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    30 November 2005

    Mr. Rumsfeld, Iraq is an insurgent state. Got it?!

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    I don't know if he was kidding around or just ranting but yesterday Don Rumsfeld said that the Iraqi insurgency doesn't "... merit the word 'insurgency.'" He added "I think" on the end there. This additional "I think" is important because the Sec. of Defense is wrong. Iraq meets the seven attributes listed by Robert McColl in his timeless paper The Insurgent State: Territorial Bases of Revolution. Rummy went on to say that the insurgency has no "legitimate gripe."

    So what's going on here? Do we have a Sec of State that doesn't know the definition of insurgency?

    Although McColl's paper is quite extensive, the meat of his analysis can be summed up with seven attributes that an ideal insurgent state should have

    - The region should have a history of revolution or opposition to central government;
    - the region should be located on or near military and political objectives;
    - political stability should be weak at best;
    - political or ethnic boundaries provide excellent locations for insurgencies;
    - favorable terrain for military operations and security should be used;
    - the area should be economic self-sufficient;
    - the insurgent base area should not be abandoned (McColl, 1969, p. 617-8).

    Starting from the bottom.

    Have insurgent bases been successfully eliminated? No.

    I don't know of any city that has been completely pacified. They've been cleared out, leveled, et cetera, but no city has been completely abandoned by the insurgency, especially in the Sunni heartland.
    [UPDATE2] Samarra is a good example

    Economic self-sufficiency...

    Perhaps someone can provide some proof here. I don’t see any signs that economic problems are inhibiting the insurgency, but what do I know I'm in SC not Baghdad. I'd imagine this attribute would be satisfied in the case of Iraq. If not, missing one would do little to weaken the argument.
    [UPDATE] Oil is one avenue of funding.

    Favorable terrain...

    First off, it is their home and the urban centers of Iraq offer excellent cover for the guerrilla. We may bristle with weaponry but the home field advantage is, well, priceless.

    Ethnic boundaries and insurgencies...

    Anyone ever seen the tribal map of Arabia? Look here. Pretty complex, huh? Let's move on.

    Political stability...

    You can argue that the stability is on the way, perhaps next month. I'd say your incorrect, but what you can't argue is that the political situation is or has been stable at any point. On top of the waning Iraqi government, the occupation is bunkered down in the green-zone's and barrack's spread throughout the region. We've been caught torturing and killing prisoners, using chemical weapons, targeting journalist, and forcing war based on systematic manipulations of bad intel and repeated mistruths by party operatives. That is not a good foundation for stability and Iraq isn't a stable political state.

    Proximity to prime objectives

    Well Baghdad is one. The entire region is immersed in religious and cultural traditions. Some of the holiest Shi'a shrines and such are in Iraq. In a similar fashion a large section of Iraq is floating on black gold. The 'Sunni triangle' is sliced by the Euphrates River. Water and oil, we've seen it in the Sudan, wars are fought over these resources and I suspect we'll see the same in Iraq for a long time.

    History of conflict

    I've saved perhaps the most apparent trait of the insurgent state for last. Any freshman history book would be a disgrace if it did not paint Mesopotamia as a region of historical conflict. So what is happening at the Pentagon? Was Rummy kidding or is he guilty of a little revisionism of his own? Does our Sec. of Defense not know the standard definition of the insurgent state? Why hasn't anyone in the military gone over this with him at some point in the past two years? If he is willing to stand by his statement, then why is he still Sec of State?


    McColl, Robert W. 1969. "The Insurgent State: Territorial Bases of Revolution." ANNALS of the Association of American Geographers. 59:613-631.

    Posted by Geoff

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