02/01/2007 08:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

On Strategy, Tactics & Intelligence

Our new site, Insurgent American, makes the claim that -- however nascent and unknown it is right now -- it is a "practical strategic resource."

It's time to flesh that out a bit more, because the antiwar movement appears to be at an impasse. A good deal of that impasse can be attributed to the near total failure of movement "leadership" to appreciate the relationship between strategy, tactics, and intelligence, except in the most superficial and schematic way. After all, no one teaches this stuff except the same people who have spent the last fifty years perfecting the methods that haven't worked for fifty years.

The reason this comes up now is the general panic, promoted by the Bush administration and the press, about an impending attack on Iran. This dubious proposition has successfully diverted the entire antiwar movement into shrieking through the streets about something that has not happened and abandining any strategically focused effort (if there was one to start with) to stop what is happening, i.e., a mass murder in Iraq conducted with our acquiescence and resulting in the loss of 700,000 lives and more than a million displaced persons in a nation of 27 million human beings.

Intelligence is information analyzed for its value to develop plans for action. Most of it, even in the world of government intelligence, doesn't come from breaking codes or running agents -- contrary to the media myths -- but from information that is readily available to everyone. Basically, that means if we do intelligence gathering and analysis right, then ours is going to be as good as theirs... maybe better, since we don't have bureaucratic ambitions and political agendas distorting ours as much.

Information has to be gathered, which means there has to be some criteria for what information to seek. The base criterion is always the goal of planned actions.

Then the information has to be subjected to some kind of analytical process; and that requires a method.

I could write a book on this, and may one day, but for now the important thing is to keep it simple. Information Selection Criteria. Analytical Method. My last job in the army was technically named "Special Forces Operations and Intelligence Sergeant." There are some pretty good reasons the job description combines these two things. Operational goals direct the intelligence effort; and intelligence (analyzed information) provides the basis for plans... if those plans have any prayer of working.

Ask Don Rumsfeld about this. Haha.

Just for the sake of argument, then, let's assume that the strategic (desired end-state) goal of the antiwar movement is to... oh, a shot in the dark.... stop the war?

Intelligence begins by using that goal as the lodestar, then doing an assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, and dispositions of "friendly forces" and "enemy forces," and relating them to their surrounding conditions. On this war, the basics are pretty apparent.

Strategy refers to the overall goal, the "desired end state" after all is said and done. Anyone who designs a grand strategy from beginning to end is a fool.

Ask former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Haha.

The best that can be hoped for in a constantly changing reality is a strategic direction. A strategy is a compass, not a route.

Midway between strategy and tactics are what the military calls "the operational dimension," i.e., campaigns. A campaign is a series of actions designed to achieve some intermediate objective that is required to get to the final goal. This is not linear. A + B + C does not equal D. Anyone who tells you it does is a fool.

Ask Donald Rumsfeld. Haha.

Campaigns are not routes, but things between us and our strategic goal.

Tactics are the techniques we use to win individual battles. They must be highly contingent, that is suited to a particular place and time and situation. Generals (or bureaucrats) who dictate tactics to Captains cause Captains to lose battles.

Ask Don Rumsfeld. Haha.

Tactics are the legs of the routes we select to get from here to there.

Now all we need is a map.

Intelligence is the map. It is not the real ground we have to go over, but as close as possible to a conceptual representation of the ground so that we can check ourselves along the way.

On our way to stop the war (strategic goal), we needed to first engage in a mass counter-propaganda effort to get more people to oppose the war with us (a campaign). Our original situation was that we were in the minority, so we had to stage mass actions to draw attention to our arguments and to the lies of the enemy. There was one-party rule that extended across all branches of government, and it had enough popular support to act with a certain amount of impunity.

Over the river and through the woods we went, and now a lot has changed. But the main things that changed, from an intelligence perspective, was that we won the counter-propaganda campaign and the one-party lost its footing in one branch of government. Our enemy has two parties, but they fight with each other, so that gives us opportunities for tactical exploitation of this division.

Intelligence looks at the relative strengths and weaknesses of the friendly and enemy forces; and good operations design actions that match our strengths to their weaknesses.

So let's review the intelligence bidding. We won the counter-propaganda campaign. We facilitated a split (weakness) within the enemy's redoubt in the 2006 elections. Those are pretty big changes. This means that our situation has fundamentally changed. When the situation changes, then we have to rely on something called tactical agility to adapt to the changes faster than the enemy can. We have to change our tactics and our tactical goals to fit into a new campaign that fits the new situation. We do not keep doing the same things.

People who do the same thing when the situation changes are fools.

Ask Rumsfeld. Haha.

Now, let's talk briefly about resources. Let's talk about time and space. I live five hours from Washington DC. If I go to DC, it takes X amount of gas, or X amount of money, to get there. I will spend ten hours on the road. If there are pressing matters at home, then I may not be able to go there. This situation has a certian universality about it. It doesn't only apply to me. If I try to plan to get others from around here to DC, then I will face a host of circumstances that limit the number of people who go to DC. This also requires committees of people to do the planning and coordination. The more space and time that has to be approriated to accomplish one tactic, the more work there is to do on "management." This is not military science. This is physics applied to sociology. Management requires greater and greate degrees of centralization. This dynamic, in turn, diverts a higher and higher ratio of resources into and expanding management infrastructure, that is taken away from somewhere.

Let's talk about accountability (or I prefer to call it vulnerability). I have a Congressperson whose office is a 25 minute drive from here. I live on the outer edge of this district, so most of his constituents live closer. My Congressman is more vulnerable to me than anyone in the Executive Branch of the United States Government.

Now let's go back to resources. I can fit in a 50 minute round-trip to his office, and even a day of action, much more easily than I can a ten-hour round trip. This situation also has an element of universality. It is easier to get more people to go to something that is 20 minutes away than five, or 10, or 15 hours away. N 'est pas?

Taking this intelligence assessment a step in another direction, a related one... the Executive Branch is not going to stop the war; and they are not subject to another election, so we have ZERO leverage to make them do anything. They are strong; and we are weak. (Reminds me of that church song.)

Anyone who matches his or her own weakness to the enemy's strength is a fool.

Ask... oh you know who.

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, consists of people who have to stand for election every two years. One third of the Senate has to stand for election in 2008. Most of all, there are about 200 Democrats who apparently have aspirations to become the Chief Exec in 2008.

Democrats won in 2006, but they did not win by a lot. It is safe to say that if 15% of those who voted for Democrats abstained in the 2008 elections, in which Giuliani is likely to be the GOP candidate for Prez, and the neocon clique is likely to be sent quietly back to their $1,500,000 a year consulting gigs and think tanks, then the Democrats contending for both the Executive and Legislative branches would be defeated. In other words, a dedicated 7.5% of consiously single-issue antiwar voters has more than enough power to make or break the aspirations of hundreds of Democrat candidates in the 2008 elections. They are weak; and we are strong.

And we are asking for one thing, a thing that most people in the US now want, so there is less risk associated with giving us what we want -- stopping the war -- than there is with going along with thier own Party Aparatchiks. The Executive Branch WILL not give us what we want; but the Congress CAN give us what we want. They can do that by cutting all funds to continue the war. This also cuts any funds for opening another combat front in Iran (though if the Bush adminsitration does this, they will quickly get a lot of US troops and others in Iraq killed, because the American "allies" in Iraq are all Iranian partisans).

Here is the thing. In terms of evaluating the "friendly forces" for this intelligence assessment, some are friendlier than others. The "movement" is full of moles from the Democratic Party, which -- as an institution -- is part of the enemy forces. When an effective strategic direction is established, and when effective tactics are being used, these moles will do everything in their power to change the direction back and to put a halt to the tactics.

A "mole" is an enemy agent who burrows into the friendly camp.

This is an important intelligence consideration, because the tactics that are likely to be effective, which I'm getting to, will be opposed for all sorts of painfully nuanced reasons; and the reasons the nuance will be so tedious is that the true agenda is hidden. When you hear these painfully nuanced arguments, you will know who the moles are. Their agenda is to elect Democrats. That is not the same as stopping the war. Let me say that again with some emphasis.

Electing Democrats is not the same thing as stopping the war.

The war in Vietnam ended after a Democrat was defeated for supporting the war. This is not unimportant.

We can argue elsewhere whether or not stopping the war is an issue that transcends all other isssues, if they are placed in opposition to one another. For a number of reasons, I think this is true, but as I said... another place. This particular missive is directed toward those who -- like me -- think that ending this bloodbath has the absolute highest priority.

So... if we have the leverage (provided we are willing to make a credible threat to abstain in 2008 for any candidate who fails to vote against further funding for the war -- all this other shit they are proposing is evasion); and if the points of maximum vulnerability (or accountability) are in the Congressional districts; and if we can muster more strength for more direct action against the most appropriate targets there; then taking this demand to the Congresspersons (and any future candidates) locally is matching our strength to their weakness.

So the strategic goal is stop the war. The campaign is to force Congress to defund the war, using the power of the people who have turned against the war and concentrating it locally.

Now back to intelligence and tactics.

There is a dimension of intelligence that corresponds to every level of conflict: strategic, operational, and tactical. Tactics are techniques desinged to win battles. Battles take place close to real time; they engage actors in the highest possible degree of specificity battles subject actors to the highest possible degree of unpredictability. That's why they must be led, not managed. Managers use calendars. Leaders look at their watches. Managers deal with abstraction. Leaders deal with food, weather, traffic, outbursts, accidents, cops... Tactical agility is the ability to see changes in the situation, understand the implications of those changes, then adjust and exploit those changes with decisive action more quickly than their opponents.

Information at this level, which also has to be collected and analyzed, is tactical intelligence. Start collecting now. Get their voting records. Get their public statements. Find their intenraries, their pubic appearances, their office hours, their home address, the names and addresses and phone numbers of their friends and relatives. Develop a comprehensive local media list, and visit editorial boards. Locate antiwar veterans and military families. Identify party functionaries. Locate the precincts (you may stand at each on election day with a sign that says, "I am abstaining from voting for X because he refused to stop funds for the war."). List your allies and their phones and emails. Find writers, and identify blog and alternative media outlets to bypass corporate media. Get county precinct maps from election boards (in case you will need to canvass). Identify public events and tabling opportunities. Find spokespersons for local radio and teevee. Research public spaces, traffic patterns, trespass laws, parking availabilities. Get it? Intelligence! When you begin to collate this stuff, the best actions tend to jump out at you... and they will always be surprises, first to you.. then to them.


That's why centralization of effort is appropriate to win a counter-propaganda campaign, and why the "national leadership" is largely irrelevant in the coming period, when we need a thousand leaders who are oriented to their own battles and not the diktat of the Central Committee. We've got the mission. "Cut the money." Now let each of us work on this in the way that fits our own unique situations.

We don't need nationwide any longer. We don't need statewide any longer. We need 435 small units that support our supporters, afflict our enemies, and lay seige to the recalcitrants.

Match our strengths to their weaknesses. Be not afraid.

And stop the mass murder in Iraq.