Fighting Networks

Discussion in 'Iraq' started by CI0406, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. CI0406
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    CI0406 Rookie

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    The rise of the Information Age has led to new communication-based technologies that have revolutionized life for people around the globe. Not only have these technologies completely altered man’s social life, they have also wholly changed military conflicts. This technology has catalyzed a shift from a hierarchical based military, such as the one employed by the United States, to a more network based system, where combatants have a network of communication and coordination spread out with no specific command center, embodied by Al-Qaeda. This hierarchy versus network conflict is obviously exemplified by the conflict Iraq, and has forced the US to rethink its military strategy to combat this new enemy.

    The first step the United States should take to defeat a networked enemy is to abandon their dependence on heavy arms and refocus on human intelligence gathering. Conflicts against networks cannot be won with overwhelming force. Because each network is by nature spread out and hidden, it is not like traditional warfare where two armies stand opposing each other using sheer firepower to defeat the other. Network wars are wars in which communication and information pass through imperceptible connections that a traditional power cannot defeat simply because it is impossible to confront and destroy every part of a network at once, regardless of firepower.

    Therefore, instead of relying on munitions to win the war, the US must rely on human intelligence gathering to defeat network based enemies such as Al-Qaeda. In order to defeat a network, it is absolutely crucial to understand how the network is structured, who holds power, and the operations of the network. This information cannot be obtained from books or television. Instead, it is imperative for the US to have people on the ground, interacting with civilians, becoming embedded in society so that they can work through Iraqi citizens to obtain the information needed to reveal the true nature of the enemy network. Only with proper intelligence regarding the form of the network can vulnerabilities be isolated and tactics formed.

    This technique of focusing on human intelligence is a crucial skill that the US must master to be victorious in Iraq. A further example of its importance comes not only from the necessity of dismantling network organizations such as Al-Qaeda, but also from the necessity of depleting them of their weapons. The prevalence of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a major challenge to US and coalition forces. By looking beyond just identifying and avoiding IEDs, and instead attempting to identify and target the social networks and individuals who actually create the IEDs the US can more effectively combat their use.

    Therefore, in order for the US to win the conflict against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it is essential that Americans become embedded in society, learning more about the structure and social context of organizations in order to identify and exploit their weaknesses. However, not only does the US need to rethink their strategy for fighting against networks, they also need to consider the ramifications of leaving Iraq. In less structured network organizations, the entity relies on unity derived from a common goal or purpose, since there is no hierarchical structure to connect individual members. In Iraq the common goal holding together the network of insurgent forces is the remove the United States and other foreign troops from the country.

    If this goal is accomplished and the United States withdraws from Iraq without attacking the networks, or if the US declares victory and withdraws without totally eradicating the networks, it stands to reason that this loss of a common goal will result in the disintegration of the insurgent network. It is impossible to estimate exactly how many fighters there are in Iraq, and more importantly, who these fighters are and what organization they represent. However, if they were to lose that common purpose one can expect them to begin fighting about other issues such as territory, money or arms. This unrest has the potential to catalyze a civil war in Iraq, leaving America’s efforts null and void.

    Thus, the US must not only revamp their strategies for fighting in Iraq, they must also change their strategies for peace in the nation as well. The network structure makes human intelligence gathering crucial. Only through gathering information about hidden enemy networks can the US actually defeat them. Furthermore, the loosely connected nature of these networks makes the loss of a common goal exceptionally dangerous. The only way to avoid a conflagration once coalition troops withdraw is to properly combat and destroy the enemy networks in Iraq, a situation which is possible if the proper techniques are employed.
     
  2. lc8968a
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    lc8968a Rookie

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    Numerous good points were brought up in this posting. It is impossible to defeat networks, such as al-Qaeda, by relying solely on heavy weaponry to destroy them. The dispersed nature of such networks makes physically attacking and weakening the organization nearly impossible. Human intelligence is key in dismantling insurgent networks; however, imbedding American soldiers within Iraqi society is unlikely to work. First, it would be nearly impossible for an American to be accepted into this culture to the point where useful intelligence could be gathered. Even if plausible, the amount of time needed to accomplish this makes this approach impractical for such a pressing issue.

    Instead, making use of the human intelligence that all ready exists would allow for faster and possibly more reliable information to be gathered. This means relying on Iraqi civilians for information on insurgents and locations of weaponry. This approach has been used before such as in the Anbar Awakening that occurred in Iraq in late 2005. When faced with the issue of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the United States worked with local Iraqi leaders, offering training and support. Since al-Qaeda exists among the citizens, Iraqi civilians had thorough knowledge of who to look for and where to look. Working with these leaders and civilians yielded information essential in stemming the violence caused by al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    In addition to utilizing pre-existing human intelligence, several other tasks must be completed in order for sustainable security to occur in Iraq. The training of Iraqi police and security forces will allow for security to be enforced without excessive US presence. It is important in the training of both Iraqi forces and US forces, that emphasis be placed on fighting insurgents and protecting the population. Indiscriminate or poorly planned attacks on insurgent strongholds could cause civilian suffering that in turn strengthens or legitimizes the insurgents’ cause.

    Another important factor in combating the Iraqi insurgency is strengthening government institutions. Ensuring politics are free from corruption, establishing a usable tax system, and providing basic services to the people will give the government a strong base and allow it to combat insurgencies effectively. Additionally, providing such services and institutions will allow for life to begin returning to normalcy. This will naturally weaken insurgencies. If people’s basic needs are met, the appeal of fighting drops significantly.

    Finally, it must also be understood that combating insurgencies is a long and demanding fight. It is not something that can be won overnight. The example of Vietnam exemplifies this, and this precedence affected the situation in Iraq greatly; army leaders, determined to not repeat Vietnam, were at first wary of engaging insurgents. It was assumed that by engaging the insurgents, it would give them motivation to retaliate and thus escalate the conflict. This allowed the insurgency to grow somewhat unchecked for a period of time. When the US started actively fighting the insurgents, a second fear of a repeat of Vietnam, a seemingly endless war, began to gain headlines. Though the conflict may seem long, it is important to remember that it is winnable. Training and preparing Iraqi forces to fight the insurgency will alleviate some strain on US forces and give the Iraqi government the longevity it needs to effectively stop the violence. Insurgencies can not be ended quickly, but by combating them with effect means (i.e. using human intelligence, training local forces, strengthening government institutions, etc), the insurgency in Iraq can be ended.

    Sources:

    Bacevich, Andrew J. "The Petraeus Doctrine." The Atlantic Oct. 2008. 31 Mar. 2009

    Roggio, Bill. "Anbar Rising." The Long War Journal. 11 May 2007. 31 Mar. 2009

    United States of America. Department of the Army. Field Manual No. 3-24. US
    Government Interagency Counterinsurgency Initiative. 31 Mar. 2009
     
  3. Amanda
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    Amanda Calm as a Hindu cow

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    Ahhhhg,, too verbose. Condense please. :tongue:
     

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