Open source counterinsurgency by mattsteinglass
October 3, 2007, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Iraq, Vietnam, War

John Robb has a really interesting post up at Global Guerrillas on what he calls open source counterinsurgency. It means relying on an agglomeration of local, usually tribally affiliated militias to provide security and combat an insurgency. Robb thinks the US has stumbled into this strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and that it’s the only effective way to combat modern open-source insurgencies. The problem is that, in the long run, it’s inimical to effective centralized government or modern economic development, since it balkanizes countries into tribal fiefdoms.

One question I had: what, exactly, is the definitional boundary between the “militias” one supports in such a strategy, and the “insurgency” one is trying to defeat? In the Iraqi case, the militias we’re now backing in Anbar are the very same militias who used to constitute the insurgency that was fighting us. True, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban are different from such local militias: they’re driven by radical ideology, and lacking (or transcending) traditional local ties. But doesn’t that essentially just mean we’re doing the same thing we did with Montagnard militias in Vietnam, or with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan — arming traditional, localized tribal groups against a coherent, modernizing insurgency?


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