02/04/2007 10:42 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Abstention, Intelligence, Insurgency

Recent comments about the Pledge to Abstain have raised issues that I will cover in much more depth in The Insurgent's Handbook, which I will publish this year. The main subject that needs a bit of clarification is the initiative. Make special note that I use the article THE; because when discussing THE initiative in the context of tactical conflict -- which is what we are engaged in with the politico-economic rulers of the US on the question of the war -- "initiative" is not some generic thing, as we might suggest with the phrase oft stated, "take some initiative." THE initiative is a zero-sum game.

The initiative is something one side has at the direct expense of the other side in a conscious conflict. One side has THE initiative when it is taking the primary actions that force the other side to react. One side maintains THE initiative by "getting inside" the decision-cycle of the other side, that is, by taking actions that force reactions faster than the enemy can formulate coherent responses.

So THE initiative has a time dimension. The side that demonstrates the ability to take compelling actions faster than one's enemy is said to have a higher degree of "tactical agility."

THE initiative has an intelligence dimension, because actions are only likely to provoke RE-actions if those actions are based on a clear account of the enemy's organization, disposition, strengths, weaknesses, and objectives.

Finally, THE initiative depends on taking actions over which there is the maximum unilateral control; that is, dong things that do not depend on unpredictable forces or forces under the control of one's opposition. Obviously, we can never predict whether the opposition will react the way we might most like. That is not the issue of unilateral control... not our job, so to speak. The issue of unilateral control is over what WE do. If our success is based, say, on the weather... we are making a mistake. We cannot control the weather; and it is unpredictable. We can, however, withhold a vote. No one can force us to vote. The action in the Pledge to Abstain -- abstention -- is under our own power, unless we surrender it.

We need to inoculate people against counter-measures, so be advised... fear of Republicans will be deployed as a tactic to get us to surrender that power to abstain.

Electing Democrats in 2006 was similar in many ways to an old guerrilla tactic -- provocation-ambush. The small guerrilla force needs to attack the larger force, but the larger force is well-defended in a base. So the smaller guerrilla force needs to get them to leave the base and expose themselves so they can conduct an ambush (a surprise attack on a moving or temporarily halted target from a concealed position). So the guerrilla force starts some kind of trouble away from the base that provokes the larger force to send a reaction force; then the guerrillas have an ambush waiting along the route to hit the reaction force.

Handing the Democrats Congress in 2006 has exposed them to us. Now they are vulnerable. That vulnerability is to a very small force. They are holding onto Congress and hanging their presidential ambitions on what may be as little as 3% of the voting population in 2008 (this is intelligence). We don't need 50% to defeat the Democrats; and to make this defeat a viable threat now. They have what we want. The actual legal power to stop the war. We can make a credible threat to compel them to stop the war, or suffer the consequences, with as little as 3%. With 10%, that result is not possible, it is assured.

Anyone can sign the Pledge to Abstain (that's easy) and we want a lot to sign. But if that were to be a campaign, as explained in the analysis we published last week, then a campaign requires winning a series/network of battles. This threat of abstention now needs to be carried to each Congressperson and congressional candidate with rapid (tactically agile), audacious, and highly visible actions that win more people to the necessary, say, 5%... and show Congressional candidates for 2008 that unless they commit to cutting the money to continue the war, we will make good on our threat.

We have that power, right now. The power to abstain. The only way to lose it is surrender it.