Ed. Note: Baghdad Dispatch is now written by two female Marines with local connections; Marine Capt. Mary Noyes, an attorney (right); and Marine Maj. Meredith Brown, an Iraqi Women’s Engagement officer (left). Their respective columns will appear in alternate months. Noyes moved to New Orleans in 2006; Brown is a native of Marrero.
The American public has heard a lot about counterinsurgency in recent years in regard to the U.S. military’s missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The number of Americans that understand counterinsurgency is probably small. A basic and obvious definition of counterinsurgency is that it is actions taken to prevent or thwart an insurgency. An insurgency, as defined by Webster’s New Dictionary, is “a rising in revolt against a legitimate government.” In the case of Iraq, the legitimate government today is the government lead by Prime Minister Maliki. But what does this fight entail? Following is a break down of counterinsurgency (aka COIN) into two basic parts: controlling the population and connecting the population with the government. I am also going to explain how women play a role in COIN operations.
To physically control the population, the military first used tactics such as issuing identification cards to the residents of each city and town in Anbar. In the early years of the war, an individual without a resident card who was trying to gain access to the city was immediately suspected of being an insurgent. The second means of physically controlling the population was the building of berms and entry control points on the perimeters of the cities and towns. These berms forced the population to enter cities or towns through the entry control points where their ID cards were checked. If they were in business or government and they had to conduct business in a town where they didn’t live, then their ID card would include information about their profession or elected position so that they would be allowed to pass through the entry control point. These measures sound extreme, but they aren’t much different than setting a curfew for the residents of New Orleans after a hurricane.
Another means of controlling a population is through economic sanctions and incentives. The U.S. imposes sanctions on other countries as an economic means of demonstrating its displeasure with that country. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq shortly after the Gulf War in 1991. Economic incentives have been practiced in Iraq through the Sons of Iraq program. Young men between the ages of 15 and 45 are paid to be part of an armed neighborhood watch. These young men help to report insurgent activity, make their neighbors feel safe from insurgents and kept the young men from joining the insurgency as a way to earn an income.
Another economic incentive method that has the potential to produce jobs and bolster an entire industry sector is the use of Commander’s Emergency Relief Program projects. These projects use funding from Congress for construction projects, such as building schools and water treatment facilities. Yesterday afternoon, I waved goodbye to two consultants from a large American co-operative that produces dairy products. The company that employs these gentlemen was paid with CERP funds to conduct an assessment of the value chain in the dairy sector in Fallujah and an agricultural area near Fallujah.
The idea for this assessment came from two women who wanted to have three community needs filled by opening a dairy products factory. One is the need for the farmers, especially female farmers, in the area to have a place to sell their milk. The second need to be fulfilled was a place where women can work in a trade that they have practiced for generations without the need for extensive training. Anbari women have been making cheese and yogurt at home for centuries. The third need is the need for fairly priced local dairy products to be sold in the local markets. The women that want the dairy factory feel that the factory will fulfill all three of these needs. By assisting with this project, Coalition Forces demonstrate that they’re willing to help segments of the population that have been economically depressed since the war began, specifically farmers and women. Potentially, members of this segment of the population would be enticed to refuse any offers made by insurgents to participate in the insurgency for economic means because they would already have an economic incentive to participate in the market economy as peaceful citizens.
The idea of building a dairy factory where women would be employed and farmers would be able to sell their milk for a profit came from Samira, a Provincial Council member (akin to a State Legislature member), and Kowkab, a Fallujah City Council member. By virtue of the fact that these women are government officials, following through with these projects would not only help to control the population through economic incentives but it would also provide a means of connecting the population to the government. These two women are leaders in a Civil Society Organization in Fallujah, so the factory would belong to a cooperative of the members of the CSO.
In a closed society, like the one in Anbar Province, where women are supposed only to be seen and not heard, their role in the fight against insurgents is more important than most people may believe. During the French fight against insurgents in Algeria from 1956-’58, a French officer by the name of David Galula developed theories about the best practices for counterinsurgency. One of his theories was that women are caretakers of the social network and they can either open or close the social network doors to insurgents. Insurgents will exploit the social network in order to gain logistical and financial support. If women are given economic opportunities by the legitimate government, then they will close the social networks to insurgents.
A project initiated by a female government official that will employ women and help women farmers sell their milk will connect the women to the government and will, in turn, shut the doors of the social network to insurgents. In essence, a small dairy factory run by women and strategically placed in an agricultural sector of eastern Anbar will help in counterinsurgency efforts. The factory will control the population through economic incentives, connect the people to the legitimate government through the cooperative run by two female government officials and, finally, will encourage women to prevent insurgents from exploiting their social networks.
The primary mission of many of my predecessors was to stay alive long enough to kill or maim insurgents. They physically controlled the population by building berms and entry control points while teaching the Iraqi Police and Sons of Iraq to check citizens’ identification cards. My primary mission is to continue their work by helping people, especially women, connect with the government through projects that will entice women to participate in the developing market economy and by closing the social network doors to insurgents. This is counterinsurgency.