Thursday, February 08, 2007

Aux armes citoyens

It would seem natural that small groups and individuals -- connected by a network -- would play a significant role in fighting the networked insurgency. Here's one example. The Opinion Journal describes how Maj Owen West, Spirit of America and Bill Roggio established a fingerprinting system in Habbaniyah with only one thing in common. They were all Americans. Otherwise it was entirely private effort by individuals connected by a private network of familiarity, nationality and shared belief. Here's Bill Roggio's own account of its effect.

I would like to add that not only will this device have a real impact on data gathering and storage, and creating a networked picture of the insurgency, there is also a real psychological effect of this tool on the populace. Several of the young men who were stopped and had their data gathered were clearly nervous about the device. They knew their fingerprint and picture were being taken and stored. Despite Anbar being the backwaters of Iraq, the people still understand technology and modern policing (I've seen CSI on TVs in homes during raids, for instance.). Major West informed me that immediately after the night patrol, "there was a buzz throughout the town" about the device. The Snake Eater may very well serve to deter those less committed to the jihad cause; the part time rent-an-insurgent might view the risk too great.


By slow degrees the poisonous idea that government should be left to do things for the public has taken unconscious hold even of minds that would be consciously opposed to the notion. To be sure, government has a unique role to play in setting foreign policy, in exercising police powers and in national defense. But in the War on Terror where the boundaries between private and organizational movements; politics and religion and even between state frontiers is blurred, the idea of leaving everything to the government is probably a prescription for defeat. It is often forgotten that one of of government's legitimate roles is to mobilize the public. To channel private effort. To recall that the nation consists, not of the "masses" but of individuals yearning to breathe free -- and help.

There is great scope for private initiative in the War on Terror in areas which are both legal and appropriate. Individuals can monitor foreign language broadcasts. Volunteer their language skills. And -- as in this case -- offer their technical expertise in areas where the government is either too slow or ill-equipped to respond. There's a fingerprinting system in Habbaniyah tonight. America put it there. Not the government. But America.


Blogger Unknown said...

Policemen on Abrams battle tanks. Hmm,..

2/08/2007 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Pierre said...

Gotta love the idea...even more so because if this idea does not work and we lose the war then we have the spector of something much worse happening. Something much worse that also entails Americans acting alone...using all the technological skills and tools we have availible to strike the blows our government refuses to strike. The death and destruction that will follow such a rubicon left behind will show the 7th century thugs exactly who is best at killing.

Pray that we never cross that rubicon.

First Iraq threatened the US now Iran is threatening the US…some folks never learn.

2/08/2007 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

re: Roggio, posted earlier at the Elephant Bar

If a team of perps is captured preparing an IED or EED, why does Major West need do more than gather posthumous data? Of course, if one thinks of war as merely law enforcement and the wanton killers of American troops as just so many Mexican gang-bangers, throwing gadgets at the problem has an all too familiar ring. Of course, were Major West to take more affirmative action, he too would end up in Federal prison.

We will be discussing all this as something new in six months.

No guts, no glory.

2/08/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Al-Queda is now demanding that American troops surrender and withdraw within the next month. However, as part of that surrender, Al-Q wants just the troops themselves flown out, and all their nifty-neat toys left behind.

I wonder if Al-Q covets those toys like a 12-year-old kid covets the videogame his nextdoor neighbor got for Christmas.

It would almost be worth it to watch Al-Q blowing themselves up trying to figure out how to use them.

2/08/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Habu said...

what a great work around to get the job done..bravo.

2/08/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

All it soes is extoll some ad hoc efforts arising in an unorganized, redundant, or patchwork fashion - to make up for the failure of the American Government to create an organized war effort that involves the American public.

At best, it is sloppy, disorganized, and can only point to abherrent islands of success in a sea of failure.

Wars can greatly be aided by individual intitiative, but not when the initiative is localized and happens despite the incompetent Bushies...not because of them., and never gets adapted by the larger effort.

2/08/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

There are those who knock the notion of high tech wonder toys, but one of the strange side effects of military technology is how quickly it is absorbed by consumer markets. Radios and infrared scopes marveled as high tech wonders of desert storm have become available for under 50 bucks at the sporting goods store. They have gone from near science fiction to pedestrian in less than a decade. With cameras ubiquitous, finger print scanners everywhere (I use one to get into work everyday) and DNA testing common place, the business of skullduggery is becoming more and more difficult.

2/08/2007 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

One thing our soldiers have always been good at, is adopting effective techniques in the field. If this one bears fruit, you can bet your next paycheck that word will spread like wildfire, and other units will adopt the practice.

2/08/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Cedarford is right in a sense. Leadership is not just about setting goals. When successful local adaptations in tactics occur, it is also the job of leadership to disseminate the information to everyone else in theater, and then make tactical reproduction feasible by delivering the requisite goods in a timely and efficient manner. In this type of war, local adaptations need to sweep through the system much faster than the enemy's responses to them. That, it seems, is a battle we are losing.

2/08/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

The equipment is perfect, but you need earnest people in a trust-able organization - to make it work like it does on CSI.

If Al Gore got away with saying the tape drive ate all of the VP's Lotus database, how many tapes will get mixed up in the Iraqi mixup?

Our guys will use this tool perfectly, they'll turn the bad guys over to the Iraqi authorities. And then what?

Even as a superhawk hi-tech lover, that's my problem. Then what?

I fear this is just another gloss on the 'catch and release' problem. So we ID them, put 'em in cuffs, throw them in the paddywagon and take them down to the station. Then what?

2/08/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Then what?

Use them as target practice for those Abrams battle tanks?

2/08/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Cyrenus said...

Aristides said: "it is also the job of leadership to disseminate the information to everyone else in theater."

I'm all for holding our leaders accountable, but I think it's a little implausible to think that POTUS has the time, let alone the inclination, to absorb these tactical adaptations and decree they be implemented from the top down. I find the implementation of these biometric scanners by a diverse, or more precisely, hybrid, group of government soldiers and private citizens a most encouraging development. Perhaps the most encouraging part of this news is that the government, and by extension, the military brass, have not blocked it's implementation. Most often just getting out of the way of the citizens and soldiers is the highest -- albeit quietest --form of governance. I'm certain the ACLU will find the use of biometrics to decipher the insurgency a most alarming development. Just another case of the big, ugly imperialist Americans stripping the "other" of their basic human dignity. Which would only confirm to me that this can indeed be a very effective counter-terror tool...

2/08/2007 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


Yes, it is ad hoc, not the sort of thing one expects in a global war on "Terrorism" or "Terrorists" or "Terroristic Terrorists" etc, is it? An archer does need a target. Thanks for leaving the blind Jewish archers out of your assessment.

Won't it be ironic if a Jew and and anti-Jew find common ground?

2/08/2007 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Do I correctly understand C4 to be saying that neither the Bushies nor the folks showing initiative have central committee approval, so shame on them?

2/08/2007 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

re: connectivity

Westhawk reports that it will take the US 18 months to set up an Africa Command. Wow, and to think it was only 700 years ago that Henry of Portugal began the exploration of Africa. Good grief! Someone tell me again, why is the US having such difficulty waging the TWAT?

2/08/2007 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...


You are right, of course, but by "leadership" I was not referring to the President. That is why I said Cedarford was right "in a sense." Ensuring an appropriate and efficient adaptive "network" is a job below the Commander-in-chief (but not too far).

But the point remains. Without a way to systematically exploit these frozen accidents, progress will remain uneven and isolated. I'm sure we have something, of course, but what we have is not sufficient. Al'qaeda and the insurgency can adapt country-wide in five to ten phone calls transmitted in rapid succession. We can't. Yet.

2/08/2007 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Phone calls! Ha, I'm so 1990.

2/08/2007 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

cyrenus - I'm all for holding our leaders accountable, but I think it's a little implausible to think that POTUS has the time, let alone the inclination, to absorb these tactical adaptations and decree they be implemented from the top down.

Obviously you are one of those people that believe all actions come from the micromanagement of Great Men like Dubya or the Supreme Arch-Evil CEO of All Terrorism , bin Laden.

Let me give you a clue - as leader, you - in government or private business - identify a need - set resources and organization in place - appoint key leaders and project managers, deadlines, deliverable timetables. And check in on the process.

Bush is dysfunctional. Frankly, if you look at how LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton got major things done - you see just how bad Dubya is.

In War, from the Revolutionary War until the Gulf War - unfortunately omitting Bush's feckless job on Iraq - War Boards were set up to achieve concrete things deemed essential to success. They used the best technology and minds available, fired nonperformers, were in daily consult with strategists, and members were in the field with troops.

IN WWII, there were over 300 projects and deliverables going through the War Board. All but 15 were on time. All but 3 were accomplished.

In Vietnam, we had a full compliment of soldiers & intel people fully trained in Thai, Vietnamese, Hmong between late 1963 and early 1965. Vietnamization was done systematically. Every ally was consulted, and no "breaks" happened with those who had policy disputes. Top Gun school was established in 6 months and reversed the dogfight losses. War boards again broke down manpower, technology needs.

This war, Bush goes from pet idea to pet idea. Believe the Neocons fairy tales. Then Chalabi's fairy tales. Then wait a year and do nothing but have troops picked off while a fucking Constitution is wrangled out by Iraqis who were deadly enemies. Become infatuated with a right wing Zionist who saw all Arabs but the Palestinians as noble purple-fingered freedom lovers. Decide after 4 years that catch and release is a problem. Keep armor plants working on peacetime hours unti irate Congressmen rip leadership away from Bush. Refuse to replace non-performers out of a sense of loyalty. Refuse communications past calling Islam "The Religion of Peace". Refuse to let peacetime procurement rules requiring 6 months of bids and 6 months of public review and comment be violated for any war need outside "Special OPs Wonder Soldiers". Refuse to replace destroyed, used up equipment. Refuse to train Iraqis until "Iraqi leadership" is "on board".

What has been done, the 660 billion squandered - is an absolute mess by Bush. And the massive programmatic defiences that go well outside Iraq to America's global position? They cannot to fixed by "bottom-down" initiatives by some squad in some nowhereville mud village in Afar.

2/08/2007 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

Ouch....C-4 gives Bush a well deserved industrial strength roto-rooting.

2/08/2007 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

I will be reporting shortly that I have discovered the identity of C-4. He uses a wireless connection that I have traced to a proctologist office above a Hassidism reading room in Brooklyn. Developing...

2/08/2007 11:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would seem natural that small groups and individuals -- connected by a network -- would play a significant role in fighting the networked insurgency.

i think it's rather telling how the words we use to describe the conflict in iraq
show how sort of "ethnocentric" and out of touch we americans are with the nature of the bloodshed going on in the Middle East.

for example, the word "insurgency". "insurgency" doesn't really accurately describe the nature of what's really happening in Iraq AT ALL, in my opionion.
"insurgency" is a WESTERN word and a western idea.
it describes an "insurrection" or mutiny (like on a ship).
it connotates a rebellion.

what is happening in iraq should not be oversimplified or even framed as an insurgency. it doesn't fit.

another good one is the term "Iraqi People". this one makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it.

The region was carved up after ww1 by western powers who have always been really big on the idea of nation-states. So they carved up a little piece and called it Iraq.

The region is TRIBAL not statist, like us in the west. the people who inhabit iraq identify with their tribe and religious sect, NOT their nation. There are no Iraqi People!

we are forever stuck in 2nd generation warfare...these people don't know of any "generation" of warfare.
warfare is part of their tribal's woven into the fabric of each and every clan member.

this is why their organized armies are so pathetic...they don't do western style organized armies very well.

it appears that we don't do middle eastern style tribal warfare very well either.

2/09/2007 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger Deuce ☂ said...

graytooth speak with precise bite.

2/09/2007 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger MyTimeCards said...

The measurement of victory depends on the objectives. If our objective was to take out Saddam and thus eliminate an enemy, we seem to have at least scored a temporary victory, even if the place goes to hell. If our further aim was to replace Saddam with a friend, and in the process liberate the people and help them get a democratic government in place, we may have also achieved at least a temporary victory. If our objective now is to get the Sunnis and Shiites fighting each other instead of us, hopefully in a large-scale conflict, then perhaps we're on course. Maybe the end-game objective truly is to protect and stabilize Iraq until the gov't there can take over and keep it stable, and then helping to spread democracy and civilize the whole middle east. Maybe not.

I don't know what all the objectives are, but considering the strength of his domestic enemies, and their de facto alliance with those we fight in Iraq, I'm not sure berating Bush for failure is quite fair without making sure everyone's using the same yardstick.

2/09/2007 03:13:00 AM  
Blogger Promethea said...

extraneus . . .

You said: "I don't know what all the objectives are, but considering the strength of his domestic enemies, and their de facto alliance with those we fight in Iraq, I'm not sure berating Bush for failure is quite fair without making sure everyone's using the same yardstick."

Well put. Your entire post is excellent. Too many people who comment on this blog are focused on the small details, not the big picture. I'm sure Bush knows that Iraq is a tribal culture. It's worth the time and money to help establish democratic institutions in this culture. Give it time. As Bush said, this is a multigenerational project.

2/09/2007 06:33:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

At $50 billion, US troops should have been sent home. At $100 billion, the whole US general command should have been sent home. At $150 billion, Bush should have been sent home. At $200 billion, Congress should have been sent home. Now at $650 billion, you can turn the lights off, cause there's nobody home.

2/09/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Currently, if you kill one or more terrorists while they're placing IEDs, all you have are some anonymous bodies without ID

The value of the system is that it helps eliminate the anonymity. Now, if a dead terrorist's fingerprints match up with a name and address in the database, you now know who the dead terrorist's family and friends are, and can target your investigation.

In order to win in Iraq, we're going to need to construct comprehensive databases. Who lives where, who's related to who, who was arrested where and for what. Then when you stop somebody who seems suspicious, and he's not in the database, you get to investigate why that is the case

2/09/2007 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Promethea said, "...this is a multigenerational project.

That is clearly false. We already have one foot out the door.

2/09/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

As should be obvious, this system wasn't developed from scratch in thirty days. It was adapted from pre-existing parts in that time.

What is so worrying is that this simple and obvious device is taking so long to go through channels to get to Iraq. There is a post at Roggio's blog that, if true, says that over 100 million has been spent already by the pentagon to bring over a system like the one described and nothing has shipped yet to Iraq.

There certainly is a difference between bringing over a single proof-of-concept device and outfitting the entire country with devices and the database that goes behind it but: how many years have passsed?

Oh yeah: Rumsfeld is an idiot.

2/09/2007 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Harrison said...

The insurgency's emphasis on nodes and criminal-network elements may hold the key to disrupting the insurgency itself: replicating such a diverse, wide-spanning network of individual cells.

Influx of such technology will create psychological fear among insurgents, unfamiliar as they are to the multifarious gadgets supplied, customised and uniquely crafted for specific purposes - surveilance, tracking, identification - by civilians back at home.

If a steady stream of such devices could be proliferated speedily and made widely available to our forces, therein lies the possibility that insurgents may not be left with sufficient time to identify and thereby avoid detection or avert suspicion if newer soft-tech such as the Snake Eater becomes the standard device of tapping into their networks.

The trick will be to ensure the continuance of such innovative initiatives so that we do not risk becoming too predictable - meaning that we retain and upgrade existing biometric capabilities while altering the physical characteristics of the device, similiar to how insurgents have basically modified the IED to inflict substantial damage despite armour improvements and procedural changes in detecting IEDs on the road, in dead carcasses, overhanging branches.

Remember that the insurgency is highly capable of adapting. To beat it, we have to be better than them at their own game.

2/09/2007 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Harrison said...

"Dead carcasses" don't really make sense, but you get what I was trying to say.

2/09/2007 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Our old friend Mathuselah sez:
Mətušélaḥ said...

Then what?

Use them as target practice for those Abrams battle tanks?

The fact of the matter is, suiciders will bleed us white, no matter how many tanks destroyers bombers we mass ourselves up with.

The last time we faced down such a suicidal foe, we used an anti-matter philosophy. Compared to Iwo Jima, Hiroshima was like one of VDH's battle of hoplites, where massive disputes were settled in minutes.

Oh, those were the Good Old Days.

The Big White Light should have gone off over Kandahar before the sun ever set over the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.

The World does not respect weaklings.

2/09/2007 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

graytooth speak with precise bite.


Remember that the insurgency is highly capable of adapting. To beat it, we have to be better than them at their own game.

yes. this requires us however to actually realize that there is no BATTLEFIELD like we are used to thinking of it. in fact the term Battlefield is an antiquated anacronysm. i don't wanna hear it anymore. this isn't about battling THEM on any "battlefield".

2/10/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Tony, and Graytooth,

Why reinvent the wheel? War is a very old profession and it does not involve police work. To be good at war, you just need to kill the enemy, and keep killing him and his, until he decides he wants to be your enemy no more. That's really all there is to it.

2/10/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


That is so 50th C. BC
That is so Ramses
That is so Assyrian
That is so Hellenistic
That is so Roman
That is so Napoleon
That is so Eisenhower

Don't you understand that the current generation is of the stock of the Übermensch , unshackled to the past or reason. Why, consider Sandy Berger and Dr. Rice.

2/10/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Sameha said...

I think the teenage group shouldn’t be nervous of the fingerprint scanners, rather its a safety ensuring measure for them. Fingerprint scanners systems are great replacements for ID cards. In fact now a days more and more organizations are implementing Fingerprint scanners in their software system, and conducting management, marketing and other operations with higher efficiency. This is only possible since identification is becoming secure and faster through the Bio-Scanners. I am a representative of an established, biometric software research and development firm named M2SYS Technology based in Atlanta Georgia. We have provided our Fingerprint Scanner to numerous organizations like health care, clubs, schools, jail Management, public safety, government institutions etc., starting from medium to large across various countries, who are now making a very fast and reliable client/ staff record service through integrating our secured fingerprint identification system in their software. We also offer several off-the-shelf fingerprints software products that are distributed to the end user market through our expanding list of channel partners. I believe to keep up with speed of service and tracking the citizens or even criminal as in an efficient way, finger print scanners are one of the best solutions.

5/08/2007 09:36:00 AM  

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