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    Default How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social Not E

    WIRED MAGAZINE: WIRED ISSUE 15.12


    How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social Not Electronic
    By Noah Shachtman
    11.27.07 | 6:00 PM

    Network-centric wars would be more moral, too. Cebrowski later argued that network-enabled armies kill more of the right people quicker. With fewer civilian casualties, warfare would be more ethical. And as a result, the US could use military might to create free societies without being accused of imperialist arrogance.

    ...

    And yet, here we are. The American military is still mired in Iraq. It's still stuck in Afghanistan, battling a resurgent Taliban. Rumsfeld has been forced out of the Pentagon. Dan Halutz, the Israeli Defense Forces chief of general staff and net-centric advocate who led the largely unsuccessful war in Lebanon in 2006, has been fired, too. In the past six years, the world's most technologically sophisticated militaries have gone up against three seemingly primitive foes and haven't won once.

    How could this be? The network-centric approach had worked pretty much as advertised. Even the theory's many critics admit net-centric combat helped make an already imposing American military even more effective at locating and killing its foes. The regimes of Saddam Hussein and Mullah Omar were broken almost instantly. But network-centric warfare, with its emphasis on fewer, faster-moving troops, turned out to be just about the last thing the US military needed when it came time to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. A small, wired force leaves generals with too few nodes on the military network to secure the peace. There aren't enough troops to go out and find informants, build barricades, rebuild a sewage treatment plant, and patrol a marketplace.

    For the first three years of the Iraq insurgency, American troops largely retreated to their fortified bases, pushed out woefully undertrained local units to do the fighting, and watched the results on feeds from spy drones flying overhead. Retired major general Robert Scales summed up the problem to Congress by way of a complaint from one division commander: "If I know where the enemy is, I can kill it. My problem is I can't connect with the local population." How could he? For far too many units, the war had been turned into a telecommute. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon were the first conflicts planned, launched, and executed with networked technologies and a networked ideology. They were supposed to be the wars of the future. And the future lost.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Great Article

    Rex, Thanks for a great link !

    A bit techie at first, but by page 3 LTC John Nagl comes into play and later GEN Petraeus has insightful advice for the geeks. Towards the end, the article really shift gears addressing Human Terrain Teams.

    So the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are updating the playbook. Technological networks like Wal-Mart's are out. The social network warfare of Nagl, Prior, and Colabuno is in.

    The Army has set aside $41 million to build what it calls Human Terrain Teams: 150 social scientists, software geeks, and experts on local culture, split up and embedded with 26 different military units in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year.

    In western Afghanistan, a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was being targeted by rockets, over and over, from the vicinity of a nearby village. But no one from the unit had bothered to ask the townspeople why. When the Human Terrain Team finally paid a visit, villagers complained that the Taliban was around only because the Americans didn't provide security. And oh, by the way, they really wanted a volleyball net, too. So a net was acquired. Patrols were started. There hasn't been an attack in two months.

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    Default - of Hippies and Megalomaniacs

    HTTs with 26 different units, now that is truly impressive, if not downright remarkable. This taxpayer likes to see his greenbacks spent in this manner. I would hope there would be a former hippy or two in the HTTs, it would somehow be fitting in lieu of the shock and awe mentality of Rummy's war venue that kicked the whole thing off. In retrospect, he reminds me of Cpt. Fetterman so many years ago who made the claim he could with 80 men ride through the whole Lakota nation. Rummy always worked standing up, I'm drifting here, and I've never fully trusted any man who could only think on his feet. High techery seemed to compliment his high energy, as it does many of us, and it fed his megalomania.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Thumbs up A good read

    I liked the way the article captured the soldiers' & marines' understanding of cultural norms to adapt themes that resonate with the population - this one in particular I think is well done because its combined to create an effect that allows friendly forces to discern who the insurgents are and then target them. It looks to me that this is a well integrated operation.

    So Colabuno started spoofing the insurgents' posters instead. He put a logo similar to that of the terrorist Islamic Army at the top of a simple black-and-white sheet. "A young boy died while wearing a suicide vest given to him by criminals," one flyer read. "You should remember that whoever makes lies about Allah should reserve his seat in hell." The extremists went nuts — screaming at shopkeepers and locals who posted the flyers, blaming other insurgents for defaming their good names. All the while, Americans watched the action through high-powered surveillance cameras. Consequently the marines knew who to question, and who to capture or kill. "We know where you are and what you are doing," another poster proclaimed. "Who will you trust now?"
    When you read the article consider how long its taken SGT Colabuno to get to a cultural understanding of the area - not to mention this NCO has allot of natural talent for this job, and a knack of adapting commercial tech (photo shop) to his purpose. When you ID a guy like that (and there are quite a few good E-5s out there who could almost as good a job - I had one who was given to me as my FSNCO - but we re-rolled him into our IO NCO on the TT) you need to pull him from whatever task you had him doing and make him your IO combat multiplier - put him together with a saavy terp (interpreter) who can translate English to Arabic and you have an IO team to build operations like this around.

    The other piece I like is this one:

    General David Petraeus knows all about these mind games......

    So I get escorted across Baghdad's concrete-ringed International Zone, around the manicured lawns of the Republican Palace, up its marbled stairs, past ambassadors and generals, through a seemingly endless series of gates and checkpoints, and into Petraeus' office. But even this far inside the US war machine, I'm expecting a frontal assault on network-centric warfare.

    Instead, he sings me a love song.

    "It's definitely here to stay. It's just going to keep getting greater and greater and greater," Petraeus says. I settle on a couch, and he shuts off the air conditioner. "I was a skeptic of network-centric warfare for years," he confesses. But thanks to years of wartime funding, he says, the military now has the ability "to transmit data, full-motion video, still photos, images, information. So you can more effectively determine who the enemy is, find them and kill or capture, and have a sense of what's going on in the area as you do it — where the friendlies are, and which platform you want to bring to bear."

    Of course, he adds, he doesn't believe the Rumsfeld-era idea that you can get away with fewer, better-networked troops. Petraeus is the man behind the "surge," after all. Anyone who thinks you don't need massing of troops is living in an "academic world," he says. And Petraeus believes "the most important network is still the one that is between the ears of commanders and staff officers."

    Yet he's a believer, just like a whole lot of other Army generals. He supports the $230 billion plan to wire the Army, a gargantuan commitment to network-centric war. "We realized very quickly you could do incredible stuff with this," he says. "It was revolutionary. It was."

    I press my hands to my forehead. What about all the cultural understanding, I ask him. What about nation-building? What about your counterinsurgency manual?

    "Well," Petraeus says, "it doesn't say that the best weapons don't shoot. It says sometimes the best weapons don't shoot. Sometimes the best weapons do shoot." A war like Iraq is a mix, he adds: In one part of the country, the military is reinforcing the society, building things; in another, it's breaking them — waging "major combat operations" that aren't all that different from what might have gone down in 2003. And this technology, he says, it's pretty good at 2003-style war.
    While the investment in tech may not be being used as as ADM Cebrowski had originally envisioned - its still a good means to communicate whatever we choose to - and in a more secure manner. I bolded some points because the value of something is often determined by its relevance which is often determined in how you use it. In the case of "net-centric" stuff what you put in determines what comes out - so if a soldier uses it to transmit the image of something that can be used as IO material, or to collect records of evidence, or to confirm the identity of person of interest by connecting with some gang software back at the TOC run by a saavy E-5 analyst - then the tech is enabling decisions and supporting those tasks for the mission at hand - whatever that mission may be with lethal or non-lethal ends.

    A very good article. Well worth the read & then some.

    Best Regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 11-29-2007 at 09:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    HTTs with 26 different units, now that is truly impressive, if not downright remarkable. This taxpayer likes to see his greenbacks spent in this manner. I would hope there would be a former hippy or two in the HTTs, it would somehow be fitting in lieu of the shock and awe mentality of Rummy's war venue that kicked the whole thing off. In retrospect, he reminds me of Cpt. Fetterman so many years ago who made the claim he could with 80 men ride through the whole Lakota nation. Rummy always worked standing up, I'm drifting here, and I've never fully trusted any man who could only think on his feet. High techery seemed to compliment his high energy, as it does many of us, and it fed his megalomania.
    Spruance, as I recall, worked standing up as well. Just an aside....

    Actually, Rumsfeld reminds me more of Custer. Always right. Always ready to fight the last war. Both could be good in their proper areas, but when taken out of that element....
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    A little bit of a thread hijack, but along the lines of what Rob mentions in terms of identifying that good NCO at the company level (which reinforces what LTC Kilcullen mentions in the 28 Articles) - Has anyone had any experience with the Tactical IO course - either the Sill or the Vermont version?

    I'm trying to decide whether to push to get junior soldiers to that school. Yeah, I know - get all the training I can, but I have to weigh priorities (the tradeoffs would involve things like the link analysis boot camp at FLW or the ARCENT cultural awareness course). Before I call in favors and spend a bunch of money - Can anyone offer any insight as to whether it's really useful at the company level?

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    Default Another view on Wired article

    Tom Barnett has a different take on this article.
    http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblo..._analysis.html

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    ...and manages to mention "I," "me" or "my work" nine times in one short blog post. Impressive.

    (Although I do agree with him that the Wired piece establishes a bit of a false dichotomy between NCW and the importance of human systems analysis and capabilities.)

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    Default Myspace, Social Networking

    "to transmit data, full-motion video, still photos, images, information. So you can more effectively determine who the enemy is, find them and kill or capture, and have a sense of what's going on in the area as you do it — where the friendlies are, and which platform you want to bring to bear."

    Of course, he adds, he doesn't believe the Rumsfeld-era idea that you can get away with fewer, better-networked troops. Petraeus is the man behind the "surge," after all. Anyone who thinks you don't need massing of troops is living in an "academic world," he says. And Petraeus believes "the most important network is still the one that is between the ears of commanders and staff officers."

    Yet he's a believer, just like a whole lot of other Army generals. He supports the $230 billion plan to wire the Army, a gargantuan commitment to network-centric war. "We realized very quickly you could do incredible stuff with this," he says. "It was revolutionary. It was."

    I press my hands to my forehead. What about all the cultural understanding, I ask him. What about nation-building? What about your counterinsurgency manual?
    It's in front of their faces the whole time and they no comprende. Network centric social warfare happens every day. We do it here and in any spaces where we share links, pictures, videos, write ideas or otherwise convey any personal information or philosophy.

    We use similar electronic systems to identify, evaluate and expand connections. The idea of "network centric" is not simply about our ability to connect weapons platforms. It's about connecting our people. evaluating their connections through knowledge of similar social networks. Evaluating the enemy's connections through similar concepts and finally, as we know within our own social networks, we are even linked to "the enemy" through one of those connections. If you follow it back, use the right tools, you can develop an electronic system that enhances our abilities within the human landscape.

    That Sgt was very smart. Many social networkers use "trojan" or "parody" sites in order to entice opposition to view their opinions and ideas. And, hackers, of course, use mirror sites to capture unsuspecting customers of the real organization, obtain their information and steal their identities.

    This is not new to the internet, nor in war fare.

    It is simply that people cannot perceive the use of such technologies and network concepts to be adapted to warfare.

    by the way, a part of that "network centric" is the very simplest idea of showing where each "good guy" is on the map, where they think the bad guy is, and the terrain in between.

    This is like the idea that we can't build the ability to successfully prosecute counter-insurgencies and conventional wars with the same organization. Why is technology, so highly integrated into our daily lives and important to our own social connectivity, so hard to conceive of integrated technology and social networking on the battle field?

    Besides, Petraeus is only singing the half of it. Our soldiers of the future will take their own experiences with social networking: "network centric" gaming, chat and information sharing to a new level within the military. Those first ideas about how this network will be utilized will be looked at in the same manner that an inventor once imagined a future where 1 million adding machines were linked together. He could only imagine a future based on his own experiences.
    Last edited by kehenry1; 11-29-2007 at 05:45 AM.
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    Default More info on HTTs

    Another article posted on wired.com by Noah Shachtman. Contains a little bit more background into the creation of the HTTs, mostly a rehash of the afore mentioned article though.

    http://www.wired.com/politics/securi.../human_terrain

    Zenia Helbig was a little surprised when she got a call last March asking her to join a controversial U.S. Army program to embed social scientists into combat units.
    She was glad to hear from retired Colonel Steve Fondacaro, the chief of the Human Terrain Team program. But Helbig, then a University of Virginia graduate student, thought she was underqualified to join the project. The job description had called for a Ph.D. with Arabic language skills; Helbig was still working on her doctorate. And while she spoke five languages -- and read a sixth -- Arabic wasn't one of them. "Within five minutes, though, he offered me a position," she recalls. "I was confused."
    Over the course of the next nine months, Helbig was hired for -- and suddenly suspended from -- the Human Terrain Team, or HTT, program. She asked Congress to investigate her firing. And, now, on Thursday, she's joining up with the program's most bitter foes, to fight the project she once was flattered to be considered for.
    Helbig's challenge is an inconvenient black mark on the military's promising effort to give battlefield commanders a set of cultural advisers. The idea behind HTTs is to take what a brigade already knows about the local population and combine it with social-science research, to produce a sense of how the society around them really works. The Army has set aside $41 million for the effort, which aims to deploy 150 social scientists, software geeks, and experts on local culture, split up and embedded with 26 different military units in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year. Six HTTs are already on the ground.
    ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    ...and manages to mention "I," "me" or "my work" nine times in one short blog post. Impressive.

    (Although I do agree with him that the Wired piece establishes a bit of a false dichotomy between NCW and the importance of human systems analysis and capabilities.)
    I didn't see Schachtman as presenting an "either....or" premise in the Wired piece. Rather, I read it as arguing that NCW had gone too far in one doctrinal direction and that the military is going through a correction to embrace the human element to a greater degree. At a couple of points in the article he quotes people who clearly state that both aspects are important. Although, at the end of the piece, he did place a caution about the danger of over-tech'ing (can I say that?) the anaysis of human interactions.

    Barnett's blog entry comes off as a self-centered juvenile rant.
    Geez, I wrote a much better description of this tension three years ago in BFA...

    I worked with John at length in OFT....

    Cebrowski pushed my work....

    I briefed all of Rummy's senior aides...

    BTW, didn't he write Cebrowski up as senior champion of my SysAdmin concepts....

    And finally:

    Shachtman interviewed me. I told him the thesis was sophomoric and that he needed to aim higher. And he ignored my advice.

    He gets what he deserves for peddling such gross simplification: incomprehension and professional downgrading from anybody with a clue.

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    Thanks for the kind words, guys. i really appreciate it.

    The second article I wouldn't characterize as a "rehash," though. I'd say it fills out some details - particularly about how hard it's been for the Human Terrain program to find qualified social scientists.

    Speaking of characterizations... Barnett says, "Shachtman interviewed me. I told him the thesis was sophomoric and that he needed to aim higher. And he ignored my advice."

    I think the e-mail chain of that "interview" pretty demonstrably proves that just ain't so.

    http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/1...forw.html#more

    Anyway, I'll be hanging around the forums for the next few days. So feel free to shoot me any questions, barbs, etc.

    nms

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    So then, perhaps it would be safe for us military reactionaries to say that we were at least half-right about NCW being in denial of traditional military views of the utterly crucial role of the Human Factor. And furthermore that NCW is just a tool, not a strategy.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Hey NMS !
    No worries mate, those 4 emails amount to Jack (don't ya just hate whining).
    I've read, and continue to read your articles...Don't let the bastards get you down !

    Regards, Stan

    EDIT: Why not hang out and post ?

    Quote Originally Posted by NoahShachtman View Post
    Thanks for the kind words, guys. i really appreciate it.

    The second article I wouldn't characterize as a "rehash," though. I'd say it fills out some details - particularly about how hard it's been for the Human Terrain program to find qualified social scientists.

    Speaking of characterizations... Barnett says, "Shachtman interviewed me. I told him the thesis was sophomoric and that he needed to aim higher. And he ignored my advice."

    I think the e-mail chain of that "interview" pretty demonstrably proves that just ain't so.

    http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/1...forw.html#more

    Anyway, I'll be hanging around the forums for the next few days. So feel free to shoot me any questions, barbs, etc.

    nms

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    Default What's the Issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    I didn't see Schachtman as presenting an "either....or" premise in the Wired piece. Rather, I read it as arguing that NCW had gone too far in one doctrinal direction and that the military is going through a correction to embrace the human element to a greater degree. At a couple of points in the article he quotes people who clearly state that both aspects are important. Although, at the end of the piece, he did place a caution about the danger of over-tech'ing (can I say that?) the anaysis of human interactions.

    Barnett's blog entry comes off as a self-centered juvenile rant.
    I see in the Schachtman piece a narrative including perspective shifts in response to thought. I see in Tom's assessment some frustration that isn't supported in the piece he comments on. I won't speculate on his reason for writing it, but I'll say that I really cannot see his point of view.

    Why is an interdisciplinary balance so unpalatable for some folks? Why not conceive of these approaches as intellectual tools that can be used in complement when the situation requires? Reminds me of the posts regarding COIN vs. MCO...

    Well, for Noah - keeping making sense, and for Tom - have a nice day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahShachtman View Post
    Thanks for the kind words, guys. i really appreciate it.
    Noah--I should add that my short comment on dichotomies really didn't indicate what a valuable piece I thought it was--although hopefully that was evident from the fact that I posted it here in the first place. Indeed, I'm a daily Danger Room reader.

    Oh, and Ted--you missed one!

    ..as I describe in PNM, in the summer of 2002

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    Default Nick & Tom: DoD vs DoEE?

    Perhaps the "tension" underlying the Barnett - Schactman exchanges (Barnett responded to NMS on 11/29...more to come?) arises from NMS' sort of epiphany at Petraeus "love song" - COIN and NCW can be conducted by the same organization, at the same time, sometimes the same TAOR. KAT Missouri makes the point - the doctrines can be complementary and reenforcing, especially given the human and technical capacities of the MySpace generation. Of course, that really complicates PNM's mission and resource division, maybe even a dichotomy, between SysAdmin/DoEE and Leviathan/DoD. I see NMS/TPMB as emblematic of the coming resolutions of DoD centric vs. Interagency strategic points of view. Sort of how SWJ was needed as an alternative to the Big War Media's points of view?

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahShachtman View Post
    The second article I wouldn't characterize as a "rehash," though. I'd say it fills out some details - particularly about how hard it's been for the Human Terrain program to find qualified social scientists.

    But any hope of replicating that kind of success rests on recruiting more social scientists to the program. And that hasn't been easy, despite promises of a $400,000 salary for a year's worth of work in Afghanistan or Iraq.
    So, where do I sign up?

    On a more serious note, I read the preliminary assessment of the HTT in Afghanistan, and I certainly agree with you about some of the problems (and opportunities). One of the things that has bugged me is that large parts of the program training seemed to be out of whack, at least the early versions of it (I hope they adopt the recommendations in the assessment report).

    Back to the recruiting issue for a minute, and one of my own pet peeves with how the recruitment is handled is the restrictions to US nationals. I honestly think that it should be expanded to anyone who holds a secret or TS clearance from a coalition country. Admittedly, that's still a tiny pool, but it is larger than just the US. As for the problems with getting the clearances based on past research activities, this is going to be an ongoing problem.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoahShachtman View Post

    Clearly, Barnett has a personal problem with you, Noah. Perhaps it's a case of Blog Envy.

    Oh, and please continue to use RJ Hillhouse as a guest columnist at Danger Room. She's a friend, and a talented writer.

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