Culture Shock

Noticed this bit in an article noting lower levels of violence in Iraq for 3/2 Stryker:

Roadside bombs, the common killer of American service members in Iraq, appear to be weaker and less sophisticated than before.

MRAPs, new tactics, and reduced levels of violence could all help explain fewer IEDs or fewer casualties from IEDs, but don’t “weaker and less sophisticated” IEDs probably point to either disrupted bomb making or dead expert bomb makers?


  1. This is good news. There have been some major munitions caches that have been uncovered in recent months. Supply of quality explosives may be decreasing.

  2. Or there’s less suitable material available (it’s less suitable and/or there’s less of the more suitable), or they’re going for quantity over quality and hitting bottlenecks of skills and material – and don’t forget “quantity has a quality all its own” – or something else I haven’t thought of. It could be either good or bad news.

  3. Well, the “quantity has a quality all its own” sure doesn’t seem like it because the quantity seems way way down. Way more down than any quality reductions, as far as I can tell from news reports and casualty numbers. I could be wrong, of course.

    As for the overall supply issue, I’m always fairly skeptical about hopes that insurgent weapon supplies are going to peter out. Sure, there are a finite number of weapons available, and some of the supplies for the top-end mines are a bit more exotic than RPG rounds and AK firing pins, but totally closing down the supply lines is nearly impossible and as Iraqi police and military get more and more responsibility the risk of sympathizers helping out the bad guys will grow. So while we must try to limit the rat lines it’s not something that can probably be shut down. Do our best to disrupt the process (as I stated in the original post) and at least make them work for it.

    Which is why I think the key is take out the top personnel involved, in this case the best bomb makers. Create more “bottlenecks”.

    While this anecdotal evidence may not prove to be significant “good” news, I guess I have trouble seeing how it could really be taken as “bad” news.

  4. “Weaker” is almost certainly a good thing.

    “Less sophisticated” is not necessarily so. IEDs in Afghanistan are significantly less sophisticated than those in Iraq (no EFPs, for one, few RCIEDs, no PIR-initiated IEDs, etc) but are no less effective for being simple and unsophisticated. When pressure plates, command wires, and “P for plenty” work just fine, you don’t need sophisticated.

  5. “…the quantity seems way way down…”

    Ah, but is that the quantity being made or the quantity going off (and/or causing casualties and damage)? It’s entirely possible that counter-insurgency efforts are reducing the latter and that the bombers are switching resources to making more to compensate. In this case, analysis (which means “breaking it down”) looks at the two effects separately, considering the reduction as “good” (although there should be more objective and quantitative language) and the responding increase as “bad”. Analysis shouldn’t stop at the final effect, because, well, that isn’t breaking it down.

  6. P.M.: You’re correct. There are a lot of factors that could be having a lot of effects on a lot of things. That said, I’m perfectly willing to take this anecdote and some high-level rough numbers and say “that sounds like it could be good news.”

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