Last week, we talked about key civilian lessons from the Russo-Ukraine Conflict. Today, I would like to discuss some more. While the lessons are from the Ukraine conflict, they can be applied to any armed conflict, civil disturbance, or emergency in general. This brings us to today’s Tactical Wisdom:
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars,
but see to it that you are not alarmed.
The first topic is rumor control. Rumors are flying about atrocities on both sides and while some are true, most turn out to be false or exaggerations. The key thing here is to learn how to vet information. For example, if I see three different people who shared the same tweet, that’s not confirmation by 3 sources; it’s one source you’ve seen three times. That’s a vital distinction.
Another thing to note is the sheer abundance of “OSINT” or “Open Source Intelligence” accounts and what they mean. OSINT accounts are not automatically true. They are gathering information from the same sources you have access to, hence the term OSINT. They don’t have any exceptional access, it just sounds “official”. Our researchers at the Council on Future Conflict as well as our friends at Forward Observer (www.forwardoserver.com) have found that several of them have ties to Russian or Ukrainian military and are psychological operations designed to shape your opinion.
A great resource to learn how to handle rapidly developing events and the information they create is a book coming out on April 1st by my friend, Dr David Perrodin, called The Velocity of Information. It discusses human behavior and action in a crisis, and features a chapter written with input from yours truly, explaining how to verify information and sources. Doc does a great job presenting this whole chaotic phenomena and presents it clearly.
We have seen deaths at Russian checkpoints and many videos of civilians challenging occupying forces. There are also reports of Azov Regiment units killing people fleeing the city of Mariupol at checkpoints. This reminds me of situations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the GWOT where we had civilians shot for approaching our positions as well. For our purposes, it doesn’t matter which side is doing the shooting, what’s important is that we understand the danger.
War is a fluid and dangerous situation. The best option for civilians, as I point out in my books, is to AVOID checkpoints at all costs. During the unrest in KwaZulu Natal last year, we saw people stopping at checkpoints that later turned out to be armed robbery sites. You should never approach armed formations if you can avoid it, no matter how official they appear or which side they support. I say this because we saw Ukrainian police open fire on journalists. It’s a stressful time and all sides will be keyed up.
This danger doesn’t apply just at military checkpoints in wartime. We saw assaults at BLM roadblocks, and 2 homicides at ANTIFA checkpoints at the CHAZ/CHOP area.
Gather information from local sources on where checkpoints are. Talk to other people who have seen them or gather reports via radio. A great tool for this throughout the world is CB radio. Even during war and protests, truck drivers will be out and talking to each other. Listen in and gather information from their chat, warning each other of checkpoints.
As you are doing your area study and planning routes, make sure that you are avoiding areas in which checkpoints are common. These would be on main roads, near government or city center areas, and at freeway entrances and exits.
We are seeing lots of videos of civilians capturing looters and then taping or tying them to trees, stripping them, and beating them with sticks. While it seems right to punish looters, that’s not our role. It ceases to be self-defense once you have someone in custody, and it then becomes an assault. In most US States, using a stick makes it a felony assault and while citizens are generally authorized to make citizen’s arrests, they are never authorized to mete out punishment.
It’s important to retain our morality in a WROL situation. It is easy to envision ourselves as police, judge, and jury. It is a very short road from abusing prisoners to burning them at the stake. Retain your morality. Sure, they shouldn’t be stealing, but we also don’t get to assault people.
Remember, law and order will most likely be restored eventually. You will have to answer for what has happened. Our basis for protecting our property and local community is common law. Common law self-defense and citizen arrest principles allow us to use force to defend ourselves and a local community (militia/posse concepts), to detain lawbreakers and turn them over to the magistrate, but NEVER to punish offenders.
So, what can we do? Well, we can drive off looters as our first option. If they don’t leave at a show of force, we can detain them (forcibly if necessary), and under common law principles, remove them from the local area and send them on their way or turn them over to the authorities, if they are functioning. We should not be deciding on punishment ourselves. We are about defense, not punishment. Consult your local and state laws, but most follow these common law principles and in a WROL situation, we can revert to common law in the absence of functioning government and legal system.
We are also seeing civilians begin to protest occupying soldiers in many areas. While I completely understand, an occupying power is not likely to ever be swayed by protests and is likely to violently respond. They likely have orders to pacify the civilian populace and force is how that is accomplished. Protesting is dangerous and can lead to reprisals.
Am I saying don’t resist? Not even a little. I’m saying don’t do ineffectual things that draw attention to yourself. Our fourth volume, TW-04, Scouting & Patrolling, will introduce skills and tactics that will help. Rather than protest, locate a supply convoy and ambush it to destroy supplies. Conduct sabotage. Develop information for your national forces and get it to them. These things are far more effective than merely protesting.
Resist smartly, as well. There was a video this week of someone throwing a Molotov cocktail against the side of an armored vehicle. The liquid and flame bounced off the vehicle and back onto her and her compatriots. Don’t launch attacks you don’t have the skills for and learn what is effective first.
Occupying forces are handing out food and supplies and we are seeing long lines of people accepting the food. Remember what I’ve said about this, the moment you rely on anyone else for your food, you can be forced to do anything they want. Be self-sufficient. If you want to pick up extra food, sure, go ahead, but don’t RELY on handouts from either side.
A side issue to this is that your neighbors may brand you as a collaborator if you accept handouts. Every war in human history has involved people conducting retribution against whomever they perceive as a collaborator.
Truthfully, the best option is to get out of the occupied area and retain your own freedom of movement. I realize that is not always feasible, but if we are truly prepared, we should have a plan to get out of the area. If you intend to stay, you want to remain as gray as possible, to avoid drawing the attention of your occupiers. It might seem cool, as we saw this week, to be the guy with your local flag who jumps on an occupier’s vehicle, but the fun ends when they come get you in the night. Resist that temptation; you can better serve the resistance by being less vocal and more gray while observing and passing that information on.
As tensions begin to mount or civil disturbances increase in your area, develop a plan to either leave or go completely gray and unnoticeable.
I hope that discussing these issues help you plan and prepare.
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