In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social, Not Electronic

Noah Shachtman has new piece out in Wired exploring the reported drop in violence in Iraq in recent months. He argues that this is the result of the US abandoning its somewhat techno-centric approach to prosecuting the war — and focusing instead on Iraq's social, political, tribal, and cultural networks. Snip:

The war was launched, in part, on a premise that you could wipe out
more bad guys with fewer troops, as long as those troops were
networked together. Businesses like Wal-Mart made their supply chain
more efficient through information technology; the military could do
the same with its "kill chain," the theory of network-centric warfare

The idea — first popularized in article published ten years ago, next
month — pretty much worked as advertised, for a while. The problem
is, killing people more efficiently is one of the last things you need
to do a counterinsurgency situation, like the one the U.S. is facing
in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, you need to take steps to reinforce
civil society, rather than blowing it apart. And that takes an
understanding of the society you're trying to build.

For the story, I scored a rare opportunity to spend time with a U.S.
"psychological operations" team, getting into the heads of the people
of Fallujah; hung out with an Army colonel who worked his tribal
connections to bring stability to one of Iraq's roughest towns; spent
time with the heads of a controversial program to embed
anthropologists into combat units; and interviewed General David
Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.

Link. More out-takes from the reporting process will no doubt show up in Noah's blog posts at Danger Room.

Photo: shot by Todd Hido in Iraq for Wired. A tattered flag flies from a cell phone antenna.