Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A well-regulated militia

Global Guerrillas says:

PSCAI (Private Security Company Association of Iraq) estimates that there are 35,000 private military contractors (those who are using lethal force) in Iraq. Note that the vast bulk of these contractors are operating outside the realm of any counter-insurgency strategy (and by their actions, defined by their missions, typically undermine it).


Commentary

I don't think it necessarily follows that "the vast bulk of these contractors are operating outside the realm of any counter-insurgency strategy". Private security companies are large part of societies everywhere, including Western countries. In Third World countries they have an even more extensive role and are not limited to the traditional "security guards". Iraq the Model describes how Baghdad neighborhoods have established local patrols to keep suspicious outsiders out, supported by contributions from the residents. This is a kind of private security. Tribal groups and villages in many countries, and probably Iraq, often preserve a traditional social structure through local militias of various kinds. When a huge foreign army comes in and disarms everyone -- or rather disarms people who are willing to be disarmed -- it can create a lawlessness from which it never recovers.

This is not an argument for replacing the police with private security. But one of the imperatives of 4th Generation Warfare is to create subsidiary and networked ways of dealing with enemy forces at local level. Uncontrolled, this process gives rise to militias. But totally banned it provides the enemy with a vacuum in which to operate.

Update

More on private contractors from Popular Mechanics, via Glenn Reynolds. Wonders never cease.

9 Comments:

Blogger sam said...

Uncontrolled, this process gives rise to militias. But totally banned it provides the enemy with a vacuum in which to operate.

Right, you have to find the right balance. A sort of neighborhood watch on steroids.

9/12/2006 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger nonomous said...

Global Guerrillas is good at pointing out interesting new technological twists, but '4th generation warfare' is more slogan than principle. For a coherent forecast, it is more useful to avoid the techno-babble and stick with political themes.

No one can precisely define '4th generation warfare', nor 1, 2 or 3. The whole scheme seems to be based on John Boyd's seminal (and vague) notions about OODA loops (observe, orient, decide, act). OODA loop theory explicitly rejects attempts to reduce OODA to sequential, linear thinking, favoring zen like holistic analogies. Boyd himself never put his expertise into book form, limiting himself to power-point presentations and the personal touch.

As to the influence of contractors, one would have to clearly define the term with respect to 'mosque enforcers', militia and/or neighborhood self-protection units. In Mr. Robb's view, they are probably defined by their level of collaboration with President Bush and his allies. In Mr. Robb's scheme of things, 4th generation warfare is the cool stuff everyone fighting President Bush employs.

9/12/2006 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger John Robb said...

Just a point of clarification. The number I cite is in relation to the employees of global corporations that are being used in Iraq. It does not refer to the 100,000 plus militia members populating the countryside.

In my defense, the analytical approach I have taken has been very good at both explaining and anticipating developments. It is not partisan analysis but rather red team analysis (red team - the enemy).

Unfortunately, I suspect that any analysis of the means and capabilities of the enemy that depicts them as a difficult foe will be regarded as defeatest. Not sure why, since if these guerrillas are as easy to defeat as many claim, we would have won by now. In my view, pragmatism and clear honest thinking are more important to victory than feeling good about yourself.

9/13/2006 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The concept of a networked, but physically independent system is a useful way of thinking about the terrorist phenomenon. Logically, the same dynamic should apply to counterterrorism as well, not only insofar as applied to the US government -- that would be the least natural application -- but as applied to the reactions which distributed terrorism provokes.

For example, I have never able to see why, if Jihadis could privately acquire weapons of mass destruction, what in principle prevents their targets from privately emulating them as well. Why should the danger of an unacknowledged nuclear weapon be limited to attacks on Western cities. Why should Mecca not be vaporized by persons unknown? In fact we have a word for 4th generation resistance to 4th generation warfare. It's called "communal violence"; it's what happens when Hindus burn a train or Tamil Tigers torch mosques. It's what occurs when instead of the USMC versus insurgents you have Serbs against Kosovars.

Come to think of it, it is the prospect of asymmetric warfare becoming symmetric that is the principal danger in the war on terror. If Iraq is a cautionary tale, then one of its themes must certainly be what happens one community gets tired of putting up with suicide bombs. Zarqawi certainly knew; and in fact it was what he sought to provoke. What results becomes a problem not only for the Sunnis and Shi'ites, but for America as well.

9/13/2006 06:17:00 AM  
Blogger John Robb said...

Wretchard,

Of course, as Lind sees it (he is a classic, old school culturual conservative), we are going to end up in exactly that situation as the world comes apart at the seams around us.

John

9/13/2006 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger MarineOIFOEFVet said...

I realize that I'm standing on the shoulders of giants, but I don't think 4GW is techno-babble. Most criticism of 4GW comes from the NCO types (not the Cpls and Sgts, I mean the Network Centric Operations, which populate much of the Navy and Air Force Brass, and to a certain extent, all aviation branches). The other folks who criticise 4GW tend to be those more classical militarists (MG Scales comes to mind.) His [incoherent] reasoning is laid out in his prolific writings.

I never have heard the techno-babble criticism, though. Merely stereotyping all of 4GW as some sort of jargon is probably not the most effective sort of criticism. 4GW has been written on in several books by van Crevald, Hammes, and others.

But I digress...

9/13/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger nonomous said...

MarineOIFOEFVet,

The original version of 4th generation warfare (4GW) based itself upon a curious scheme that starts with the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and ignores prior military history. According to this scheme 1st generation warfare was 'massed muskets', 2nd generation warfare was 'massed artillery', and 3rd generation warfare was 'mobile artillery' (blitzkrieg). Somehow this scheme predicts 4th generation warfare: cyberwarfare, terrorism, "netwars", and the use of advanced computational and biological technologies.

The 4GW theorists make 3 claims about the future of warfare in the 4th generation:
1. The nation-states lose their monopoly on war.
2. Cultures dominate conflict.
3. Existing states will fail (central to this is the collapse of the US).

I think these political conclusions predate the 1, 2, 3, 4 scheme which is used to give them authority.

The 1,2,3, 4 logic is absurd. The projection of force to compel compliance is timeless. Every army has to deal with friction, level of operation, initiative, actions and counter-actions, loyalty, training, maneuver, body-armor, long range weapons, spies, etc. One might as well propose calling each chapter in Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' a 'generation of warfare'.

Since the advent of air power, the only way to fight the dominant air-power is by hiding in caves or basements. For example, many claim Hezbollah is advancing 4th generational warfare, but arguing that Hezbollah is a 'non-state' force is silly. They are a wing of the Iranian military, very much a 'state' force. Their order of battle reflects the reality of the battlefield. American and Israeli air power requires dispersal of forces.

Finally, nation-states never held such a monopoly on waging war, and therefore could never lose the alleged monopoly. Tribes, clans, pirates and fraternities never lost their ability to fight, project power and sustain themselves despite losses. Additionally, mercenaries (the original subject) are non-state actors and have always been active participants.

Perhaps noting these problems, the Wesphalia justification is often abandoned and the whole 4GW theory reduced to 'the rising power of asymmetric forces'. This perspective stresses warfare as media management and sapping the opponent's will-to-fight. The media issue is extremely important and generally ignored by 4GW popularizers, but it undermines the inevitable failure of nation-states claim which is at the heart of political objective 4GW proponents advocate.

Techno-babble is the most optimistic excuse I can imagine for the theory.

9/13/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger John Robb said...

nonomous,

I think you are standing on quicksand with this. Sure, some elements of warfare have not changed since Alexander marched across the plains of the Persian empire. However, to take this grain of truth and proclaim that warfare is eternal and unchangeable is specious.

John

9/14/2006 05:35:00 AM  
Blogger MarineOIFOEFVet said...

nonomous-

nonomous said:
The original version of 4th generation warfare (4GW) based itself upon a curious scheme that starts with the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and ignores prior military history. According to this scheme 1st generation warfare was 'massed muskets', 2nd generation warfare was 'massed artillery', and 3rd generation warfare was 'mobile artillery' (blitzkrieg). Somehow this scheme predicts 4th generation warfare: cyberwarfare, terrorism, "netwars", and the use of advanced computational and biological technologies.

I say:
Indeed, 1GW = Massed Manpower. 2GW = Massed Firepower, 3GW is Maneuver Warfare (vice positional warfare of 1GW and 2gw.) 4GW seems is NOT, however, merely the dialectical continuation of 3GW. It tends to focus on destroying not only the mental will to fight (ex: surrendering because you're surrounded), but also on the moral will to fight (how can I continue bombing when I know I'm going to kill all of those "innocent" people!?). Also inherent are the rise of non-state institutions, the democratization of information and weaponry, as well as military knowledge, the rise of new comm networks, etc.

You can view the beginning of the Generational View of the world at 1648 as something of a liberation from having to explain and fit the campaigns of Alexander into a relationship with Hizbollah. I doubt that Alexander would see much in common between his Companions and any formation fighting today. Armies have certainly changed, as have TTPs, strategies, statecraft, etc. The nature of war tends not to change, but the way wars are fought does. Indeed, I think the xGW approach to thinking of conflict tends to recognize both the immutable characteristics of warfare as much as those transient aspects. So, in the end, beginning xGW history in 1648 is both a problem, and a feature.

And, yes, criminals, brigands, pirates, mercs, slavers, missionaries, and prostitutes, have all been a part of warfare since time immemorial. That's not a fault of 4GW. However, when these groups start to acquire the legitimacy of nation-states, the Westphalian system up through the advent of mature 3GW tends to fall apart. That's what 4GW is about.

There are plenty of limits to airpower. Airpower tends to only be effective only against armies that have to maneuver on the operational or strategic levels. Hizbollah didn't have to maneuver except at the tactical level. There are plenty of other things you can do apart from hiding in basements to protect yourself from air. You can mingle with the population. You can collocate "innocents" with air defenses. You can plaster images of airplanes killing civilians all over Al Jazeera or YouTube. Fauxtography. Photography. Your logic suggests that Kosovo should have been a cakewalk, not a 70 day long campaign to bomb a nearly worhtless state (not worth the bones of a pomeranian grenadier).

Hizbollah-Yes, it is indeed a proxy of Iran, but it certainly would NOT have the traction it has were it not to stand for various grievances that seem to be rather popular with the Lebanese. By your logic you would claim that the Irish Republican Army in it's molotov cocktail-throwing days was a proxy of the PLO and various middle-eastern countries because the IRA sent warriors to train with PLO fighters (Fighting Terrorism, by Netanyahu). This, of course, is absurd. Just as absurd as claiming that Hizbollah is merely a proxy of Iran. They are that, and much more too...

The quicksand is deepening.

9/14/2006 02:04:00 PM  

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