Insurgencies as Markets

Fascinating post in Danger Room about a new War College research paper explains that insurgencies aren’t even a species of conventional warfare, but very different. Definitely check out the post, but here’s an interesting tidbit:

…the dynamics of contemporary insurgency are more like a violent and competitive market than war in the traditional sense where clear and discrete combatants seek strategic victory.

So here’s an interesting syllogism: If Markets are Conversations, and Insurgencies are Markets, then are Insurgencies = Conversations?

From what the report says, it might be the best way to think of them. The report essentially recommends playing neutral mediator — even if you think one side is better than the other.

This makes me wonder if anybody involved in dealing with Iraq ever paid attention back in the 80s when Hill Street Blues was on. When I was a kid, I remember thinking how strange it was to see cops in a room with “bad guy” gang leaders, negotiating things like truces. I thought: “The bad guys are right there, why don’t you arrest them??” But I realized soon enough that they’d only be replaced by more bad-guy leaders, and that until they brought a modicum of peace between the gangs, they would never manage to reduce violent crime in the city.

Of course, that’s the somewhat idealized TV version, which is much less messy than real life. But isn’t it still a great idea that often works? Or at least, isn’t it an idea that should be tried first, before you just try crushing the bad guys?

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