Academic journal article Parameters

It Takes More Than a Network: The Iraqi Insurgency and Organizational Adaptation

Academic journal article Parameters

It Takes More Than a Network: The Iraqi Insurgency and Organizational Adaptation

Article excerpt

It Takes More than a Network: The Iraqi Insurgency and Organizational Adaptation

By Chad C. Serena

Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014

240 pages

$24.95

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Chad Serena's book makes a major contribution to our understanding of the nuts and bolts of the Iraqi insurgency, at a time when the United States is actually encountering remnants of that insurgency in the form of ISIS. He pulls back the veil on the insurgency movement with the most systematic and methodologically clear treatment to date. He uses his skill as a political scientist and experience at Rand to dissect the insurgency, exposing its strengths but also its weaknesses, which he claims are manifold. Serena drives home the point about the weaknesses of the Iraqi insurgency network by contrasting it with the more effective Afghan network.

His basic thesis, enshrined in the title of his impressive volume is the insurgency in Iraq is not unified, but involves a network with multiple strengths, but also many vulnerabilities. By very effectively analyzing network dynamics, he debunks the notion this kind organizational model is necessarily more adaptive or leads to greater effectiveness. This insight makes a major contribution, since some conventional wisdom shows networks, particularly for non-state actors like al-Qaeda, generally confer strength. Serena essentially argues networks neither confer strengths nor weaknesses. Rather, whether a network is a robust model depends on its nature, such as size, diversity, and information transfer.

Like networks themselves, the book has strengths but also several weaknesses. Because Serena relies so heavily on his framework, the book has more the feel of a political science primer on networks than a book about the political dynamics of the insurgency of Iraq. …

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