Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Long War

John Robb says we’ve entered the age of the “facile, agile, enemy.” He uses the situation in Iraq to make his several points. The first idea is concerned with the decentralized and autonomous groups of “zealots, patriots, and criminals”:

Unlike previous insurgencies, the one in Iraq is comprised of 75 to 100 small, diverse, and autonomous groups of zealots, patriots, and criminals alike. These groups, of course, have access to the same tools we do--from satellite phones to engineering degrees--and use them every bit as well. But their single most important asset is their organizational structure, an open-source community network very similar to what we now see in the software industry. It is an extremely innovative structure…


Indeed, because the insurgents in Iraq lack a recognizable center of gravity--a leadership structure or an ideology--they are nearly immune to the application of conventional military force. Like Microsoft, the software superpower, the United States hasn't found its match in a competitor similar to itself, but rather in a loose, self-tuning network.

This he calls “open source warfare,” and offers information on funding: the “terrorist-criminal symbiosis.” Certainly we can see that in Iraq, where much of the mayhem can be traced back to the release from jails in Iraq — along with political prisoners — a large cohort of opprotunistic criminals.

Illicit by Moises NaimMr. Robb’s second point details how the symbiosis fuels terrorism. For example, he says that Al Qaeda’s attack on Madrid was funded by the sale of Ecstasy. He quotes Moises Naim’s book Illicit to explain how globalization has fostered a huge network of criminal endeavor with a “technologically leveraged global supply chain” similar to Walmart (just another example of how the far Left is in the right book, on the wrong page — ed)

The tandem operations of terrorism and criminally acquired funding have permitted terrorists to fight large nation-states on the cheap and on an equal footing. The strategy is “systems disruption” — something we have discussed on this blog in the past. A country’s infrastructure is a fragile thing. Much of it relies on trust, prosperity, and the competency of those who maintain it. Terrorists, for very little money and few personnel, can disrupt this arrangement in a chronic way, destroying the alliance and loyalty of citizens who rely on the infrastructure which undergirds everyday life. Here’s how it plays out in Iraq, and may do elsewhere in the near future:

Over the past two years, attacks on the oil and electricity networks in Iraq have reduced and held delivery of these critical services below prewar levels, with a disastrous effect on the country, its people, and its economy.

The early examples of systems disruption in Iraq and elsewhere are ominous. If these techniques are even lightly applied to the fragile electrical and oil-gas systems in Russia, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere in the target-rich West, we could see a rapid onset of economic and political chaos unmatched since the advent of blitzkrieg. (India's January arrest of militants with explosives in Hyderabad suggests that the country's high-tech industry could be a new target.) It's even worse when we consider the asymmetry of the economics involved: One small attack on an oil pipeline in southeast Iraq, conducted for an estimated $2,000, cost the Iraqi government more than $500 million in lost oil revenues. That is a return on investment of 25,000,000%.

The tipping point for this kind of warfare and turmoil has been reached, according to Mr. Robb:

Now that the tipping point has been reached, the rise of global virtual states--with their thriving criminal economies, innovative networks, and hyperefficient war craft--will rapidly undermine public confidence in our national-security systems. In fact, this process has already begun. We've seen disruption of our oil supply in Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Colombia; the market's fear of more contributes mightily to the current high prices. But as those disruptions continue, the damage will spill over into the very structure of our society. Our profligate Defense Department, reeling from its inability to defend our borders on September 11 or to pacify even a small country like Iraq, will increasingly be seen as obsolete. The myth of the American superpower will be exposed as such.

What he proposes for the future is both agonizing and exciting. As he says, with the next “wave of adaptive innovation” taking hold:

…all of these changes may prove to be exactly the kind of creative destruction we need to move beyond the current, failed state of affairs. By 2016 and beyond, real long-term solutions will emerge.

I have omitted his middle term, a long and detailed scenario of what may happen. It is not anything you might put together on your own, though no doubt pieces of these ideas are floating around in your head even now.

Meanwhile, Nelson Ascher describes what he calls “the parasitic mindset” of the terrorists who undermine us by using things we have perceived as an integral part of our civilization — airplanes and skyscrapers, just to name two.

He thinks if we use the lessons learned in World War II — lessons the Israelis put to good use in 1967 — namely, that the enemy’s defenses must be taken out before we can begin to achieve our objectives, we can prevail.

In both those situations, the German and the Arab air forces, respectively, had to be destroyed in order to prevent them from being turned against us. We didn’t learn that tactical lesson until we got a toehold in “fortress Europe,” and that didn’t happen until 1944. Before that, RAF and US bomber crews had a high mortality rate. After we changed tactics — destroying the enemy’s aircraft on the ground, rather than attempting to hit their infrastructure — the tide of war changed.

Before September 11th we could not have perceived the parasitic nature of our enemy — or, in some of the more hardended cases on the Left — that we even had an enemy. Ascher takes up the metaphors of biology to describe the relationship between the West (really, just the Anglosphere) and those bent on our destruction as an opportunistic parasite on a formerly healthy host.

He says it began with oil, but then spread to everything else; that whatever we create, they in turn exploit, including our political corrrectness, surely one of the most poisonous ideologies — right up there with miltant Islam — since the rise of Communism. In fact, it could not exist without a socialist foundation. Socialist and self-hating.

Ascher warns us -- we aren’t dealing with idiots:

We’re dealing with a very intelligent foe whose mindset we haven’t yet fully began to appreciate. And, besides being at war, we’re also competing with them. They are quick minded and so we have to be even quicker. Unfortunately, they are the ones who are acting, while we are but reacting to them.

That’s the key: we’re still in reactive mode. Our military is smart, valiant and adaptive. But they need those in charge to change the tactics in order to achieve victory.

How to do that? Go back and read Mr. Robb’s “Open Source Warfare.” This is a battle on many fronts, but one of the most important is ingenuity, and we have that in abundance, if someone could just muzzle the politicians long enough.

Or, perhaps, as one could infer from Mr. Robb's forecast of things to come, politicans will simply become impotent. And perhaps gradually move on, as the centers of power become decentralized and open-source.

We can only hope.


Dymphna said...

jeyi --

I'm flattered that you think I am Wretchard, but if I were, I'd have spelled the name correctly.

Thanks for pointing it out; I've corrected it.

And really thanks for thinking I'm Wretchard. You made my week.

Dymphna said...

Mr. Wasp --

As usual, excellent analysis from the dark shadows, most of which we haven't even dreamed of.

Still, it makes me sad to think that Boyd is becoming obsolete. One hates to live long enough to see one's heroes cast aside.

Keep up the bad work. Somebody's gotta do it.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Nuevo Feudalism -- Chester at Adventures of Chester, Martin VanCreveld and Philip Bobbit have all written extensively on this theme and I have no doubt they are correct, and that we will have to adapt to this to survive.

I'm enough of a child of the 20th Century,and admirer of the 19th Century (and its creation, the Nation State), to find all this profoundly depressing, however.

Dymphna said...

Mr Lydell--

Thanks for the American Thinker link. It appears to be in three parts, the last one appearing tomorrow. I've downloaded the first two and will wait for the third.

He might make a good contrast to Robb and Ascher. BTW, the book that Robb mentions, "Illicit" is written by a former editor of Foreign Policy mag. Don't know his other credentials...

Fellow Peacekeeper said...

Robb is clever, but the

"Swollen 21st century
populations cannot long survive on
19th century much less 10th century

Exactly. The Arab street thrives and breeds on non-native western technology.

Unfortunately, the Islamoids have found the west's achiles heel - basically we have to be nice to everybody.

So IEDs in Iraq are detonated by mobile phone, the same way the terror networks are organized - why on earth is there a mobile phone system in Iraq? Why are they not reduced to communication by carrier pigeon and traveling by camel?

The parasitic Islamoid can only survive and do damage if the west chooses to sustain him. And the west is choosing exactly that. Its like not removing a leech for fear of the poor creature starving.

One serious flaw in Robb's work is assuming uncontested the continuation of the liberal mindset (and globalization, immigration, multiculturalism, restrictive law enforcement ROE) despite continued assaults on the body politic.

Dymphna said...

Mearcstapa --

I wonder how much of our culture is caught in the pc mindset. The schools and the media, yeah. But I'm not so sure about the average person.

I talk to people who never heard of the cartoons, and don't even raise an eyebrow in interest. But if questioned on some pc nonsense, they dismiss it as "crap," to quote one fellow.

The pc people live on the edges of the country and they used to control all the modes of communication. That party is over, but it will take awhile for things to obviously change. Mostly those media/academcis talk to each other.

Mostly people dislike government, distrust the media, and otherwise go about living their lives as free of the entanglements as they can.