Iraq’s insurgency is made up of dozens of different groups, each with their own motivation for fighting. Under this big tent, no one group is dominant. Even the foreign Jihadis under Zarqawi are but a single digit percentage of the total insurgency. Despite this fragmentation, the insurgency appears to act as a single entity: it probes for weakness, improves its methods, and mounts campaigns. The major reason for this is that Iraq, unlike most of the places we have fought insurgencies, is a relatively modern urbanized environment. It has a cell phone grid, a modern highway system, and Internet connectivity. People have the ability to both communicate and travel quickly throughout the entire country. This high level of connectivity makes possible for the insurgency to combine and recombine into new organizational networks that are similar to what we only see in advanced western settings.
This infrastructure has allowed the insurgents to leapfrog to a new organizational form that is more survivable, inclusive, and innovative than traditional hierarchies (I call this open source insurgency). It appears that the US military has finally taken actions to mitigate this advantage. It announced yesterday that it had bombed (with precision strikes) eight bridges across the Euphrates River inside western Iraq to stop insurgents from using them. As the US army spokesman said:
"One of the vulnerabilities of this insurgency is freedom of movement. We took out portions of these bridges to deny terrorists, foreign fighters and insurgents the capability to cross north to south or south to north across the Euphrates River."This is the first major attempt to slow down the insurgency's rapid decision making loops and as a localized tactic, it may even enjoy some success. However, strategically, it is political and moral kryptonite. It is also a sign that the coalition has become in the words of Martin van Creveld (who provides fantastic insight into the decline of the state in his book, The Transformation of War) as weak as the insurgents (it needs to destroy Iraq in order to save it).
In other words, he who fights against the weak - and the rag-tag Iraqi militias are very weak indeed - and loses, loses. He who fights against the weak and wins also loses. To kill an opponent who is much weaker than yourself is unnecessary and therefore cruel; to let that opponent kill you is unnecessary and therefore foolish. As Vietnam and countless other cases prove, no armed force, however rich, however powerful, however advanced, however well motivated is immune to this dilemma. The end result is always disintegration and defeat...That is why the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one (Vietnam) did. Namely, with the last U.S. troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters' skids.NOTE: The response of Valdis Krebs to this event is worth highlighting: " Smart to focus on key bridges in the bad guys' network. Not real smart to destroy them... two reasons.
1) They are also key in the good guys network.Once you understand, various disruption tactics can be reviewed from a position of wisdom. It takes network thinking to fight a network!"
2) They are rich sources of data! Want to unravel the insurgency? Need to understand their internal dynamics... which they give away every day through their activity... watch, listen, pay attention, and soon you will understand... more, but not all.