McChrystal: It’s network vs. network in 21st-century warfare

By Laurie Bennett

February 28, 2011 at 6:26am

Modern wars are all about networks, Stanley McChrystal, former military commander in Afghanistan, writes in Foreign Policy.

“While a deeply flawed insurgent force in many ways, the Taliban is a uniquely 21st-century threat,” he says.

“Enjoying the traditional insurgent advantage of living amid a population closely tied to them by history and culture, they also leverage sophisticated technology that connects remote valleys and severe mountains instantaneously - and allows them to project their message worldwide, unhindered by time or filters.”

This understanding did not come easily to the American military, McChrystal says.

Stanley McChrystal
Stanley McChrystal

“It was only over the course of years, and with considerable frustrations, that we came to understand how the emerging networks of Islamist insurgents and terrorists are fundamentally different from any enemy the United States has previously known or faced.”

The enemy is not a centralized, top-down hierarchy, but - like any network - a constellation “organized not by rank but on the basis of relationships and acquaintances, reputation and fame.”

The only way to answer such a threat, McChrystal determined, was to forge another network.

McCrystal, relieved of his duties last year after an embarrassing story in Rolling Stone, has had to rebuild his own network since leaving the Army last July.

He has found a new role in the business world. Navistar International, a heavy vehicle manufacturer, elected him to its board earlier this month. He joined the JetBlue Airways board in November.

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  • #1.   DE Teodoru 02.28.2011

    Congratulations general, you just discovered the wheel. Now I know why a decade later we’re still without a light at the end of the tunnel. The Class of 76 at West Point makes me think that Tom Ricks, the military analyst, may have had a point when he called for abolition of the military academies.

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