August 27, 2007

Learning from Iraq and Failure

Financial Cryptographers are interested in war because it is one of the few sectors where we face an aggressive attacker (as opposed to a statistical failure model). For this reason, current affairs like Iraq and Afghanistan are interesting, aside from their political aspects (September is crunch time!).

John Robb points to an interview with Lt. Col. John Nagl on how the New Turks in Iraq (more formally known as General Petraeus and his team) have written a new manual for the theater, known as the Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

We last had a counter guerrilla manual in 1987 but as an army we really avoided counterinsurgency in the wake of Vietnam because we didn't want to fight that kind of war again. Unfortunately the enemy has a vote. And our very conventional superiority in war-fighting is driving our enemy to fight us as insurgents and as guerrillas rather than the kind of war we are most prepared to fight, which is conventional tank-on-tank type of fighting.


You still have to be able to do the fighting. A friend of mine when he found out i was writing [the book] wrote to me from Iraq and said

"remember, Nagl, counterinsurgency is not just the thinking man's war ... It's the graduate level of war."

Because you still have to be able to do the war fighting stuff. When I was in [Iraq] I called in artillery strikes and air strikes, did the fighting stuff. But I also spent a lot of time meeting with local political leaders, establishing local government, working on economic development.

You really have to span the whole spectrum of human behavior. We had cultural anthropologists helping on the book, economists, information operation specialists. It's a very difficult type of war, it's a thinking person's kind of war. And it's a kind of war we are learning and adapting and getting better at fighting during the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I copied those parts in from the interview because they stressed what we see in FC, but check out the interview as it is refreshing. Here's the parallels:

  • The Gung-ho warriors enter the field.
  • And are defeated.
  • Institutions are not able to respond to the new threats until they have shown themselves incapable of forcing old threat models on the enemy.
  • The battle is won, or at least fought, with brains, not brawn.
  • Still, the "warfighting" or general security stuff never goes away.
  • When we are dealing with an asymmetric or "new" attack, multiple disciplines enter into the discussion to analyse the balance between fighting and other strategies.
  • The new strategy emerges, but only after the losses to both our ground forces and our old generals.

The parallels with today's Internet situation seem pretty clear. How long do we go on fighting the attackers before the New Turks come in and address the battle from a holistic, systemic viewpoint?

Posted by iang at August 27, 2007 07:11 PM | TrackBack
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