Looting as Counterinsurgency Strategy

John Robb, networked insurgency expert (and Worldchanging book contributor) has posted some really astute observations about Egypt, including this description of looting as counter-insurgency in service of regime survival:

* De-escalate. No confrontation in the streets. Withdraw police from the streets. Change the government (fire everyone) and appoint new people.
* Misdirect. Re-focus on looting (property crime). Initiate looting through the use of security forces in civilian garb (reports of this). Make the people feel unsafe/scared. Increase levels of chaos. Open the doors of the prisons (reports of this). Make it seem like the entire country is burning/falling apart.
* Militarize. Bring in the military to control key intersections and protect key buildings. Increasingly, focus the military on stoping property crime and violence. Realign government to increase ties to military.
* Wait. The protests will continue. However, with the fear of violence removed and people unable to take over key buildings, Mubarak and his cronies remain. The protests eventually diminish.
* Lock Down. The police return, with military backing. The secret police begin to ratchet up operations to re-establish a fear of the government.

Interestingly, Robb doesn’t think the strategy can now succeed: “The question is: will it work? A decade ago, certainly. Today? No way. Too much backchannel.”