Saturday, June 25, 2005

Massively parallel insurgency

John Robb, who specializes in applying cybernetic analysis to contemporary geopolitics, has an interesting piece explaining how the Iraqi insurgency is based on massively parallel operations. Money:
Iraq's guerrillas are using effects based operations against the current Iraqi state. Guerrilla entrepreneurs, operating autonomously in niches... of expertise/locality/loyalty, are attacking critical systems of the Iraqi state in a massively parallel way. How? The guerrillas use stealth (an ability to blend into the population), precision guided munitions (ie. car bombs, where the terminal guidance system isn't a computer but a person), and extremely decentralized command and control (hundreds of different autonomous groups/gangs/tribes) to attack targets over 70 times a day. Further, they have adopted a method of systems disruption that enables them to bypass hard targets (heavily defended) in favor of weak and undefended targets that achieve the same effect (ie. methods of disrupting scale free networks like electrical systems).
Our military is simply not equipped to deal with this sort of opponent -- and the limitation is ethical and political, not technical or organizational. Indeed, once an insurgency reaches a tipping point, only a strategy committed to eradicating the population surrounding the insurgents can "work." If Mao was right that the guerrilla is like a fish and the people like the sea, then boiling the ocean is the only sure way to eradicate the fish.

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