A few days ago, a Marine Corps major, David High, argued that the fight in Iraq isn't really an insurgency at all.
There is not a web of like-minded (much less amenable) patriots gaining succor and inspiration from the populace. There are a thousand disparate cabals and petit punks and opportunists, each with competing motivations and interests... The permutations are endless and motivations intertwined.All of which, from what I've understand, is interesting and true; I've heard reports of more than 75 distinct groups fighting the U.S. over there. But it's also kind of irrelevant. Because these insurgents may not need a cohesive ideology to thrive. Technology, in many ways, has taken its place.It used to be that a small group of ideological-driven guerilla leaders would spread information, tactics, training, and cash to their followers. No more. Internet-enabled insurgents with only the loosest of real-world connections can now share all of that freely online. These guys don't have to like each other. They don't have to agree with one another. They don't even have to interact, really. All they have to do is post material to the Net. John Robb -- who's doing some of the smartest thinking and writing around on the subject -- calls it "Open Source warfare."Without using the term themselves, the Washington Post has just finished a must-read three-part series on these Open Source guerillas. Here's a snippet from today's final installment:
An entire online network of Zarqawi supporters serves as backup for his insurgent group in Iraq, providing easily accessible advice on the best routes into the country, trading information down to the names of mosques in Syria that can host a would-be fighter, and eagerly awaiting the latest posting from the man designated as Zarqawi's only official spokesman."The technology of the Internet facilitated everything," declared a posting this spring by the Global Islamic Media Front, which often distributes Zarqawi messages on the Internet...This and other Arabic-language forums hosted discussions on the latest news from Iraq, provided a place for swapping tips on tradecraft, circulated religious justifications for jihad, and acted as intermediary between would-be fighters and their would-be recruiters...Many postings to the boards were not official statements from al Qaeda but unsolicited advice, such as the recent notice called "the road to Mesopotamia" posted on an underground Syrian extremist site, in which one veteran offered a detailed scouting report, down to advice on bribing Syrian police and traveling to the border areas by claiming to be on a fishing trip.The bulletin boards also make information quickly available from Iraq, where fighters are gaining combat experience against the U.S. military. In one case cited by John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, would-be insurgents in the Sahara Desert were able to ask for -- and receive -- information from the ground in Iraq about how best to build bombs.In this way, the new Iraqi "non-insurgency" may be tougher to beat, ultimately, than the more ideological guerillas of the past. With such a diverse band sharing information so quickly, there's no one "leader" or group of leaders to eliminate. In fact, taking out the most visible leaders might only make the Open Source network more efficient, by eliminating unnecessary nodes.Some might read Major High's comments, and take comfort. Me, I'm nervous as hell.THERE'S MORE: Major High -- and a whole lot of other people -- respond in the comments section. Be sure to read.