BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 2 months ago

During the Israel-Hezballah war, Hezballah used a strategy called distributed operations.  Small, self-sufficient teams of fighters with only low- to mid-level leadership conducted operations against the IDF, often cut off from communication, senior leadership and supplies.  The risks are great, but Hezballah could react organically rather than bureaucratically.

The insurgency in Iraq has taken this to the next level.  Distributed operations are the norm.  Insurgent snipers regularly stay cut off from their leadership for days.  Small teams of insurgents operate with near autonomy, yet the overall objective remains fairly well known and paramount.  The “membership rolls” of the insurgency can grow or shrink, depending upon any number of things.  An insurgent might be a respected worker by day and a fighter by night.

The insurgent makes use of any means available, such as high tech explosively formed projectiles transported in from Iran.  In the absence of a high tech weapon, they will make use of the lowest-tech weapon possible — ordnance delivered by humans, or suicide bombers.  Depending upon the needs, the insurgency can cluster or disperse, swarm or disappear, distribute largesse or threaten brutality, hide or relocate.

The single best word that describes this behavior is adaptability.

Let’s contrast this with a possible example from the U.S. Army.  Let’s suppose that there existed an NCO (non-commissioned officer) in a combat brigade who, after doing previous combat tours in support of OIF and training his subordinates to do the same for the next deployment, decided that he didn’t want to re-enlist for a full enlistment term, but also that he would like to deploy with the unit soon for another combat tour in support of OIF.  He decided this because he felt an obligation to the mission and his troops, and his troops wanted him to deploy with them.  So the intent was to stay in the Army until the combat tour was finished.

The problem is that the rules don’t allow it.  Our NCO has to re-enlist for the full term or leave the Army.  He decides to leave the Army, and so the Army loses a seasoned NCO who could have provided leadership to his troops in the upcoming deployment.  In this instance, adaptability has ceded the high ground to bureaucracy, and the insurgency wins one small encounter due to the unadaptability of the U.S. military.

  • kat-missouri

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    As you may have perceived, reading and writing on the internet may sometimes cause a miscommunication of intent as each tries to decipher the meaning of the other. I am unsure why you turned off comments to your reply below, but I thought I should clarify a few things:

    1) “Kat” is short for Kathleen. I am a “she” not a “he”. I assure you that I am not offended, but simply wanted to make this clarification for future reference.

    2) When I said “engage”, I meant exactly what you said you did not advocate. I meant that we should not try to change, dissuade or other wise critique Islam or any sort of radical religion that is not “ours”, we being largely Christian. When I say we don’t have “moral authority” to do so, it is not to say that we do not understand or have ideas about what could possibly be wrong with stoning women and cutting the heads off of captives. I mean that those co-religionists who share those beliefs will not find us particularly credible. Mainly because we are the outsiders and our experience in social groups set to religion should tell us that such comments or actions by outsiders usually cause those who feel attacked (whether perceived or real) to coalesce into a larger defensive/offensive organization. Something we do not want.

    This is why I advocate not “engaging” a religion or faith, but looking at and interacting with it and those who adhere to it through secular structures.

    I would agree that we should be cognitive of religious practices and beliefs since it would inform exactly how to relate to those we wish to ‘win’ and keep us from inadvertently causing a mishap that would be detrimental to the mission. This is very useful and necessary on the public diplomacy part of the counterinsurgency program as well as some military operations.

    I have a few more clarifications, but it’s late, I’ve had a long weekend and the boss expects me at work Monday bright and early.

    So, I’ll post a link when I’m ready.

  • Breakerjump

    I’m almost positive…Mr. Smith disabled comments in the previous post because….drum roll…he did not wish for there to be further discussion of the previous sort attached to his response. So instead, you are attaching your discussion (and of the previous sort) to a posting that is entirely unrelated.

    Good job.

  • Herschel Smith

    For the readers, Kat is referring to my article entitled Smith Responds.

    Regarding the gender mistake, it is impossible to know this sort of thing with the use of screen names (and I would add that given a gender neutral name it becomes embarrassing to make errors). I generally don’t advocate the use of screen names (as you can see I use my own name) unless there is justification for doing so (e.g., a member of the military posting over a forum). But whatever … this is best left up to the commenter, I suppose.

You are currently reading "Adaptability", entry #510 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Distributed Operations,Small Wars and was published May 21st, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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