Swimming in the sea of the people

Noah’s interview with JIEDDO chief General Montgomery Meigs is enlightening. America’s technological responses to the IED threat cannot be sourced for the reduction in IED incidents.

“I can’t get the data,” Meigs says about the drop in bombs.  “I would love to be able to say to the American taxpayer, ’40 percent of the reduction in IED incidents and 80 of the reduction in IED effect is due to the things we’ve put in the field.’  I can’t get the data that would let me make any kind of an assessment of that.”

What Meigs and others were able to point to, however, was stats on the participation of the local population in countering the IED threat.

About 8,500 tips came in September of 2006; by May, the number had peaked at more than 24,000.  In August, the figure was approximately 19,200.  Similarly, the number caches found – about five per day in September, 2006 – jumped to more than 20 per day in May.  After a dip over the early summer, that figure has been steady in recent months, at about 15.

Concerned Local Citizen groups, or CLCs, also found 40 of the last 72 weapons caches.

This interaction with the local population, a foreign concept to many, is the key to understanding the current trend.

A centerpiece of the new American counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq has been to put move combat troops out of local bases – and have ‘em hang out with the locals, instead.  This increased interaction – and the increased attention to understanding local culture, and the ramped-up recruitment of local watchmen – fairly naturally leads to more tips.

While at the same time, we have the MRAP debate that further isolates our personnel from the local population (see Abu Muqawama’s post on Humvee v Jeep and this CSBA report on the MRAP as the uber un-COIN vehicle).

In a struggle for support, and denying support, you must interact with the people, get them to understand and appreciate the severity of the mission. By distancing yourself from the fight, they won’t see you as committed. Non-committal means eventual abandonment and siding with the perceived victor. In this case, the various flavors of insurgents.

Getting in with the people and enlist them in the fight, convincing them this is the path to peace, and success is yours. Perhaps we’re finally on that path. At least in some areas.

Update: how do you a robot would fare in this situation?