Thursday, April 12, 2007

Broken Windows Theory: Crime, Small Wars and Trash

I discussed Crime and Small Wars previously. It is important to understand how this works in guerilla warfare (small wars).

Crime fuels the insurgency. It provides it cover. It provides it money. It gives the illusion, along with the over all bombs and firefights (that do not represent the whole of Iraq) of insecurity. In reality, common crimes are as egregious as any acts of terrorism for these same reasons.

If we do not combat the crime, then we cannot combat the insurgency. Insurgents and terrorists are self-sustaining through these acts.

Watch this video on the Battle for Baghdad

Jeff Burris, Times Baghdad Bureau Chief, discusses how the Ba'athists left Baghdad with over $2 billion in stolen money from the Iraq Central bank. Since then, it subsidizes its activities through kidnapping, smuggling, theft, counterfeiting, stealing directly from oil pipelines and gasoline refinery to resale at profit and corruption.

The insurgency cannot be stopped simply by combatting insurgents or even the political process. It must become a losing proposition financially. That means that every crime in Iraq, no matter how small, must be addressed through "policing". This entails picking up people for petty theft, going after kidnappers aggressively (regardless of who they kidnap), painting over graffiti, cracking down on corruption and breaking the blackmarket (largely by providing legitimate means of income for non-terrorist related groups).

Second, real broken windows theory requires more from neighborhoods than turning on the insurgents. In order for people to feel invested in their neighborhood, responsible for its security and hopeful for its prosperity, more than "security" must take place. More than "political reconciliation" must take place. The residents must feel like they are responsible and have ownership.

MNF-Iraq - Muqdadiya: A neighborhood watch program has begun to show signs of success since its formation March 5. The program, which includes 15 villages
throughout the Muqdadiya district, hires local villagers to protect their village and
encourages the population to contact their security forces on criminal or terrorist
activity. “The idea is - to protect the village and to clear it from the armed people and insurgents,” said Dr. Abdulla al Jubouri, the former governor of Diyala and founder of the program.

Since the program began, Jubouri said there have been several signs of success
to include roads free from improvised explosive devices, fighting stopped between
what used to be rival villages, schools are re-opened, electric and water services have been repaired.


In broken windows theory, appearances are actually a very large part of the battle. Visual perception, like first impressions, can change the psychology and, thus, the behavior of a person, even whole communities and those they interact with, including would be criminals and terrorists.

Here is the Broken Windows Theory in Action in Ramadi

RAMADI, Iraq – Improving conditions in Ramadi’s Malaab, or “stadium district,” means shops are opening, schools are teaching and the garbage is piling up on the roadsides. Coalition forces have been largely successful in breaking the stranglehold terrorists held on the neck of this formerly affluent community, but the question has remained: Who’s going to take out the trash?[snip]

Even before the vehicle ban, regular trash pickups were intermittent, threatened with the ever present risk of improvised explosive devices. This, coupled with the travel restrictions, has led to heaps of rubble, garbage and other debris littering the streets. Cosmetic concerns aside, the litter posed a more serious concern for occupying forces and residents alike, improvised explosive devices. [snip]

The formula seemed logical. Cleaning the trash would cut down on hiding places for IEDs, making the area for service members and locals alike. Only now, with a diminished insurgent presence, is this cleanup possible.

“We just finished a large clearance operation, so a lot of people are able to come out now,” Lively said. “There’s a little more security now from the enemy activity, and now today, the civilians have asked us to come out and help them.”

The major catalyst for the cleanup has turned out to be the neighborhood residents themselves. Under the protection of Coalition troops, citizens came out in force eager to clean up their community. Wielding shovels, brooms and rakes, adults and children alike tackled the mounds of refuse with a will. Backhoes and garbage trucks operated by Iraqi police and soldiers cruised the streets, bringing towering heaps of trash to an impromptu landfill.


Appearance makes a huge difference, not only to the residents, but to those who would act criminally or be a terrorist in the area. Prosperous appearances not only give hope to the residents, but take it away from the crimnals and terrorists. Prosperity means that the community cares, is active and is watching. Watched communities are less susceptible to crime, thus, terrorism. Visible police and other security apparatus adds to the over all perception along with not letting any crime be considered "acceptable".

Third and finally, is economics. Jobs must be available. It does not have to be a large manufacturer. Micro-economics can move a communities economic status into that next level, one that is, if not making the people wealthy or even "middle class", providing a sustainable, stable and steady income.

One example of micro-economics can be seen in this book about Beauty Salons in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In Iraqs current climate, this must be a cash business, portable and/or appropriate for Iraq. Should be small businesses that require little cash to start up. This is where NGOs and other charitable organizations would be usefull.

It could include such things as basic services, including trash clean up, for the community. The important aspects is to make crime expensive and honest work lucrative. It has to take the young men off the streets and out of the potential hands of the insurgents.

This is on a micro level. The problem that we continue to have has been the "big" projects, like electric grids, that never could and will not in the near future, provide effective supply to Iraq for years due to its size and condition (however slowly it may be improving, it can't keep up with the demand, even in relatively peaceful and prosperous Kurdistan). It may need to be done, but what people needed was a way to survive immediately and that survivability is not only security, but money. The way they get the money is the question.

Plant an IED? Or, make shoes? Smuggle blackmarket items or manufacture bottled water? (a must in Iraq considering its sewage and water treatment problems).

Run a local five and dime? Or, kidnapping?

That is Broken Windows Theory in a nutshell.

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