There’s an old saying, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” History suggests this additional version: “To the leaders of a nation with an overwhelmingly powerful military, every problem looks like it has a military solution.” It is evident that current U.S. military capabilities — overwhelming as they are — have not allowed the United States to squelch the terrorist attacks of the insurgency.
Soon after the 9/11 travesty, many of my colleagues would ask me, “How do the Israelis and El Al airlines deal with this constant problem of Moslem terrorism?” I explained to them that — even though I am an engineer that loves technology — the solution is decidedly low-tech. For example, El Al actively uses security personnel to profile and question passengers. While technology may play a critical role in managing the uncertainties, it plays second fiddle to human interactions and field operations.
As noted in a recent article in IEEE Spectrum, “Overall, one ruefully concludes that it is unlikely there is a military or a military-technical solution to the low-tech asymmetric warfare in Iraq.” The solution is not rapid removal of troops. Instead, it is the replacement of the infantry and large show of force with special operations focused on counter-intelligence and human interaction.