Deterring Al Qaeda after Iraq

Deterring Al Qaeda after Iraq:

A Critique of Paul Davis' RAND Study

by Daniel R. DePetris

Download the Full Article: Deterring Al Qaeda after Iraq

Today marks the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom. So what? At what cost? To what end? Ever since the successful conclusion of the Cold War, U.S. academics and policymakers have frequently championed deterrence as a military concept. This, of course, is not without substance. Through a combination of nuclear weapons, large bases overseas, and the potential for quick military action, Washington was able to change the Soviet Union's behavior from a force who aggressively tried to expand communist ideology in the 1960's to a reserved and degraded confederation by the time of its collapse.

Deterrence is not just about the past, however. Today, the White House uses deterrence throughout its foreign policy, both to keep adversaries in check and to prevent violence from spiraling out of control once conflict is initiated. After Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, deterrence worked on Iraq quite significantly until the collapse of his regime twelve years later. The threat of mutually assured destruction continues to prevent the North Koreans (however "crazy") from invading its southern neighbor, lest the US military be drawn into the fighting. The most contemporary example of deterrence at work is the containment of the Iranians, who have become isolated in terms of the international community and boxed-in by U.S. forces along its southern coast (via U.S. naval vessels) and its western border (U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan).

Paul Davis- a researcher at the RAND Corp. - is now taking the concept further than it has ever gone before. In a recent study that was just published by the RAND Corp's National Defense Research Institute, Davis tries to assess whether old-fashioned deterrence theory can work on one of America's most dangerous contemporary foes: Al'Qaeda (AQ). Is it possible for the United States to deter AQ from launching large-scale attacks on American targets? And if so, can deterrence apply to other terrorist groups as well, say the Pakistani Taliban or Lashkar e-Taiba in South Asia?

Download the Full Article: Deterring Al Qaeda after Iraq

Daniel R. DePetris is an M.A. candidate in the Political Science Department of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He is pursuing a specialization in security studies from the Institute of National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT). The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization.

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By killing Osama Bin Laden . its not all over but still their are some anti-social elements which can harm the world.

And this is a surprise? When a dictator falls, a colonial power gets the boot, or an occupier leaves, domestic factions fight for power, neighbors and other players meddle to promote their own interests and influence. This is as old as politics. Of course it has to be managed, to the minimal extent to which it can be managed, but I don't see how it adds up to some sort of new ecosystem of open source 5GW global insurgent entrepreneurs with super-powers. The words just get in the way.

The removal of Saddam created a power vacuum, and just because we say that vacuum is filled doesn't mean it is. People are still fighting and maneuvering for position to fill it. This was eminently predictable and should have been anticipated; nothing at all new about it.


Yes, we've seen it before....Remember I had previously mentioned that the remaining 50K will be a major fight your way out mode over the next year ---now the confrontation has started abeit under Irian guidance.

Now the Shiia Special Groups are back and things have gotten better in Iraq? So the newest US COIN doctrine is five steps forward and 15 back?

Special Groups active in Iraqi south
By BILL ROGGIOSeptember 8, 2010 11:42 AM

The Iranian-backed Shia terror groups collectively known as the Special Groups (a term coined by US forces in 2007) have stepped up attacks in the Iraqi south, according to reports from the region. An official told Voices of Iraq that the Hezbollah Brigades are behind the recent strikes in Thi Qhar province, which is just north of the Iraqi province of Basrah.
There is an increase in the armed activities of the Hezbollah Battalions [note, this is the Hezbollah Brigades] in Thi-Qhar, a security source from the province said on Wednesday.
"The Hezbollah Battalions are planting more roadside bombs and launching more rockets," the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
Recently, there has been an increase in armed attacks in Thi-Qhar. Seven attacks have been so far reported during the holy month of Ramadan against U.S. forces and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (P.R.T) in the province.

Read more:

Yes, we've seen it before... but when did kidnap-for-ransom gangs, not exactly a new thing, become "super-empowered global guerrilla entrepreneurs"? How is this not just slamming a bunch of impressive new words onto an old problem, and how does the verbiage aid in understanding that problem... which as far as I can see is crime, not insurgerncy?

History has kept on keeping on for my entire lifetime and a good deal longer, and it's always involved a fair bit of mess. I don't see anything particularly new in today's picture, not do I see anything that seems any more urgent and desperate than any other time that I remember. The sky is not falling, except of course to the extent that it's always falling.


This interesting article could equally apply to current Afghanistan as well as Iraqi period 2006/2008. History just keeps on keeping on while we discuss insurgencies to death on this blog.

Global guerrilla entrepreneurs, super-empowered by direct connections to the dominant global marketplace (a market that is relatively indifferent to the provenance of the supplies it demands), are taking control of the Burgos basin, home to Mexico's biggest natural gas fields. To accelerate this seizure, these enterprising guerrillas (likely a Zeta offshoot) are kidnapping oil workers working for PEMEX (as Zenpundit kindly notes, this is a playbook we have seen before -- India, Iraq, and Nigeria). Here are some choice GG quotes from the LATimes article about it:

"How is it, that Pemex, supposedly the backbone of the nation, can be made to bow down like this?" -- relative of a kidnapped worker.
"These are territories where the organized crime infrastructure, inside and outside of the police forces, has established power -- a parallel power, a parallel government. That territory is in the hands of a parallel power that has penetrated the government at all levels." Alejandro Gertz NOTE: This is a nice description of a hollow state.

I expected a full scale civil war. What's happening isn't great, but it's better than that. Still might happen, but it's not happening now.

I've said many times that I believe the decision to occupy and try to install governments in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake. It's not a job we have the right training or preparation to do.


Actually you bring up a good point---and you and many here seem to forget it--we actually have not seen true improvements.

What we are now seeing in Iraq translates directly to Afghanistan. As we draw down the conventional side the argument goes it can then be handled by the SOF side together with the Host nation SOF units.

Let's see what that argument looks like in Iraq-say we have the current level of 4500 as many report and that is matched by an equal number on the Host country side for a total of 9000 SOF---has the bombings, IED attacks, mortar and rocket attacks, targeted killing stopped? Actually no and we are still seeing US personnel killed-so while the levels of violence have come down we do not see the actual violence reducing in fact it is I am guessing now in a "manageable range" for each of the insurgent groups-meaning it can go on forever at the pace they have set. Even with 9000 combined SOF and a standing Army/Security force of over 300K the Iraq insurgency (both sides) marches on.

We have been so focused on AQI somehow we have totally forgotten the Islamic Army of Iraq as being the largest and strongest of the Sunni groups.

Now translate that over to Afghanistan---yes we have a high number of SOF there and a strong Host SOF level and based on the numbers released by ISAF of killed or captured in the last months they are in fact doing a reasonable job--BUT has it put a dent in the insurgency-no would be the answer.

WHY---if one looks at the idea of open source warfare coupled with the research by the Gourley quantum research group it would verify that regardless how many we kill or capture of what Mr. Jones calls second tier other call senior leadership---the insurgency still continues and is stronger in some areas. Exactly as the theory of open source warfare predicts and as the characteristics seen by the Gourely research also predict would happen.

We have seen the same development in Iraq--just how many of the original AQI leadership is left-none-how many of the second generation leadership virtually none-so now we see the third generation forming and as we saw with the Baader-Meinhof group and their related groups each generational change in leadership makes it even harder to find them as they learn from the mistakes of the previous leadership. Darwin principle of guerrilla warfare at work.

I will venture a guess that we will see the same development in Afghnistan and that is definitely not progress.

So I really do not see that things have gotten better.


"In Iraq in particular, I'd have to say things look rather better than I expected them to at this point."

Better than what?

1. AQI still present and very active--foreign fighters are still streaming in. History repeats itself daily---the attack yesterday on the IA HQ was a carbon copy of an attack in Baqubah in March 2005 on an IA HQ-exact copy.

2. Still no government after this last election ---very similar to the Dec 05 election phase that led to the ethnic cleansing---and we are not coming back if it starts up again.

3. The three largest Sunni Salafi insurgent groups outside of AQI which many seem to forget are definitely rearming, training, and increasing in strenght.

4. The former commanders of Mahdi Army are returning in larger numbers from Iran to the capitol area.

5. The population is complaining about public services louder than ever---good thing if one remembers that prior complaining landed you Abu Ghraib---but many are also saying it was at least better under Saddam.

6. Still no oil profit sharing plan and still no plan to address Mosul and former Kurdish areas.

If one takes the current insurgency IO videos (both Shiia and Sunni) at face value then there are strong indicators that the remaining 50k will be allowed to not leave as peacefully as the last SBCT did---there is some indication that the insurgency withheld their efforts in order to get the numbers lower and to appear as if the remaining troops were not targets---but from an IO perspective believe me both groups want to appear as victors when the last US troops leave.

I once asked a Ansar al Sunnah Amir if we just simply left would he quite fighting-he paused and then answered yes but then said you all will never leave.

"I'd have to say things look rather better than I expected them to at this point."

Not so sure this comment is totally correct.

and you all honestly believe things are going quickly in the right direction?

Did anybody say that?

First, quickly relative to what? Radical Islamism isn't exactly new on the block, neither is violence associated with that movement. Of course it evolves, like everything else. Obviously there's a need to understand this specific movement, how it grows, how it operates, how it fights, and how we can respond to it. I don't personally think that need is met by burying it in buzzwords and jargon.

As for directions, I wouldn't say right or wrong. There are developments all over the place, some positive, some negative. We've made mistakes and paid a price for them. We've been a beneficiary of trends we didn't start or anticipate. Again, this is normal... neither complacency nor panic is called for.

In Iraq in particular, I'd have to say things look rather better than I expected them to at this point.

and for all the discussions on this blog what is being incorporated back into the various areas as concrete actions based on these blog discussions?

Very little, perhaps none. This ain't the JCS, it's some folks talking on the Internet... surely you don't think that what we write here has any impact on policies or operations. For my own part, I read and write here because it helps me to refine my own ideas and submit them to informed challenges, not because I think I'm going to influence anything or anyone.


"things are developing quickly and in the wrong direction"

Rex/Dayuhan---and you all honestly believe things are going quickly in the right direction?

Last I read AQI is still with us in Iraq-and still very active, over 90 insurgency groups are active worldwide, the Taliabn have a functioning shadow government of over 90% of the country---and things are going right?

Dayuhan---and for all the discussions on this blog what is being incorporated back into the various areas as concrete actions based on these blog discussions?


First, if you're really looking for discussion of these matters, I suggest crossing the site to the SWJ Discussion Board, where the discussion you seek has been in progress for some time. The format there is a bit more conducive to extended debate. You might in particular want to take the theoretical distinctions in your first post above to brother Wilf, who has been known to present relevant and informed comment on such topics. Throw in an OODA loop or two and you might actually get him to froth at the mouth.

As far as this goes:

we debate and US military personnel continue to get killed and wounded because no one wants to challenge existing theories. Does that make sense to you?

I understand and share the frustration at US casualties, but are we really suffering casualties because we lack a better theory? I do not personally believe that this is the case. Theories can be dangerous things: people get attached to them, and when presented with a new environment they're then inclined to modify observations to suit their theories, instead of modifying theory to suit observation.

My own opinion is that our current problems stem first and foremost from our selection of policy objectives - installing viable governments in Iraq and Afghanistan - without full, well-informed consideration of the challenges inherent in those objectives. I don't think any amount of theory will compensate for a fundamental dissonance between objectives and capacities. Just my opinion, of course...

Wise words:

"but I remain to be convinced that cloaking it all in jargony/new paradigm terms helps us at all."

Does more harm than good. It becomes yet another voice or position which might be considered. Just as the US is only going to get really serious in the face of a major and potentially overwhelming threat, only a position that offers an overwhelmingly logical case is going to be considered more than a distraction. The generational aspects of warfare, the potential for IW here or there and most of these new 'paradigms' do not hit the threshold to trigger a change.

Whether they should in the view of some or should not is immaterial, they do not make the cut in the views of most at this time.


"One can challenge the terms 4GW/5GW, open source warfare, "conflict ecosystem" all day long--but do you really have a half decent explanation for the speed of the insurgency evolution in TTPs and weapon systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan--NOT REALLY."

I'm with Ken here--what is it that they're doing that is so remarkable? They build IEDs. Nothing surprising them there. They find (rather obvious) ways of detonating them, whether by pressure plate, trip wire, RF detonator, IR, or command wire--the way everyone else has been detonating them for the past half century or more. They're not entirely stupid, so if we find ways of inhibiting this, they find work-arounds. They sometimes boobytrap them. Also not new. Sometimes they use wood. Not new. Sometimes they lay bait IEDSs. Not new. (And so on and so forth.)

They also use hit-and-run tactics that are far older than a half century. It's a bit easier to coordinate with cellphones and small VHF radios.. but the basics are the same.

Let's take Hizbullah, the supposed King of 4/5GW warfare. They use ATGMs--well, we've known about their use in AT ambushes since 1973, the difference being they have better ATGMs and more than any previous irregular force. They cunningly hide their area fire and fighting positions. Well, I have this sneaking hunch that Ken has seen that before in an unnamed SE Asian country (and earlier). I'm not suggesting there aren't things that are a little new, or that they do well... but I remain to be convinced that cloaking it all in jargony/new paradigm terms helps us at all.

Anonymous at 11:19 AM:

" you really have a half decent explanation for the speed of the insurgency evolution in TTPs and weapon systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan"

Sure. They, like all their historical predecessors in all those alleged generations are more adaptable, flexible and innovative than any bureaucratic force will ever be. And we are a bureaucratic force...

It's that simple, nothing new in it at all, Chuck was more agile than we were in Veet Nam, Sitting Bull out-agiled Custer. Been happening for centuries even before Arminius out-agiled Varian...

We are also a democratically governed nation wherein many competing communities vie for primacy and having their idea adopted for the good of the nation -- just as you continuously rant for your positions. The Army is representative of the society from which it comes so every organization, every action gets debated to death so it is somewhat acceptable to most -- never all -- players.

For example:

"...why is it possible that with 4500 SOF in Iraq... they able to strike at apparent will anywhere in Iraq?"

Because that technique, far older than both of us, while really marginal for the task, is one that most agree (not me or a bunch of others on this Board but they didn't ask us...) is better than just sitting, which is what the Institutional Army would prefer to do. Not the people in the Army, most of whom will do their best within the constraints they are forced to live with but the Institution that is the Army. That Institution has been around for about 235 years and it plans to be here for another 235 at least; thus it has no interest in pushing any envelope or undertaking major changes. As a fairly senior Army friend of mine said not long ago, "The US Army is not going to be on the cutting edge of anything."

It is noteworthy that it is forced into that mode by our electoral, governing and budgeting systems -- those aren't the fault of the Army but they drive it and are not going to change. They are quite inefficient in many respects but are better than most alternatives.

"So yes where is the serious debate... over nine years of UW 16 if combined with Iraq has gotten us nowhere.

Get real--we debate and US military personnel continue to get killed and wounded because no one wants to challenge existing theories. Does that make sense to you?"

Depends on your point of view. As the father of a guy who's over there right now, no, I
am not happy with it (he's cooler about it than am I). As an old Dude who's seen more than he cared to, I'm used to it, it's no big thing; I know it won't change unless we get involved in a war for our existence and then I know it will change and very quickly (benefit to remembering the buildup to and WW II; outweighs the negatives of all that age). Theses insurgencies may lead to that, though I doubt it. However we are not ever going to do more than the minimum required and even that must only minimally disrupt the voters at home.

That was true in Korea (~ 45K comabt deaths in 36 months), in Viet Nam (~ 47K in about 90 months) and about 4.4K in those over nine years you mention. So the trend is downward if not better. No deaths would be better...

Point is, your valid complaints are not new and your call for debate echos what's gone before -- and happened before. Is happening now -- look at the FID Versus DA battle within SOCOM as just one example...

No, it doesn't really make sense to me but my solution to the problem is and would be markedly different than yours. Neither of us is really wrong; nor are either of us going to change much as we debate what's happening.

That debate is going on a lot of places and includes folks in the upper echelons, well above reality. They aren't going to change much either. The bureaucracy is what it is, does what it does -- and will only get serious for a really significant threat that everyone acknowledges is a significant threat. You may see today's threats as extremely significant; many do not. Not enough see them as significant to effect change. That's life in a democratic society and I, for one, wouldn't change that...


One can challenge the terms 4GW/5GW, open source warfare, "conflict ecosystem" all day long--but do you really have a half decent explanation for the speed of the insurgency evolution in TTPs and weapon systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan--NOT REALLY.

If you did you would be replacing JIEDDO for a fraction of their yearly budget.

If you did have an explanation then just why is it possible that with 4500 SOF in Iraq AQI just keeps on bombing and intel analysis of the strenght of the Iraqi insurgency in 2006 only indicated maybe 6-8000 so why four years later after the killing of their second level senior leadership after the first level was killed are they able to strike at apparent will anywhere in Iraq?

If you have an explanation other than the above terms just how is it possible that with the 3K plus killed and captured Taliban/related group members in the last six-nine months-- the Taliban is strengthening not weakening?

There is far more to what is going on and it is not being discussed and sadly we are in fact losing this global Salafi UW war.

IE what is next after Afghnistan--Somalia, Yemen, Algeria--at one time there were over 50 active global Salafi groups---let's not even go down the path of Mexico's internal issues which is a far greater threat to the US.

So yes where is the serious debate as it appears that placing one's head in the sand in the face of over nine years of UW 16 if combined with Iraq has gotten us nowhere.

Get real--we debate and US military personnel continue to get killed and wounded because no one wants to challenge existing theories. Does that make sense to you?

Perhaps the real elephant in the room here is, "what does Iraq have to do with AQ in the first place"? I would argue that US operations have been a tremendous success for AQ, and that the US achieving success with our objective of creating a stable, democratic partner there does nothing to change that fact.

We have to remember why AQ went to Iraq to begin with. It was not to work with Saddam; and it was not to support Shia or Kurdish operations against Saddam; it was to make life very very difficult for the US in the Middle East and to chip away at our resolve to support the governments of the region that we have developed unhealthy relationships over the past 70-80 years.

Success for AQ is not measured in "defeat" of the US military, or even in terms of somehow putting an AQ friendly government in power there. Success for AQ is to use this venue to bleed US treasure and resolve. Success for AQ is to have a handy venue that supports their recruiting (UW) efforts among populaces around the region; an effort that speaks to young men who want to go and strike a blow against Western oppression. We gave them that venue.

Over the course of the Iraq war we traced these foreign fighters back to the nationalist movements they came from, identified linkages to AQ there at the roots as well, and expanded our target from going after AQ to going after these new "terrorist" organizations as well. Again, that is a huge success for AQ proper. They come to town telling the dissatisfied locals that the key to change at home is to break this foreign support to their government, support that builds their CT capacity, but does little to address perceptions of illegitimacy, injustice, disrespect or hopelessness that exist widely across this region. When we help the government to suppress such movements, we reinforce AQ's message; we make AQ stronger; and we also provide a powerful motivation for these groups to send men to attack targets in the US as well.

We need to keep our eyes wide open and our brains switched on. A stable, more democratic Iraq is a good thing; but we must be very careful not to confuse that with putting a defeat on AQ, because it provided quite the opposite. It made them stronger.

Dayuhan: "I suspect that the interests of a "heavy hitting discussion" would be better served if you would omit all references to 4GW, 5GW, EBO, Open Source Warfare, Systems Disruption, and all other buzzwords and explain in plain basic heavy hitting English why you think "things are developing quickly and in the wrong direction"."


Anon: So called "open source warfare" was characteristic of 19th century Anarchist movements, albeit at a slower pace. "Systems disruption"? Surely the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand still outranks anything since, including 9/11 by several orders of magnitude. "Virtual states?" The insurgent/crime/informal market linkage has existed for a very long time--and frankly as you've expressed it, it describes very few actual insurgent movements in any case. The jargon just gets in the way of the sort of contextually-informed analysis that is necessary to understand these movements.

".....investment, job creation, the development of a middle class and general economic development are all well worth pursuing, but if it were all that easy it would have been done a long time ago. The entire development community has been trying for several decades to figure out how to make this happen, with spotty success at best. Certainly there are no quick recipes, no universal recipes, and very few functional recipes. At least as difficult as COIN, maybe more so."

Pursued as an integral part of COIN might be workable.

I apologize for my poor english skills as I've done a poor job explaining my GFI. But I think that COIN, terrorist-hunting, "small wars", etc...whatever we want to call it.....ought to be part of a strategy that involves our government elements (military, State Dept, etc) as well as US corporate elements. Regarding the business side, I think it is through them, the private sector, that we can throw off our enemies by leveraging their (business/ corporation) access to developing areas and use their PMCs as part of that leveraging capability.

I read somewhere that "business is war". Let's see how that works.

US corporations generally have little or no desire to invest in gap states, where risks are high and profit potential is very limited. There are also certain complications involving legal restrictions on bribery, a tool available to many non-Western companies and generally expected in gap states... among many other complications. Many of the problems in gap states stem precisely from the reality that the obstacles to investment are prohibitive.

Certainly investment, job creation, the development of a middle class and general economic development are all well worth pursuing, but if it were all that easy it would have been done a long time ago. The entire development community has been trying for several decades to figure out how to make this happen, with spotty success at best. Certainly there are no quick recipes, no universal recipes, and very few functional recipes. At least as difficult as COIN, maybe more so.

What Mr Davis, and others, seem to imply when developing responses to Al' Qa'ida and other violent global terrorists networks is a change to the "rules of the game". The rules we play by are antiquated and made for state-on-state fights, borne out of the wars of previous centuries. Our current enemy fights in a highly decentralized and unconstrainedfashion... .no need to adhere to the "laws of war" and the like.
Perhaps what we in the West, and the US in particular, ought to look at is an increased use of Private Military Companies (PMC) in smaller, decentralized nodes operating where our corporate entities continue to gain a foothold in developing countries as they help "shrink the Gap" (as author Thomas Barnett puts it) & our military has little presence. Researchers cite "injustice, inequality, ... .a sense of marginalization" as standard reasons why so many disaffected youths from third-world shitholes join terrorist groups. This "injustice and inequality" can be addressed by increasing job opportunities in developing areas, injecting money ito those areas and eventually increasing the middle class. Jobs mean money, which translates into increased political influence, decreasing the sense of marginalization. Our corporations will address this as they move into these developing areas.
But because these emerging, third-world countries are still mired in antiquated cultures that are often incompatible with the technological and social changes/ progress offered by "The West", we will continue to run into radical forces that will fight against these changes. That's where the PMCs come into play.
Because our official military forces are bound by long-standing rules of warfare, they are of limited use in combatting non-state combatants, especially those operating in a decentralized and globally dispersed manner and following no established rules. Coupling corporations entering developing markets with members of PMCs who could be called upon by national governments to assist, or even take the lead in, attacking and destroying terrorist elements in areas inaccessible to standard military forces may be the wave of the future.
Opponents will cite the increased danger to the corporations themselves as they become viewed as "legal" combatants. Then again, for many terrorist groups, all Americans and Westerners are already viewed as such, and many US companies operating overseas already make use of PMCs in order to secure their personnel, infrastructure, finances, etc, so what does my suggestion change? It increases the number of PMC personnel and their operational scope, switchh from defense to offense. As for the increased danger to said companies, the danger will be increasingly mitigated by the local nationals who make their living working for those very companies. If they want to continue to make money, they will work to assist & protect their company. As they (the local workers) move up the corporate ladder and become more exposed to the international business environment, they will learn to adjust their cultural mores to mesh with the realties of operating in a global environment. A lengthy process certainly but quite possible. Ask how many Koreans, after over 50 years of western influence, still eat dogs.
What of the "rules of warfare" that western militaries are obiliged to follow and how will PMCs be viwed regarding these rules (a source of contention in discussions of PMCs operating in Iraq)? That can be addressed directly by the corporations the PMCs operate for and indirectly by the national government assisting the corporation in gaining entrance into the developing country. The national government provides overall operational guidance for the corporation and their PMC, the corporation itself manages PMC daily affairs in-country.
Is this a return to the concept used by the Honourable East India Company? Essentially yes, minus the large standing armies. Does it represent a return to 18th and 19th Century imperialism? Not exactly. 18th and 19th Century impreialism was more about expanding political power using economic efforts & military strength in order to create conditions favorable for resource-harvesting, in other words, hosing the locals by taking their stuff. My recommendation is to use primarily economic power, albeit with some reletively unconstrained pseudo-military muscle, to influence political and social conditions in favor of global (read 1st World western countries) security in order to improve the human condition worldwide (I don't mean to sound so lofty) and allow the greatest number of people the greatest possible access to the benefits we in "The West" already enjoy. In other words, affording locals the opportunity to enjoy all the stuff we are inundated with without worrying about being blown up because of it.
Call it changing the rules we've operated under over the last century plus as we undermine the message and appeal of the violent terrorist networks. Radical? Perhaps. Workable? Unknown. Worth trying? Why not. If Iraq was worth toppling, Afghanistan worth invading, both worth rebuilding to the tune of billions of dollars and counting), then killing Al Qa'ida and other global whackos as we pursue the "shrinking of the Gap" with US and western corporate giants in the lead can't be that bad of an idea... .can it?


I suspect that the interests of a "heavy hitting discussion" would be better served if you would omit all references to 4GW, 5GW, EBO, Open Source Warfare, Systems Disruption, and all other buzzwords and explain in plain basic heavy hitting English why you think "things are developing quickly and in the wrong direction".

I am not unfamiliar with these concepts, but I find them nebulous, and in my experience everyone who uses them seems to give them different meanings, which severely limits their utility. Far better, I suspect, to simply discuss this particular antagonist in specific terms: what have they done to us, what are they doing to us, and what are they likely to do to us; what have we done, are we doing, and can we do to them.

Col Jones:

Re this:

the key for the U.S. is to recognize that AQ is conducting UW, and to outcompete them for influence with the populaces they are leveraging to fuel their agenda...

To "deter" AQ we must supplant them as the champion of the oppressed. Once we manage to assume this role they will likely become moot.

I think it's worth noting that while AQ has tried to leverage many insurgencies, they have only succeeded with insurgencies that directly target foreign intervention in Muslim lands. Their effort to rally Muslims against their own leaders have generally fallen pretty flat. Many Muslims are quite willing to support, fund, and even join AQ when the target is an intervening infidel; they have shown much less enthusiasm for AQs efforts to gain power in their own countries.

My concern with the idea that "we must supplant them as the champion of the oppressed" is twofold. First, I don't see that anyone considers AQ a champion against domestic oppression. Second, any effort we make to cast ourselves as a champion of oppressed Muslims, no matter how well-intentioned it might be, will inevitably (and reasonably, given the history) be interpreted as a self-interested attempt to gain influence for our own devious purposes. Between one thing and another, we are not well trusted in the Muslim world.

AQ feeds most effectively on foreign intervention, and I suspect that any effort to intervene, no matter whose behalf we say it's on, will just give them more of what they feed on. I'm not saying we should make a habit of supporting oppressors against domestic dissent, but neither should we try to impose ourselves uninvited in the role of defender of populaces. I'd prefer to see less interference, not more.

Not wanting to throw a wrench into the discussion but regardless of what one thinks can be done with AQ or not has not AQ morphed over the last five years into a full blown 4GW movement with some elements easing into the 5GW realm? Maybe that is the core reason that the current COIN is ineffective.

When we discuss 5GW one could get into EBO or even EBOv2--and at that core level it is critical to fully understand your opposition-which some might call understanding the "conflict ecosystem" and then constantly watch and fully understand every move that insurgency group is making which is sadly missing today in a large number of Commanders.

The current Army talks a good talk with EBO, but they never have really walked the walk.

This is from a blog discussion taken from 2006 which in some ways indicates that the current AQ influenced insurgencies are fully 4GW if not moving already into 5GW.

Monday, 16 October 2006
THE CHANGING FACE OF WAR: Into the 5th Generation (5GW)
In 1989, as the Berlin wall was being torn down, Bill Lind (with Nightengale, Schmitt, Sutton, and Wilson) wrote "The Changing Face War: Into the Fourth Generation" for the Marine Corps Gazette. This seminal article made the case that while large scale interstate warfare was going the way of the dodo, low intensity guerrilla warfare and terrorism would thrive in its stead. They were right.

To make their point, Lind and his collaborators divided warfare over the last two centuries into four generations, where each previous generation was defeated by a successive generation of warfare. While, the first three generations deal with interstate warfare (although I make the point in my upcoming book "Brave New War" that the real fourth generation, missing from the framework, is nuclear warfare -- extreme mobility via ICBMs and SLBMs with extreme firepower via nukes), Lind's Fourth generation was between states and non-states. On the surface, many of the elements described as core to the fourth generation are not new and reflect guerrilla wars we have seen in the past:
•The emphasis on extreme dispersion.
•Decentralized logistics. An ability to live off of the land.
•Psychological warfare aimed collapsing the moral cohesion of the enemy (internal collapse).
•Extreme emphasis on maneuver at the expense of firepower.
However, Lind argued that the use of these methods of warfare on a global scale, with new technology, and through new methods of employment in combination with the decline of the West would radically increase the threat posed by fourth generation opponents. This has proven out as these opponents use our strength against us (judo moves) and our rear areas are increasingly targeted (rather than our military forces).
Into 5GW

Lind: Whoever is first to recognize, understand, and implement a generational change can gain a decisive advantage. Conversely, a nation that is slow to adapt to generational change opens itself to catastrophic defeat.
Things would be bad enough with just fourth generation opponents but as the research on global guerrillas has borne out, a new more dangerous generation is forming: potentially a 5th generation of warfare. Much of this new generation was derived and accelerated in cauldron of Iraq, just as the basis for 3rd generation of warfare was proved out in the Spanish Civil war. What we see is jarring:
•Open source warfare. An ability to decentralize beyond the limits of a single group (way beyond cell structures) using new development and coordination methodologies. This new structure doesn't only radically expand the number of potential participants, it shrinks the group size well below any normal measures of viability. This organizational structure creates a dynamic whereby new entrants can appear anywhere. In London, Madrid, Berlin, and New York.
•Systems disruption. A method of sabotage that goes beyond the simple destruction of physical infrastructure. This method of warfare, which can burst onto the scene as a black swan, uses network dynamics (a new form of leveraged maneuver) to undermine and reorder global systems. It is through this Schumpeterian "creative destruction" that new environments favorable to opposition forces are built (often due to a descent into primary loyalties and pressure from global markets).
•Virtual states (ala Philip Bobbitt). Unlike the guerrilla movements of the past, many of the 4GW forces we are fighting today have found a way to integrate their activities with global "crime." No longer are guerrilla movements or terrorists aimed at taking control of the reigns of the state or merely proxies for states. A new form of economic sustenance has been found. This black globalization is already vast (a GDP of trillions per year), and gains momentum through weakening and disruption of states. This military/economic integration creates a virtuous feedback loop that allows groups to gain greater degrees of independence and financial wealth through the warfare they conduct.
NOTE: Whether you call these developments 4GW on steroids or the start of a 5th generation, it just doesn't matter. Whichever way you cut it, things are developing quickly and in the wrong direction.

Now let's open a real discussion as the topic is too critical to ignor and let's not get into name calling blogging--would finally like to see a heavy hitting discussion on this as it goes to the heart of the apparent failure of COIN in Afghanistan ---simply because it is not just a UW fight there is alot more to AQ that we are missing and do not understand.

It is worth reading what Paul Davis is actually saying in the RAND piece. He is not trying "to assess whether old-fashioned deterrence theory can work on one of Americas most dangerous contemporary foes," as DePetris suggests. Rather, he is arguing that classic deterrence theory works poorly in this case, and that one needs to adopt something else--he prefers the term "influence"-- that gets you beyond simple punishment models. More fundamentally, he is arguing that one needs to understand AQ as a system, with a series of causal linkages that shape decision-making and behaviour, and which might be subject to external influence in a broader way. He is also highlighting that how you understand the operation of that system has important implications for assessing the potential efficacy of various policy options, or the likelihood of potential AQ actions.

I'm not sure I find the original RAND paper terribly illuminating--but I certainly find DePetris' summary and critique of it even less so.

By the way, it's al-Qa'ida, not Al'Qaeda.

"Paul Davis doesnt claim to have the answer, but he does seem to suggest that the US can at least limit AQs attacks by pursuing a two-fold strategy: beefing up defense measures at home and putting relentless pressure on terrorist targets abroad."

Ok, this is not deterrence, this is defense and suppression.

I have an 80% draft of a paper I have been working on for deterrence of irregular threats that I will finish up and try to get out on the street. IMO the key for the U.S. is to recognize that AQ is conducting UW, and to outcompete them for influence with the populaces they are leveraging to fuel their agenda. Currently we apply CT to attack AQ and the nationalist insurgencies that they leverage; and COIN in a manner that commits us to sustaining in power the very governments that these organizations seek to challenge with broad popular support.

To "deter" AQ we must supplant them as the champion of the oppressed. Once we manage to assume this role they will likely become moot. This means more effective carrots and sticks with governments and less emphasis of CT against nationalist insurgencies that team with AQ, but a more narrow approach against their core leadership and their UW network. Some of this is nuance, but it is nuance that wins in this kind of competition.

"What is questionable is his presumption that a stream of failed terrorist attacks will slowly weaken AlQaedas resolve."

Do not think for a moment that even in a weakened state AQI has given up the fight in Iraq---actually in a weakened state they are carrying out well executed multiple attacks as if in the old days---so I doubt that the thesis put forward by Paul Davis is actually valid.

IE the Taliban---weakened prior to 2007, but showing exceptional abilities in multiple areas and fronts since 2007.

IE Algeria---insurgency was way past being weakened-joined AQ and since then holding their own.