Iraq and the Networked War

Don’t miss Noah Shachtman’s piece in the December 2007 Wired. In their rush to create the next-generation network-centric warfare, U.S. military planners probably didn’t realize that they no longer have a monopoly on high-tech:

Meanwhile, insurgent forces cherry-pick the best US tech: disposable email addresses, anonymous Internet accounts, the latest radios. They do everything online: recruiting, fundraising, trading bomb-building tips, spreading propaganda, even selling T-shirts. And every American-financed move to reinforce Iraq’s civilian infrastructure only makes it easier for the insurgents to operate. Every new Internet café is a center for insurgent operations. Every new cell tower means a hundred new nodes on the insurgent network. And, of course, the insurgents know the language and understand the local culture. Which means they plug into Iraq’s larger social web more easily than an American ever could. As John Abizaid, Franks’ successor at Central Command, told a conference earlier this year, “This enemy is better networked than we are.”

The insurgent groups are also exploiting something that US network-centric gurus seem to have missed: All of us are already connected to a global media grid. Satellite television, radio, and the Internet mean that many of the most spectacular attacks in Iraq are deliberately staged for the cameras, uploaded to YouTube, picked up by CNN, and broadcast around the world.

Though the above quote caught my eye, the article is more about how Iraq is forcing the military to lash together high-tech satellite mapping software with really a low-tech hearts-and-minds campaign.