The population is not the prize, but the economy of the society that most represents the population is. The government gains no control when the enemy is dead and gone, but gains the ability to command with force. The prize Wilf Owens describes is the ability to use force, not control. Control is not Caesars to have, command is, but it is the command of an empty ship and therefore no prize. Control is mostly in the form of self-control, and not Caesar’s, i.e. if forced to carry a load one mile carry it two, turn the other cheek, and all of that. People and not the ability to command are the wealth of a society, and the prize is the riches created by the distribution of that wealth (the economy).
The economy is how a society “moves”, so the population is more than spectators they are the potential energy to the kinetic energy that is the economy.
Those of violence are change agents of the revolutionary type, and the government is the holder of the magnitude of the ultimate violence—insurgents want to be the holders of that violence.
The change agents of evolutionary change are the negotiators. To capture an economy, if that is the prize, you need to negotiate evolution. To destroy an economy you create a revolution.
A revolution crosses a gap and makes the economy) on the other side disappear—evolution changes or fills the gap with frictional forces to enable the economies on either side to negotiate the distance between them.
Therefore, if the economy is the prize, and not the population, you change the gap, through negotiation, so that it includes friction. However, you negotiate from a position of strength, because there is no need (and who would want to?) to negotiate with the weak. This is perhaps the greatest weakness shown by the Chinese, as shown in Africa, they will negotiate with the weak and the strong.
As Wilf Owen implicitly suggests, killing is one way to orient oneself to a position of strength, it is a strength of will. Therefore, as strength has little to do with who is the most powerful (God and his people are the most powerful), and strength is force at a distance (God) and power is energy per second (people), Killing has to be a sign of strength not weakness. A sign is mostly an implicit image formed by the population.
I think that is what Wilf Owens was getting at, and Osama was suggesting as the weakness of Al Qaeda.
It is the ethics (in the wealth) that gives the mass its strength, and the economy, along with a strong command force that gives the mass its power.
The “winner” will have both command and control through negotiations, unless the population is the prize.
Owens’s argument does not fall apart if his argument is built on strength. The strength of Owens’s argument is in the implicit image that the enemy has of you, not directly in the decisions you make at the time. The strength of Owens’s argument is in the action of many decisions that at times can come down to one image building decision (the killing of Osama), but that image of strength that the owner of the cell phone has is built on the environment the enemy observes, not on his or yours orientation.
Ultimately it is the counter insurgent who builds the environment that the enemy observes. Then one has to only enter the same environment that the enemy observes to enter the owner of the cell phones “loop” to know if you should pull the trigger or not. In other words, you let the enemy determine if you pull the trigger or not. My guess would be that the enemy would say to fire away. From my observance in America, not many people would loan their cell phones out, as you suggest, but then I operate in a different environment.