The Petraeus team in Baghdad thinks it has six months (one Friedman unit) to show results before political pressure puts an end to its efforts. That is probably optimistic -- American moral cohesion has already fragmented and non-cooperative centers of gravity are already wrestling with each other for dominance. Further, the outlook for a game-changing outcome doesn't look good. Efforts such counter-insurgency "oil spots" (built for the rural insurgencies of the last century, read this critique of the concept) to political reconciliation cannot work in Iraq due to the dynamics currently at work in the country.
Non-Linear Processes as Center of Gravity
Unfortunately, many of these dynamics are due to non-linear processes that provide the open source insurgency and the militias the ability to A) greatly amplify their actions and B) create chaos that overwhelms efforts at pacification/reconstruction. These non-linear processes could best be described as the centers of gravity for the opposition since they tend to confer 'success' on those groups that use them. This in turn provides the 'gravity' that makes them central to the opposition's efforts. For a further exploration of the subject of non-linear dynamics and warfare, please read Nicholls' and Tagarev's article, "What Does Chaos Theory Mean for Warfare," in the Airpower Journal.
The problem this poses for counter-insurgencyIn warfare, a path to victory is often achieved by disrupting/shattering the opponent's centers of gravity (GOGs). In this case, the problem is that the few COGs that we could potentially identify for the opposition are tightly coupled with the systems that are seen as central to normal societal operation. For example:
- The media (both foreign and domestic). Propaganda. Recruitment/financing. Stigmergic communication for coordination.
- Communications systems (cell phone and Internet). Coordination. Fluidity of operations.
- Market-based distribution of basic supplies to citizens. Easy to disrupt. Used to undermine government legitimacy. Prone to subversion by black markets/globalization. Source of atomizing self-financing.
- Personal travel via highways and road infrastructure. High degrees of mobility that enable the opposition to rapidly shift operations to new locales. Disorientation.
The Reboot?If the above systems are critical to those non-linear processes that provide the opposition the ability to effectively operate, then how can you change them such that it limits their contribution?