implications.

First, retrospective. Immediately after 9/11, we had a choice to make. We could portray OBL as a criminal, and AQ as an organized crime gang, to be brought to justice. Or we could portray them as an existential threat to the USA, and declare a multi-generational "War on Terror", with them as the poster children. Clearly, we chose the latter.

One effect this had was to push OBL and AQ significantly farther along that curve, magnifying their perceived influence in the world, and making it easier and cheaper for them to recruit additional network members. From the network perspective, this was not a good choice on our part. Far better to characterize them as law-breakers and gangsters, exiles from civilized society of all kinds, to be apprehended and punished.

To compound our error, once we had overthrown the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, we eliminated the (admittedly brutal) authority that had enforced law and order, without putting anything in its place. We threw open the gates to all kinds of petty criminals to start building themselves up into warlords of various kinds. It's been a very Darwinian environment out there, and the ones left on top are pretty good at what they do. They have a strong vested interest in lack of law and order, and they are not nice guys. Each has recruited his own network, and has extended it as far as population and geography will allow.

So what next?

Is it possible for anyone to re-establish law and order in Iraq? Perhaps.

Is it possible for us, a conquering army, to re-establish law and order in Iraq? Not by ourselves. We would need to recruit large numbers of people into our network. How?

"...into our network". No, you miss the point. It only works if it's their network, because we will eventually leave. We care only that the outcome is not inimical to us, and is able to compete for adherents with the residue of AQI, Ba'ath, etc. Sounds like the Awakening. (It will likely also represent a net transfer of power away from Baghdad to the provinces, also a very good thing.) Now, does the same thing work with JAM, Badr and company? That's the place to watch next.

As for AQ itself, there your analogy is false. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and VCs don't get to 'go kinetic' on their opposing networks. Nation states do, particularly when they are attacked first. You may have forgotten, but we were. You may prefer to surrender and watch the opposing network grow, but since they started it, they get war. If we've erred, it's in the direction of allowing them sanctuaries and safe harbors.

Still, as the Army Captains say (like the group of sargeants 2 months earlier:

It is time to make a choice

C'mon, hypo - do you really want to put it to a vote of the officer and NCO's in the military? Do you think you'll like the outcome?

Forgetting entirely what a bad idea it would be to let the military run our military policies (as opposed to programs, strategies, and tactics).

What was it that McClellan said about the Civil War again?

A.L.

The obvious reason for the reduction in attacks is that everybody in iraq thinks we will be gone in 2 years. So why attack us? We don't attack them, they don't attack us, things calm down. No reason to attack us unless we decide our strategy is working so we won't leave after all. But Bush said we're staying because the violence is so bad they can't do without us....

AQM wore out their welcome so they're withering away. Everybody else is working on what to do when we're gone. The big issue is how to arrange a working cease-fire with Mahdi-Army types. Mostly all we have to do is stop attacking them, but they might talk mean to us and taunt us publicly and we don't want that.

Basicly the only reason anybody beyond AQM has been attacking us in iraq is they thought we wanted to stay. Now that they think we're leaving, it's mostly negotiable.

In general, we beat networks by convincing them we're running honest elections with an honest government. Network leaders and fanatics might not like that, but most of the membershipo prefers to convince people politically rather than try to win by killing people and blowing stuff up.

Saddam did most of the destabilizing in the region for at leasr the last quarter century prior to the invasion. He persecuted the Shia majority; driving them out of electoral politics, and DAWA into 'direct action. He murdered two generations
of the Hakim and Sadr clans; creating the martyr complex that Muqtada would benefit from. He used
the Shatt Al Arab treaty to get Khomeini exiled to France, from whence he proceeded to destabilize
Iran; which gave him the pretext for the invasion; which he used to rally the Sunni including the then
complacent Saudis. The invasion of
invasion of Kuwait and the proximity to Saudi oil fields triggered a reaction among the Wahhabi ulema; that Osama AQ was able to tap after Afghanistan. The
Anfal campaign; did similar effects to the Kurds. At home, the expenses of the war, strained the infrastructure,which was nearly at
the point of collapse, except for
in certain favored Sunni majority
districts of Baghdad. much of the economy was channelled into those Palaces you see rising in Ziggurat
like fashion. The outwardly secular Baathist regime; had to feign fealty to Salafist and even Wahhabi currents which were permeating the society. Remaining funds were going to support Palestinian irredentists, Algerian
Salafis in the GIA, and Phillipines
Wahhabis in Abu Sayyaf; the last in corroborated by recovered Mukharabat files. So tell me again; how Saddam was a stabilizing
force

Nature abhors a vacuum.

In addition to filling the vacuum left by a rapidly collapsing network, now is the time to interdict primary nodes that will refill the vacuum even as we strive to do so ourselves.

It's not even sure that the Iranian and Syrian centers of gravity would have to collapse to prevent them from re-establishing the network in Iraq.

A general attack could easily focus their attention on survival during this critical period when they will otherwise be re-forming nodes in Iraq.

At the same time, hitting even low level terrorists in Waziristan, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, large numbers of them in a geometric grid around areas thought to contail centers of gravity will also force them to delegate CPU cycles towards defense and self preservation.

In my opinion, now is the time for an all out, global offensive, fixing Iran and Syria, and simultaneausly precision targeting as many high level enemy commanders as possible, but where this cannot be done, attacking them by proxy, through their underlings, to create fear and sow dissent. This buys us time to fill the vacuum in Iraq on our own terms, and perhaps, if properly executed, may even cause further large scale fragmentation of the global terror network.

You are saying Iraq is undergoing a phase transition ;-)...

A bit off topic but i have a prediction: Now that the draw-down of the surge level forces is in sight, the Democrats in Congress who have been screaming to pull back our force levels will be screaming about where, when, and how the reductions are happening. IE- since everything Bush does is wrong, the opposite must always be right. Even if it is the polar opposite of what you believed yesterday.

The argument that "you can't kill a network" because removing 80% of the ARPANET nodes was insufficient is specious on several groups.

(A) You can kill a network by attacking every single node in it. This happens in robust, networked systems called ecologies, when the climate changes, one massive volcano darkens the world for a few years, etc. It also happens when one networked tribe moves in and every member of the tribe goes after every other member of the tribe all the time. How else do you think the Muslims managed to extirpate all but a rememnant of each society they overran? The Zoroastrians lost their religion and their history; so did the Egyptians (ever wonder why there was so little historical knowledge of Egypt in Egypt that the Europeans had to re-discover it all for them?)

The ARPANET was designed to be resistant against nukes punching huge wholes in the network, not against EMP toasting every single node in the network, not against 'the internet worm' attacking every single router in the network, and so on.

(B) There is a very simple way to kill a network: take away people's motivation to join/use it. Call that 'starving every node'. Consider the internet: if email and html were removed, it would wither back to the insignificance it had before email and html provided an incentive. That's precisely why the Internet grew so slowly at the start, and reversing the incentives would kill it.

Of course, 'starving every node' is another way to 'attack every node', but indirectly by taking away everyone's motivation to use it.

Thus, one good way to attack a social network, network of influence, social movement, is to make it very clear to everyone that their interests lie with a different network. Then everyone leaves, and the network succumbs to the 'starving every node'.

A conceptually simple - but very difficult - way to do this is to make it very publically obvious that you can attack and kill the best defended nodes (i.e. high value targets), so that everyone in the network knows they are vulnerable. Then you work with the traditional tribal leaders to make it obvious which 'other network' you support so that they know where their advantage lies. Voila - everyone switches. It sounds too simple to be true, but as Clausewitz said "Everything in war is very simple -- but even the simplest things are very difficult"

I'm not saying the surge will definitely work, but I am saying people have a tendency to take a few examples and over-generalize to statments like 'you can't kill a self-healing network'.

Summary: kill a robust network by killing every single node, by either direct attack or by indirect starvation.

Here's another approach- attack the electrical supply. Of course, this in a sense is just attacking a different network- but one that has already been proven to be vulnerable.

In the case of terrorists in Iraq this would mean cutting off their supply lines into foriegn nations. Despite being an ironclad rule of counterinsurgency, we have never approached this in a serious and systematic way.

Laocoon's analysis [#17] is naive, when applied to the problem of terrorism. Translated, his point (A) is "kill all the terrorists". Arguably a noble ambition, but impossible to implement, since the hard part is figuring out who is a terrorist, and who is a regular, moderately-law-abiding citizen who is just grumpy because his country is full of invading soldiers.

But if you sweep that second guy up as a false positive, when searching for terrorists, you convert many of his relatives and friends (and him if he survives) into your staunch enemies.

Laocoon's point (B) is more sophisticated, but (as he admits) is exceedingly difficult to implement. I believe that we've tried very hard to convince the general Iraqi population that their best interests lie with us, but I don't believe that the facts on the ground make that a rational choice for the typical Iraqi citizen.

The contribution of the network analysis is that there is a way to fight against an asymmetric force of terrorists (or guerrillas, as we used to call them), if you can identify the highly-connected hub nodes. You don't have to find all the terrorists. You just have to find the highly-connected ones, who by definition are somewhat easier to find.

But if you can't find them, you can't apply the strategy. And applying the strategy poorly generates more enemies, so you lose ground. (As we have seen, of course.)

This takes us back to AL's original question: This network analysis has promise of showing a way to defeat a networked guerrilla force (terrorist group or insurgency or whatever), assuming you can find ways to identify the hubs. But then you have to fill the vaccuum with an alternative network. How do we do that?

"But then you have to fill the vaccuum with an alternative network."

Not necessarily- the vaccuum will fill itself, by definition. I'm not entirely sure how much influence we can have over that even in theory. I do believe that once you establish good will by going after the Big bad guys, attempt to improve the locals lot in life, and (critically) convince the locals you are going to leave when you can the vacuum is likely to be filled with a stable, possibly progressive alternative.

We shouldnt sour so quickly to democracy and the gradual advance of liberal civilization. I think the neocons are eventually right that all people desire it, but they have BADLY underestimated the strength and determination of the forces of reaction to this. There may still be a desireable equalibrium Iraq can gravitate towards if given peace from outside (and some inside) aggressors.

In addition to Beard's good points in #19 there is another angle on the need to "fill the vacuum" that bodes badly for this whole theory.

Terrorisn and or insurgency (I think it is important that we recognize that the two - even in Iraq - are not necessarily the same animal) evolved for a reason. As long as that reason/motivation exists the vacuum created by killed/captured "nodes" will simply be replaced by new ans wiser terrorists/insurgents.

Throughout the Iraq occupation and the war on terrorism more generally, I have noticed that there is a peculiar thinking that seems to take terrorists and insurgents as a fairly static (set number) of deviant personalities; a one time occurence whose removal from the world will cease the problem. I suppose this is linked to Mark B's notion that, "We shouldnt sour so quickly to democracy and the gradual advance of liberal civilization. I think the neocons are eventually right that all people desire it". There is also echoes of the "great man of history" perspective here; a sense that most people are ideologically maleable and that a few bad "nodes" are causing them to fall into wrong thinking and a few good nodes could influence the people into correct action.

If we could just get rid of these personalities that represent the last vestiges of primitive thinking then the world would open wide to the bloom of liberal - and US friendly dont you know - democracy...and pass me another glass of Koolaide please!

I don't subscribe to the great man theory. Nor do I think that otherwise docile populations are duped by a few nodes into harboring and supporting insurgencies and/or terrorist networks.

Rather, that these personalities, networks, nodes, leaders (whatever) evolve out of environmental conditions that are not just conducive to their presence and activities, but that demand them.

Therefore, the network will not die -though individual nodes may - until some far more fundemental underpinnings in the environment change radically.

And herein lies one of my strongest points against the occupation; you cannot change a population's thinking for positive at the muzzle of a gun. Nor can you impose your own idiosyncratic socio-political structure on a people by force.

The neocon counter, of course, being that there is no need to impose; that all people are just like us and desire to express it and will do when given a chance.

History is against the neocon dream.

Networks will refresh as long as they serve an evolutionary role.

I think a good test of this whole "node" theory is the fight against organized crime - particularly the Italian Mafia - in the UNited States. The G-Men have been taking out nodes for generations and, still, there is a Mafia. Where the Italian Mafia has actually been weakened by node targeting govt activites other crime syndicates have filled the vacuum.

Perhaps this theory will hold up. Perhaps we can indeed ignore the fact that nearly 76,380,000 people in Indonesia have good to better confidence in Bin Laden! Since 2003 when that number was 112,560,000 things have improved but my my its hard to be optimistic when so many folks in a moderate country like Indonesia think that a Mass Murderer who promises more mass murder is a figure to admire.

76 Million folks in just one country. Thats quite a large network. And we are depending on Military Intelligence...the most famous oxymoron in history to find out the important nodes. And we are optimistic?

Avedis....nice expansion of a point I made in #6, which I think helps to illustrate the oversimplification of the problem (which, in this case, is dangerous) .

It all is beginning to sound rather like all the corporate gobbledygook spewed by so-called network or systems organization experts that sounds so good (to some) because it says so little.

Beard,

Sorry I gave an impression of naivete! I guess direct experience in anti-terrorist work is not enough to get experience in anti-terrorism work. Central nodes are reasonable places to start, but watch out for "the pizza boy problem". That is, IF you had perfectly clean data on only the people in the network, then (A) attacking central nodes would work, and (B) you would have reliably distinguished between terrorists and non-terrorists. But you point out that (B) is almost impossible. If the data is not perfectly clean, then you quickly find that there all kinds of commonly-accessed nodes that have nothing to do with terrorism: lots and lots of people call the pizza delivery service. So 'attack central nodes' sounds great in theory, but it doesn't work so well in practice (the word 'naive' springs to mind), because almost all the central nodes are in fact irrelevant, unless you meet impossible standards of data-cleaning.

You also should not confuse 'network node' with 'person' or 'terrorist'. If everyone in a cell decides to leave it, then that node has been obliterated - even though no one was even hurt.

Thus, I don't even need to distinguish between cell-members and non-members: the people in the cell know who they are, and when they all quit, the cell is destroyed. Even if I never ID'ed the people, even if I never even knew the cell existed, it is now destroyed. So much for the "you can't tell terrorists from non-terrorists" argument.

Point (A) was "attack all node". One, and only one, possible interpretation is 'kill all terrorists'. In the past, it was morally feasible to kill pretty much an entire nation, but not today. So that would be a fairly counter-productive path to take, like trying to get from Dallas to Chicago via Antarctica. Fortunately, there are many ways to attack all nodes, and getting everyone to switch allegiance is a pretty effective way to do so.

Point (A) is a very abstract goal, like "establish legitimacy". There are many specific ways to try to achieve that abstract goal, and point (B) is one suggestion. "Kill all terrorists" is another, which I agree is not a very good one.

Of course, Avedis' point that 'networks will refresh as long as they serve an evolutionary role' is true (minus the teleological assumption). It's also true of every non-network thing, given the way evolution works. My point is to change the environment of all nodes, so as to re-direct evolution. There are many instances of this happening over geological time. My point is to learn the general lesson, then re-apply it in an intelligent way to our current problems.

What I might call point B.1 was 'publicly kill highly defended leaders', which does indeed rely on identifying the people in those nodes, and they do have a strong tendency to self-identify. That is, of course, just one way of incentivizing people to exit their nodes.

Of course, there are other ways to achieve B.1 - notably the historical examples of Iran and Egypt, in which entire robust networks were obliterated, with only a small percentage of the population killed. But they did use sharia law to change the entire evolutionary system at once, thus ... wait for it ... "attacking all nodes at once".

History contains many lessons in this area.

alan/avedis - I think the notion you're both raising rests heavily on one factual question and two conceptual ones.

The factual question is whether we're facing a truly broad-based insurgency (what I'd call 'an uprising') in which a substantial part of the population is actively or passively willing to participate (as opposed to say approving things, either out of belief or out of a desire not to get killed). If that is the case, the 'break the network' model flat isn't going to work, because the attraction of the network is so great - and the rate of membership growth so high - that you simply can't break it apart faster than it grows.

But - if that were true, I think the casualty figures in Iraq would be wildly different than they are; that's the root of the point I keep trying to make when I point out that the level of violence isn't extraordinarily high in Iraq (compared with Columbia, violent cities in the US, etc) - not that Iraq is somehow about to become Manhattan Beach.

And the conceptual points are a) that networks repel as well as attract - and that just as our killing innocents drives people into the network, the insurgent's killing innocents drives people away. And that the number of people who have to be driven away in order to have the roots of a counter-network (one that will inform on or even directly challenge the insurgent network) probably isn't that high. And b) that the secret sauce in the whole thing is perception - because that drives the relative 'attractiveness' of the two networks - which is one reason I harp so heavily on issues of public diplomacy and the disservice our media class does in presenting our side so thoroughly and consistently as worse than it really is.

A.L.

AL

Before continuing to debate the value of the network model, I think it is necessary first step back a moment and define the current sources of violence in Iraq and who they are directed at.

I would suggest that we try to come to an agreement/understanding on the proportion of daily violence that derives from:

1) Sunni vs. Shia civil violence = a%?

2) Sunni or Shia attacks on US personnel=b%?

3) "Foreign" insurgent (including AQI) attacks on US personnel=c%?

4) "Foreign" insurgent attacks on Iraqi civilians=d%?

4) Other sources=e%

Such that a+b+c+d+e=100%.

"There is also echoes of the "great man of history" perspective here; a sense that most people are ideologically maleable and that a few bad "nodes" are causing them to fall into wrong thinking and a few good nodes could influence the people into correct action."

I guess we are just in disagreement, because the above sounds very much like what I do believe. Since everything comes back to WW2, how do you feel about the German, Italian, and Japanese people- were they ideologically maleable or were they just lousy fascists? Strangely your way of thinking would seem to encourage even more wholesale slaughter of civilian populations. After all, if they are fully cognicent and responsible for the actions of their leaders (instead of vice-versa), dropping smart bombs on the Husseins and OBLs of the world was always a useless gesture. We should have nuked Afghanistan and Iraq one would think.

I dont believe that- and on the other hand i dont really believe in the great man idea requiring the great man to entrance or enslave his people either. Ideas are the true great men, and the best way to defeat an idea is of course with a better idea. But when ideas come into violent conflict, sometimes you need to let the bad idea play out (which has sadly happened in iraq, NOT INTENTIONALLY i should add) and sometimes the forces opposing the new idea need to be removed or reduced to give it a fair day in court. This happens over and over again in history.

I would suggest that we try to come to an agreement/understanding on the proportion of daily violence that derives from . . .

I think we would need more clarification on how responsibility for violence is proportioned. For example, nobody was killed or injured in the bombings of the Golden Mosque, but in the subsequent days, weeks, months (or even longer), there were waves of competing communal reprisals and probably some insurgent activity as well. I would say that most of the violence is a mixture of three security problems: terrorism, insurgency and sectarian conflict.

If its true that terrorist attacks have disproportionate effects, successful targeting of the terrorists would similarly have disproportionate effects.

Or it could be like blowing out a match after it already lit a fuse, PD.

Aren't we talking about casualty figures in Iraq, PD Shaw, a country torn by civil strife and war? Why does it matter whether people were killed by "terrorists" or other Iraqis (or military contractors, for that matter) when one is considering the "level of violence" as a broad category, as seems to be the case here?

Because I think a problem with going down this road is that it will muddy, rather than clarify, the situation. How is a "terrorist" categorized, and how accurately can this be done to begin with from our perspective? Does the killing of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater mercenaries count as "terrorism"? I'm sure many Iraqis might consider it such...so whose definition is to be used? If we think about the definition from an Iraqi perspective (the most relevant) then I could imagine a very broad definition of "terrorism" that includes sectarian conflict and other sources of random, frequent, brutal violence.

Iraqi's won't be able to live in relative peace and security unless the violence levels there drop significantly from their current levels, from all sources. I keep thinking back to the video posted by Michael Totten here recently showing Iraqi kids running around on a devastated street. You could just feel the tension there, the feeling that any moment someone might start opening fire or a bomb might go off. So, if one is attempting to judge the success of a model for the eradication of violence, and is SERIOUS about REALLY doing so, then one must first identify whether it applies to all significant sources (measured in casualties).

So I would have to ask you who are the "terrorists" that you speak of here:

successful targeting of the terrorists would similarly have disproportionate effects.

?

alan - if Iraqis lived in a country that was like Columbia, or like central Mexico, would that be a 'good enough' outcome??

How much better than Rwanda does it have to be?

A.L.

Moreover Blackwater wouldnt be out shooting anyone if the threat of terrorism wasnt palpable. They wouldnt even be in country. The reverse is not true, in fact the opposite.

A.L.,

"...that's the root of the point I keep trying to make when I point out that the level of violence isn't extraordinarily high in Iraq (compared with Columbia, violent cities in the US, etc)[#25] .....How much better than Rwanda does it have to be? [#31]

With or without 160,000 US troops?

Doesn't the argument that we cannont withdraw US troops from Iraq because of the subsequent and consequent catastrophe undermine any claim that the violence in Iraq isn't really all that bad?

The claimed need to keep 160,000 US troops in Iraq presupposes that Iraq violence is unacceptable. Hell, if violence in Iraq isn't any worse than in some US citiies, why not bring the troops home now and station them in those cities instead.

I just don't see how you can argue that things aren't that bad AND at the same time claim the need for a continued and substantial US combat presence there. Pick one or the other.

#31 AL

How much better? I'm sure most Iraqi's would like it to be better than Rwanda (not sure what's going on in Columbia), and would therefore probably settle for something like what it was before 2003, Saddam and all.

Anyhow, what's your point?

Care to take a stab at my #26 now?

Mark #32

f the threat of terrorism wasnt palpable.

Once again, as with PD, I'll ask you to define what you mean by "terrorism". And whether the hired guns are there only to provide security against that source of violence?

How is a "terrorist" categorized, and how accurately can this be done to begin with from our perspective?

I would use the definition in the above Small Wars link:

Terrorism – that is, the presence of terrorist entities including (but not limited to) AQI who seek to exploit the situation in Iraq to further extremist or trans-national aims.

"Once again, as with PD, I'll ask you to define what you mean by "terrorism". And whether the hired guns are there only to provide security against that source of violence?"

I'd define terrorism as violence taken up outside of a military/state context with the intention of cowing a nation via violence, particularly against civilians, and usually for some political/idealogical objective.

Does that include Mahdi army or Sunni militia that just hate Americans? So long as it is in defiance of the lawful and democratically elected Iraqi government, then yes. If US forces were in Iraq primarilly to combat those types of indigenous elements, I would say we were hopeless (since the Iraq government should at this point be capable of handling purely internal conflicts, and if not we have a much larger problem probably beyond our capability to influence much less correct).

But that isnt the case. Local thuggery doesnt seem to be the issue tearing Iraq apart- it is mass casualty suicide bombing which inflames sectarian violence 'unnaturally', and these things are being orchestrated by foriegn entities who happen to be our declared enemies. In essense, if we could isolate Iraq in a petri dish I would say pull American troops out in the next 3 months. But we can't do that (honestly we havent tried very hard at least as far as shutting down border crossings in a systematic way).

In other words- if Al Qaeda, Syria, SA, and Iran weren't create terrorism in Iraq, our forces wouldnt be there to inflame anyone. On the other hand if our forces were there to inflame, the terrorist elements would still be there and the escalation of violence would spiral out of control with foriegn jihadis as the igniter and catalyst. I realize there is legitimate disagreement on this point, the overwhelming evidence points to this truth. Ejecting America isnt enough- tearing down all vestiges of the 'West' such as democracy, equality, and tolerance are the enemys goal, and that would surely require an orgy of violence in Iraq.

Why does it matter whether people were killed by "terrorists" or other Iraqis (or military contractors, for that matter) . . .

It certainly matters in terms of strategy. I believe, though am by no means certain, that the COIN doctrines being utilized currently will be most succesful at curbing violence arising from insurgents and terrorists. It will likely be less succesful with sectarian conflict and least succesful with ordinary crime. While these last two sources may indirectly benefit, ultimately political compromise and an indiginous police force are necessary.

As to the larger philosophical issue, I value all life, but government policy has to recognize that some casualties are more prone to encourage additional casulaties. Again, the bombings of the Golden Mosque were examples of no casualty events. Its why I support hate crime laws to increase the punishment against mad f***ers that want to stir up some sort of race war.

I would suggest that we try to come to an agreement/understanding on the proportion of daily violence that derives from:

1) Sunni vs. Shia civil violence = a%?

2) Sunni or Shia attacks on US personnel=b%?

3) "Foreign" insurgent (including AQI) attacks on US personnel=c%?

4) "Foreign" insurgent attacks on Iraqi civilians=d%?

5) Other sources=e%

Such that a+b+c+d+e=100%.

I'll try to do that. I notice that the data I'd base those estimates on is very very poor. I expect there's somebody in iraq who has classified data who could do better -- and his data while better than mine is also very poor.

But for purposes of discussion I'll give an estimated range for each item, and a short explanation why I think it's in that range, and maybe people who disagree might then have something to discuss.

1) Sunni vs. Shia civil violence = a%?

10%-30%. It gets played up a lot, though.

2) Sunni or Shia attacks on US personnel=b%?

20%-40%. Most attacks are pretty ineffective, but they keep trying.

3) "Foreign" insurgent (including AQI) attacks on US personnel=c%?

0.01% to 5%. These get played up a whole lot.

4) "Foreign" insurgent attacks on Iraqi civilians=d%?

0.01% to 5%. They tend to make splashy attacks that get a lot of attention, assuming it's them doing it as the press consistently claims.

5) Other sources=e%

30% to 80%. Nobody's counting, nobody's paying much attention.

We make a big deal about attacks on iraqi civilians. But how often do those attacks happen when US forces are present? Are they trying to target the civilians or the americans? Hard to tell after they're splattered.

There just aren't that many foreign attackers in iraq, not counting americans. We make a big deal about them because they're foreign and can be labeled AQI and so american civilians are sure they have no legitimacy. But there just aren't that many of them. The story that they have been forcing sunnis into acting like fundamentalists is bogus. Maybe there were salafists who were forcing sunnis into acting like fundamentalists, and the sunnis revolted. Maybe it's just a story designed to explain why it's OK for us to be buddy-buddies with sunnis after we demonised them for 4 years.

Everybody says the iraqi police are corrupt and ineffective. It seems likely true. If it is true, what's going on with iraqi mafia-like criminal activity? Who's going to stop them, except each other? So how much violence is that? Mob violence against competing mobs? Who's going to even report that to the US military? Kidnapping for profit? That might have settled down by now, with mobs controlling given areas and demanding "protection money" or "taxes" from potential kidnap victims. Maybe raid each other's areas to show they can't actually protect their people. How much of that gets misunderstood as ethnic cleansing? How much of it is ethnic cleansing and gangsterism both at the same time? As the iraqi mafias grow unopposed it's only natural they'd expand into government. The difference between a mobster whose "soldiers" control an area and a militia leader is ... which one collects enough money to do garbage collection and city services?

The number of unreported killings in iraq is kind of like the number of undiscovered caves in kentucky. Except the undiscovered caves wait patiently for someone to find them, and the number grows very slowly.

Of the ones that get reported, how many are misdiagnosed? Attempts against US forces that kill no americans but do kill iraqis -- how do those get spun? Random bodies discovered with torture -- is it ethnic cleansing or is it gang murders? The victims don't say, and nobody else is talking....

How can you trust anybody's guess about those numbers?

J Thomas;

Great. To follow up:

1) Which of these sources do you think constitutes or shows evidence of being a "networked enemy"?

2) Which of these sources can be brought under control by use of military force?

3) What is the nature of recruitment into those that are dependent on networked connections to survive or operate (i.e., opposing US occupation, sectarian hatred, socio-economic desperation, etc.)?

The most reliable numbers I have seen were provided by the U.S. government in a July backgrounder:

Estimates of numbers and type of attack by insurgent group remained classified. However, a background brief by US military experts in Iraq in early July 2007 stated that Al Qa'ida in Mesopotamia was responsible for only 15 percent of the attacks in Iraq in the first half of 2007. Other Sunni insurgents were blamed for 70 percent of attacks and Shi'a militias were blamed 15 percent. Shi'a attacks, however, had increased sharply and were estimated to be higher than 15 percent by the end of June.

This is somewhat problematic from the categories suggested by Alan or myself. The Sunni insurgents appear to be that group of Sunnis that are not in Al Qa'ida, whether targetting U.S. forces, the Iraqi government of Shiites.

Cordesman (from whom the earlier quote derives) goes on to say:

None of this means that the ISI-Al Qa'ida does not play a critical role in the insurgency. Al Qa'ida's attacks do make an up a highly effective 15 percent and probably do the most damage in pushing Iraq towards civil war. The high visibility of these attacks and their relentless nature also do significant damage to the western public opinion, which sees the inability of coalition forces to stop these attacks as an indication that the war cannot be won.

Of course, these are numbers from earlier this year.

the Iraqi government of Shiites.

That should read Iraqi government or Shiites, though I suppose Sunni insurgents may not see any difference.

"There just aren't that many foreign attackers in iraq, not counting americans. We make a big deal about them because they're foreign and can be labeled AQI and so american civilians are sure they have no legitimacy."

The problem with this is that it leaves out a critical fact- proportionally the number of foriegners is small, true, but their effect is disproportunately very large. Foriegners account for almost all of the major suicide bombings in one way or another (they do it themselves, they bribe Iraqis with cash for their families, they threaten to murder their families, they use the mentally infirm).

Here is a Washington Post article on the phenominon (note they source jihadi websites amongst other data- this isnt just the US government/army making this claim).

Here Is a reference to two independent studies that confirm this.

These are the big ticket massacres- dozens of hundreds of casualties. These get press because they kill a whole bunch of people at once, but also because of how senseless it is. Its intended to do this.

J Thomas, if we're 'foreign attackers' in your view, I think my interest in dialog in this context is going to be short. This presupposes a worldview that is certainly legitimate, but isn't one that I share or is shared - or ought to be shared by anyone in my polity. I categorically reject any notion of moral or political equivalence between our troops and people who drill out other people's brains to make a point.

Sorry about that.

Alan - I see where you're going, but I think we're engaging in 'precision by division' - I've seen data on this, but nothing of a quality or currency that would lead me to begin to respond to your point with anything but made-up numbers.

Let's abstract up a level, and we still may be able to have a useful discussion. Let's presume that instead of one network, we're facing multiple networks that have some coordination at various levels, and that interact in relatively predictable ways.

What characteristics would a system like that have that would make 'network collapse' as I discuss it irrelevant? What characteristics would make it significant? I'll suggest a few when I get some time late tonight or in the morning (working and headed to a concert).

A.L.

What characteristics would a system like that have that would make 'network collapse' as I discuss it irrelevant?

Irrelevant may be too much to ask, but I could very easily imagine that the creation of new components could easily outpace the destruction of existing ones.

Furthermore, if the motivation to create such networks remains, then we're pulling up weeds but not ridding the Iraqis of the core problem.

But actually, precise numbers are not important for this, because for these purposes all that matters are proportions. That is, for example, proportion of effort required to diminsh particular level (or proportion) of risk/threat.

What I'm trying to do is find a jumping off point for evaluating not only the short-term, but also long-term effects of the kind of military actions that you and others want to describe as "targeting terrorist nodes in a network". If this approach is to be considered anything other than palliative treatment, then we need to dig into the meaning and definitions that are being used. Otherwise, simply defining overlapping and changing situations as "networks" in order to understand a snapshot data point ("violence is down") seems potentially shortsighted, or worse, useless.

It occurs to me that the network analogy has a big flaw- networks we assume are to some extent self-perpetuating, perhaps indefinately (at least that seems to be the assumption we are working off). But social movements, particularly ones that see large numbers of members turned into clouds of red mist on a regular basis, have beginning, middles, and ends. To paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones in the classic film Under Siege- "Yes, of course! Hence the name: movement. It moves a certain distance, then it stops, you see?"

Can this level of wreckless, nehilistic hate really self-sustain indefinately? Particularly when we make it so tough to make a living?

"Can this level of wreckless, nehilistic hate really self-sustain indefinately? Particularly when we make it so tough to make a living?"

Yes. It has sustained for thousands of years.

This is about clan control of necessary - and limited -means of existance (e.g. oil and fertile soil) in an otherwise inhospitable land.

Some here want to frame the struggle as one against the people that attacked us on 9/11/2001.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

WE have put ourselves into the middle of an ancient quest for power and survival.

Kill all the "nodes" you can. The struggle will continue.

Resource availability and who gets them is the key.

1) Which of these sources do you think constitutes or shows evidence of being a "networked enemy"?

All of them are networked to some extent, but only AQM is dedicated to being our enemy. All the others would prefer that we fight their enemies and give them stuff and after awhile go home.

2) Which of these sources can be brought under control by use of military force?

All of them, given enough force. Like, if we had enough soldiers in iraq to give each iraqi a personal bodyguard who also stopped them from committing violence, all the violence would stop. If you're asking how much of it can we control with the force we have, I'd say basicly none. It's whack-a-mole, wherever we concentrate forces enough to stay in control, we have to leave other places in the tender mercies of whoever is strongest when we aren't around.

3) What is the nature of recruitment into those that are dependent on networked connections to survive or operate (i.e., opposing US occupation, sectarian hatred, socio-economic desperation, etc.)?

Wouldn't it vary? Why do people enlist in the US military?

So imagine you're running a neighborhood in an iraqi city. You want to get food and fuel and ammo to your supporters, at a minimum. That takes an economic network of some sort. Your supplies have to pass through areas controlled by your allies, who will demand your help if they are attacked. And the US military might come through and decide you're a good guy and help you, but at any time they may suddenly decide you're a bad guy and shoot up your neighborhood trying to find and detain you. Obviously you should ltry to be friendly with the americans because they have a lot of everything you need and they might give you some. But every time you interact with them there's the risk they've decided you're an insurgent. And if they decided one of your allies is an insurgent and your ally demands you hide people for him....

One of our most effective ways to turn people into insurgents is to decide they're insurgents. They don't get a lot of choice in it after that.

proportionally the number of foriegners is small, true, but their effect is disproportunately very large. Foriegners account for almost all of the major suicide bombings in one way or another (they do it themselves, they bribe Iraqis with cash for their families, they threaten to murder their families, they use the mentally infirm).

Mark, how would we know that?

We certainly shouldn't believe AQM propaganda about it.

And when we catch somebody, what would you expect them to say? "AQM made me do it! They threatened to kill my wife and children unless I did it! I failed, and they're killing my wife and children right now."

What would you say if it was you? "I'm an important insurgent but no matter how much you torture me I'll never tell you the important secrets I know."

But maybe we're carefully monitoring AQM communications, and we know it's them that are doing all the car bombs. We know who does it, and where they are, and we don't close them down because ... because....

Your secret sources say 15%. I think 5% is more likely, but it could be below 1%. When AQM sends secret reports out of the country that we monitor, is there any particular reason to think they're telling the truth to their own bosses? There's no reliable information on this. It would be nice if our military does have some reliable information, I'd like that. But no reason to suppose they'd tell us the truth if they knew it.

In terms of linkage, it's worth noting that it works both ways. Links strengthen the group; but they also provide traces of connection.

Frequently, we catch one guy doing something wrong, plus his kit. Within a few days of tactical interrogation, we are in a position to hit his whole cell. That in turn can allow us to find a link to the next cell, and stage an operation against it.

This is the reverse of what's being described here -- but it still isn't random. You enter the system at some random point, but then you chase straight up the trail of links towards those better-connected nodes. As you neutralize a few of them, you're cutting off other, smaller nodes that are now "drifting" without orders.

But the picture is more complex than that. The COIN model we are using isn't really about attacking the enemy networks -- that is, rather, only one of several features, and not the most important one. You can get a sense of where disruption fits in the overall strategy by working through "Dr. Kilcullen's latest presentation:http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/kilcullencoinbrief26sep07.ppt on the subject.

avedis, that sounds a lot like "they are little brown people who can't help being stupidly violent; they've been that way since time immemorial."

Since I'm sure that's not what you meant, can I get a clarification?

A.L.

J Thomas - well, I've had this Washington Post article tagged for a while.

Who are the suicide bombers of Iraq? By the radicals' account, they are an internationalist brigade of Arabs, with the largest share in the online lists from Saudi Arabia and a significant minority from other countries on Iraq's borders, such as Syria and Kuwait. The roster of the dead on just one extremist Web site reviewed by The Washington Post runs to nearly 250 names, ranging from a 13-year-old Syrian boy said to have died fighting the Americans in Fallujah to the reigning kung fu champion of Jordan, who sneaked off to wage war by telling his family he was going to a tournament.

Among the dead are students of engineering and English, the son of a Moroccan restaurateur and a smattering of Europeanized Arabs. There are also long lists of names about whom nothing more is recorded than a country of origin and the word "martyr."

Some counterterrorism officials are skeptical about relying on information from publicly available Web sites, which they say may be used for disinformation. But other observers of the jihadist Web sites view the lists of the dead "for internal purposes" more than for propaganda, as British researcher Paul Eedle put it. "These are efforts on the part of jihadis to collate deaths. It's like footballers on the Net getting a buzz out of knowing somebody's transferred from Chelsea to Liverpool." Or, as Col. Thomas X. Hammes, an expert on insurgency with the National Defense University, said, "they are targeted marketing. They are not aimed at the West."

There's a bonus quote in the article as well - something in my queue to blog:

Before Hadi bin Mubarak Qahtani exploded himself into an anonymous fireball, he was young and interested only in "fooling around."

Like many Saudis, he was said to have experienced a religious awakening after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and dedicated himself to Allah, inspired by "the holy attack that demolished the foolish infidel Americans and caused many young men to awaken from their deep sleep," according to a posting on a jihadist Web site.

On April 11, he died as a suicide bomber, part of a coordinated insurgent attack on a U.S. Marine base in the western Iraq city of Qaim. Just two days later, "the Martyrdom" of Hadi bin Mubarak Qahtani was announced on the Internet, the latest requiem for a young Saudi man who had clamored to follow "those 19 heroes" of Sept. 11 and had found in Iraq an accessible way to die.

What's interesting about this? Hmmm...he wasn't radicalized by the invasion of Iraq and US force projection; he was radicalized by the attack on the US and perceived US weakness.

A.L.

"avedis, that sounds a lot like "they are little brown people who can't help being stupidly violent; they've been that way since time immemorial."

Since I'm sure that's not what you meant, can I get a clarification?"

A.L.

It has nothing to do with being brown.

It has everything to do with a fermentation of human nature, a population beyond critical mass and a resource poor environment.

The group or clan is the natural level of affiliation for humans (despite the hyper patriot/nationalistic yearnings of some). In the Corps it was, "unit, corps, God, country"...note unit first. People breaking off into factions over sports teams allegiance, protestants versus catholics - and killinh their neighbaor ove it - even though members of the same race and living on the same island....etc, etc ad infinitum.

A lack of the resources necessary for a healthy level of existance exacerbates this tendency and puts a vicious spin on it. Although I would note that even when resources are plentiful a disparity in their ownership, develpment and utilization will allow the maximizing group to dominate, usually violently, over the minimizing group. See European colonists versus Native Americans, versus African slaves, British Empire, etc.

However, when there is enough to go around, instincts can be (mostly) tempered by rule of law because there is parity in opportunity and power between groups. When there is not, cannibalism can result.

Aside from the rare truly spiritual individuals among us, humans are basically killer apes with language and sophisticated toll making abilities.

The question of "success" in Iraq pivots on the question of who - meaning what groups/clans - controls the farmable land, the sea ports and (especially) the oil producing sectors and whether or not the amount of thgese resources allocated to the group(s) is perceived by them as being sufficient to sustain a good life for their population.

As long as some group perceives themselves as potentially (or actually) left out or lacking, the insurgency will continue regardless of what "nodes" are knocked off. And this is a delicate calculus to which their may never be a solution.

A follow up thought and apologies for straying off topic a bit (and for beaucoup typos).

I think a fundemental difference between my perception of the world and that of AL and other neocons is that I see human nature as described in my comment above. In fact, this country and our system of govenrment and economy was founded with the expressed recognition of human nature being (more or less) that of killer apes with language and tool making ablilities, "let self interest do the work of virtue", checks and balances, etc.

The founders did not try to create a new kind of man. Rather they recognized huamn nature for what it is, recognized that America was resource plentiful enough to mitigate that nature and then they worked within that framework to create a system that turned the worst human instincts into a positive to the greatest extent possible. In fact those instincts -like greed - are the engine that drives our economy.

But AL, you and the neocons want to turn our system into a new religion to be spread across the globe. True missionaries of Americanism! Inside every third world native is an American just dying to emerge!

Because we have so much materially and because we are militarily strong and because we enjoy a relatively free and liberal lifestyle you indulge in misattribution. These good attributes are due to some internal qualities, some inherent betterness in our way of life. Then you assume that we can teach this way of life to the natives. Afterall, they are only screwed up because they haven't been shown the light by us, the perfected.

So I'm going to turn your brown man comment back at you. Do think these people are living like they do because they are a) stupid b) savages c) inferior thinkers awaiting enlightment by you and Paul Wolfowitz d) unlucky e) doing a reasonable job - one similar to what you might actually do - given environmental pressures?

Your answer just might reveal who among us really has the superiority complex and a disdain for "little brown people". From where I'm sitting, it sure looks like you who are carrying the white man's burden and all that it implies.

J Thomas, if we're 'foreign attackers' in your view, I think my interest in dialog in this context is going to be short.

OK, call them foreign fighters.

I think morality is very important when we decide what to do. It doesn't completely work to say the ends justify the means because side effects are still effects -- our ends have to include all the results including the things we want to think of as means to other ends. If you torture a terrorist's child to death to save 100 people it might be worth it, but the result is not 100 people saved, the result is 100 people saved and one child turtured to death by you.

But morality is completely irrelevant when you're describing the current reality, and it's completely irrelevant when you're discussing possible results of your actions. Those are different domains. Morality is only for the domain where you choose what to do.

We did not come to iraq with iraqi permission, and we don't stay with their permission. US soldiers and contractors in iraq are not subject to iraqi law; we aren't responsible to them for what we do there. We publicly discuss removing the iraqi government if it doesn't do what we want. In this we are similar to AQI. That's a description. But morally we are not at all equivalent to AQI. We shoot people and drop bombs because we want iraq to become a better place, while AQI shoots people and delivers bombs because they want iraq to be a worse place. Our goals are very different.

Some counterterrorism officials are skeptical about relying on information from publicly available Web sites, which they say may be used for disinformation. But other observers of the jihadist Web sites view the lists of the dead "for internal purposes" more than for propaganda, [....] Or, as Col. Thomas X. Hammes, an expert on insurgency with the National Defense University, said, "they are targeted marketing. They are not aimed at the West."

But that doesn't make them trustworthy. These are people who would lie to their own public as easily as they would lie to their enemies.

(Rather like our own leaders in that respect....)

Armed Liberal at 7:11 am on Oct 19, 2007
avedis, that sounds a lot like "they are little brown people who can't help being stupidly violent; they've been that way since time immemorial."

Please explain how over 38% of the Muslims in Indonesia have good or better confidence in Bin Laden. Also if you want to take a stab at it explain why muslims in particular seem so willing to believe in mass murderers.

Avedis #54
a)absolutely not
b)absolutely
c)If you accept their premises they probably think as well as we do. I would argue their premises are insane.
d)absolutely
e)absolutely not

What Would Victory in the War on Terrorism Look Like?

Is that even a meaningful phrase?

Do we have to go back to the old Powell Doctrine of only fight wars that have definable ends?

You can't outspend the terrorist with better weaponry and you can't kill all the terrorist..and of course a terrorist is a shifting term (PETA = Eco-Terrorist = Al Qaeda?) Isn't Osama's goal to promote non-stop costly, economy destroying wars, and various costly security barriers (physical, economic, etc)?

Left out of the argument is that some in Iraq have gotton tired of their people being massacred. The people are beginning to fight back.

The increased intelligence required to attack the networks is probably a direct result of more Iraqi input.

Thanks Grim for the link to Dr. Killcullen's Counterinsurgency presentation. I had trouble opening it (might have been impatience), so if anyone else has problems the presentation is also available here.

Dr. Killcullen also divides Iraq into three or four problems: terrorism, insurgency, and sectarian conflict, as well as nation-building.

There is a nice pyramid chart that makes these points:

It is the role of counterterrism to combat terrorism, led by intelligence and supported by the military and police.

It is the role of COIN to to combat the insurgency, led by the military and supported by intelligence and the police.

It is the role of peace keeping to combat sectarian conflict, led by the police and supported by the military.

And as to nation-building, it is to be led by the civilian leadership and supported by the police.

Placed in this context, intelligence on the networked enemy has decreasing benefits as we move down the pyramid. As to Armed Liberal's question, what next? Seems like better training of the Iraqi police and pressure on the civilian leadership. On this last point, Killcullem quotes T.E. Lawrence: "Better the Arabs do it tolerably than you do it perfectly."

A.L.

"if we're 'foreign attackers' in your view, I think my interest in dialog in this context is going to be short....I categorically reject any notion of moral or political equivalence between our troops and people who drill out other people's brains to make a point."

With all due respect, I believe you are missing something fundamentally important here. I'll go further and argue that the mindset represented above is precisely the mindset that has governed our actions in Iraq and resulted in the situation we now find ourselves in.

It is wholly irrelevant to the situation in Iraq whether you see the US military as "foreign attackers" or not. It matters a great deal whether or not Iraqis (and young men of neighboring countires) see them as such. The failure to understand how some Iraqis would view US troops as foriegn attackers and the failure to anticipate such perceptions is, in my view, at the root of all the failures since the inception of this misadventure.

Naturally, we believe in our own moral superiority over others. But to expect others to embrace that view is folly (as has been amply demonstrated over the last 4 years in Iraq).

A.L.,

"he was said to have experienced a religious awakening after the Sept. 11, 2001, ... , inspired by " "the holy attack that demolished the foolish infidel Americans and caused many young men to awaken from their deep sleep," according to a posting on a jihadist Web site.....

What's interesting about this? Hmmm...he wasn't radicalized by the invasion of Iraq and US force projection; he was radicalized by the attack on the US and perceived US weakness."

Or so claims the AQ propaganda machine, which I would advocate taking with a very large grain of salt and not be so quick to take at face value. Also, I notice you have introduced the concept of "perceived US weakness" as being part of the rationale.

"the latest requiem for a young Saudi man who had clamored to follow "those 19 heroes" of Sept. 11 and had found in Iraq an accessible way to die."

I have long argued that our military presence in Iraq has not only provided an increased incentive for terrorism but, more importantly, enhanced opportunity. It was like a god-send to would-be "martyrs." Martydom is now a bus ride away...no longer need to hide out and studying engineering for 6 years in Germany and then craft a way into the US, live there cladestinely, etc., before attacking. In other words, we have lowered the bar in terms of skill sets and intellegence for those who would attack. AQ can now take advantage of impulse "martyrs" instead of depending soley on committed & dedicated ones.

"Mark, how would we know that?
We certainly shouldn't believe AQM propaganda about it."

So we cant believe the military, and we cant beleive the enemy, and we cant apparently believe the independent studies the yahoo article referenced. Even when they are all saying the same thing. So who can we believe?

"I think 5% is more likely, but it could be below 1%."

Oh! And we spend all this money on the CIA.

And there are also all of the Iraqis that blame foreigners for the level of violence in Iraq. According to this
poll of Iraqis Al Qaeda/foreign jihadists are the most to blame for the violence in their country. Also interesting, a vast majority of Iraqis belive that the following countries are "actively engaged" in "encouraging sectarian violence":

Syria (66%)
Iran (79%)
Saudi Arabia (65%)

PD

"According to this poll of Iraqis Al Qaeda/foreign jihadists are the most to blame for the violence in their country. "

That's a little misleading...in 2 ways. Because the poll separated "US-led Coalition forces" (19%) from "President Bush" (8%) (and also "The Iraqi Gov't" (9%) ), whereas the AQ/foreign jihadist amalgm came in at 21%, it's not really accurate to say that AQ/fj are "most" to blame, in the sense that this side is pitted against another side. I mean to say that Bush, the coalition and the Iraq gov't are as much all of a piece as AQ and foriegn jihadists.

"And there are also all of the Iraqis that blame foreigners for the level of violence in Iraq. "

Of course, if you consider Bush and the coalition forces to be foreigners, then, yeah, as a total group "foriegners" are considered most to blame. It also should be pointed out that since many AQ are Iraqis, the AQ/fj category does not necessarily represent a "foreigners" category.

Mark,

I'm not trying to play the blame game. I'm disputing the notion that foreign actors are being exaggerated. I've seen consistent complaints from Iraqis about foreign sources of violence. I didn't break down the subgroups in the poll, but let's redivide the entries your way and my way:

Most to blame:

US/Coalition Forces 19%
President Bush 8%
Iraqi Government 9%

Mark's Total: 36%

al Qaeda/foreign jihadists 21%
Iran 11%
Saudi Arabia 2%
Syria 2%
Turkey 1%

PD's Total: 37%

Now, opinion polls may not be scientific, they measure perception. But clearly Iraqis are perceiving foreign sources of violence and not because of any strong attachment to the US/Coalition Forces. (Note that a majority of Iraqis don't want US/Coalition Forces to leave now)

PD, While clearly foreign actors are perceived to be to blame for the violence by Iraqis, as you say and according to the poll, your catogery affinities seem odd to me.

As foriegn actors I would include:
Bush: 8
Coalition: 19
Iran: 11
Saudi Arabia: 2
Syria: 2
Turkey: 1
and let's say half of the AQ/foreign jihadists grouping: 10 + 1/2
for a total of 53 + 1/2

compared to the indigenous actor grouping of:
The Iraqi government 9
The Iraqi army 2
Iraqi police 2
Sunni militias/leaders 6
Shiite militias/leaders 7 -
Sectarian disputes 5
Common criminals 4
other half of the AQ/foreign jihadist grouping 10 + 1/2
for a total of 45 1/2

But US & its allies, (Bush, Saudia Arabia, Turkey, Iraqi gov't, police & army) get 43 votes for responsibility.
Us enemies, (AQ/foriegn jihadists, Sunni & Shia militia leaders, sectarian disputes, Iran and Syria) score a higher 53 (i'm saying common criminals are disliked by either side) so I guess we are winning. Iraqis hold us less responsible for their plight than they do our enemies.

Interesting, PD and Mark B. I actually agree with the assessment that foreign governments like Syria, Iran, Saudi, etc are behind much of the factional fighting in Iraq. Of course they are. It could be no other way and this should have been recognized before the invasion, but I digress....

...more to the point, what does the involvement of these governments mean for AL's network based COIN approach? I mean Syria, Iran, Saudi, etc are some pretty big "nodes" to have to remove, no?

"Army of Dude Enemy of my Enemy": (link)

And here is alternative explanation to the drop in attacks and, yet another that speaks to the likelyhood of another insurgency filling any vacuums left by knocked out nodes.

-
Link format fixed: David Blue. Posting bare links is against Winds of Change rules.

"I mean Syria, Iran, Saudi, etc are some pretty big "nodes" to have to remove, no?"

I think they can be isolated from Iraq if we made the effort to do so.

"I mean Syria, Iran, Saudi, etc are some pretty big "nodes" to have to remove, no?"

I think they can be isolated from Iraq if we made the effort to do so.

Didn't we make that a top priority somewhere around 2 OODA cycles ago? It went something like --

Cycle X We'll do reconstruction so iraqis will have something better to do than insurgency.

Cycle X+1 We'll provide security first so we can do reconstruction later.

Cycle X+2 We'll avoid iraqis since they don't like the way we provide security, we'll train iraqis to provide their own security and we'll interdict the borders.

Cycle X+3 We'll provide security with the IA since they can't provide security by themselves, insert US teams into the IA units to stiffen them up and teach them.

Cycle X+4 We'll do a surge and secure Baghdad, since we can't expect the iraqi government to reform while Baghdad is collapsing.

I'm sure there was a big priority on sealing the borders 2 cycles ago. I don't know why the borders didn't get sealed then.

"I'm sure there was a big priority on sealing the borders 2 cycles ago. I don't know why the borders didn't get sealed then."

There was an effort to police the borders, maybe, but nothing has remotely ever been done to seal them. A real effort would involve a large number of land mines and razor wire, and politically thats a nonstarter. Because we still dont take this war seriously enough.

I don't think the problem of foreign influence is primarily one of terrorists or insurgents crossing the borders to fight. If that was it, then the problem could be addressed by killing those infiltraters. Rather it is more a problem of the governments of those bordering countries jockeying for position through their proxies and allies in Iraq. This is a high level issue. Sealing borders won't touch it. You'd have to seal diplomatic and political relationships; and you can't. This is not a military thing.

And sorry David Blue......I don't think that your link format works with my Mac? I honestly tried to do it right.

"You'd have to seal diplomatic and political relationships; and you can't"

If thats the case what are they actually providing? Moral support? We know for a fact Iran is supply the high end weapons like shaped charges that are killing an awful lot of our troops. We know AQ is providing suicide bombers that are causing the lionshare of the mass casualty attacks (J Thomas's gut feelings notwithstanding). We know money from the outside may be the most unspoken factor of all- providing everything from weapons to political protection to flat out bribes to shoot at people and blow things up. These are things we can interdict. If we really decide to.

Avedis, I must be missing something about that reasoning.

Suppose that a foreign government wanted to promote violence in the USA. So they go to groups they think are disaffected -- NRA, NAACP, NAMBLA, KKK, etc -- and offer them money and support to do violent things. I'd expect they'd mostly get turned down. But if somebody took their money how much violence would result? My guess is, mostly, just enough attempts to keep the money coming. That was the german experience with the IRA during WWII. It was our experience with the Contras in nicaragua. When people don't have a burning desire to risk their own lives while killing people, foreign governments aren't going to get a lot of result trying for that.

So where foreign government support comes in, is when there are lots of people who have that burning desire but who lack resources. And the foreign government can supply their needs. That comes down to money and technology. For anything that's available on the world market, the locals could pay for it and pay to have it smuggled in -- if they had the money. Foreign governments can supply the money and sometimes make the smuggling cheaper by looking the other way. And foreign governments might possibly supply technology that isn't available at any price. Compare the Contras with the mujahedin we supplied in afghanistan. The muj had a burning desire to get the russians out of their country, and when we gave them advanced anti-armor and anti-air weapons they used them effectively.

So, we're paying something like a billion dollars every couple of days on iraq, not counting the secret funding. And say that saudi arabia is spending a million dollars a day, maybe $350 million a year to support whoever they want to support. I'd figure the primary issue is the guys with the burning desire who're getting the money. But why should the saudi million dollars be so important compared to our $500 million? Why is that decisive?

Similarly about "proxies". In 1778 the french used american proxies, and as soon as the british gave up in the colonies we dumped the french cold. On the other hand, the USA used fiiipino proxies against the spanish, and as soon as the spanish were gone we dumped our proxies cold. Look at a lot of other examples and the rule seems to be, when "proxies" can get away with it they look after their own interests. But when the proxies are installed with foreign military force and stay in power through foreign military force, they serve the foreign nation instead.

We installed the iraqi government with military force, and its legislature appears to survive due to our military force, but our chosen proxies turned out to have minimal iraqi support. Iranian proxies have been winning elections, but after we're gone they'll go their own way unless they're afraid the iranian army will invade. Why is iranian support supposed to be so important?

Why is minimal support by foreign governments so important compared to our humongous support for the guys we like?

The rich people build networks, but poor are looking for a job

#75 from avedis:
"And sorry David Blue......I don't think that your link format works with my Mac? I honestly tried to do it right."

Thanks for honestly trying to do it right.

Since the same people post a lot at Winds of Change, I think it's worthwhile to coach anyone who wants to comply with the rules how to do so.

If you can't get the simplified way the site offers you to post links to work right, try this alternative.

Copy and paste this to a text file where it will always be handy for you.

[a href="some.long.url"](link)[/a]

Replace each [ with a < and each ] with a >. Save that.

Then when you want to post a link, copy that into your post, and paste your link between the quote marks, over some.long.url.

If you have another relevant link you could post into this thread, use the method I've shown you to post it.

If you make a mess of it, I'll only clean it up, so go ahead. :)

Avedis

Very good work in this thread. I, too, am not a believer in the The Great Man Theory, being more partial to the social and economic based viewpoint of the Annales School.

Of the myriad blunders we have committed in our policy towards Iraq in particular and the ME in general, I think the worst might be that we want to impose a political culture in the area to attain our goals rather than work through a tradition system of offering economic incentives (By this I include every thing, bribes, indirect rule, etc.) to play along with us.

Trying to change a political culture presupposes the need to change the society from its roots. We cannot do that unless we destroy the institutions on which a society rests, as we did by leveling Germany or flattening two Japanese cities with Nuclear weapons.

These two concepts are conveniently overlooked when Germany and Japan are brought up as examples of our nation building. Germany and much of Europe was brought to the point of famine and its industrial infrastructure was destroyed, which was what was apparently necessary to reconstruct the society. Japan had to endure the most brutal attacks in human history to even begin to think about changing the imperial system on which the society was based.

It seems to me that there are people better able to eradicate nodes and cells like those in the Middle East. They are Middle Easterners. They might offend our western sensibilities, but they are effective.

Our problem is that the Neo/Con strategy was self-delusional and the invasion was a mistake. Until we admit that we are stuck in a situation where we are supporting a corrupt, sectarian and ineffective government, a destabilizing Kurdish rump state and helping our enemies in the region.

Your comments about the behavior of people depending on whether resources are plentiful or scarce are also, IMO, clear and correct.

Mark B, I disgaree materially with your last comment (e.g. the amount and type of support Iran is supplying). They are providing some materiel, bu not to the extent you - and other advocates of war against Iran - want to believe. However, I will speak to your larger point.

And JT, my response should address your last as well.

You both seem to think that foreign support has to do with $s and guns. Of course, this must be true, but there is more to the picture. The Iraqis know that the US must leave some day. It could be next year, it might be in ten years, but leave we will. When we leave the various Iraqi groups are going to have to continue to live amongst each other - all of the various factions - and amongst their neighbors. Therefore, well beyond #s and guns at present there is a need to establish long term alliances with parties that won't pack up go. The Iraqis are doing what they must with their neighbors to ensure their positions over the long haul.

This is not like the example of a foreign power bribing the KKK to commit acts of terrorism. THis is about survival in a dog eat dog environment.

All of the support we can give them today will not mitigate the realistic fears of the various factions that, when we go, faction will turn against faction. They are going to have to survive amongst themselves and this means support from neighbors who share something in common; whether it be religious affiliation, ethnic affiliation or just some shared objective.

And all of this gets back to my original comment on this thread; that networks evolve out of necessity and that they will not disappear until the environmental pressures that gave rise to them is eliminated.

What would cause the environmental pressure to be reduced if not to cease? You would need a stable government under which all people within the borders of Iraq - regardless of race, creed, ethnicity - were united and working together toward a common good; a pluralistic society like the US.

But we don't see that emerging. Instead we have people like Totten cheering for an independent "Kurdistan". We have other fractures along ethnic and religious lines. For each fracture their will be a support network and a quest for strong alliance with neighboring powers.

TOC, thanks...and, of course, I %100 agree with your #80.

"Mark B, I disgaree materially with your last comment (e.g. the amount and type of support Iran is supplying). They are providing some materiel, bu not to the extent you - and other advocates of war against Iran - want to believe."

I'm advocating war against Iran? Why wasn't I informed?

Anybody happen to have the link on the article about Iranian made copper shaped charge IED (technically they arent IED, there is nothing improvised about them). They are causing a large portion of US fatalities outside of Anbar- wish i could remember where it was published but according the the article US troops fear the Iranian explosives more than anything else in Iraq by far. This has nothing to do with what I want to believe. Sophisticated machined explosive devices and weapons systems arent being built in the basements of local mosques.

"But we don't see that emerging. Instead we have people like Totten cheering for an independent "Kurdistan". We have other fractures along ethnic and religious lines."

Ok, not sure what the Totten nonsequitar has to do with it considering the Kurds have strongly supported the central government when so many predicted otherwise. You also are opperating under a false premise- that Iraqis are eager to splinter the nation or see foriegn neighbors established as virtual hegemons. That is in defiance of every poll ever taken. Even the Shiia have no great loveloss with Iran. They may accept help in preventing another Sunni takeover, even in ejecting the US, but I see no evidence that anything like a majority of Shiia have any interest in becoming an Iranian puppet. Quite the contrary.

On the other hand Iran is certainly flooding the nation with arms and 'advisors', trying to buy and bully what influence they can. That being the case, we are just as likely to see a sudden reversal of fortune for the Iranians in Iraq as we are against the LAWFULLY ELECTED Iraqi government you dismiss so easily- the one the Shiia hold a controlling interest in I might add. You model is confused in this respect. Why would the Shiia embrace the Iranians to rid them of the government they elected and control to their benefit (as any Sunni will tell you)? If anything the Iranians would offer less self-determination.

Finally- there can be no doubt that the current Iraqi government has terrible problems of corruption and partisanship. But politics can change far faster than the military situation, and looked how fast that turned around. Deals can be cut over a handshake. The 'Iraqi government is corrupt and therefor Iraq is hopeless' limb is a shaky one to crawl out on, now that the security situation has improved so dramatically.

TOC:
Trying to change a political culture presupposes the need to change the society from its roots.

Only if you're a Marxist.

And even most Marxists believe that it is possible to change a society from its roots without flattening it with bombs.

There is no doubt in my mind that underlying the violence is the vying for control of one the great fortunes of all time - 8.5 trillion dollars worth (a ballpark figure that's probably conservative), that in an era of flattening supply and insatiable demand will only appreciate in value. Whatever figure you put to it, it's a mind boggling amount of money. Until control of that is clarified and the possessor's position unassailable, Iraq is likely to remain a bloodbath. Does that get categorized as Sectarian violence, organized crime, terrorism, ideology, plain old War? US energy security? Keeping it out of the hands of AQ could be considered US national security, but keeping it in the hands of Iraqi's could be considered a matter of Iraq's national security. That the US will put it's interests ahead of Iraq's is given. Don't imagine Iraqi's believe any different.
In any case it's a matter of hearts and minds and in that the US has failed. Perhaps it was the decision to disband rather than bring in the remnants of Iraq's army, or to refuse a place for anyone with previous Bathist ties in the new government - everyone with actual hands on experience - but the choices made are now being lived with - or not, in far too many cases, most of them Iraqi.

TOC:

Trying to change a political culture presupposes the need to change the society from its roots.

Only if you're a Marxist.
**********************************
Thanks for telling me!!! I have been walking around for the past 60+ years thinking I was a capitalist.
_________________________________

And even most Marxists believe that it is possible to change a society from its roots without flattening it with bombs.
**********************************
Good to see that you have your hand on the pulse of what most marxists think, since they are such a rare commodity these days. I will defer to you when I want to know what most Marxists think.

I suggest you re-read what I wrote and refrain from name calling.

There is no doubt in my mind that underlying the violence is the vying for control of one the great fortunes of all time - 8.5 trillion dollars worth (a ballpark figure that's probably conservative), that in an era of flattening supply and insatiable demand will only appreciate in value.

I want to point out that there is no public information about how large are the iraqi oil reserves.

We have Saddam's unverified estimates. I hope nobody thinks we should take his word for it.

We have nothing else public. The US forces captured the Oil Ministry and studied their figures intensely, and as far as I know they never released any of that information.

If lthe US government were to release Saddam's data we could find out what reserves Saddam thought he had, as opposed to what he announced to the world. But that wouldn't be definitive either. Apparently there are lots of promising sites where Saddam never drilled. So even if the real oil reserves are a tenth or less what Saddam claimed, there could still be more oil there than he thought. We won't know how much until the violence dies down enough to come in and actually look. And of course it would be good to re-test the sites that Saddam's people did, in case they fudged the recorded numbers as well as the announcements.

That promise of $8.5 trillion dollars is fueling the fighting, sure. But it might not be nearly that much really. And our costs are already close to $1 trillion, you think there's much chance they'll be under $2 trillion when we pull out? If they go to $3 trillion we could lose money on the deal even if we wind up with total uncontested ownership of all the iraqi oil.

TOC:
I suggest you re-read what I wrote and refrain from name calling.

I didn't call you any name. Only pointing out that some of your ideas have a name, whether you like it or not.

Your notion that we changed German and Japanese society by bombing them flat and starving them - implying that nothing less would serve - is wrong. We defeated them militarily and we imposed constitutional changes on them; we changed their society very little.

Plenty of people said this would never work, but it did, and it disproved the belief that the Germans and the Japanese were incurably violent militarists who would never take to democracy.

Stay tuned.

Sorry, folks. Am back...will read and catch up.

A.L.

#88 from Glen Wishard at 2:55 am on Oct 22, 2007

I didn't call you any name. Only pointing out that some of your ideas have a name, whether you like it or not.
.......................................
I guess it is what you believe the the definition of is. Your point was that I have communist ideas?
*************************************
Your notion that we changed German and Japanese society by bombing them flat and starving them - implying that nothing less would serve - is wrong. We defeated them militarily and we imposed constitutional changes on them;
.....................................
You seem to overlook the fact that we defeated them militarily by bombing them flat and starving them, allowing us to impose constitutional changes upon them Or do you call the effects of WWII some sort of cajoling on our part?
************************************
we changed their society very little
.....................
Well, if you want to believe that, then go ahead.

Something overlooked:

The closely organized "old style" Al Queda was a creature of personal links. Each member knew, personally and well, the members he was linked to. That's why it was so difficult to penetrate.

The "networked enemy", while much more survivable in some ways, is more vulnerable in others. It's biggest flaw is its relative weakness in vetting its own membership.

It is like E-bay compared to a privately owned store.

It is much easier to penetrate and wreak havoc in from within. No one could ever really get close to Osama, as he was surrounded by his hand picked long time loyal aquaintances, but as they say, on the internet no one knows I'm a dog.

Ben

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  • Ian C.: OK... Here's the problem. Perceived relevance. When it was 'Weapons read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
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