Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Crime, Small Wars and Broken Windows Theory

Reading an article Tuesday, I noted some comments that reminded me of a post I wrote in 2005 (right before Kilcullen wrote 28 Articles) that was, if not dead on, at least intuitive to the plan that was developed and is being implemented by Gen. Petraeus starting in January.

Marine General says: Anbar Getting Better

Still, on his visit Conway was told by numerous American commanders throughout Anbar that the tide had shifted against the extremist group al-Qaida in Iraq when Sunni tribal sheiks who previously opposed U.S. forces decided to start cooperating instead.

Some commanders said the extremists' key misstep was to interfere with the locals' black market trading, which al-Qaida co-opted in order to finance itself. Anbar stretches west from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The new cooperation has enabled U.S. forces in recent months to clear extremist elements from even the most violent areas, including Ramadi, and to put more Iraqi forces on the streets, Conway was told. Cooperation by the sheiks also has quickly created a Sunni police force in areas where none existed before.

I wrote in June 2005, Converging War and Tactics

Criminal Rings: These are either an amalgem of many groups or tribal activity with entire tribes participating in one manner or the other. These supply materials, smuggle people, money, information, etc over known smuggle routes. These largely participate based on the money factor and make money from all three of the above noted groups with the largest monetary gain from the Jihadists and Ba'athists. Have no real loyalty or ideological support of any of the first two, though may have more loyalty to tribal groups considering their interactive capabilities.

I wrote the ways to combat these situations:

If I was in the border areas near Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Syria, I would look at ways of infiltrating the smuggling gangs. These gangs work on money, just like drug, car thief and other gangs in the US. The same are in Iraq, but difficulties may arise because many of these gangs are tribal efforts and infiltrating a tribe would be difficult. Thus, to fight this aspect of the war, money, large quantities of money would have to be available to buy them off. Also, the possibility of making money "legitimately" by helping these smuggling groups develop business opportunities that would net them comparative or near to comparative profits.

An Iraqi blogger (blog gone) made the same complaint about crime and the insurgency at the same time- Iraq Criminals and the Insurgency:

Not just terrorist attacks that has been reduced but even regular crimes, as it seems that part of the operation is focusing on capturing regular criminals who are in addition to their usual criminal activities do form, in my mind, the right hand for the Ba'athists.[snip]

Back to operation lightning, a few days ago I witnessed one of these raids by the IP against some thugs in our neighborhood who were apparently part of a big gang specialized in kidnappings and selling arms.

I wrote a similar concern over at the Small Wars Journal in response to several of Kilcullen's posts on the Surge and the actual strategy that was being implemented (largely, a guerilla war version of "Broken Windows"):

One of the most frustrating parts of the iraq strategy and tactics has been watching the "crime" go unaddressed as if crimes such as theft, hijacking, black market, smuggling, car theft, etc. have little to do with terrorists, insurgents or militia. As in the US, these crimes are usually linked to much bigger crimes and criminal rings. It cannot go unknown that smugglers are likely bringing in money, weapons and even fighters to all three spheres that Kilcullen indicated.

It's also likely that these criminal rings selling blackmarket goods are using the money to fund all three of the spheres (insurgent, terrorist, sectarian violence) or being "shook down" for "protection money" that also goes towards larger acts.

Men and boys loitering on the streets, painting graffiti, etc are most likely to either a) be part of the local criminal/terrorist activity or b) susceptible to blandishments or money to participate in some small way including acting as look outs, transporting money, weapons and people, etc, etc.

All of this talk of crime and its effects might seem petty in regards to the "real shooting war" with the guerillas, but I assure you, it is a very important part of the "perception of security" as well as "battling insurgents".

Insurgents have to fund their activities like everyone else. There are only three ways to fund an army: a) pillaging resources and supplies from the local community (sometimes referred to as "foraging", but in this instance, more like "pillaging" as thought of during medeival warfare and movement of armies) or b) commerce (legitimate or otherwise) or c) underwriting by outside nations or actors. Or, in this case, a little of all three. Some more than others.

Illegitimate commerce is the most practical way for an insurgency to fund it's local activities through co-oping blackmarket activities. There are no taxes, they set the prices and their market is boundless in a depressed, war time economy. In the case that was noted above in the "Marine" article, these tribal gangs may be totally in the pocket of the insurgents (such as the six tribes that have not yet pledged to the Awakening Council) or, as noted, being pushed out once they had acquiesced to demands or agreements with the insurgents. In short, the insurgents have pushed out the "middle man".

In another Small Wars Journal article - Iraq's Real Civil War, Bing West wrote:

In Anbar, AQI became the occupier, shaking down truck drivers and extorting shop owners. In the young sheik's zone, AQI controlled the fuel market. Each month, 10 trucks with 80,000 gallons of heavily subsidized gasoline and five trucks with kerosene were due to arrive. Instead, AQI diverted most shipments to Jordan or Syria where prices were higher, netting $10,000 per shipment and antagonizing 30,000 shivering townspeople. No local cop dared to make an arrest. The tribal power structure, built over centuries, was shoved aside. Sheiks who objected were shot or blown up, while others fled.[snip]

Led by Sheik Abu Sittar, who has called this an "awakening," the tribes believed they were joining the winners.

Politics in Baghdad have swirled around reinstating former Baathists to their prior jobs, thereby supposedly diminishing the insurgency. The central government, though, has given Anbar such paltry funds that jobs are scant, Baathist or not. In Anbar, reconciliation theories count far less than that eternal adage: Show me the money.

When the sheiks delivered thousands of police recruits, they consolidated their patrimonial power by providing jobs, plus pocketing a fee rumored at $400 paid by each recruit. The tribal police then provided security that permitted American civic action projects profitable to contractors connected, of course, to the sheiks.

You can read the rest of what I wrote in 2005 Converging War and Tactics, including thoughts on what is now called PiTTs (Police Transition Teams) and MiTTs (Military Transition Teams). I also suggest reading Tipping Points and this original post on Broken Windows Theory to understand parts of the strategy that must be implemented in order to "win".

A big part of this is going to be putting together the "connections" for the criminal and tribal rings, both inside and outside of Iraq. Another aspect would be to implement an organized crime team and system (computer or other) that tracked these connections and was accessible. I believe we have obviously done something of this nature in order to determine those tribes that would be most willing to work with us. It was a similar method that was used to capture Saddam. Basically, by identifying the people around Saddam and then making a simple organization chart. In fact, they had originally tried to find Saddam through using a complicated computer tracking system that took in thousands of pieces of information, but turned out to be unusable due to the amount and inability to correlate so many points.

It turned out that the simplest connections (tribe and family - like Occam's razor) were the correct answers.

In this case, I believe it would be appropriate to take the next step in undercutting the insurgents financial support by looking over the organized crime connections of the tribes and working to undermine or shut it down. That will require both "policing" and "economics".

Another important aspect that Bing mentions and has to be worked over is the committment and follow through of the Central government in Baghdad to the Sunni al Anbar tribes for reconstruction and money. The money and committment must come from Baghdad. If Baghdad does not make the committment, then there is no reason for the Sunni's to committ to the government. They need protection, both from Al Qaeda and from the Shia extremists who are "cleansing" the Sunni, blame the AQI attacks on the Sunni and who want to realize the total government control of Baghdad and Iraq. The Shia extremists, as portrayed by al Sadr, want to insure the Sunni are weak so that they do not ever have to fear their return to government and power over the Shia.

In "Broken Windows", when New York cleaned up its crime and criminals, it took six years. It took numerous forays into the same neighborhoods, over and over. It took committment. It rolled from neighborhood to neighborhood in slow motion. And many times, people despaired it would ever work. It required doing all of the "little things" and making them as important as the "big" if not more so.

In Iraq, it is not the things that you see on TV everyday. It is not the shootings or bombings, it is not the street to street, house to house battles or helicopters being shot down or shooting into buildings full of insurgents. though, as each neighborhood is taken or its control by insurgents challenged, battles will take place in Baghdad; the battles that we expected on April 10, 2003 are taking place April 10, 2007.

Read also some general comments by Malcolm Gladwell on "Tipping Points". Pay close attention to his comments on "memes as a virus". It paricularly reflects another posting at Small Wars regarding IEDs: Viral Targeting of IED Social Networks. Also, a brief discussion by Gladwell on "Yawns" and contagious diseases.

Really, if you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Points you are way behind the learning curve for this strategy.

Quick review of the Tipping Points reading guide.

18. The Power of context infers that epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in which they occur. Are certain individuals more sensitive to their environment than others? Think of examples of behavior as a function of social context. How often or to what extent does the environment dictate your behavior i.e. your conduct when at the opera versus being at a baseball game?
19. The Broken Windows Theory argues that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. It suggests that crime is contagious. Do you agree or do you think this risks excusing a criminal’s culpability?
20. Most conservative theories say that the criminal is a personality type whereas the Broken Windows theory and Power of Context suggest the opposite – the criminal is actually someone acutely sensitive to his environment and who is prompted to
commit crimes based on his perceptions of the world around him. Which theory do you believe?

Cross referenced at the Castle and Thunder Run

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