Yes, and no

John Robb notes that the US has given up on Nation building in Iraq, has set its sights much lower, and is concentrating on letting militas that sprout up flourish.

This is sensible, but it hardly constitutes the U.S. military embracing open source war, what’s happening is they they are just standing out of the way, and not getting involved in local issues.  Of course that would have been a wise course of action in the first place, and never invade Iraq at all:

Monday, 19 November 2007

The US military is on the slow path to the realization that nation-building — from reconstruction to other forms of traditional COIN dogma that serve to return legitimacy to the government — doesn’t work. Politics and populations in our new global environment fragment faster than they can be assembled into cohesive entities. What does work to slow the spread of temporary autonomous zones and open source insurgencies are open source militias. While messy (and many times as bad as what they replace), these militias do work:

  • Colombia. The AUC blunted the spread of the FARC and other revolutionary groups.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil. Neighborhood militias have purged neighborhoods of the PCC (a criminal drug gang).
  • Iraq. Anbar awakening and other militias have radically diminished al Qaeda’s operational sphere.

Open Source Militias

In each case, militias developed organically based on local loyalties that have nothing to do with the central government. Their emergence is spontaneous and a surprise to the government or the foreign military occupation.

This ties directly in to what I was saying in my earlier post from October, 2006: Cities are from Mars, Neighborhoods are from Venus:

The other item that should be discussed is the issue of primary loyalties, and how that relates to the structure of a city. Cities are, in reality, collections of neighborhoods each with it’s own identity. This is much more true in traditional European cities, and is also very true in older cities of the Middle East. These primary loyalties grow out of the development of the city based on primary ergonomic factors: the need for humans for supporting networks (such as water distribution) and the comfortable walking distance of average adult person.

Leon Krier had identified a radius of about 2,000 feet as describing the maximum size of a neighborhood, which had originally developed around wells or other public water gathering points, but today is more likely to be centered on a public mass transit points, markets or even institutions, such as places of worship, or even libraries. As the Global Guerilla stresses rise on these neighborhoods, I believe they will prove much more resilient as sources of legitimate power and authority than most observers presently realize, and one of the ways to make the chaos of the USA’s exit be less chaotic may well be to empower these agencies, rather than try to fight them. Once they are in a position of power, more responsibility and negotiating sophistication may grow within those emergent structures. But they need to experience power in order to understand the nature of their responsibility.

Yes, there exist risks in this approach, but it may be the last best chance to avoid the continuance of what is now a total civil war. I don’t think this will change the eventual out come, but it may make it just a little less bloody, and the achievement of even a small decrease in the human cost of this failure is a small victory.

But in the final analysis, it seems that John Robb is reading in a bit to the actions of the US military, and what is just a sensible retreat is being read as a change of strategy. The problem is, something like that has to percolate to some degree to the top, and thinking about strategy also has to be affected. In other words, what is the plan with Iran, and Pakistan? Will we make the same or worse mistakes there?

Yes, and no

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