Monday, August 20, 2007

Fighting Leaderless Networks

Here's a nice post from Douglas Farah on the increasing phenomenon of decentralized, leaderless networks such as the "new" al Qaeda or revamped organized crime networks. Farah argues that a new strategy is required for fighting these networks. A few key paragraphs:

As a starfish can reconstitute itself out of almost any part that is severed, and has no real, centralized brain but a series of nerve impulses that guide its movements, so terrorist groups and criminal groups often thrive when deprived of centralized leadership.

This leads to deeply-troubling scenarios, because so much emphasis, both here and abroad, has focused on decapitating the leadership, rather than dealing with the network as a network.

Decapitation is often the key strategic objective, because our entire system is geared toward fighting organizations with a strict hierarchy, as our organizations are.

Successfully countering these groups and their growing reach will require a radical new assessment of both strategy and tactics in the military, intelligence community and law enforcement. But that will require a willingness to dump old assumptions and paradigms, something that has not really happened since 9-11.
Random thoughts:

1. Perhaps the network-vs-network element of the current anti-al Qaeda strategy in Iraq (i.e., cooperating with local tribes and former insurgent groups) is one reason for its effectiveness, as compared to former tactical approaches.

2. From a local homeland security perspective, what are the active local networks that could be used to counter the terrorist threat? What do we know about "our turf" that can be turned to strategic or tactical advantage?

3. What potential local networks do not exist yet?

4. What local networks could be made more effective?

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