Formalizing the Informal: A Network Analysis of an Insurgency

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Reed, Brian
Segal, David R.
This research project applies Social Network Analysis to Saddam Hussein's network and demonstrates how network analysis techniques uncovered a web of family and tribal linkages that resulted in the ousted dictator's capture. I use Simmel's approach to affiliations and interactions among consensual actors as the frame in which to view why and how warfare operates the way it does in the present context of an insurgency, and what difference it makes for states (and non-states) that war is waged in this particular manner. This project adds to the emerging sociology of war that is not primarily concerned with why wars start or why some states wage war against others, but rather with how wars work once opponents are engaged. I used two mapping networks and six associated sub-networks - trust (immediate family, extended family, close friendships, bodyguards) and strategy and goals (money and resources, insurgent operations) - to identify the structural and relational characteristics of the network. Network concepts allowed me to highlight the structure of the previously unobserved associations by focusing on the pre-existing relationships and ties that bind together such a group. By focusing on the roles, organizational positions, and those actors who are prominent and/or influential, I was able to get a sense of how the associations were structured and how the group functioned, how members were influenced and power was exerted, and how resources were exchanged. I found that insurgent members co-opted pre-existing ties to facilitate their operations. Roles are defined according to these pre-existing ties - primarily familial ties, but also those linked by previous political, tribal, or organizational association. Key individuals are connected to one another, thus forming a domain for each that gives them a high status in terms of prestige and influence. Those that are not part of this core group and who sit on the periphery of these critical task relationships extend the network and allow it to operate at a far greater distance. In short, social network analysis allowed me to formalize the informality of the insurgent network by visualizing the structure of one that we did not readily observe.