Iraq spent another night in total darkness due to a cascading infrastructure failure that shut-down electricity throughout the country. It was another major tactical victory for Iraq's global guerrillas in their campaign to keep the country in perpetual failure. In contrast, the US is focused almost exclusively on what they consider Iraq's most important need: January's elections for self-determination. This asymmetry demonstrates a problem that will continue to dog US efforts in the country.
Unmet Basic Needs
This recent infrastructure collapse underscores a basic fact about global guerrilla warfare: it strikes at basic needs first and works its way up. What are basic needs of the average resident of Iraq? Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a good place to start (never thought you would see this again, did you?). In Maslow's view, people must meet basic needs first, before they can consider more esoteric needs. This makes sense. You can't worry about job advancement if you spend your entire day on the hunt for fuel to heat your home or food for your table. Global guerrillas strategy plays on this. The disruption of systems that meet basic needs prevents the resuscitation of the state (a higher level need). Here's how Iraq's guerrillas worked their way up the pyramid:
- Infrastructure attacks. Ongoing assaults on electricity, oil, gasoline, water, transportation, and telephone networks deprive Iraqi's of the basic necessities of life. This is particularly true in a modern society (as opposed to agrarian societies where people provide the bulk of their own basic needs).
- Ongoing crime and coercion. Hostage taking, protection money, convoy hijacking, and theft reduce the street level security of the average Iraqi. These criminal activities aid guerrilla funding and goals.
- Government destabilization. The decimation of the national guard/police, the assassination (350 + since October) of government officials, and the intimidation of "collaborators" prevent governmental recovery. These assaults keep the interim government and the US occupation forces psychologically unbalanced.
The ongoing assaults on basic services (physiological and safety) has collapsed the legitimacy of the Iraqi government. People ultimately blame the government and the US for the lack of services and not the guerrillas. In response to this collapse in legitimacy:
- People have opted for other forms of loyalty (to clan, tribe, and mosque) that can provide them ongoing support in difficult times.
- These groups have lots of ancient baggage: jealousies, hatreds, feuds, etc. Selfish behavior is the norm since basic needs aren't met (Maslow suggests that selfishness is a response to unmet basic needs).
- Guerrilla entrepreneurs leverage this decentralized layer of group cohesion to build ventures that participate in the open source warfare of Iraq's bazaar of violence.
- Elections and the establishment of a government/army get the most of the US effort. The vast majority of the US effort is focused on building a viable Iraqi government that can provide the country the ability to self-actualize. Think Green Zone...
- Hearts and minds. Rebuilding schools and hospitals. General clean-up activities. These activities take the second most effort.
- Basic services get the least effort. From the days that Iraq was looted just after the invasion, the US has demonstrated that it is uninterested in street level security. Additionally, the vast majority of Iraq's infrastructure is guarded by local or outsourced forces (if at all).