Network warfare is the principle adaptation of 4th generation warfare. Most networks fund themselves through criminal activity, making them independent military actors. Bluntly, this is the modern form of Warlordism. These new warlords create mini-states, control the black market, and use paramilitary forces. Law enforcement is incapable of dealing with such military threats.

There are three approaches to counterinsurgency.
1) Enemy-centric strategy
2) Population-centric strategy
3) Nation building

1) Enemy-centric Strategy
Networks have weaknesses we can exploit. Disruption strategies are more cost-effective than attrition. Martin Muckian explains the disruption strategy in Structural Vulnerabilities of Network Insurgencies. Muckian lays out the distinction between population-based insurgencies with command hierarchies like Maoists Communists and the new form of network-based insurgency as used by Islamists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Networks are fluid confederates united by an ideology or charismatic leader, however individual network companies join or leave at their choosing. Each network company is somewhat autonomous and is self-sufficient. This gives network leadership a high-level of redundancy and flexibility that population-based insurgencies lack. Networks are not as vulnerable to leadership assassination or pure destruction campaigns as other organizations.

Networks may not be easily destroyed, but complex operations may be disrupted.
• Disrupt Information Technology. Disable cell phones, internet usage, and other communications to disrupt communications within networks.
• Target Critical Nodes. Many cells rely on non-redundant specialists, such as experienced bomb makers. Eliminating critical nodes disables a large number of insurgents.
• Target Finances. Insurgencies are expensive and require funding from crime or state sponsorship. Disrupting finances cripples the ability to launch new attacks.

2) Population-centric strategy
Limiting attacks to the enemy alone will not solve the problem. The only way to break a network insurgency is to cut off its regenerative capability in a population.

Counterinsurgency provides a general guide to population control. Every insurgency is unique, so exact preparation is impossible. There are various ways of pacifying a region. Like the Romans, you could make a desert and call it peace. Or you can try something more subtle and less genocidal.

COIN uses the DIME (Diplomatic, Intelligence, Military, Economic) approach to stabilize the regional government, train indigenous forces, control the population, and militarily defeat the enemy. Realistically, the military carries out all DIME aspects. Civilian agencies are too weak and are disconnected from feedback loops in ongoing operations. Military forces are necessary and sufficient to win, but they must to operate outside their normal specialties. Policing strategies hold good lessons for defeating network-based insurgencies.

The military and police forces split only recently in history. The modern police profession only developed in the 19th century, and police specialized in a special form of urban counterinsurgency. The social pressures of rapid urbanization in the 19th century led to rapid growth of networked criminal gangs. The police learned how to track and eliminate hostile networks.

Police precincts served as focal point in the strategy.
– Base for regular patrols
– Strongholds in the community
– Intelligence and investigative center
– Force surge capability in case of emergency

Police need intelligence from the community to identify and eliminate gangs. Most intel comes from local tips or interrogation of captured criminals. A Population Census and house addresses allow police to locate individuals. Biometrics, like photographs, fingerprints, and DNA, allow precise identification. Databases and metrics enabled police to use pattern analysis to implement new strategies. Military counterinsurgency strategies adopt many of the basic tactics.

3) Nation-Building
Creating a stable government with strong indigenous security forces is necessary to secure a long-term victory. When properly equipped and trained, client states defeat regional non-state militants and prevent new threats from emerging.

The Client State strategy is the most common method of countering non-state actors. Client States do not simply “buffer” attacks against the United States, they complement and improve its security.

Nothing can complexly eliminate a threat, nor is there a guarantee that a modern nation-state can defeat every major military network. The objective is to reduce the militant network to an acceptable level.

Measuring the Threat
War is a dynamic struggle between human agents. It is waged against thinking enemies who change strategies and organization in reaction to your strategies. War objectives also change as the war goes on. The starting objectives are never the same as the end objectives.

Game theory describes this competition. In Differential Games
there are two combatants – Blue and Red. Blue pursues and Red evades. Their goals are in conflict and this creates an adaptive struggle. Information plays a major role in these differential games. Militaries develop metrics to analyze and improve its knowledge so it can ‘capture’ and destroy hostile networks.

Intelligence prepares the operational environment. There are three general branches:
-human intelligence (HUMINT)
-signals intelligence (SIGINT)
-imagery intelligence (IMINT)

IMINT maps out the lay of the land and monitors enemy battlefield movement. SIGINT monitors and deciphers enemy communications. HUMINT collects information from human sources (locals tips, interrogations, political info) about the society the enemy operates in.

Intelligence is based on estimation and probability. Opponents operate in secrecy and deceive one another. In practice, intel will make false positive and false negative errors. It is more important to use a correct methodology to weigh facts and theories to ensure that intel will be correct more often. It is better to be wrong once for the right reasons over the long term, than to be correct once for the wrong reasons.

Once collected, intelligence is combined to create an “image” of the dynamic war. The New York City Police Department created an excellent metrics system that revolutionized policing in the 1990s. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, crime escalated to all-time highs. The NYPD responded with Comstat.

Comstat is really a remix of older ideas and strategies. The NYPD recorded crimes by sticking pins on a map – basic pattern analysis. They switched over to computers and created a real-time digital database. Comstat tracked every single crime in the city by location, down to individual houses and streets, and combined this with network databases of criminal organizations. This system gave officers the ability to study hotspots and identify patterns of behavior.

Precinct Captains met on a regular basis to share information and debate strategic responses. They reapportioned police forces to specific neighborhoods based on need. Crime ridden areas faced a sudden surge of police officers. Special Units formed to counter Gangs. The NYPD, literally, borrowed counterinsurgency strategy from the military and adapted it to counter the specific threat of urban gangs.

Strategies are developed at the local level with precincts as the center of operations. Each precinct Captain uses comstat, formulates and enacts strategies to incrementally reduce each type of crime. Comstat records the result and proves if the strategy was effective or not. If the Captain failed, he was dismissed and replaced with someone else. The overall effectiveness of the new police strategy impressed the country and other PDs copied the comstat system. Crime rates plummeted in New York and large gangs were obliterated, then results followed nation-wide.

Good metrics allow a security force to recognize reality on the ground and adapt faster and better than the enemy.

The military uses blue and red tags as ID. Every individual district is measured and colored. Blue zones are friendly, Red zones are enemy controlled, and Purple zones are contested.

-In Allied Zones, focus on nation-building. Create stable government and develop the economy. Here, friendly forces are trained and take the lead.
-In Contested Zones, use population-centric tactics. Interdict the zone to prevent the enemy from reinforcing it. Deploy a surge of friendly forces into the region, aggressively collect human intelligence, use the intel to track and purge the zone of enemy forces.
-In Enemy Zones, use enemy-centric tactics. Raid and disrupt enemy operations. Find and exploit divisions in their organizations. Once they are sufficiently weakened, contest the region and convert it to a purple zone.

HUMINT is critical. The only way to break a network insurgency is to use police-style tactics. Move into police precincts and protect the general population from the network gangs and militants.

Measure the day-by-day progress. If you are winning, the purple zones slowly turn blue, and red zones turn purple. If you are losing, you see purple zones falling under enemy control. In cities, measure the colors by street by street. Change strategies accordingly. The level of violence is probably a worthless statistic. It might be useful if you can compare kill rations and regenerative capability, but that may not be possible until after the war is over. Instead, track territorial control, market control, and size of opposing forces.

Counterinsurgencies can take 10-50 years, so don’t hold your breath. Training a new indigenous military and police force alone takes 10 years. This is a low-intensity conflict, so it is a slow burn.

Grand Strategy
This is the basic conceptual problem. Only a portion of the world is developed efficiently to control their borders and population. Much of the world consists of failed, failing, or fragile states that are cesspools of corruption, crime, and violent political movements. This spills over onto the developed world.

This is just a generalized scenario. In some cases, the failed state sponsors militant networks to wage a proxy-war. In other cases, the failed state is in a civil war. Linear defenses are ineffective against asymmetrical threats. There is no way to construct a scientific frontier.

The enemy center of gravity exists in a peripheral or failed state. This is a critical point that is sometimes forgotten.

Transnational Criminal Organizations operate in failed peripheral states. The brains of the operations are protected and shielded beyond the reach of our police. We are unable to stop the flow of smuggling which encourages a rise in domestic crime. Criminal profits find their way into military networks, again without police interference. In much the same way, terrorist and insurgent movements can wage international military operations from safe harbors.

Network warfare has a certain weakness. Non-state actors are parasitic. They have little ability to manufacture or produce the needed resources on their own. To disrupt their center of gravity, remove territorial sanctuaries and financial income. This prevents regeneration.


That is a generalized look at the nature of the enemy, the network structure and a description of the basic ways and means of countering it. Any strategy will encounter severe friction that prevents perfect implementation. Idealist strategies must be descriptive, not prescriptive as a result. Each threat is unique and more empirical means are needed to target individual networks.