Just finished Keegan’s Intelligence in War. Despite the issue in my prior post, I think this is a remarkably well-written and well-thought-out book. I recommend it to anyone interested in the role that intelligence has played in military operations in the past few centuries. (It covers from Napoleon to the second Gulf War)
But incidentally to the main thread of its discussion, reading this book drove home the extent to which our present situation (with regards to hazy terror groups, not Iraq) is different from what our military has been designed to handle. Even Keegan states that “no smaller power has ever won a protracted war with a larger one” – by which I assume he was thinking only of traditional, symmetric wars.
It makes me very curious about the entire subject of the structure of informal networks such as al Qaeda, and how they may be most effectively monitored and interdicted. I’ve got some preliminary thoughts, but there’s a very basic missing piece in my trying to think about this.
An organization like al Qaeda can be thought of as a large network of people. What, precisely, is it that propagates along this network? Do specific commands propagate? Does information propagate upwards as well as downwards? What about materiel, raw resources like money, training data? How are expert proficiencies handled – are people already in situ trained at something, or are specialists moved into position by central planning?
I think a lot of these questions are answerable without access to classified information, and a bit of thinking about these issues could lead to some very interesting structural models that could provide useful information about how to destroy these groups irretrievably.