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GEN McChrystal: It Takes a Network

Marauder06

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#1
General McChrystal wrote an article that appeared in Foreign Policy:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/22/it_takes_a_network

Excerpt:

Like all too many military forces in history, we initially saw our enemy as we viewed ourselves. In a small base outside Baghdad, we started to diagram AQI on white dry-erase boards. Composed largely of foreign mujahideen and with an overall allegiance to Osama bin Laden but controlled inside Iraq by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, AQI was responsible for an extremely violent campaign of attacks on coalition forces, the Iraqi government, and Iraqi Shiites. Its stated aim was to splinter the new Iraq and ultimately establish an Islamic caliphate. By habit, we started mapping the organization in a traditional military structure, with tiers and rows. At the top was Zarqawi, below him a cascade of lieutenants and foot soldiers.
But the closer we looked, the more the model didn't hold. Al Qaeda in Iraq's lieutenants did not wait for memos from their superiors, much less orders from bin Laden. Decisions were not centralized, but were made quickly and communicated laterally across the organization. Zarqawi's fighters were adapted to the areas they haunted, like Fallujah and Qaim in Iraq's western Anbar province, and yet through modern technology were closely linked to the rest of the province and country. Money, propaganda, and information flowed at alarming rates, allowing for powerful, nimble coordination. We would watch their tactics change (from rocket attacks to suicide bombings, for example) nearly simultaneously in disparate cities. It was a deadly choreography achieved with a constantly changing, often unrecognizable structure.
Over time, it became increasingly clear -- often from intercepted communications or the accounts of insurgents we had captured -- that our enemy was a constellation of fighters organized not by rank but on the basis of relationships and acquaintances, reputation and fame. Who became radicalized in the prisons of Egypt? Who trained together in the pre-9/11 camps in Afghanistan? Who is married to whose sister? Who is making a name for himself, and in doing so burnishing the al Qaeda brand?
All this allowed for flexibility and an impressive ability to grow and to sustain losses. The enemy does not convene promotion boards; the network is self-forming. We would watch a young Iraqi set up in a neighborhood and rise swiftly in importance: After achieving some tactical success, he would market himself, make connections, gain followers, and suddenly a new node of the network would be created and absorbed. The network's energy grew.
 

Marauder06

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#3
"It takes a network to defeat a network" is something we heard a lot from him. Kind of like "it takes a village," but... smarter.

"The Starfish and the Spider" was recommended reading from him, talks a lot about decentralized organizations. Good read.
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#5
Eh, I have a hard time with some of the stuff he has said and with this article. I think he had a disconnect from what was happening at the tactical level, to what was developed at the ops level and then passed up to his level. He may have visited a few villages and shook hands with a few elders, but he did not seem to have a full grasp on what he was preaching. His ideas of decentralization is great if utilized correctly in the theory of Ops/Tac people need flexibility, however his past leadership showed the centralization of command and control (under him). As was seen in Afghanistan with both conventional and SOF assists. I agree that with a terrorist network like AQ, we need an Intel network to match, as well as the flexibility to attack the AQ network on all levels. However, he did exactly the opposite while he had the ball in hand.

We all watched him pull all the leadership under his hat, we watched him make centralized command decisions (like his theater wide ROE) and we watch him get his ass canned for letting his hat get too big for his little head. All of that is quite contradictory to what he is stating in that article, or what he had stated in past interviews, news conferences and “meet the leader” videos he has done. Personally I would like to see him keep his mouth shut, and his keyboard locked away unless it’s has something to do with an apology to the troops he commanded.

I won’t even get into the issue of how what he is concluding as the enemy “insurgency” in Iraq and what was actually happening on the ground.
 

Marauder06

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#6
I have a little bit different perspective. I had pretty regular interaction with him two of my tours in Iraq, and worked (way down the chain) under him when he was the ISAF commander. I think the team he forges in Iraq was instrumental in the success of the Surge, and I think he was on the right track in Afghanistan.

I think he was a brilliant strategic thinker, and although I don't think he came up with it on his own, the F3EA process he mentioned in the article should be the standard for ops/intel fusion throughout the US military (if you add "D" for "dissemination," but that's a different thread).

I'm not sure what you mean about the insurgency in Iraq, as far as I can tell the organization he was in charge of over there did exactly what it was supposed to do and more.
 

Ravage

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#7
His way was nicely shown in "Task Force Black", the "build a network to defeat a network", the "non blinkin eye". I know they are just frazes, yet still they brought victory(?) of AQ in Iraq.
Kinda sad to see him go...
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#8
I am not sure where his involvement in the surge was instrumental, or even where we can analyze that the surge was an overall success. I don’t understand where AQ Iraq can be claimed defeated; last I heard they are very active. I also think it’s a farce for him to right a network to defeat a network article, when he did not implement such a doctrine in Afghanistan. Instead he centralized further; restricted ROE’s, placed more controls over operations and even moved SOF under his control. Not so much the idea he is presenting in this article.

To me it’s the same old bullshit of the disconnect found between Ops and Tac people, Ops thinks it sounds great, Tac can’t get it to work and Strategic levels write up more doctrines and strategies that further escape the reality of warfare. I think the idea of a network to defeat a network is great for Intel, but how are you going to implement it at the fighting level? You sure as hell don’t do it by restricting ROE’s, centralizing command and control, or by failing to listen and understand the tactical level intelligence. For the SOF types this may be great, probably b/c they have the quality Intel personnel, the understanding of the doctrine/strategy and most of all quality leadership to make it affective. But when we are talking small conventional units such as a company of Infantry soldiers, with less then adequate Intel personnel to work the information, less leadership abilities in the command structure and even less understanding of the overall doctrine/strategy being implemented, it becomes a mega fail.
 

Marauder06

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#9
I am not sure where his involvement in the surge was instrumental, or even where we can analyze that the surge was an overall success. I don’t understand where AQ Iraq can be claimed defeated; last I heard they are very active
Role of SOF in the Surge:
http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htsf/20080904.aspx
September 4, 2008: One important component of the U.S. "Surge Offensive" in Iraq last year was actually a three year old, generally discreet, commando operation. This was Task Force Black (TFB). Composed of only a few hundred troops, the core of this force was operators from the British SAS and the U.S. Delta Force. Task Force Black was assigned to go after the Islamic terrorists who were actually planning and carrying out the suicide bombings that were killing thousands of Iraqi civilians a month until last year.

Surge in Iraq:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_War_troop_surge_of_2007
Both critics of the surge and independent news services have stated that the conventional wisdom in the United States media is that the surge 'worked

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0806/29/le.01.html
"While few would argue about the success of the so-called surge in Iraq..."

http://thegazette.com/tag/mcchrystal/
The surge succeeded in Iraq because the locals witnessed a massive deployment of U.S. troops to provide them security, which encouraged them to give us intelligence, which helped us track down the bad guys and kill them. This led to further feelings of security by the locals, more intelligence provided us, more success in driving out the bad guys, and henceforth a virtuous cycle as security and trust and local intelligence fed each other.

AQ Defeat in Iraq:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/29/AR2008052904116.html
Less than a year after his agency warned of new threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden now portrays the terrorist movement as essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htwin/articles/20071027.aspx
October 27, 2007: On October 22nd, Osama bin Laden admitted that al Qaeda had lost its war in Iraq.

http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htlead/articles/20060430.aspx
April 30, 2006: Despite the many brickbats of the media, al Qaeda has been defeated inIraq, and is now retreating to lick its wounds where it can. If it can.


http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/10/osama_bin_laden_on_the_state_o.asp
After almost a year of silence, Osama bin Laden has issued his third tape in less than two months. Based on excerpts from bin Laden's latest audio tape, titled "Message to the people of Iraq," he views the situation in Iraq as dire.

Some of the above sources are opinion pieces but I think they match up with what most major media outlets have reported in the last couple of years. To me the biggest evidence is anecdotal; when was the last time Iraq was on the front page of your local paper?
 

Diamondback 2/2

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#10
Some of the above sources are opinion pieces but I think they match up with what most major media outlets have reported in the last couple of years. To me the biggest evidence is anecdotal; when was the last time Iraq was on the front page of your local paper?
Mara, I’ll have to get back to you on some of it. I personally do not share the belief that the surge was what accomplished the temporary security that Iraq saw in 2008-2009, I believe it had more to do with the sons of Iraq than it had to do with US troop levels in Iraq. I don’t have any knowledge on TFB or any of the other SOF stuff that has/is taking place in Iraq, so I am going to just STFU on that stuff.

I disagree however that due to Iraq not being in the news, we can call it a success. As I am sure you do, I have many friends still working in Iraq and the info I am getting is that AQ Iraq is active currently and that the current security situation is questionable to say the least.

Good post all the same and thank you for the links.
 

SpitfireV

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#11
There would be very few large terrorist organisations you could ever "destroy." Look at the RAF, for example, they kept on for quite some years after the main leaders went down. Same goes for the PIRA. You can minimise these groups and you can take away their motivation to fight but you won't always get to the very last person.
 

Marauder06

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#12
There would be very few large terrorist organisations you could ever "destroy." Look at the RAF, for example, they kept on for quite some years after the main leaders went down. Same goes for the PIRA. You can minimise these groups and you can take away their motivation to fight but you won't always get to the very last person.
Exactly right.

"Starfish and the Spider," it was recommended reading from... GEN McChrystal. ;)

http://www.starfishandspider.com/
http://irevolution.net/2010/01/09/starfish-spider-decentralization/
 

Marauder06

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#14
I wrote a paper recently for one of my classes, it had to be about leadership so I wrote it about McChrystal and called it "The Starfish Leader."
 

SpitfireV

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#15
Snazzy title! A good title always makes me happy. It brings out more interest than, say: "McChrystal and leadership: An essay."
 

Marauder06

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#16
Unfortunately the title is about the only good thing about it, I wrote it the morning it was due. I read it a couple of days after I turned it in and was like, "wtf,"
I think it would have been a pretty good one if I would have taken the time to do it right.
 

SpitfireV

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#17
Been there. I once got a history essay back with "this appears to be an unfinished draft" minuted on it. Probably because I wrote it overnight. Ha! Still passed, barely.