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Applying the diamond and strange models to completely defeat an insurgency.

Fighting an insurgency requires a counter insurgent force to defeat the insurgent group while at the same time creating the conditions in a nation that will prevent an insurgency from thriving. Focusing on the center of gravity (CoG) in both the nation and the insurgent group allows a way of analyzing and solving both the problem of an insurgent group and of an unstable nation that would allow the insurgent group to grow. There are different models that focus on defeating an insurgency but do not give the tools to focus on how to overcome these issues. The McCormick Diamond Model focuses on the CoG in a nation and gives the counter insurgent force a method of building a nation that does not allow an insurgency to thrive. The Strange Model focuses on the COG of the insurgent group and provides a methodology to defeat this group other than killing or capturing all of its members. These two models used simultaneously will enable a counter insurgent force to defeat an insurgency rather than solely quelling it.

Definition of CoG

In order to find the CoG, one must first define it. In Joint Publication 1-02, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, the U. S. military defines it as "the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act." This is in line with what many translate Clausewitz to have decided the CoG to be-the hub of all strength. Others interpret Clausewitz's view not as a hub of strength, but as the glue that holds it together. (1) Although arguable, the two definitions are the same when looking at an insurgent group because the power that holds a group together is not always physical. In terms of an insurgent group, the CoG is often an intangible source of the group's power.

One must find the CoG in order to allow a counter insurgent force what it needs to focus on in order to defeat the insurgency. The CoG for the nation is different than that of the insurgent group. The nation's CoG is the people. The nation's people must have a proper balance in their lives that will make them believe in their government and therefore not want a change. Likewise, the insurgent group must have something that holds it together and makes its members want to fight for a change, often using it to gather support from outside or bring more people into their group.

The McCormick Diamond Model

The McCormick Diamond Model focuses on nation building. In the figure below, the legs aim towards legitimizing the government while de-legitimizing the insurgency in the eyes of both the citizens and the international community. Furthermore, Leg Three calls for capturing or killing the insurgents. The principles show planners what they need to focus on in order to achieve this outcome. It has recently proven in the Philippines to be a sound way to defeat an insurgency.


To analyze how to defeat the insurgent group specifically, we must focus on how to target it in order to de-legitimize it and render it ineffective. This can come from killing or capturing all of its members; a very difficult task especially if the insurgent group is constantly recruiting new members. It can also be defeated by destroying the key aspects that allow it to continue. The Strange Model allows the counter insurgency to analyze the insurgency in order to accomplish this.

The Strange Model

The Strange Model focuses on defeating the insurgent group. Robert Leonhard postulates the Queen Theory in his rendition of Manuever Theory by stating that the COG is defined, not as the source of strength, but as the critical vulnerability. This is discussed because, although it is not the definition of CoG previously defined, the Queen Theory shows the importance of looking at the critical vulnerabilities. Additionally, Joint Publication 5-O, Joint Operation Planning discusses that when reviewing the CoG, it is important to look at three other aspects and how they correlate with the CoG: critical capabilities, critical requirements, and critical vulnerabilities. Accordingly, this leads to the use of the Strange Model which analyzes the CoG using these three aspects.


When analyzing an insurgent group using this model, a commander is able to see what he can target or exploit to defeat the group in his area. Unlike a conventional battle where the CoG might be the command post, an insurgent's CoG is not always a tangible target. Exploiting vulnerabilities, cutting off critical requirements, and destroying critical capabilities all lead to defeating an insurgent group.

The current situation in Iraq provides an example of the need to utilize both of these models to defeat an insurgency. In 2003 when Iraq's government was dissolved, the conditions for the current insurgency were simultaneously set into place, allowing insurgent groups an area to conduct operations.

Application of the Diamond Model

The Iraqi government and Coalition Forces are working together to build the legitimacy of the government and complete the same goals that the legs of the Diamond Model call for. To complete legs one and two, build the legitimacy between the government and the people while simultaneously delegitimizing the insurgent group, the needs of the people must be focused on. Security forces in Iraq are being trained and utilized to secure the people. Infrastructure is being built to give people the basic needs of water, electricity, sewage, etc. To complete legs four and five and de-legitimize the insurgent group in the eyes of the people domestically and internationally, information operation (IO) campaigns, international meetings, and building of infrastructure for international trade are occurring. To complete leg three however, each insurgent group operating in Iraq must be thoroughly analyzed to determine how to destroy the group. This is where the Strange Model must be utilized in addition to the McCormick Diamond Model. The two insurgent groups in question are Al Queda and the Mahdi Militia.

Al Qaeda and the Application of the Strange Model

The example of Al Qaeda is used because this is a group that has spread to different nations and participated in other insurgent campaigns. As the insurgency in Iraq or Afghanistan is defeated, this group will find other locations, such as in the African nations, to foster an insurgency. Therefore, these nations must be stabilized using the McCormick Diamond Model at the same time as this insurgent group and its splinter groups are defeated, stopping it from continuing to be part of or the cause of insurgencies.

The CoG for this insurgent group is its ideology. As Whalid Phares describes in Future Jihad, this ideology is calling for the installation of Sharia Law and a return to a Muslim Caliphate. (3) This ideology is used in different ways to persuade international actors to financially and passively support this organization. One way is to proclaim that Western countries are trying to occupy Muslim nations. This ideology helps them continue and is used to recruit others to their cause. In many extremists, this is not something that can be changed or destroyed. Their capabilities, requirements, and vulnerabilities however, can be. Altering or destroying these will help lead to the defeat if not the destruction of this group.


Traits Derived from Jandora and Phares. (4,5)

Take for example one of Al Quada's critical requirements-manpower. Strategically, one of its key capabilities in order to fulfill this requirement is their free and extensive use of the Internet for recruitment. Interdicting or terminating this severely hinders their ability to fulfill this requirement as none of their other propaganda methods are as widespread or effective.

Tactically, to complete this requirement, Al Qaeda coerces and persuades locals to conduct attacks by threatening them, providing a false sense of security, or paying them. While the Iraqi government and Coalition Forces are kinetically targeting the insurgent group, they must simultaneously provide locals actual security and jobs for income. This ties back to legitimizing the government and de-legitimizing the insurgent group with the Diamond Model.

A critical vulnerability is that many Muslim leaders do not agree with the ideology and methods of Al Qaeda. Pushing these leaders to denounce Al Qaeda helps de-legitimize the group in the eyes of many Muslims. This has been effective on the tactical level as leaders in the western parts of Iraq have taken a stand against Al Qaeda and pushed much of this organization away from their communities.

This insurgent group can be dissected tactically, operationally, and strategically to see its capabilities, vulnerabilities, and requirement in order to defeat it as a whole.

Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Militia

Analyzing the Mahdi Militia, the CoG can be seen as the feeling of belonging to this group. Many will assess the people as the source of power and although they are a critical piece as this group continues to build, the feeling received by being in this group is the source of its power, or the glue holding it together, as in many gangs in the U.S. This is not a physical thing but contributes to and incorporates many other things. Being part of and supporting this group gives many Shiites in Iraq a sense of security. As the group takes credit for some of the infrastructure actually built by the government of Iraq, the Mahdi Militia is seen as providing the basic needs described by Maslow. For example, when the Jaish al Mahdi militia fixes a broken water pipeline, people see them as providing water. Additionally, the group provides a job and/or money to many unemployed men, allowing them to provide for their families.

These entities do not solely hold this group together or alone gives it power, but are all critical capabilities of it. Seeing these capabilities make people want to belong to this group. Further dissecting these capabilities shows the critical requirements. In order to provide security, it must have men and arms along with an unstable area that requires security. To persuade the local populace that the infrastructure is provided by the Mahdi militia, they must have good propaganda means. To provide jobs, they must have funding. All of this can be further dissected and evidence put to show where the instability, propaganda, and funding come from based on the specific region but to stay general and unclassified, it is not discussed here.

This group also has critical vulnerabilities coinciding with the requirements and capabilities. Primarily, they are an illegitimate group. The infrastructure is not built by them and can be proven as such. There is a legitimate source of security in the Iraq government in the form of the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police. Furthermore, when a Mahdi Militia member is caught committing an act that causes instability, it is an IO opportunity for the government of Iraq to show this group is not providing security but causing much of the instability.


Many Mahdi militia members are poor young men who are not necessarily against the government and trying to see it fail, they just want what this group can provide to them. These men are not the part of the insurgent group that needs to be killed or captured; just persuaded in other ways to disassociate from the group. Dissecting the Mahdi militia in this manner gives many more targeted ways of defeating the group and making people not want to join. Strong IO against the Mahdi militia, cutting off funding, and using uncorrupted Iraqi Security Force personnel to provide security are all ways to work to defeat this insurgency.

Defeating an insurgency is a task that requires simultaneously building a stable nation and defeating the insurgent group. Completing only one of these operations will not entirely defeat an insurgency. Defeating an insurgent group without stabilizing the nation will not deter others from joining and carrying out the group's cause. An example of this is Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba. In 1956 there were only 15 members left to carry out the mission. The dictator, General Batista, did not change the conditions in the nation that caused Castro's insurgency and in 1959, Castro took over Cuba with large popular support. (6) Solely setting the conditions in a nation that does not invite an insurgency will not stop insurgent groups either. They must be destroyed. Al Qaeda has conducted attacks in over 19 countries, to include the U.S., Spain, Egypt, and England. (7) In countries such as Iraq where an insurgency is on going, both missions of building a stable nation and defeating the insurgent group must occur. Using the McCormick Diamond Model and Strange Model together gives a method to achieve this.


Joseph Strange, Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities: Building on the Clausewitzian Foundation So That We Can All Speak the Same Language (Quantico, Virginia: Marine Corps War College, 1996).

by Captain Tanya Mack


(1.) Antulio Echevarria II, Clausewitz's Center of Grauity: Changing our Warfighter Doctrine-Again!, Strategic Studies Institute, September, 2002, accessed at htm, 13.

(2.) Gregory Wilson, "Anatomy of a Successful COIN Operation: OEF Philippines and the Indirect Approach," Military Review, November-December 2006, 4.

(3.) Whalid Phares, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 54, 59.

(4.) John W. Jandora, "Center of Gravity and Asymmetric Conflict: Factoring in Culture," Joint Forces Quarterly 39 (2005): 78-83

(5.) Phares, 54, 59

(6.) H.P. Willmott, "Cuba 1956-59: Castro's Revolution" in War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945, Sir Robert Thompson, Ed., (London: Orbis 1981), 146-148.

(7.), Al Qaeda Attacks: 1998-2005, volume 1.3, accessed php?media=algaeda&w=640&h=480.
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Author:Mack, Tanya
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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