A major difference between the guerrilla war we are fighting in Iraq and previous insurgencies is its lack of center of gravity as we commonly understand it (an ideology/party, ethnic independence, etc. or hierarchy). The real center of gravity in Iraq is a bazaar of violence. This bazaar is where a combination of local and global "hot" money is funding a diverse set of groups, each with their own methods of operation and motivations. Groups engage in co-opetition to share resources, intelligence, and funds (see the attached simplified diagram). They even expand operational reach by purchasing amateur mercenaries (not pictured).
A bazaar of violence is a hallmark of global guerrilla warfare. When a state collapses, as it did in Iraq, global guerrillas quickly arrive with money and violence. Through this funding, terrorist violence, and infrastructure disruption; global guerrillas create conditions ripe for the establishment of a bazaar of violence. In essence, the bazaar is an emergent property of global guerrilla operations within a failed or collapsed state. Once established, it builds on itself and creates a dynamic that is almost impossible to disrupt.
While it remains to be seen (although we will soon see it tested in Saudi Arabia) whether global guerrillas can collapse a weak state, it is clear that global guerrillas are more than capable of keeping a state in position of failure/collapse. By analyzing the feedback loops (ROI on attacks) for global guerrilla operations, the following pattern of activity can be discerned:
- Terrorist attacks. Car bombs, mortar attacks, snipers, etc. These attacks have a high return early in the process of destabilization. The media coverage is intense and the public is psychologically traumatized. The nascent governments reaction is often harsh which serves to alienate the people. It also serves to create new groups that either want to mimic active groups or those that want revenge for retaliatory government strikes. Over time, these attacks suffer diminishing returns (negative feedback) due to a lack of media coverage and population desensitization.
- Targeted killings (assasinations). These attacks, particularly if focused on relief or reconstruction organizations, can have an immediate and long-lasting impact on state recovery. It can break apart national coalitions and cause the withdrawl of companies and organizations that are critical to reconstruction. These attacks can also be used to dissuade participation in the government.
- Infrastructure disruption (network attack). These attacks are the bread and butter of global guerrilla operations. It deprives the emergent government of the ability to deliver those services necessary for legitimacy and economic recovery. It also, particularly in the case of Iraq, deprives the government of funds necessary for reconstruction and ongoing security. The rate of return from these attacks is by far the highest of all attack types.