Showing posts with label Britain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Britain. Show all posts

Monday, July 27, 2015

End of Empire

I stumbled into this series while aimlessly looking for the end of the internet. It is about the end of the British Empire. How they left all, well most, of their various overseas holdings and all that came afterwords. For historic and survivalist (great powers decline, we are arguably doing that now) purposes the end of the British colonial period interests me. This series, albeit incomplete on youtube, goes a long way to fill in my lack of knowledge about this very interesting period of time. Each episode talks about how events unfolded in a specific area.

Anyway if you have the time this series is pretty darn interesting. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thoughts on Insurgencies #9 North Ireland AKA The Troubles

Today I want to talk about The Troubles. I previously talked about Operation Banner An Analysis of British Operations in North Ireland.That is worth reading though it is a bit dry. So here we go.

For a brief recap the problems between England and Ireland probably go back 900 years or so. We will focus a bit more on current history. The Anglo- Irish war from roughly (start and stop points are hard for guerrilla wars) 1919 to 1922 ended up partitioning Ireland into 2 entities. The 26 counties that make up the majority of Ireland were granted Dominion status and the 6 counties that became Northern Ireland stayed part of the Empire. The 26 counties formally dissolved their last formal ties with Great Britain in 1949.

Northern Ireland makes up roughly 1/6th of the island of Ireland and is approximately 80 miles North to South and 120 miles East to West.

(Real quick Loyalists wished to stay part of the United Kingdom and were almost exclusively Protestant. Republicans wanted a united Ireland and were almost exclusively Catholic. Some folks may use Loyalist/ Protestant or Republican/ Catholic interchangeably.)

In Northern Ireland there was a slim Protestant majority and Catholics were narrowly outnumbered. The Protestants were generally loyal to England and the Catholics generally wanted a united Ireland. Protestants held all political power and filled the vast majority of the police and security forces. A slew of complicated voting laws kept power in Protestant hands.

Now we can fast forward to the 1960's. Protestant Loyalists have used their total grasp on power to discriminate against Catholics in terms of employment and housing. The narrow Catholic minority lived in cramped outdated housing and had massive unemployment.

This brings us to our first key point. People with nothing to lose are often willing to use physical force to change the established order that is the (real or perceived) reason for their undesirable situation.

The Irish Catholics were largely inspired by the American Civil rights struggle. They started organizing into groups to protest. In 1968 peaceful Catholic protests were suppressed by the Protestant government and Protestant Paramilitaries. Think Birmingham PD vs NAACP but the climate is cooler, everyone is white and the suppression is even more brutal.

I have heard the theory that the peaceful protestors were useful idiots put in place to get the RUC and Protestant Paramilitaries to overreact and let the IRA come back onto the scene. There is probably at least a shred of truth to this idea. 

In 1969 the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary AKA police force) and Protestant paramilitaries were brutally cracking down on Catholic Neighborhoods. A guy who lived in West Belfast at the time described them as "burning down streets and murdering people". After the Battle of the Bogside the British Army came in to stabilize the situation. Initially the Catholic community was happy to see the Army arrive to establish order. That honeymoon period ended pretty quickly. The early 70's were pretty messy with the notable Bloody Sunday On July 21 1972 where British Para's killed 14 unarmed protestors.

The British adopted a policy of open ended internment that some could argue was extralegal. Basically they rounded up all the IRA boys, tossed them in jail and threw away the key. It damn near worked except it was a massive IO (information operations) nightmare. They went back and forth on keeping these guys incarcerated. Hunger strikes by IRA prisoners were an IO nightmare for the Brits.

In any case during the late 60's and early 70's the IRA saw a resurgence that is difficult to believe. Coming into these events they were largely a group of old men just hanging out. Sort of like herpes the IRA never really goes away, they just go underground and wait till the right time to pop back up.

The Provincial IRA split off from the original IRA at this time. The IRA wanted to largely stand by while the PIRA wanted to act. This scenario of a more cautious group accepting peace and it's more aggressive branch forming a new group would repeat itself multiple times. These splits do not matter much at the big picture we are looking at but this one is notable as the PIRA had a much more local look than the overall IRA.

Historically the IRA was organized along roughly military lines. Recruiting was done through long term friends, neighbors and along blood lines. This made for an organization that was difficult to penetrate. It is important for us Americans to note that Europeans tend to stay in their neighborhoods/ villages/ communities much more than we do. Several generations of the same family living in a county is not at all uncommon. Penetrating an organization where members recruit folks they have known their whole lives is impossible.

During the mid 70's the IRA didn't need to recruit. The British Armies heavy handed tactics did it for them. As we discussed a couple paragraphs back their organization exploded. Like any rapid increase it had some growing pains. In particular their traditionally excellent OPSEC went to hell. They were seriously compromised which lead to a lot of arrests.

By the mid 70's the IRA had reorganized into the type of cellular structure we are used to seeing with Insurgent organizations.

Since the IRA typically recruited people they individually knew well it was a fairly casual process. Bobby who grew up a block over (and you knew was IRA) would ask if you were interested. If you were they would slowly bring you in. Maybe a potential recruit would do a few simple jobs (sit in a cafe and watch patrols, be a courier for innocuous items, etc) then maybe they get brought into an operation. The point is it might be a year or so before they were really into the mix of things.

As a general rule the IRA did not coerce recruits. This is a bad idea in general. People who do not genuinely want to be part of the organization are a significant security threat.

In Catholic communities everyone was involved in some part of the insurgency. Part of the reason was the IRA was part of the community.  Asking your life long neighbor to hold onto something, for the neighborhood  hardware store owner to sell you some stuff off the books, a nice old neighbor lady to occasionally host her 'nephews' for a few days, etc is an easy proposition. It helps that these community members were unhappy with the situation they were in but that probably wasn't necessary.

Many people were affiliated with the IRA to some degree. They fought to protect their communities against the Protestant Paramilitaries in times of need. However some were unwilling to go beyond protecting their community to acts of (real or perceived) terrorism. 

Occasionally the IRA would leak false information around potential informants. If that (false) information was acted on the informant would be questioned then killed.

In Northern Ireland people generally stay to their neighborhoods, or at least neighborhoods of the same group. Flags hanging on light poles or pained on street corners mark which group the area belongs to. Catholics stay out of Protestant neighborhoods and visa versa.

Initially training was conducted in rural areas. Quickly that became impossible. Training moved across the border into the Republic of Ireland and to international terrorist facilities, largely in North Africa.

Some members of the IRA joined the British Army. A good way to learn weapons, tactics, intelligence and exactly how their enemies fought. Others ended up in the US Army and Marines. These folks did their 3 year hitch then went back home well trained. The IRA got an excellent sniper or two this way.

In the 80's Libya was a huge supporter of the IRA. As AM noted conducting an insurgency that does not have outside support is almost impossible. It wasn't so much that Col Goddafi liked the IRA as that he hated the British. Libya gave the IRA TONS of Semtex, a whole lot of weapons (including shoulder fired AA weapons, RPG's and Dishka's) and tons of ammo.

The IRA provided local security in their neighborhoods (as the Protestant groups did in theirs). Interestingly despite the Troubles crime in general and murder rates were lower in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK. The reason for this is that people didn't call the cops, they called the IRA. The IRA did not screw around. Beatings, kneecapping, tar and feathering and of course good old fashioned murder were common punishments. While arguably hypocritical (a guy might get punished for selling drugs outside of IRA sanction, while the IRA was also selling drugs) and harsh they definitely kept crime down.

Aside from security the IRA provided a variety of basic services to their neighborhoods. They built community centers, funded local programs, etc. Basically a shadow government. It has been said everything Hamas did in Palestine was stolen from the IRA's book.

Funding- Hate alone does not make an insurgency go around. The need money. Funding started with collections and raffles. Pubs in Ireland and the US having a donation box for 'the cause' was quite common for a long time.The IRA robbed a lot of banks but that got dangerous. Eventually like the mob they used funds to purchase legitimate businesses which would make a profit. Guys who never had 2 dimes to rub together opening million dollar Irish Pubs in major US cities was one way that funds were washed and used to make a legitimate profit.

Compartmentalization- IRA operations were compartmentalized to the utmost extent. First and foremost this minimized the damage any individual could cause. Second it insulated the operations cell from incriminating weapons/ equipment/ clothing to the largest extent possible.

The community largely aided in this. A sniper would not have the rifle until a few minutes before the OP. 30 seconds after taking the shot he would be out of the building. 5 minutes later he would be in new clothes (including gloves). 15 minutes later he would have showered then changed clothes again and be in a safe neighborhood.  That guy is now impossible to find, at least in the context of this OP, though they might get him later on other intel.

The IRA had female members. Some ran the classic honey pot. Others formed a direct action cell. They principally smuggled small incendiary devices into British economic targets in an attempt to disrupt their economy.

Caches- There is no 4th Amendment in the UK. Catholic neighborhoods (as well as Protestant ones) were semi regularly searched for weapons and explosives. Consequently the IRA perfected caching. Weapons/ explosives and special equipment were dropped in one cache to be picked up by the DA cell then after the OP immediately dropped into another cache. Some support folks would grab the guns, clean them and store them till they were needed again. These operational caches were used extensively to get weapons where the DA (direct action) folks needed them. In addition to operational caches deep caches were used. These were generally along the Survivalist "bury a bunch of guns in case we need them some day" sort of lines but on a much larger scale. Individual cells kept their own caches to minimize the chance of one senior logistics guy being nabbed and half the PIRA's guns getting captured.

The fusion and cooperation between international terrorist groups is worth noting. The IRA/ Libya link has been discussed already. In 2001 3 IRA hard cases who happened to be explosives experts were caught leaving Columbia where the had been training the FARC in exchange for drugs/ drug money. These two lovely groups were introduced by the Basque Separatists ETA.

Ultimately the conflict between the IRA and the government ended in a truce. Neither side of the conflict was winning and they were both tired. Along the way many of the legitimate grievances about housing and employment discrimination against Catholics were addressed which helped to improve their collective situation and thus temper separatist tendencies.

I have been writing for 2 hours now. May have some more thoughts but I cannot recall them. Am tired of writing so this post is done. May have more on the topic later.

Hope you enjoy the little lesson and just maybe can gleam some useful stuff out of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Putting on my Nostradamos Cap

On Economics/ Politics:

Well QE 3 is finally getting launched so we will see a fast meaningful recovery the lost decade will continue.

Unfortunately I do not think our economy is going to get better until we are really honest about our situation and take the steps to get back to an honest and stable place. This requires facing the pain of unraveling all the bad "assets" floating around and the massive empty inventory in the housing market gets unloaded at realistic prices. As this is not happening any time soon the pain will continue.

I saw an interesting article over at James Dakin's place (original Lew Rockwell article here) that basically says we will not have hyperinflation because it is not in the best interest of big banks and their whole crony network. I cannot say that I understand it fully but, not necessarily for any quantifiable reason, I agree that hyperinflation is not likely.

We do need to get onto the same page as to exactly what is considered hyperinflation. Let's pick the definition of hyperinflation as greater than 50% inflation in a month. It is as good as any. I do not see this happening. Yes we have a huge debt but we are too big and powerful with too many huge productive businesses for it to be likely IMO. (Also I think Arctic Patriot noted that huge powerful countries do not go broke, they go to war) I don't intend to argue this point, it is just my take on things.

Now I do think a period of painfully high inflation is quite possible. Maybe somebody gets some sense and cuts off the free money that has been subsidizing big businesses and poor decisions like dollar shot night at the local bar. Maybe our creditors start to get wise and demand an actual return on their money. Maybe the big banksters aim their destructive market powers at US. I don't know.

We could see 10-13% inflation which would probably leave the fed rate around 16%, prime mortgages around 20% and consumer debt in the area of 30%. This would drag down our economy like a guy trying to swim with an anvil tied to his waist. Several consecutive years of this would essentially destroy those on fixed incomes. Folks holding adjustable rate debt's would probably face default or ruin.

We may see rioting and disorder as welfare/ food aid/ etc that are chained to the ever more manipulated to give a happy story CPI get left behind. [Briefly touching on Matthew Bracken's When the Music Stops I do not see our government failing to send out welfare/ food stamps (now on cards)/ etc. I respect Matthew Bracken immensely but IMO this article misses the simple point that our government via it's cronies the Federal Reserve has a darn license to print money. It is like saying that Jack Daniels will run out of Whiskey or Tula will run out of .45 caliber bullets.

Seniors and moochers will get what they are "entitled" down to the exact penny. However that doesn't mean it will be worth the same as it is today. Somebody on food stamps or whatever will get the same dollars worth of hand out's but if a pound of rice costs $5 and a Digorno frozen pizza costs $10 it won't go very far. Not quite as sudden or whatever as envisioned in the scenario. It would more likely cause a slow upswing in problems than a sudden burst of angst. That is of course unless some sort of response was coordinated to meet a specific purpose in support of some agenda.]

I see this arguably intentionally orchestrated series of events potentially diminishing our status on the world stage with a wimper, not a bang. Think of the way Britain's role and power have changed from WWI to now. They went from being the biggest and arguably most powerful nation in the world to being publicly dissed by Argentina stealing their island (yeah they later took it back, barely).

On War:

The madness between Israel and Iran is out of control. All I hear in the media is war drum's. At this point I really would not mind if they get it over with and fight, at least that way it would get done and we could have  the news back. Except of course it would cause a lot of problems, likely embroil us in a nasty conflict, maybe cause nuclear war, blah, blah, blah.

On Gun Control:

I do not see a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban or whatnot. The balance of public opinion is clearly against it. Unless the Dem's sweep the house and senate plus keep the presidency which is probably not likely I am not concerned. Even then I am not so sure for heavens sake Walmart sells AR-15's.

That being said ATF fiat and possibly executive orders might pop up with some fun new stuff. The play of the ATF arbitrarily usurping more of our rights changing some regulations which FFL's (and individuals) will then follow or face their lives being ruined and livelihoods destroyed is already in the playbook. Remember that your shotgun is a shotgun unless it is suddenly a pistol or maybe an evil assault weapon.

On Crime and Disorder:

In general I think crime is getting worse with the signs showing the trend is likely to continue. Maybe it is the economy. With everybody (well a lot of folks anyway) taking a step down the proverbial economic ladder some folks look to crime as the easy way out. Some of it is cultural/ environmental but that doesn't really matter. For reasons I am not entirely clear on criminals seem to be getting more and more violent. Home invasions seem to be becoming more and more prominent.

As discussed above there is a potential scenario (amongst others) where things could just go nuts like LA Riots times 1,000 all over the place.

Anyway that is what I think may be coming. Now to what we might be able to do about it:


Some folks argue that having a lot of debt is fine because hyperinflation or at least inflation will let them pay it back in cheaper (or basically free) dollars. The first issue with that plan is that if you haven't figured it out yet banks are going to get taken care of at the expense of common folks, not the other way around. The second issue is that you it will be hard to pay back cheaper dollars if you lose your income/ job because the economy tanks.

If you listen to nothing else that I say get out of any debts that have an adjustable interest rate. The only exception would be if you have the cash to pay the debt off immediately (like in the next payment) but choose to keep it at a low adjustable rate so you can stay a bit more liquid. Rates are very low right now with almost a guarantee that they will go up. As we saw with various European countries a bad auction or two can jack up rates in a hurry.

The basics still apply here. Minimize debt and live below your means. Save in various forms against an uncertain future.

Gun Control:

In this quadrennial 'OMG the evil gun haters might ban everything' period I have spent a bit of money but that was just bumping up some purchases I planned to make anyway by a bit. Sort of hedging my bets if you will. That being said I have been getting squared away in this area for awhile and while things aren't perfect (are they ever?) most of our bases are covered. If you do not own something, especially if it is likely to be targeted in a ban, that you want and can afford then consider getting it.

Crime and Disorder:

Things are getting more and more dangerous. Carry a weapon if it is legal and practical for your lifestyle. Get the training to know what you are doing. Make yourself a hard target. If you live someplace that is sucky and dangerous with a high percentage of unhappy urban folks and welfare types consider moving if you can figure out how to afford it.

Note that most of the things I have recommended are the same things I have been talking about for awhile. Preparing for every situation is not the same. You do not need a dozen assault rifles to survive an economic collapse. Having half your net worth in PM's will not be ideal if things go all mad max. That being said a whole lot of the commonalities are the same. Live below your means saving (in various forms) for emergencies and the future. Store food, fuel and other various things you will need. Have the skills and weapons to protect yourself and your stuff.

Anyway that is what I have been thinking about. Thoughts or input are of course welcome. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interesting Reading

I read a Operation Banner An Analysis of British Operations in North Ireland. It is dry, and one sided but interesting all the same. Probably a pretty good overview of the topic and it is hard to argue with the price. If anybody has read some other good stuff on the IRA or the Troubles please drop it in the comments section for me to check out. Extra bonus points for PDF's because I am cheap.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

End of Combat Operations in Iraq?

The last "combat" brigade left Iraq today. I wouldn't say this means our efforts in Iraq are over but it is sure a significant milestone. As for what will happen now, time will tell. I do think it is very important that we practice expectation management. If we expect Iraq to be a nice calm place with totally functional, completely democratic and honest institutions and great infrastructure like say Israel (the only example I could think of in the middle east) we will be disappointed. However if we expect sporadic bombings and localized violence, semi corrupt elections along party lines and haphazard infrastructure we might be on the mark.  I say that for a couple reasons.

It is important to remember that early American history didn't go so smoothly. There were small localized uprisings, the government went broke and stayed there more or less and our first government failed entirely. We had some real problems with pirates robbing our ships. Around 20 years after our nation was established the British stomped us pretty badly and burned down our capitol. (Would it be ridiculous and war hawkish to suggest we burn down Buckingham Palace to get even? Better late than never right?) A couple generations later we fought a massive civil war. For some reason we Americans have a short memory and an even shorter attention span. We would like to make Iraq into a wonderful place over the course of a few short years. If we manage our expectations and take a longer view the situation can be seen more realistically.

What does this mean? Well hopefully we as a nation can finally borrow a little bit less money to keep things going. Also we will have fewer brave young Americans at risk which is always a good thing. Getting out of Iraq will allow us to increase dwell time for soldiers. This will almost certainly help with some of the problems (prescription drugs and suicide are notable) we are currently facing. More focused training time at home station will allow for the retrofitting and replacement of equipment as well as training which are good things. Also this will let our nation focus almost exclusively on Afghanistan which is something that has needed to happen for a long time. I don't know what will happen there but it would be a darn shame if we let a lack of adequate amounts of men, weapons and equipment be the deciding factor.

These are sure interesting times we live in.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Lazy Independence Day

Someone recently made a point about calling the holiday today Independence Day instead of July 4th. Kind of a misnomer because America wasn't actually free on July 4th 1776. Some could say that while America declared independence on July 4th 1776 it wasn't free for some time. They eventually got that freedom by outlasting the British and with the help of France convincing them the cost of continuing the war was higher than they were willing to bear.  To be honest I have previously used the two interchangeably. The distinction is however meaningful and I will try to use the more historically accurate phrase from now on. In honor of Independence Day I took some time to read the Declaration of Independence. You should do the same.

It is my birthday today. Other then copious amounts of great food and some real good beer it will be a pretty normal day. Wifey insisted I have a couple of presents to open today. Yesterday we went and got a couple mag lights which I have been wanting for awhile, a pint of Crown Royal and two big Belgium Trappist beers. Wifey said it does in fact say something about me that the small stuff I wanted was flashlights and booze. I am however OK with that. Also did some optic shopping. Got to decide on a specific EOTech model then go price shopping. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Also click on my advertisers links and check out their great stuff.

No huge plans for the rest of the day. We had a pretty busy week and a half so are just kind of chilling out now. May do some reading or maybe just idle around watching TV and on the net. If so inclined I will go watch the fireworks later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

quote of the day

" the long run the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgments in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster."
-John Cowperthwaite (colonial financial secretary, Hong Kong)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D Day Rememberance

I can't believe it was 65 years ago today. Some pretty serious and heavy stuff. We (the allies) lost around 10,000 men that day. 10,000 men in a fucking day. Let that sink in for a second.

I know a man who landed on D Day. His WWII stories were very interesting. Apparently you were just fine getting rip roaring drunk in Ireland and England, stumbling home to your host families house and passing out. If you ended up in a different house somehow they would make you breakfast in the morning. However in Italy you had to tie a string to your rifle because the people would try and steal it. Anyway back to the point.

He personally saved several lives that day. The landing crafts dropped a bunch of the fully loaded Soldiers into 8 feet of water. Full clothes, boots, bandoleers, canteens a rucksack and a rifle in water over your head. There were plenty of Mid Western farm boys who could not swim. He went under and cut the pack straps off of as many boys as he could.

In some ways that was was a whole lot simpler. We are good the axis is bad so lets kick their asses. Simple is good. On the other hand we actually faced a large and very well trained force who could effectively use combined arms to bear on their opponents so that would suck.

Anyway we should all just think about the enormity of the event which happened 65 years ago today.
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