Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Told 'Em I Finished School, and I Started My Own Business

Last week, I discussed the strategic myopia revealed in David Brooks' odd conclusion to his review of John Robb's book, Brave New War. Said Brooks [emphasis added]:

If the Iraqi insurgents defeat the U.S. then every bad guy on earth will study and learn their techniques. The people now running for president will find themselves in bigger heaps of trouble than the current one now is — trouble that this presidential campaign hasn’t even dealt with.

That earlier post dealt with the wisdom of avoiding insurgent entanglements in all but the most exigent circumstances - sound advice given how difficult fighting insurgencies is, and how one can frequently avoid bumping into (or creating) them at little cost (actually, at enormous savings!). Not only have insurgencies historically been able to punch above their weight - taking on, with varying degrees of success, larger and more capable military forces - but recent innovations in the fields of technology and communications (the Internet for one) and the ubiquity and affordability of armaments (to name but a few causes), has increased the potency and efficiency of insurgent groups considerably.

Insurgents in one part of the world, for example, can share tactics, strategies and technological developments with insurgents half a globe away. This transfer of knowledge and expertise can be updated and expanded in real time - via the Internet - which provides a means of information dissemination that is capable of reaching many connected, and unrelated, groups simultaneously.

For example, if one group in Iraq learns the best way to disable the Stryker, groups in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere can work off that knowledge the same day - possibly adding their own innovations and inputting them back into the knowledge pool in a symbiotic loop of invention. Open Source Warfare - as John Robb has termed it.

Speaking of which, these are some of the topics that Robb has been exploring for years on his blog, and to which he delves into in greater detail in the book that Brooks was supposed to be reviewing. Which makes the conditional "if" that prefaces Brooks' conclusion that much odder. Using Brooks' language, "every bad guy on earth" is already studying and learning from the insurgents in Iraq. This illicit scholarship, and open source innovation, will continue apace whether or not the "insurgents defeat" the US. Such is the nature of the Brave New War - and the crux of Robb's thesis.

Nor should this be news to any attentive observer, including, even, David Brooks. In little over a year or two into the Iraq occupation, similar tactics and strategies to those developed on Iraqi battlefields began appearing in other hot spots such as Afghanistan. According to this report by Andrew McGregor for the Jamestown Foundation, the unremarkable is occurring in Somalia as well:

After assessing their losses, the insurgents appear to have abandoned their preferred methods of hit-and-run mortar attacks and open gun-battles in favor of a shift to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and targeted assassinations. For example, a remote-controlled roadside bomb hidden in a pile of trash killed four Ugandan soldiers and injured five more on May 16. Four days later, a large roadside explosive device hidden in a plastic bag killed two civilians, while another bomb narrowly missed a Transitional Federal Government (TFG) convoy, killing two civilians instead. The main road through the Bakara market was closed the same day when another bomb was discovered close to a TFG base.

Just as the "emboldening" of terrorists has already happened by way of our invasion of Iraq (and continues with our prolonged presence), so too has The World's Most Expensive School for Terrorism been graduating students for the past four years. Our enemies don't require our withdrawal to cash in on their emboldening-dividends, nor do they require our "defeat" for their diplomas from Jihad University.

We've been a rather generous benefactor, and an accommodating headmaster to boot.

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