What does it take to collapse an open source insurgency/terrorism? Isaac ben-Israel, the former head of R&D for the Israeli MOD, describes the Israeli approach. They used a combination of thermodynamics, information theory (Shannon), and Stirling's approximation to develop a theory of systems/network collapse absent any specific knowledge of where a target network's critical points are. In short, the probabilities for collapse are:
- Rate of failure (of network nodes) = 11%. System collapse = 50%
- Rate of failure 25%. System collapse = 81%
- Rate of failure 50%. System collapse = 100%
Notes: The design of the network has a significant impact on the probabilities seen above. Induced failure of nodes must be applied to every autonomous network of interest.
Systems Collapse In Practice
To reduce terrorist attacks on Israel that started with the 2002 Intifada, the Israeli's used successive OODA loops and better information acquisition to improve their decision making (which allowed them to collapse bad assumptions). Armed with this improved decision making process they were able to put theory (above) into practice, via a process of pin-point assassinations (PPS). Here's what happened when they reached a level of 25% liquidation:
At first we used such liquidations as our response to terrorist attacks: they start - we respond, then they respond again. But starting from February 2003 the liquidation practice was not in any way linked with their attacks. We just have a list of the key figures - the list of organization leaders, of the so-called "field commanders", etc. So we started neutralizing them according to our list: we arrested those we could and liquidated those we could not. And in a short while, from mid-2003, the rate of terrorist attacks started decreasing - not only the rate of their successful attacks, but of the plotted attacks as well.
What this Means
It's clear that approach that combined system/network collapse and pin-point strikes were effective at slowing the rate of urban/networked terrorism aimed at Israel during this period. However:
- It takes a concerted effort. This theory/experience points to the direction the USAF should be moving: towards UAV/drone systems with pin-point lethality and large volumes of real-time information flows. Ultimately, "cloud" systems (coordinated via stigmergy) that blanket areas with sensors and UAVs with pin-point lethality (far above the level of current weapons systems) will evolve. The USAF is resisting this dominant evolutionary path and will suffer mightily as a result.
- It can evoke an evolutionary response. Open source insurgencies can evolve under pressure from this type of targeting (as we saw in Iraq). The dominant method is to fragment into ever smaller groups or ad hoc networks (a bazaar). This evolutionary response reduces the efficacy of the pin-point approach since it exponentially increases the intelligence burden and limits the effectiveness of any disruption achieved. NOTE: Of course, there are alternative, for example: the US chose to "purchase" these groups from the bazaar via the "Anbar Awakening" program.
- This method will likely only mitigate strategic attacks that require complex supply chains and planning. Tactical/local operations will suffer much less since they can be accomplished by smaller groups (see point above). Therefore, this method of approach does not lead to any meaningful pacification/peace.