For Success in Iraq, U.S. Forces Must Out-Innovate Insurgents

For Success in Iraq, U.S. Forces Must Out-Innovate Insurgents

The loss in Iraq of seven U.S. helicopters in the past month has been the cause of much concern in the Department of Defense, and rightly so. The military says seven helicopters have been shot down since Jan. 20, a number that exceeds the total for 2006. The recent spike in successful attacks indicates another evolution in insurgent tactics.

Insurgents in Iraq follow the classic pattern of innovation cycles. They identify a need, come up with a new idea to meet it, develop this idea into a product, and introduce it into the field. Thus, the insurgents have recognized the importance -- and vulnerability -- of U.S. helicopters, devised plans for shooting them down using new tactics (concentrated small arms fire and quick reaction based on actionable intelligence) and new technology (shoulder-launched missiles), and tested these plans.

Once a small group of first adopters proves such plans have merit, they are rapidly disseminated to other users. When the adversary releases products that negate the effects of one innovation, a new one is launched. If the insurgency in Iraq were a private venture, it would design, develop, test and distribute a best-selling product at least once a year.

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