The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Way Out: Organizing the Tribes

Wretcherd has an interesting analysis of what may be the key to winning the War in Iraq: Organization:
Unlike most military weapons systems, this "capability" doesn't consist of hardware. There are fundamentally no bombs, computers, rockets or death-rays involved in this organizing power, at least not directly. The ability to work effectively with indigenous populations consists in the institutional memory, human skill, language capability, cultural familiarity, in the fragile spiderweb of personal networks that Americans have painstakingly created and are striving to pass on. Like all capabilities based on human flesh, it is an extremely perishable commodity. This weapons system -- the one that has driven al-Qaeda from Anbar -- actually resides in an enumerable set of Americans and Iraqis, in their skulls and remembered conversations; it cannot be stored away in some missile silo and kept there for a distant decade. It is as fleeing and as powerful as the wind.

And its superiority is relative. While US forces have the temporary upper hand because they keep killing off experienced al-Qaeda cadres and tipping them off balance by constant pursuit, the advantage could evaporate in a moment if the enemy were given a chance to regroup. That would give the enemy a chance to rebuild their institutional memory; to learn from its mistakes. It could evaporate if bad political decisions drive experienced personnel from the US Armed Forces and out into other jobs. The tribal networks themselves could even be turned against America should they feel betrayed. Such advantages as exist in Anbar are like embers in the time before matches. The fire must be passed on or it will go out. The value of tempo in warfare essentially consists of making temporary advantages last for the duration of the war. Once you are ahead, never relinquish the lead.

But the skill of organizing the tribes is but the first in a whole series of new capabilities that the West must acquire to combat the networked insurgency. It has not yet learned how to neutralize enemy sanctuaries across international borders without a conventional invasion. It has not yet discovered how to counter the insidious and hate-filled propaganda of al-Qaeda. It has not yet even learned to convey its successes to the Western public. But it has learned something. And it shows.

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DiscerningTexan, 5/24/2007 08:40:00 PM |