The book: Traditional, symmetric warfare — two armies facing each other on the battlefield — is dying out. The past 50 years have seen most conflicts involving Western powers be asymmetric, with a well-equipped force fighting insurgents committed to guerrilla warfare and elusive tactics.

Small Wars, Big Data (Princeton University Press) underscores the importance of information in these asymmetric conflicts. Professors Shapiro, Felter, and Berman explain the importance of building on-the-ground relationships as well as exploiting high-tech data analysis to determine when insurgents will strike, how to counter them, and also how local populations can be best supported during warfare. Their findings are built on data and stories from recent conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.

The authors: Jacob N. Shapiro is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.

Joseph H. Felter is a senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. He co-directs the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project with Shapiro.

Eli Berman is chair of economics at the University of California, San Diego, and research director for international security studies at the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.

Opening lines:

0630 hrs June 6th, 2004, Tikrit, Iraq

1st Infantry Division Headquarters

Forward Operating Base “Danger”

Major General Batiste, Commanding General of the storied U.S. Army 1st Infantry

Division looked with some anticipation to the Company and Field grade officers and

senior Non-Commissioned Officers assembled to present the daily division operations update. Fatigue and stress had etched lines onto the faces of nearly all of the thirty-odd soldiers present, though most of them were still young. Those nearing the end of a long night shift of providing support to the neighborhood sweeps, checkpoints, and other operations of the Division’s maneuver companies and platoons, could be readily distinguished from those just beginning their day by their weary expressions or by the day’s growth of beard on their chins.

The room was incongruously grand. Marble floors reflected the light from a crystal chandelier at the center, while Moorish arches opened onto darkened hallways at the periphery. Intricate Islamic designs were everywhere — inlaid in moldings that lined the cream-colored walls and carved into the bases of columns and the woodwork of a sweeping staircase. The 1st Division staff occupied the palace where Saddam Hussein and his entourage would stay when visiting his hometown of Tikrit — one of many such compounds across Iraq. This majestic room and the sprawling complex that lay outside struck many of the American soldiers as something out of movie set. It was a far cry from the eight-foot-deep spider hole under a camouflaged trap door in a tin shack just a few kilometers away, where Saddam was found hidden, before a joint operations task force had dragged him out, six months earlier.

One adaptation the soldiers had made to the palace was to erect crude, stadium-style seating in front of a podium, and three large screens. The smell of fresh-cut plywood still permeated the room. It helped cut the pungent odor of sweat-soaked Army Combat Uniforms and body armor, on soldiers returning from patrols in the morning heat. The 1st Division members took their seats, many clutching the ubiquitous plastic water bottles with dust-coated hands. Before them hung the screens, and next to them maps of the town with its grid of streets abutting the Tigris River, a dark braid running from north to south. Operational graphics with the disposition and location of friendly forces, unit boundaries and other command-and-control icons were neatly transcribed by fine-tipped Sharpie

pens onto acetate sheets overlaying the maps.

The troops expected the operations update to refer to this geography, but when a map was projected on screen, it showed the gentle curve where the English Channel meets the coast of France. This operations update was special: today, 6 June 2004, marked the 60-year anniversary of the 1st Infantry Division’s participation in the allied landings on Normandy.

Using computer-aided graphics and satellite imagery, the division staff had developed an operations update that reflected the situation on the ground at Omaha Beach exactly 60 years earlier. The tactical objectives of the Division and subordinate units, the routes of advance and follow-on objectives, were drawn in detail and updated based on the historical record.

Reviews: "This seminal work examines an extensive body of evidence from more than a decade of scholarship on modern asymmetric conflict, and provides compelling insights on what is effective, and what is not, in today’s small wars. The soldier-scholar authors, who served in the wars they describe, have produced a book that should be required reading for military leaders, policymakers, development professionals, and diplomats."—Retired U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus *87