Ironically if justifiably unhappy with their life situation (but handling it poorly) gang banging thugs urban youths had sufficient education they might do some research. A good start would be to look at population percentages in the US. Then they could dig deeper to find statistics on gun ownership (particularly rifles) which tell a pretty startling tale. Then they could look at rates of military service particularly in combat arms jobs which tend to be much paler than service and support type jobs. If those young men looked at all that info they might well rethink the whole race war idea.
Edited to include:
My little google dashboard says this is the blog's 4,000th post. 4k posts and 1.6 million views, not too shabby if I do say so myself.
Egypt is a huge mess right now. To briefly recap. Recently as part of the Arab Spring Hosnu Mubarak the longtime dictator was deposed. The military chose not to get involved on his side, avoiding a Syria like protracted conflict. There were elections and the Muslim Brotherhoods candidate Mohamad Morsi won. President Morsi immediately set forth on an agenda towards a variety of goals including changing the constitution and generally cracking down on dissent as well as other political groups. It was the traditional African/ Middle East "One Man, One Vote, One Time" agenda.
The Egyptian economy, which has a large tourism component, has not been doing well. Death spiral might be too strong but it certainly has not been doing well. People started gathering in Tahrir to protest. They called for President Morisi to step down and were ignored.
The Army then got involved and pulled off a soft coup. The chief Justice of their equivalent of the supreme court was put in charge and elections will be held on a date to be announced later. Much of the Muslim Brotherhood key leadership has been arrested or is still being sought for arrest.
This is not good. The Muslim Brotherhood are not going to take this lying down. Violence has already started. Don't know exactly where it is going to go but probably no place good. Violence may or may not break out into full on conflict or civil war. My guy says the Army can probably hold them down; after all suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood is something they have decades of practice at.
If this is a good thing or not I am uncertain. Honestly Morsi setting up a Muslim Brotherhood totalitarian Islamic state wasn't exactly a good path for world stability anyway. May just be a different branch of the bad tree. While possible that peaceful and fair (well by Middle East standards anyway) election in a reasonable timeframe with this turning out to be a one time thing is possible I doubt that will happen. An alternating combination of military leadership and weak civilian governments a la Pakistan may be the future.
Our government is intentionally not calling this a Coup which it clearly was. Maybe it's just that saying this was a preventative Coup to reinstate lawful civilian leadership is a bit complicated.
Fundamentally this brings up a weak point in American foreign policy. We say that we want democratic governments but in practice we want folks who do not rock the proverbial internatonal boat too much and generally can be dealt with. At least as often as not this means a strong man of some sort.
Aside from communicating with both sides and using soft power to try avoiding a complete blood bath I do not think we should do anything.
The riots in Brazil seems to have tappered out yet it is a bit too early to be sure.
Who knows what will happen next week. In particular I am paying attention to Egypt but who knows what else is going to happen.
It would be difficult for me to express exactly how bad this could be. On one hand Israel could have the tacic, albeit silent, consent of the US and several Arab nations in which case not much of anything will happen. However it is quite possible that is not the case at which point this could escalate local tensions and small scale violence or cause a world ending war with a nuclear component (this absolute worst case is very unlikely).
It is interesting that the first target was reportedly a load of Iranian missiles destined for Hezbollah. This doesn't matter really except that it shows the depth of complication this situation has. It is both a civil war and a proxy war. Seriously it's like a game of 3d chess with multiple sets of mortal enemies. Also this strike sort of puts a hole in the "Syria's AA capabilities are so great" argument. If Israel could conduct an air strike the US certainly could. Interesting stuff for sure.
AM's post was about cause and effect. If you hurt somebody's family they
will have a serious vendetta against you and might not value the lives
of people around you very highly. Even in pretty ruthless criminal organizations they generally leave families off limits. This is largely for functional reasons that even scumbags have people who they love and nobody wants to go down that road. Think about it for a minute. If somebody hurt my family I wouldn't have much to lose and the life expectancies of people around them would be low. Lots of folks probably think the same way.
Something Matthew Bracken touched on is death squads formed by cops or various paramilitary types. Basically it goes like this. Some cops or whatever are doing their jack booted thing. They face some effective reprisals by some guerrilla types. Instead of waiting to get shot up by some rednecks with deer rifles the cops decide to get pro active off the books. They know more or less who the people they are up against, especially in a small town or a place with good proactive intelligence gathering. These cops get together off work and do the old snatch and drag to the woods to kill in a ditch routine. Maybe it is unofficially sanctioned by their bosses in an "I know you know, you know I know but we don't talk about it" sort of way or maybe it's just that no cops look very hard when a rabidly pro freedom gun shop owner vanishes. Also it isn't exactly too hard for a group of cops to make sure an investigation doesn't go anywhere.
Of course the G types are doing the same thing more or less; it might have developed on it's own or as a response to the regime death squads but it doesn't really matter.. They quickly realized that instead of waiting for a bunch of guys with body armor and automatic weapons to stack outside the door at 2 am it's better to get their own group of guys and hit some houses of their own, snag a guy coming out of a bar or whatever.
This is bad but it happens with almost predictable regularity. Look at the various dirty wars in South America throughout the 70's and 80's or Iraq circa 2006-2008ish. Like they say history doesn't repeat itself but sure rhymes.
I do not think that lethally targeting families is a good idea first because of the slippery ethical slope it puts you on (pretty quick you're bombing random civilians Bagdad 2008 style to destabilize the security situation) secondly because of reprisals and third because it doesn't gain the desired effects. I just think it is a bad idea.
That does not mean you should not target families (non lethally). Shunning is very powerful in isolated insular communities which a lot of small towns sort of resemble. Imagine a guys morale if his wife can't get her hair cut, the family has to drive 90 miles to find a doctor or dentist, the grocery store stacks the canned stuff on top of the bread every time, the son can't make a friend to save his life, the daughter isn't asked to the dance despite being a beautiful and charming girl, the bank messes up their account causing overdraws or freezing their money almost weekly, the mechanic won't look at the family car, you get the idea. Pretty quickly that guy is going to move or find another job.Shunning takes a high percentage of the community.
However there are still things a smaller group can do. Not much says you aren't welcome like burning someones house down. Also that has the benefit that you can find a time when it is unoccupied and not harm anybody. A group that has a reputation for action gets to the point where they don't even have to do these things. They just need to drop a night letter saying to leave or they will do whatever. Worst case if the night letter is accompanied by a Godfather style animal head it will probably be taken seriously.
The points about working on your fitness, confirming zero's and testing weapons are excellent. Also the reminder about web gear/ chest rigs/ something to carry ammo, spare parts and such is very valid. Personally it reminded me that we need a couple of good schematic books and do not really have a solid dedicated rig for the AK. Sure I could slap something together from the various pouches that are lying around and worst case could use one of those com bloc 5 mag(?) pouches that were tossed into mag deals forever but but that is not idea. More stuff to add to the list I guess.
Dangerous Old Men. I would humbly submit that the last decade of war has produced a whole lot of dangerous young men. Many of whom are right minded and bought an AR on leave or shortly after getting out.
Commander Zero loaned me this book with the conditions that it is eventually returned and I share my thoughts on it. Figured a book review is as good of a way as any to share my thoughts. So here we go.
Comprehensive- This book talks about a whole lot of different conflicts. China, Algeria, French in Indochina, Jews vs the Arab world I, II, III, IV, Vietnam and touched on themes of African and South American conflicts.
Well Researched- The guy definitely knew what he was talking about. The sheer amount of research put into this book is impressive.
Brought home key themes- Successful insurgencies have safe havens behind international borders, foreign support and tend to be fighting against unmotivated outside forces. Stuff I have talked about before.
Bounces Around- This book seems to have sort of gone regionally then by time but could have been organized better. Specifically a set framework for discussing conflicts and another for battles would have been a huge help to this book.
Dove deep into some random conflicts/ battles but light in other probably more applicable ones. Talked a lot about Korea which was a pretty conventional fight. Also went deeply into a few other conventional battles. There really wasn't any rhyme or reason here. It was almost like they just made some old work fit into this project. They failed to really be descriptive enough to make sense when they tried to go deep too fast relying heavily on small diagrams Either needed to go deeper into battles or just stick to themes.
Misses significant conflicts like Chechnya and Northern Ireland. Also the Israelis vs the PLO (instead of the conventional fights vs the Arab world) would have been good. Some really useful stuff could have come from this.
Briefly and half heartedly mentioning Afghanistan in what they try to pass off as a closing. The Afghan war vs the Soviets is a great case study for a whole lot of information. The books failure to meaningfully discuss the Soviet Afghan War is almost irredeemable. It would be like talking pistol development through the 18th century and not mentioning Colt.
Sorely needed a good conclusion. Seriously they were going through the case studies then had a half halfhearted confusing chapter that vaguely mentions Afghanistan and mumbles about some other stuff and the book just ends.
Discussion: I got a lot out of the part on China which is a chapter of history I wasn't well informed on. The pieces on conflicts I was more familiar with were good and usually had an interesting new tid bit or three. For a nonfiction book it managed to be informative while staying lively enough to stay interesting which is a definite balancing act.
This book would probably be on my fairly short list for studying insurgencies/ guerrilla war. It probably wouldn't make the top 5 but would definitely be in the top 10.
Overall assessment: Buy and read. The price on Amazon is like 7 bucks. I got stuff out of this book and considering my study of the field is pretty solid and I have some decent practical experience that says something.
An insurgency could be defined as an armed competition for the heart of the people and thus power. Almost without exception insurgencies involve at least one non state actor otherwise they would just be a war.
Insurgencies develop when a group of people feels they are facing injustice (real or perceived) and either cannot or do not want to participate in the main stream political process. That they do not have the numbers/ influence to achieve their goals through normal political channels leads these groups to take up arms. I do not find ethics or value judgements to be particularly useful here. Many groups in the middle east as well as Africa had really legitimate cases to pick up arms but happened to be Islamic and or Communist a holes.
Folks like to talk about the white Afrikaners and Rhodesia's. A small minority holding all of the power and most of the wealth in a system with very limited mobility is a good way to make the other people angry. That the small minority happen to be a different color than the poor majority is a real problem. Also it makes for a very good case as to why that system should be changed through violence. Of course sooner or later the many will question why they are so blatantly and brutally held down by the few. That the commie's would give these disenchanted groups indoctrination, training and weapons was just icing on the cake.
I cannot say it is a 1-1 thing but for insurgencies to really have a chance to take roots a lot of people need to be pretty unhappy as happy people do not fight their own government. The government needs to be incapable or unwilling to address their real or perceived issues that are making people so unhappy. Governments that are healthy have the right combination of being aware and able to address, if just in a token way peoples needs and having a viable security apparatus to keep the lid on things. So we have a couple conditions. We need a fairly large group of people that are really unhappy with their government and a government that cannot or will not address their needs and or shut them down with the security apparatus.
Now we have these two (or more but let's stick with two right now) opposing groups with a bunch of normal folks stuck in the middle. The government wants to maintain the status quo and the insurgents/ guerrillas want to be in charge or have some freedom or see land distribution in their favor or whatever. The government could be broken down into foreign or local. Foreign being the classic usually European Empire (say the Brit's in Malaysia, Kenya or whatever) and local (Rhodesia back in the day or Syria right now are fine examples). The difference is notable in that foreign or predominantly foreign (there is always a proxy force) forces have far less of a stomach for a long fight. It is pretty natural that folks will eventually give up on keeping/ taking over Nowhereistan and go back home. On the other hand and equally naturally people will fight tooth and nail to stay in power at home. This is why you see a lot more 10, 20 or 30 year conflicts between the local (national or state) regime and people who do not like them than with foreigners from far away. It is like a semi sporting fight between casual acquaintances and a
brawl in a dark alley with a stranger. One ends when somebody gets hurt
and the other ends when somebody is crippled or dead.
Both sides have advantages and disadvantages. Rather obviously the government has men, money, weapons, technology and pretty much every conventional warfare advantage you could name. On the other hand the insurgents/ guerrillas have some advantages also. One is low expectations. That they do not have to win but just have to convince people they are not losing is obviously an advantage. It is kind of like a handicap in golf.
Another advantage is adaptability. It takes a conventional force like the Russians or the Americans forever to adopt a new weapons system. If we started now I would probably retire before a genuinely new weapon was widely fielded. On the other hand if a group of guerrillas finds that they need say a .50 caliber rifle they just need to get their hands on a few and train some dudes to use them. It could potentially be done in weeks. The same for new explosive charges or uniforms, radios or tactics.
Rather obviously guerrillas need weapons, ammunition, stuff and money. Money is probably the most important as it can readily be turned into the other stuff. We could break guerrilla funding sources into three basic streams. 1) Donations typically large foreign donations by sympathetic groups/ nations is pretty simple. A country such as both the US and USSR during the cold war or group such as Gulf State extremists supporting the Mujaheddin and then Taliban in Afghanistan and sympathetic Americans funding the IRA comes in with big bucks. Smaller donations can also be a consideration. 2) Various illegal or semi legal dealings such as drugs in the case of the Taliban and many South American Groups, the IRA selling guns and all manner of jerks and thugs robbing banks, printing fake money and running various scams. 3) Illegal taxes and forced donations from businesses and everyday folks. Either they are taking stuff without paying for it or making people make 'donations' or whatever. Unless people are sympathetic or they are providing some services in return this tends to make people unhappy though just about all insurgent and guerrilla groups do it.
Obviously it is a lot easier to conduct an insurgency if you are flush with cash. Groups with cash can get whatever sort of weapons they want, explosives, pay bribes and all sorts of fun stuff. This means that groups are hitting funding techniques 2 and 3 pretty hard. The difference between an insurgent group that is actively participating in the global gun/ drug/ smuggling/ etc trade and a big nasty gang like the Russian Mafia or MS-13 can get blurry. To me it comes back to the groups primary purpose. MS-13 are scary international gangsters to make money and get respect while the Taliban sell opium to fund their fight against the US and goals to regain regional domination or whatever.
As to equipment unless a group is getting regular resupply via a friendly force or purchases they will by necessity use the same weapons systems as the government they are fighting. Having your own weapons, set up how you like and zeroed, in those calibers/ systems just makes sense. Even if you hate a system having one set up and put away for a rainy day is smart.
Well I am bored of writing now so it is time to wrap this up.
If you are looking for a used vehicle I strongly suggest consulting The best used vehicles for under $20,000 by consumer reports. We are probably going to be in the market for either Hyundai Accent with 50-60k miles or a Toyota Corolla with 70-90k on it once we get to the states. Hyunai's were a great deal 8-10 years ago but their prices have gone up a lot which ironically raised the price of the older used ones also. The Toyota is a lot more money but they last forever. Then again for 50% more money you can usually get a lot more car. We have some thinking to do on this one.
I got an email from the folks at Full Spectrum Dominance saying they are linking to us. They are a News Aggregator who pull in some really obscure stuff. Pretty cool if you've got the time. I will probably add it to my weekly news rotation.
I stumbled onto a topic floating around that concerns me called The Orkin Man. I wish people could finally realize that this plan doesn't work. It has repeated and failed way more times than Communism. Here is what happens: A bloodbath ensues, killing a bunch of elite's as well as a whole lot more of the wrong folks and just plain folks caught in the crossfire. This bloodbath is almost immediately followed by the people who did the killing becoming the new elite's. [Hint: the folks you want as leaders aren't the ones running around executing people wholesale or leading the mass murdering bloodbath executions.] With boring repetitiveness those new elite's are even worse than the old elite's. Those first folks may or may not not hold power but the ones who come next aren't much better. Reference the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Mao's disaster in China, The Khimer Rouge and pretty much every revolution I can recall except the American one.
To end on a lighter note I stumbled into a site for Infantrymen called 11series.com. Got some half funny half motivational quotes off their FB page:
"Not saying your a whore, but baby if you were a range target you would be the 25m one."
"It's too hot to train said no taliban fighter ever in the history of the world."
"How many vets does it take to screw in a light bulb? You don't know man, you weren't there."
So there is this guy Selco. He wrote a bunch of stuff in forums over the last few years (if I recall) and recently started a blog called SHTF School that is a big hit. He lived through the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 90's (or claims to, I have no reason to doubt him and it certainly comes across as legit) and as you can expect learned some hard lessons. In addition to the blog he has a course called "One Year in Hell." Today I will be talking about this course.
It is predominantly a series of audio recordings of a fellow named Jay asking open ended questions and Selco answering them and taking small tangents as they come up naturally. The first few talk about how things were before the war and the time leading up to it. Then he talks about how his group, a large extended family kind of thing, came together and the things developed. He talks about trading and moving around, what worked well and about mistakes people paid dearly for. The whole thing flows like a conversation you could have with someone to sort of 'pick their brain' on a topic. I think there are 30 some odd recordings and I am about half way through them. We will briefly hit the usual format.
Good: Been there and done that. This isn't some random, albeit well intentioned, guy saying what he thinks. This is a fellow who lived through a very rough time telling us what he learned and what his current preps look like. Very valuable stuff.
I also appreciate that it is audio instead of text. I will sit down, crack open a beer or grab a cup of coffee and listen to a segment while doing the usual online surfing or just relaxing. It is broken into sections based on loose topics that vary between a bit under 10 minutes and about a half hour which is nice. Easy to squeeze into a busy schedule.
The Bad: The audio quality is not particularly great. You can clearly hear everything and it reminds me of an AM station in the middle of nowhere in terms of quality. I would not say that it detracts from the message.
The Ugly: None yet.
Overall Impression as of now: I am really enjoying it. Definitely very interesting and I have taken some notes and added some things to my lists. The cost of this course is $29.95.The real question as always "is it worth the money?"
Yes I think so. I put a certain amount of money into preparedness research/ personal development. Typically that means a few books a year. For comparison that would typically buy you 1 or 2 preparedness type books. I have gotten more out of the first half of this course than several books (books that I was happy with). Certainly I would look at a fresh perspective by someone who has actually lived through some crazy stuff than another random guys take on basic preparedness.
I will do a more in depth post once I have finished the course.
Disclaimer: I received a subscription free of charge to review.
It is interesting to me that I have never met an anarchist or a libertarian who is basically an anarchist that has actually been to a failed state. Talking about anarchy from a dorm room or college party house or a nice quiet farm out in the middle of nowhere is very different from actually seeing it. I am not saying there isn’t a person like that out there it is just that I haven’t interacted with one yet.
First of all anarchy is a very relative term. It is sort of like socialism in that it never truly happens, and when it does it is only for a short period of time. There is going to be some form of government clinging at the greased string of power until the last possible moment. Either that or some sort of a thug stepping up to try and carve out his own little princely state, most likely a lot of thugs trying to carve out their own princely states. You can have bad government or ineffective government or illegitimate government but some sort of system will at least be trying to keep or take power.
Secondly it is really not something you want to be involved in. Between crime, general lawlessness and assorted thugs and former government entities vying for power there is often a lot of fighting. Basic rights such as property and relative (there is always some crime) safety which we take for granted would be gone overnight. Now granted there hasn’t been a civil war or riot or massive disaster of Katrina proportions in Idaho or Minnesota but ever indicator we have is that these events bring about the worst in people. Sure there are a few neighbors helping each other out and some good Samaritan will save somebody’s grandma but those are few and far between. My observation is that folks will typically do about whatever they think they can get away with in these situations. Also these situations are more likely to lead to another, even worse government, not a better government or a long term lack of government.
Look at how the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. After the Soviets left the Afghan commies fought on for a few years (till the money dried out with the fall of the Soviet Union if I recall) and then a transitional type government was set up for about a week followed by the big players like Heychmar and Massoud and other smaller regional guys fighting it out for power. The Taliban came to power because they could do a few things. They made roads safe to travel (a relative term in tribal central Asia). They had a court system that, while very harsh, was quick to deal with problems and most people found it to be fair. In short they offered the basic securities of rule of law.
The honest truth is that a pretty bad government is, by any functional measure, better than this sort of situation or the government which stems from it. It is not nice to say and goes against a lot of American ideals but if you look at history it is true. Our revolution is probably the only time in history that a revolution led to citizen’s lives getting better in the long run.
I file Anarchy under a “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”
There is sure some interesting stuff going on in Tunesia, Egypt and Yemen (and the broader Arab world) right now. Not really suprising. All those despotic dictatorships with lots of young unemployed or marginally employed teens and 20 something who are growingly educated or at least exposed to the outside world via technology are a recipe for disaster. Hopefully if they are successful they will be able to break the 'One man, one vote, one time' and military dictatorship back and forth that have rules the Arab world since it became free from it's colonial rulers 60 years or so ago.
In Thailand not so long ago some folks really tried to get a revolution going. They succeeded in shutting down the capital for awhile but were eventually foiled. Some said it was because they were not armed which has some merit. If security forces crack down you can't do much to resist without guns. However I would say that: A) while they had a vocal minority there was not sufficient backing among the population and B) the willingness of the security forces to put down a rebellion are more important than a few dozen or even hundred guns. We saw this with Eastern Europe. The combination of the desire for regime change reaching critical mass AND the refusal of tactical level Army and police units to crush the protesters is essential for this sort of grass roots reasonably peaceful revolution/ regime change under the model of the fall of the USSR and more recently Tunisia. If you have even a fairly big protest and the security apparatus is still down with the regime you get the massacres of the USSR in the 50's and 60's (there were a couple I can't recall of the top of my head and don't feel like looking up) or Tiannamen Square. A government that doesn't pull any punches or care what the international community thinks can crush a pretty determined uprising and use the secret/ political police to keep it crushed. Anyway onto other stuff.
I have had a heck of a week. My schedule was early, late and generally erratic. So ready for the weekend. No real big plans here. Just going to try to rest and relax, do some packing and take care of a few little things. Got a bunch of new gear which I will write more about soon. Also there are a few other interesting things floating in my head.
I have enjoyed writing this series (1, 2) and hope you have gotten something out of it. I was quite proud of the overwhelmingly positive response the first chapter got. I hope to keep a bit of that spark in every chapter. Anyway it is time for another chapter. I imagine it will continue periodically for the foreseeable future.
The first thing I am going to talk about today is what I think is the biggest myth about insurgents/ guerillas/ partisans in certain preparedness/ liberterian and pro gun circles. For lack of a better word lets call this myth the noble insurgent. In America the term Noble Patriot would fit better. The idea is that these noble insurgents are operating within an acceptable moral framework and level of violence against a clearly targeting a definite enemy and moving towards pure and worthy goals. This myth is so presumptuous and morally superior I cannot find the words to accurately describe it. It is to many men with an assault rifle and a copy of the Constitution what the nice college girl trying to earn her degree is to a guy in a strip club.
Lets disect it real quick. The Noble Patriot is absolutely sure that a) his cause is riteous or possibly holy, b) that the violence he commits against c) whomever is an evil supporter of tyranny (or otherwise disagrees with him) is just and noble for the end cause. We will go point by point.
A) My real concern here is that typically the crazier someone and their cause are the more riteous and possibly holy they believe it to be. Just because an individual or a group believe in a cause doesn't make it just. Also for heavens sake please don't find 3 pieces of scripture that, taken completely out of context, seem to support your cause and say it has sacred underpinnings. I am not going to say that all true believers are crazy. Some are decent sane folks who just believe really strongly about this or that. However some are completely off their rocker. There is nothing scarier than a true believer.
B) I don't have a real issue with this one. When you start hurting or killing folks I just can't see morally, ethically or otherwise how it matters much how you do it. To say that shooting them is OK but stabbing then is wrong, dropping mortars on them is OK but an IED is wrong, etc doesn't have much standing with me. Maybe a certain way is slow or cruel but at the end of the day the only person to whom that matters is the one it is inflicted upon. I don't think God differentiates between dudes you just shot in the face vs dudes you killed in another manner.
C) This is where the whole Noble Insurgent thing really breaks down. The Noble Insurgent ideal works only if we think in absolutes. People are absolutely good in the context of whatever your value system is or against it an absolutely bad. Anybody with experience in a chaotic area suffering a serious breakdown of law and order, let alone an insurgency or civil war can say that absolutes are a hard thing to find. Most people have some good elements and some bad elements. We are talking about a whole lot of shades of grey between a little bit of black and white on the perimiters. A and C come together to create some real issues.
I get reminded of a quote from The Goodfellas. "For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal." Another notable quote is "when the only tool you have is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail." Basically once you get into the habit of killing folks to solve problems it is disturbingly easy to start killing all sorts of folks to solve all sorts of problems.
The honest truth is that despite the purity of their goals insurgents/ whatever are going to have to do a lot of bad things. More significantly they are inevitably going to have to intimidate/ coherce/ conscript (at least in a limited way for limited tasks) and steal. The last Matthew Bracken book had a good portrayal of this. It is fine and dandy to think about killing enemy soldiers or traitors but what about a shop keeper, small business owner or average joe trying to get by in a crazy situation? This is where those shades of grey continue to be problematic. Sure capping a dude who you estimate to be 90% evil is an easy decision but what if you think he is 52% evil?
The blunt and honest situation, if you look at accurate real life examples, is that insurgents are eventually going to have to force some sort of goods, services or information out of people who are not willing to give it. It is truly unavoidable. The 'cause' is going to bump into some decent normal people who just want to live their lives. Shooting enemy soldiers is pretty clear cut but what about some average joe so you can get some food or fuel?
Before flaming this please realize that I am not saying all insurgents or insurgencies or 'patriots' are inherantly bad. Nor am I saying that some causes they could stand for are not entirely just. Personally I can say there are some situations where I would start collecting information, sabotaging and destroying infrastructure and killing enemy personnel. It would be like a more boring but also more effective Red Dawn. I am a pragmatist and thus believe that the ends can justify the means. My main point is that folks need to get off of a high, morally superior horse and come to terms with the fact that being a successful insurgen is going to mean doing some bad things. It is also going to mean doing some bad things to people who probably don't really deserve it.
Maybe it is easy for Americans to have a nice sanitized 60's Western PG view of this sort of thing because our Revolution was a really long time ago and our civil war is also beyond real authentic memory. We can say that in America these things are fine, clean and noble. We can also use cultural, ethnic and racial steriotypes to think that revolutions and civil war's in other parts of the world are not dirty, nasty and violent because of their inherant nature but because these people are somehow inferior to us. Anyway onto the next point.
Insurgents are successful largely (or at least in part) because they can effectively intimidate the populace. To burst your bubble even further they don't intimidate people because they are tough, virtuous and have neato rifles; but instead because they prove very willing to cripple, main or kill those who do not bend to their will. Night letters are a great example of the power insurgents can have. A night letter is just a letter, posted at night and attributed to a given group that gives a warning/ threat. For example lets talk about Afghanistan. Here is a story that isn't exactly true but is very like a lot of true stories. Those crazy Americans think it would be nice to teach girls (oh their wacky western ideas) to read, do basic math and stuff like that. Lets say they go to months of effort and great expense to build and set up a nice school for these girls to learn some stuff. They hire a teacher and all that too. The night before the scheduled big opening of the school the teacher gets a letter stuck to his door. It says "If you teach those girls, we will cut your head off" and is signed by the local insurgent group. No way the teacher is going to deal with that. He may or may not do a lot of things the next day but sure as hell isn't going to that school! The reason this letter is effective is not because the insurgents are pure of heart or have nice rifles; but because the insurgents have a track record of cutting people's heads off. They have probably cut the head off of a couple people from the teachers village for whatever reason.
While I am diametrically opposed to the Taliban's perspective on educating young girls I cannot say their methods aren't awesomely effective. An insurgent in another place, provided they were willing to do what it takes to establish the kind of credibility required to get this sort of reputation, could accomplish a lot of things with night letters. Maybe the evil occupiers have a base in your area. On that base they have toilets and since they are exceeding the capacity of that system they have plumbing issues. They hire a plumber who then gets a night letter. Either the insurgents have already earned through blood some credibility and he quits or it takes till plumber #3 for them to get that credit. Night letters flow well into my next point.
Insurgents are never on an even playing field with the government/ occupiers. If they go life for life and dollar for dollar they will quickly lose. However if they can find a way to negate or otherwise tie up a significant amount of personnel, energy and money for a modest investment they are in business. Back to that night letter I talked about before. Lets say the occupiers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as lots of time and energy on a project and that project can be nullified by the insurgents posting a single letter. Even a force with lots of men, money and resources can quickly be worn down when the their large investments are countered by the 25 cents it costs to write a letter.
IED's are another great example. A fairly smart Iraqi bomb maker (specialized insurgent skill) with some electrical skills and a flair for creativity makes a new type of bomb. It costs $500 in components and a couple days of his time. Call it $750 just to have a number. That bomb blows up, messes up a vehicle and kills a few people. The Americans send numerous experienced specialists to study this bomb. Then the Army Center for Lessons Learned, EOD and numerous other groups and contractors spend a ton of money figuring out how to defeat this new threat. Millions of dollars are spent which then creates a new system or product. That product is created and fielded to as many groups as possible as quickly as possible. It costs tens of millions of dollars on the low end. So for an investment of $750 the insurgents killed 3 guys, wrecked a truck, tied up countless thousands of man hours and MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
Insurgents can do well with this sort of techniques. Not flashy like direct action missions and that stuff but far more useful. Even if the enemy is 20x stronger and 20x better funded by using techniques that tie up vastly disproportionate amounts of their money and time they can be worn down into defeat.
I guess in closing being an insurgent is not a nice business. They do really bad things, sometimes to pretty decent people. If you don't believe that the ends justify the means then I suggest another hobby. If you do choose to be an insurgent then use the fear your group envokes to your full advantage. Also plan and conduct operations that will tie up disproportionate amounts of the enemies time, money and resources.
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.
The first one was well received and I really enjoyed writing it. I've been thinking on the topic again recently. In no particular order.
One thing I find incredibility amusing is that so many folks who could be called wanna be insurgents (lets face it the difference between a freedom fighter/ patriot and and terrorist is if they are on or against your side) completely ignore fitness. I like the term insurgent largely because it is relatively judgment neutral. You see the old school videos of the Michigan militia or whatever and it is usually a bunch of fat old guys standing there shooting rifles. Seriously insurgents do not fight static fights. They initiate an ambush or blow a bomb or conduct a raid and get away really fast before a large group of better armed and supported individuals comes to kill them. This usually means being able to move on foot quickly for some distance. If you are 40 pounds overweight you will not be able to get away and you will die. Insurgency is a very Darwinian business and that doesn't go well for fatties and idiots.
Onto the topic of idiots. A man, or I guess a woman, has got to know his limitations. This means being careful and choosy about the kind of fight they get into. They need to pick a fight with the right group of individuals or in a place that suits their capabilities, ideally some combination of both. They also need to pick a fight that they can get away from. Unless you're down with the whole suicide thing you need a real solid exit plan.
In terms of numbers and weapons insurgents always face bad odds. However if 3 insurgents with knives find an occupier in a dark alley it doesn't matter that his side has the overall odds in their favor. The same could be said if a section or platoon sized element of insurgents hits a squad sized patrol and gets away fast enough to miss the QRF.
As some folks mention to me not everybody is in their 20's or 30's and physically fit. I would submit to you that there are a lot of lot of 40 and 50 often with numerous poorly treated wounds from decades of almost constant warfare. Those 40-50 something year old insurgents are giving our boys in Afghanistan hell but they are in shape. Saying that you are older and thus in horrible shape is an excuse, sorry but it's true. For a person with a truly (not you are obese and go figure your joints aren't handling the weight well) destroyed knee or back, some kind of other medical problem, etc the idea of being an active rifleman in an insurgency while it has a certain mystique just isn't realistic. That is OK though.....
Why is that OK? Well the first reason is that it's life. If you have MS then running all over the place doing direct action stuff just isn't realistic. If you have a destroyed knee then hiking 20k through the night to get to a perfect point to mortar a small outpost isn't realistic either. However unlike the "every man is a rifleman and we will fight together" propaganda reality is that only part of an insurgencies total participants are active combatants in the traditional sense. So there is still a role for people who can't go running and gunning, in fact there are many roles. How are there many roles you ask?
Think of our modern conventional forces. They are not composed entirely of Infantrymen and Armor guys but in fact there are numerous other units and jobs, some of which have almost nothing to do with killing people, blowing stuff up and holding territory.
Insurgencies would need explosives efforts, logistics people, medical folks, intelligence and many other types of skills. A 55 year old ER doctor with a huge gut and bad knees is more valuable than a squad or even a section of fit 20 year old guys who can carry a rifle. A boringly average 40 year old woman who had a mediocre job in local government and was able to remember stuff from work, write it down at home and pass it to the right people could be a huge intel asset. A guy who is able to discretely bring continuous if modest donations (from his buddies at the country club or the shooting range or church or whatever) coming in could keep the shooters in the field.
Even the most boring guy with no real skills could help by offering to run an occasional short term safe house. Meeting them at a good bland place and pulling into the garage before the people get out and them staying out of the front room with the open window would be all the security that is needed. All that would be needed is a bed or a cot, a stocked fridge/ pantry and some form of entertainment. Cable TV or a good stash of books and games would be sufficient. Most likely they would just sleep a lot and sit around. This would be a bad one for somebody with kids because even if coached they have no mental filters. Your 6 year old daughter talking about the strangers who come over for a few nights occasionally would cause real problems. This one would be best left to those without kids in the home.
Even a grandma who was willing to let somebody stash stuff in a false wall in the spare bedroom could be of a real help. Maybe she is just helping out or maybe she gets a few bucks now and then. Lots of inner city drug people keep their stash in the home of a seemingly innocent and unconnected family. The rent is paid and they let people drop off and pick up packages.
Insurgents need continued sources of revenues to operate. They have got to eat, purchase arms and ammunition and do all sorts of stuff that costs money. Typically this money comes from either outside donations (from a foreign power or well funded friends like the Saudi's) or coercing the local populace. Robbery, kidnapping and other general criminal behavior is also often employed to get funds to continue the fight. There is a reason that now and then you hear about some extremist group getting arrested for robbing a bank. It isn't that they want to rob banks parse but that they need money to fund future operations. That doesn't mean those are the only options. A small part time operation could require minimal funding because the participants have normal jobs support themselves that way. They would also have the advantage of good cover. Instead of being the 4 guys who live in an apartment, don't seem to have jobs and come and go at odd hours it would be Jim the accountant and his wife Sally the home maker, members of the Elks lodge and solid members of the community. Of course their OP Tempo would be a lot slower because no matter how motivated you are a normal job and life would greatly limit time to fight those darn occupiers. Also these folks would not be the backbone of a successful insurgency but that doesn't mean they couldn't be valuable members, particularly if they had access to Intel, useful skills or deep pockets.
As a final thought it might not be a bad idea to keep some stuff stashed though for survivalists that is old hat. Of course it is all but impossible to stockpile enough stuff to sustain an insurgency forever but it wouldn't be too hard to get a good start. Pretty hard to spend a couple days doing a recon without chow and if there is a way to shoot people without bullets I don't know what it is. Ammo that you can get now with the only limiting factor being your ability to pay might be next to impossible to get if through normal channels if supplies were interrupted due to restrictions because of a conflict. A couple hundred bucks worth of ammo now could be enough to do a lot of damage later.
Well I could talk on this topic for some time but I've got to go to bed.
"Partisans are free of supply worries only in the orthodox military sense. They can live without regular rations, blankets, underwear, shoelaces, and toothpaste. But they must eat."
-Leo Heiman, a veteran of the Rossokovsy Brigade of Russian Partisans