Lessons From the Animals: Similies, Metaphors and Allegories of Irregular and Asymmetric Warfare Also Useful for Whistle-Blowers and Anti-Imperialists
Lessons From the Animals: Similies, Metaphors and Allegories of Irregular and Asymmetric Warfare For Whistle-Blowers and Anti-Imperialists
by Jim Craven/Omahkohkiaaiipooyii
Mark Twain once noted that “History does not repeat itself; but it does rhyme”. That is no doubt due to the fact that within the often slowly-changing contexts and structures into which humans are born and in which they live embedded (geographical, historical, social, cultural, legal, political, economic), given the scarcity of resources relative to needs, and the basic requirements of human subsistence, given human capacities for rationalization and intrigue, given limits of current technology, all are factors that limit possibilities and diversity in human cognition, understanding, actions and tools/rationales for them.
Although some of the dominant themes and memes of the rulers of the few over the many have changed with new times, contexts and imperatives, along with changes in technologies of surveillance and repression of the many, yet there are also some recurring themes and memes, as well as tactics and instruments of rule over the long sweep of human history:
- false-flag operations;
- covert and clandestine provocations to provoke overt responses by a target state or group to be used to justify already-planned preemptive and illegal actions and wars;
- Trojan Horses;
- use of intellectuals and religious leaders to construct intellectual and theological rationales for the rule and the systems of rule of the privileged few over the many;
- control over the institutions of learning and education, culture, politics, law in terms of allowable content, instructors and instructional methods, connections and benefits;
Over the vastness of human history, which is nothing in comparison with the history of the planet, there are some constants although in varying forms and levels:
- The oppressed many have been used and ruled by the smug, entitled and ruthless few;
- The few who have ruled the many have always sought and asserted metaphysical and self-serving rationales for their rule (Manifest Destiny, Exceptionalism, Divine Right of Monarchs, Natural Law, Eugenics, Mandate of Heaven etc);
- The systems the few built to facilitate and justify their rule over the many (slavery, feudalism, capitalism) always had forms of both “soft” as well as “hard” power (nothing new here);
- Even the “scholars-in-residence” and other kinds of front-men of the rulers came up with constructs and algorithms of “smart” power, the “optimum” mix or recipe or algorithm, of hard, soft and in-between power and coercion. And this was long before the times of the Greco-Roman empires.;
- Plato’s Axiom” (Those who seek power are invariably the least fit to wield and hold it.”) was evident and confirmed over and over as it is today;
- Even the most barbaric and ruthless of empire builders, contrived pretexts for their preemptive and aggressive wars as well as “plausible deniability” for the covert, clandestine and false-flag actions that often preceded them (and were used to justify them as wars of “national defense” , or “national security”, or survival against an asserted eternal-by-its-nature– [and thus “existential”] threat);
- Even the most barbaric and ruthless of empire builders understood there were limits on fear, terror, torture and the like as tools and weapons of power and control over the masses. They also used divide-and-rule, bribery, blackmail, control of literacy and education, indoctrination, religion, mind control and other nominally “non-violent” instruments of repression and thought/action control;
- Empire-builders, have always written “full-spectrum-dominance” checks” with their grandiosity and mouths (overreach), that were to be paid with blood and treasure of others, and that had no prospect of lasting success due to the disparity between grandiose intentions versus actual capabilities in the face of fierce resistance;
- Entrenched interests, cronyism, nepotism and limited individuals produced military and other force structures, levels, capabilities and doctrines totally out-of-synch with the emerging forms, arenas and force structures/doctrines required in new types of wars;
- Empire-builders have always thought and conducted warfare on the assumed “axiom” that force decides all in warfare and that with enough force, and superior weapons and technologies of warfare, applied massive levels, insurgent, asymmetrical and irregular warfare can be made or tuned conventional like ramming a size-12 foot into a size-7 shoe and expecting the shoe to fit with enough force and stretching;
- The few who rule the many pinned their hopes on new technology to save them from or compensate for, the limitations and applications of existing technologies, the folly and barbarism of their own rule, the widening and deepening contradictions of their regimes, or the consequences of their own actions and technologies not foreseen;
- Forms and levels of consciousness and resistance among the masses change with changes in material conditions, level of development of the social formation, and nature and level of development of contradictions in the systems.;
- Rulers have always sought ways and instruments not only for the control and oppression of the many by the few, but also how the many could be manipulated and coerced into welcoming, self-justifying and aiding-and-abetting their own oppression and they have often been successful for a time;
- All offensive weapons are basic improvements on the spear and defensive weapons, improvements on the shield; history records many tit-for-tat “arms races” that led to the weapons having to be used in ways and in types of wars they were never intended for;
- Pretexts of war have not changed that much: “Existential Threat”; “Preemptive Attack Against an Imminent and Certain Danger” (“them or us, now bad or later worse”);
- Core reasons for war have not changed that much: “Territory”; “Strategic Resources, Investment Outlets, Geo-strategic regions, and Markets and Control over Them; Folly and Treachery of Mad men and women; Standing by Allies and Alliances; etc;
- Many of the core memes and themes of empire and war are recurring: “God is or the Gods are on ‘Our’ Side”; “Exceptional Empires have Exceptional Responsibilities Thus Need Exceptional Powers”; Ruthless Enemies Make Necessary and Justify Ruthless Methods”;
- Those who launched preemptive and aggressive wars never contemplated any possibility of losing thus no need for and consideration of: constructs and metrics for assessing victory and when achieved; plans for, having to negotiate as losers not victors; plans for post-war occupation and mitigation of potential insurgencies; critical institutions to be protected, developed or eliminated;
- Many of the basic forms and tactics of warfare and intelligence trade-craft and gathering have not changed that much; technologies and capabilities have changed but basic approaches and methods have changed little;
- Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Operations have often been linked-in with Counter-Terrorism Operations (CT) with the result that not only was CT used to garner quick and visible results for a war-weary public where COIN results, if any were much more protracted and difficult to see and measure, but also, the CT Operations wound-up sabotaging the COIN operations (hard to capture the hearts and minds of those who relatives just got killed from an errant drone strike); (As Nixon put it with his usual erudition when told that the war for hearts and minds in Vietnam was being lost: “Fuck hearts and minds, you got that? When you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”) The past and present contradictions between COIN-is and Counter-terrorism (CT) types, tactics and effectiveness are longstanding;
- The idea behind the COIN program, first introduced into Laos and Vietnam in the late 1950s, was that you cannot eliminate insurgencies and terrorism without addressing the conditions (historical, geographic, economic, political, legal, social, cultural) that give rise to them as no one is born an insurgent or terrorist. As the fish is to the water, the insurgent is to the people and not only must the fish be hunted, but the environment in which the fish swims (the people), has to be taken away with forced relocation, strategic hamlets, diversions, bribes, ideological conditioning and winning hearts and minds with service to those being recruited;
- So the SF special operators, in up to 12-man teams with members cross-trained in each other’s specialties, were seen as “anthropologists” and “nation-builders” with guns. When the instant results did not come, in Vietnam, when far more hearts and minds were being lost than gained, the argument became: “Well before we can win over hearts and minds, the people have to feel safe even to come near us or want to be seen with us. The terrorists are making sure we do not get close enough to those whose hearts and minds we need to win over, so we need counter-terrorism and “Stability Ops” before then during full-blown COIN ops. So came counter-terrorism (Provincial Recon Units, SOG, SEALS, Rangers, LRRPs) who were about killing or capturing–mostly killing–hearts and minds of high-value targets;
- Over many wars, over many historical periods, over many cultures and systems, new technologies and systems of of surveillance, coercion, war, COIN, CT, and covert/clandestine operations, developed and introduced to counter resistance of the many against the rule of the few, often to counter some advantages of irregular warfare and forces against conventional forces and doctrines, wound-up not only not as advertised and often impotent, but also were captured and turned against the very forces that developed and deployed them;
- Revolutionary and fighting spirit of masses of people, the real motive force of history, driven by a just cause, objective assessments of reality, correct theory genuinely grasped and freely accepted, sometimes also driven by less fear of death than of living under the present “Order”, can and will defeat any technologies and systems of repression no matter how sophisticated, how expensive, how purportedly omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent.
Studying the Animals:
When I lived and taught in India, in a small village surrounded by jungle flora and fauna with one small path between houses and out to one road, I was grateful to find my sandals chewed-up a bit. It meant that there were mongooses in the area. We had all kinds of snakes around (basic cobras, king cobras, kraits) and you always had to watch where you walked and bathed or when out at night. And on several occasions, I witnessed a cobra being killed by a mongoose. And I was reminded that the basic fighting styles of Kalliapaada, Wushu and other martial arts were based upon careful and scientific study of the offensive and defensive weapons and tactics of various animals.
They thought also, that general lessons of life and warfare could also be gained from the study of the ways and fighting/killing of various animals.
Please review these films if able to connect. What do you see? How does the mongoose, an apparently non-threatening and non-predatory animal to most species, always vulnerable to lethal toxins of its enemies, the cobra and black mamba especially, virtually always win against a snake known to be highly fierce, fast, often covert, lethal and striking without mercy? Why does each see and deal with the other as an “existential threat”? And what lessons and tactics can be drawn from these examples that have wider applications in the conduct of human affairs and warfare–ideological or otherwise?
First of all, Mongooses usually could not win if put up against a rattlesnake. Why? Because the rattlesnake coils and strikes from a coiled position that makes its reach and strike radius impossible for the mongoose to measure through repeated circles and half-strikes as it does around the cobra or black mamba. Both the cobra and black mamba raise themselves to strike, and their striking radius is limited and evident after a few passes by the mongoose. They are limited by their size, slow mobility and ability to raise-up to strike; whereas the mongoose is fast, agile, flexible, adaptive and the rest, that the cobra and mamba (partly due to their size, shape, mobility and nature) cannot match (unless the mongoose makes a mistake and moves to fast, or without fully sensing and assessing the cobra’s capabilities, striking radius and tactics and level of fear that will cause it to make mistakes when attacking or when attacked).
Notice that the when the mongoose first spots the cobra or black mamba, it does not immediately or directly show a lot of interest or go directly to attack. The snake initially is not sure it has even been spotted or if it has, that the mongoose will always stop and fight. Notice also that the mongoose initially circles the cobra, often looks away as if he had not yet seen the cobra, and several times appears to walk away from a fight only to return. Each time the mongoose is measuring not only the striking radius of the cobra or mamba, but also which direction and type of strike is the snake most vulnerable to.
The mongoose is adaptive and sometimes, the mongoose stays still, appearing to shake or be in fear (tightening the muscles in its legs to jump), the cobra comes down, the mongoose leaps straight into the air, and comes down on the back of the hood of the cobra and chews the spinal cord. Sometimes the mongoose will attack on the ground from the rear or side, and maneuver the snake to strike from the side of the hood and move to the rear.
The mongoose is sometimes hit by the cobra or mamba but it has a thick hide and from experience in killing its enemies, its hide gets toughened and more resistant, it takes its time and does not rush, but when it strikes, it makes sure there is no hesitation (as in handling snakes). But the mongoose, who has no lethal toxins of his own, uses basically “Mongoose Aikido” and uses the snakes own force, lack of speed and agility/flexibility, weight, and vulnerable points (e.g. behind the hood on on the hood a simple strike by a long stick that is used to and can kill a cobra) and patience and focus above all against the snake. The mongoose is sort of like Steven Segal using the opponents own weight, lack of speed, limiting striking radius and force as a weapon against himself often without having to throw a punch or kick (mongoose sometimes whips the snake around and snaps the spinal cord with force) or only one strike needed.
These are some of the lessons and metaphors and allegories that insurgents, who live among the snakes and other lethal flora and fauna they know from experience, and that they not only translate into martial arts, but incorporate into asymmetric and irregular warfare. There are also lessons here for irregular and asymmetric warfare between ideologies, social systems, paradigms and various state and non-state actors in global and national events and crises.