Showing posts with label IED's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IED's. Show all posts

Friday, June 7, 2013

Excellent Linkeage

John Mosby continues the Combat Rifle Craft discussion

American Mercenary talks IED's

Chris reviews a Gen I night vision device

Teotwawki Blog's You Took Away Tomorrow series 

How to spot a concealed firearm. I see a lot of guns. If forced to unscientifically guess I see half to 2/3rds of the guns that are carried concealed in my immediate area. Bulges on the side of the waistline are an obvious one. Right or wrong I assume anybody wearing tactical garb (5.11 pants, Multicam hats with morale patches, etc all) is packing. Obviously folks wearing concealed carry/ photographer type vests who do not have a huge camera are packing. ANYBODY wearing a vest when it is 90 degrees outside is hiding a gun.

It isn't so much that these folks are doing anything wrong in terms of concealment. Just that folks know their own. Potheads can find potheads, gays can find gays, CCW folks can often spot their own. The guns I miss are 1) Particularly small and discretely carried. Hard to tell if somebody dressed normally has a little .22/.32/ .380 in their pocket or 2) The gun is on the side away from me or I just miss it thinking about other things or whatever.




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What If?

I started reading a book on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and it started something like this. "The saddest situations occur when both sides have a legitimate claim to being the good guys." Truly the situation that has occured and been perpetuated by various power players is a sad one for both sides.
What if we stopped giving the Israeli's, Egyptians, Palestinians and pretty much every other nation in that hotbed money and weapons? Aside from buying influence does making sure both sides are better armed really serve to help create a lasting peace? If you come outside to your tween boys fighting in the back yard do you give them each a stout stick? If your buddies get a bit rowdy at the bar do you give one a whiskey bottle and the other a knife? I don't think so.

Are we really helping Israel or are we enabling them to continue a dysfunctional conflict and not seriously search for a realistic solution? If we really care about the right of oppressed people to have an independent nation to call a homeland what about the Kurds or the Pastun's or the Tibetans?

Maybe one could argue that it is good for Israel that we back them with weapons, money and the implicit threat of force. However more to the point is it a good thing for America? Are we serving our independent needs and goals with these actions?

Even asking these questions could get me labeled an anti semite. That might concern me more than any position folks could take on the issue. Whipping out an "ist" every time you get questioned is the adult sociapolitical equivalent of a little  kid yelling "LALALALALALALALAL" or "I can't hear you" when they know their argument is losing.

I don't know what the answers are but asking questions might just be worthwhile.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Insurgencies (3?): Myths, Night Letters and Cost to Benefit Ratio

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.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts On Insurgencies....

Last week I got to talking with a co worker about insurgencies. Also I prioritized watching and really enjoyed a recent episode of FRONTLINE where a reporter spent 10 days with the Taliban. Based on these two things I have some thoughts on insurgencies in Iraq (more a couple years ago than now) and Afghanistan as well as elsewhere.

-First insurgents need to blend in with the population be it in a rural or urban setting. Of course their neighbors know what is up but they will not tell the occupiers. Insurgents out in a non typical for the area heavily armed compound never have a happy ending. However just another house or farm which has the normal comings and goings (versus say 30 military aged males) is not going to get noticed.

-Secondly insurgents have the ability to choose where and when they fight. To be blunt if they are on the defensive as anything but a delaying action before retreating from superior forces they get massacred. However if they choose a time and place that suits their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses they can do some real damage with a rifle and 4 mags a piece. Considering that US Infantry are likely carrying close to half their weight in stuff it isn't suprising that they can't catch the Taliban when they retreat. (There is a very interesting article called Bring Back The Light Infantry Projecting Combat Power More Effectively that you may get something out of ) .

While I do have a stark differences with the Taliban and their Al Queda friends (I want to kill them and they want to kill me) I can honestly say that they are very effective Light Infantry. They are very physically fit, highly motivated and adept at fighting in their environment. They know how to use their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They attack at times of their choosing with IED's and complex heavy weapons ambushes from outside of the engagement range of most of our organic platoon weapons. I hate pretty much everything they stand for but darn it I can't say they are not very good Infantrymen.

-I think a modern insurgency needs the ability to get at least a mobility kill against moving armored tracked vehicles. Without this the other side is able to move with impunity which is not a good thing for said insurgents. If the insurgents can't find an answer to this issue it is going to just massacre them. Insurgents can't win in stand up fights so if they also can't engage mobile forces they are pretty much done for. The way they are successful is by making the cost of conducting everyday operations (movement, log pacs, transport, combat ops, etc) high and eventually outlasting them.

Being able to (at least mobility) kill an armored vehicle means more than punching a hole in the side of it with a .50 cal. It requires anti tank mines, some sort of heavy IED's or genuine modern anti tank weapons. Usually manufacturing IED's is the most practical option as all it takes is some decent explosives and a bit of ingenuity. A reasonably motivated fellow with a bit of initiative and access to some sort of explosives could make an IED but making a home made Javaline missile is at best a difficult prospect.

- Insurgents have a hard time with communication. Particularly when facing a major modern military their attempts at any form of discrete radio or electric or electronic communication are futile. A modern highly skilled force that has almost limitless (at least relative to the insurgents) resources can break any form of electronic or radio communication insurgents are capable of fielding widely enough to be tactically useful. A few authors and bloggers talk about how various forms of COMSEC (namely digital encryption) which can be downloaded for free and used by anyone with half a brain can easily defeat group of dozens of PHD holding geniuses who have nothing but time and the most powerful computers in the world. If you didn't pick it up from the last sentence; to be very blunt I do not think the kind of COMSEC available to average normal citizens is good for much but keeping Barney Fife from the local PD from knowing what you are doing.

One technique which has been used with moderate success is pre paid anonymous cell phones. In some places they are really the only kind available anyway. The theory is that if someone on one anonymous cell phone calls someone on another one it is totally discrete. Easy wireless secure communications for prices any insurgent can afford.

Here is reality. People are lazy and stupid and modern methods of tracking/ snooping on cell phones are very good. This is how laziness and modern snooping collide. Lets say a dozen insurgents all have anonymous pre paid cell phones. Someones gets lazy and uses theirs to call their Moms house or their buddy at the local Mosque to ask what time the potluck is. Being as the people who are looking for them have done a good job in targeting they were snooping on Momma and the Mosques phone lines. They electronically snoop on the pre paid cell  phone now, really recording and searching for key words (bomb, Allah, US, soldier, rifle, Israel, whatever). Pretty darn quickly they realize this phone is of interest. Lazy Insurgent calls one of his co conspirators to talk about the big soccer game or planting some IED's. Now they got Co Conspirators number from Lazy Insurgent. Of course being smart they wait awhile and Co Conspirator calls a couple more Insurgent buddies and so does Lazy Insurgent. More likely than not the whole network gets taken down.

Insurgents have realized this to a certain degree. They realize that if nothing else due to sheer dumb luck (it is hard to track all the cell phone conversations in a decent sized town but they will sure listen to some)  that sooner or later their network is going to get infiltrated. Their answer to this is that it is easy enough to just toss a cheap anonymous cell phone and get another one. Seriously for $20 or so even your average small farmer/ insurgent can afford a new one, particularly with some help from their Saudi friend at the Mosque. However they can never seem to all ditch them at the same time. As we noted above with the way that these phones are tracked it does no good for one person to ditch theirs unless everyone they call and everyone who calls them does also, at the exact same time. Insurgents have a real hard time with this one for some reason.

The answer that Al Qaeda and the Taliban eventually came to is based on admitting that they will never be able to reliably use modern communication (radio, the internet, phones, etc all) securely. They went stone age simple and primarily rely on runners. The most sophisticated surveillance can't tell you what a scrap of paper in some guys pocket says or what the message he memorized means. This stone age method of communication combined with a a structure of cells which means the capture of any one person doesn't take everyone down is pretty effective.

Insurgents by and large just can't come up with a way to cancel out the problem of their enemy controlling the air. Not even Hamas has an air force. Without lots of money and great (from this perspective) connections getting your hands on decent man portable surface to air weapons is not realistic. The large occupying force controls the skies. Insurgents can mitigate this by blending into the population and doing things to not obviously look like insurgents. Having someone who watches the airfield the helicopters operate out of that tells them when they take off and in which direction would help a lot also. Drone aircraft are an interesting development but they don't fundamentally change the situation. Large well funded forces always controlled the skies.

Finally to close the biggest thing that benefits insurgents is taking a long view. As the Taliban say "you've got the watches but we have the time." Sort of like George Washington (a real old school insurgent;) and the Continental Army they do not have to win any battles, they just have to not get totally wiped out. Most insurgencies do not develop into full scale conflict where insurgents openly battle occupiers. If insurgents were capable of openly battling the occupiers and winning they would not be insurgents, it would be a conventional fight. It is more realistic that insurgents annoy the heck out of (yeah it is far more than annoying if it is your patrol/ convoy that gets shot to pieces but we are looking at the big strategic picture here) the occupiers until they decide the cost isn't worth it and leave. Insurgents want to make the cost of occupying their area higher than the occupiers are willing to bear.

I hope you found this somewhat informative and maybe even interesting as I spent a ridiculous amount of time writing it.
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