Prepping, Post-SHTF and Counterinsurgency

I finished re-reading Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam over the weekend. (It’s a MUST READ; non-negotiable for preppers and Patriots.) After talking with a few friends, it dawned on me that formulating a defense plan for post-SHTF preppers is a lot like planning for the counterinsurgencies of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Preppers need not become experts on counterinsurgency, but I recommend learning the tenets and learning from others’ experiences.  There are (at least) three reasons why preppers should learn about counterinsurgency: re-establishing local governance, taming the criminal/irregular threat, prioritizing missions with competing resources.

(Re-) Establishing Local Governance.

Unlike the other forms of warfare, counterinsurgency (COIN) is population-centric.  As the populace goes, so goes the conflict.  COIN is a battle for legitimacy: in a vacuum, who has the rightful authority?  That boils down to perception, which is why its critically important (can’t stress that enough) to be able to influence the populace and win them to your side.  We do that, in part, by providing for them. We provide security firstly.  One thing I’ve learned in dealing with Iraqis and Afghans, and I can extrapolate from there to include the entire population of the world, is that most human beings want security; they want to see their children grow up and be successful.  They don’t want to live in a war zone; they don’t want to live in fear of being blown up by an artillery round or an IED.  They want peace and security because peace and security mean prosperity.  Therefore, the populace is much more willing to support whichever side is able to provide that peace and security, as a general rule of thumb.  In other words, they will support the faction that seeks justice, upholds the rule of law, and prosecutes those who break the law.  If you’re not scoping out your local and county law enforcement and learning about their abilities to provide peace and security for the populace (and where they plan to provide it; it won’t be everywhere), then you have an enormous intelligence gap to fill.  Work on filling that soon; start this week.  (It’s as simple as a conversation and asking some questions.  It’s really no more complicated than that.)

Infamous Chinese communist guerrilla leader Mao Tse Tung referred to the populace as the water in which the fish (guerrillas) swim.  That is, the guerrillas use the populace for mobility and support.  Fish get from Point A to Point B by swimming in the water, and that water completely sustains them.  They get everything they need from the water.  Depending on the situation, you may be battling guerrillas in the form of criminals and gangs, or you may be a guerrilla fighting off tyranny.  Today we’re focusing on the former scenario: grid-down, looting, survival.

If there is a lack of governance, perceived or physical, then tribalism will be a likely result.  The people in Area A are going to build a community government, the people in Area B will live under the ‘government’ chosen for them by local gangs, and anyone not in one of those two categories may just live far enough out that life goes on, regardless of government.  (Now before we start a philosophical argument about the need for government, I’m defining government as the mechanism that enforces the rule of Constitutional law and generally protects the citizens from each other.)  So when you look at your area, consider under which category you’ll fall.

Part of the great battle in areas of Iraq and Afghanistan was supporting a local government that was corrupt, incompetent, or both.  (Often times, it seemed that incompetence bred corruption, and corruption led to further incompetence.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?)  Because of standing up good governance was so problematic, the Army introduced Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT).  The PRTs were groups of military leaders, political scientists, social scientists, engineers, agricultural specialists, and other professions with the mission of advising provincial and local government to better enable governance.

One of things I’ve brought up before is just what happens after survival.  Whether you think it’s an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), or fiscal collapse, or government collapse, whatever; Event X happens and then it’s time to rebuild.  (Or maybe there is no specific Event X, and we just continue a decline while we see dramatic increases in lawlessness and an inability to provide security.)  Are you going to lead the charge in rebuilding or aiding a lawful government, or are you going to have government, lawful or not, be built around you?  Preppers may find themselves in situations where they essentially have to act as part of a PRT in aiding local law enforcement or local government (or county law enforcement/government).  We absolutely cannot forgo planning for rebuilding, or supporting established, lawful government in the wake of an emergency.  It’s for this reason that we ought to learn as much as we can about maintaining good governance during a conflict/counterinsurgency.


Defense Against Irregular Threats.

A large part of the reason why I compare likely post-SHTF environments with a counterinsurgency is because of the tribalism and likely insurgencies that will occur in those vacuums.  There are what we call “irregular threats”.  Those are the criminals, gangs, tribes, whatever, who have an agenda.  It may be survival in the case of the common criminal looting out of a need to survive, or it may be establishing a fiefdom in order to implement a gang or tribe’s ideal government (which may be very un-idealistic for you).

Going back to COIN operations, we’re talking about a population-centric approach.  Did killing everyone really work in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Nope.  Yet that seems to be the post-SHTF strategy for so many.  And that’s a really intellectually lazy (not to mention immoral) way to conduct post-SHTF business.  Instead of being in prolonged conflict, our goal should be instead to influence the populace capable of being influenced.  Violent criminals and gangs will always exist but I don’t accept a foregone conclusion that they have to exist where I live.  Earlier this year, I wrote about the Four D’s: Defend, Diminish, Deny, and Defeat.  That should be the basis for all our mission and security planning.  We absolutely must stop thinking about defense in linear terms; that is, we can’t keep thinking that the only way to deal with threats is to kill them.  Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves why they are threats in the first place.  What makes them my enemy; for what reasons are they seeking to do me harm?  If it’s something as simple as because they want to survive, and for no other reason, then that’s great news!  If I help them become more self-sufficient and survive, then I may have just removed an adversary from my area of operations (AO).  (I get that it may be a little idealistic, however, we can’t assume that everyone who has nothing is a mortal enemy.)  A lot of prepper groups aren’t that concerned with Leroy Jenkins, but are very concerned about their unprepared neighbors who might be, by one-sies and two-sies, driven to violence in order to help their families survive.  If you can find alternative means – maybe food for intelligence information (the M in MICE) or improving their survivability – then not only are we reducing the threat but we’re also increasing our intelligence networks.

Now, for all the threats who can’t be persuaded – the ideological socialists or communists, the progressives, the racists, the adversaries who want to abolish the Bill of Rights, the warlords, the gangs, etc. – then we have to start invoking the Four D’s so we can achieve our rightful and lawful will.  Use that Four D’s article as a refresher about how to defeat this set of threats.  Remember: our fight against them is population-centric.  If we can turn the populace – our neighbors – against these threats, then our security will improve.  If the threats are able to turn the populace against us, then we face an existential threat.  As the populace goes, so goes the conflict.


Competition for Finite Resources.

Finally, resources are finite.  We have limits on manpower, limits on time, and limits on supplies.  We must prioritize our missions to reflect that reality and conserve our resources.  From the introduction to the Chicago Press version of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual:

Thinly stretched occupying forces were particularly brutal.  Atrocity was their economy of force… Moreover, they were less concerned with with attaining legitimacy than obedience.

‘Economy of force’ is a military concept describing accomplishing the mission with the least amount of resources necessary.  We don’t put a battalion at an observation post because that’s far too many resources dedicated to a mission that can be accomplished by a squad.  We didn’t send an entire corps of soldiers into Grenada because it would only take roughly a division.  When faced with finite resources, we absolutely must incorporate ‘economy of force’ into our planning.

Back to the quote: atrocities win battles but lose wars, especially in this day and age.  We earn the populace by “attaining legitimacy” and not by behavior modification through fear, intimidation and coercion.  Fearful populations are resentful populations.  Resentful populations might not openly oppose you, but they’re willing to cooperate with a viable alternative.  Therefore, we must seek to be a viable alternative when faced with oppression.  In my mind, that’s the largest component the Liberty movement is missing — a viable alternative.  We have plenty of alternatives but most realize that those alternatives are just the lesser of two evils.  Don’t become the lesser of two evils; don’t kill the Constitution in the process of saving it.  As a friend of mine said to me last weekend, “You don’t get morality from immorality.  You don’t get good government from bad government.”  (His name is John Ainsworth, hands down one of the smartest men I’ve ever met.  His website is America’s Remedy and his introductory video will challenge your beliefs that your participation in politics is worthwhile, if not convince you otherwise altogether.)

Back to mission planning, we start with our objectives.  Our objectives should be immediate security first, then (re-) establishment of good governance at the local level.  Then we ask ourselves, “What are the paths that lead to our objectives?”  The annihilation of imminent threats comes to mind; then security patrolling.  Then comes community outreach, building or repairing critical infrastructure, and tracking down the remaining threats in order maintain peace and security.  I can’t prioritize these things for you, however, these few items should be on the lists of most Patriots and preppers.  You very well may not have the resources to accomplish all these goals.  Accomplish what you can, or find a place now where you’ll be able to accomplish these objectives.

If you’re interested in implementing COIN into the rebuilding process, an action highly beneficial, then Chapters Four and Five of Counterinsurgency Field Manual discuss planning and implementation in great detail.

If there’s enough interest, then I’ll start going through some of the COIN books and manuals and writing out the “Cliff’s Notes” versions.  Otherwise, I will probably get to work describing intelligence support to COIN operations.


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