The objective is to coerce other players to do what you want.
"Coerce" means they don't want to do it, but want even less the damage
you will inflict if they refuse.
If the other players were anything but humans, this would be so easy
we wouldn't call it war. We long ago gained the social and tool
sophistication needed to shape, mold, or if need be kill any mountain,
sea, plant, or animal. But when the other players are humans it gets
- Some will probably survive our first attack, and the survivors
will fight back.
- They may win. Resistance groups are notoriously good at
stalemating and eventually defeating invaders. If all they do is kick
you out of their space, that may seem a safe bet for a play at empire
building. But what if they come attack you at home? Did you plan for
- If you were really nasty early on, and then lose, you can expect
hard times. These considerations have led to independent evolution of
"rules of war" in many places. "Counting coup", "first blood", "no
poison gas", "don't harm women and children", etc.
Warriors generally understand this. People with power but no
reasonable expectation of losing may not. Police, prison guards,
presidents, plutocrats, and pundits tend to be eager to bend the
- They are intelligent. To defeat them will require that you
understand their motives and methods. Can your own culture survive
exposure to an alternative point of view?
- They may be morally superior. If you are comfortable in your
role as exterminator, enslaver, and empire builder, then it doesn't
matter if they are morally superior. But if your own power stems from
a culture which prides itself on being the "good guy", and helping the
downtrodden, then you will be in danger of losing the war at home even
if you have superior force abroad.
This gets awkward when the ruling elite accept the role of enslaver,
but proclaim their "good guy" role to the citizens. You have to
ensure the citizens never see the reality of what you are doing.
Controlling the media message, destroying those who question you, and
wrapping yourself in the flag are critical parts of your toolkit.
The opponent is a human and thus a model builder/user. Therefore we
don't have to actually carry out attacks to get a desired response.
It is possible to threaten to do so. The opponent shrewdly estimates
the reality of the threat (vs a bluff) and makes his move.
This only works if you have demonstrated a) access to force and b)
willingness to use it. In other words you need credibility ("street
Some people are willing to go to war just to establish credibility.
They are banking on winning the war, no matter how flimsy the pretext.
There is a problem with this tactic: It is very hard to win a real
war. Doing so requires the good will of the citizens. That good will
is available only for causes which are seen as necessary for the full
extent of the war (not just for its inception).
The danger is not just that a leader will start a war on false
pretenses and thereby waste lives and resources. The real danger is
that doing so makes the state more vulnerable to attack later, because
no-one believes when a real threat emerges.
This is known as "the boy who cried wolf". Or these days, "the boy
who cried WMD."
Citizens cannot afford to squander their readiness to fight when it is
really needed. They will reasonably get rid of leaders who do the
Who should you threaten? You want to control the actions of a state
and its citizens. Either you have to threaten them one at a time, or
you can threaten the leaders and let them use the normal mechanisms
of the society to direct the state's actions.
If you target the leaders, then you can threaten them as individuals
or as members of a ruling tribe. Merely threatening to curtail their
power (e.g., by exposing their hypocracies) may be sufficient to get
the desired response. Blackmail, extortion, bribery (e.g., campaign
contributions), and threats of assassination are the tools of the
If you threaten the population at large, be aware that this may
galvanize support for a potent response. Generally citizens put up
with their leaders but pay little heed. If directly threatened, they
will leap to the ramparts. A nation-state aroused to war is a potent
Either way, the opponent has the standard animal/mammal threat
reactions for danger to self, family members, and tribal groups. In
addition, as a human the opponent is vulnerable to threats to mental
constructs. Religious icons, culturally significant geography, or
even something as abstract as the group's language can be targets.
As a practical matter nothing is as effective as old fashioned threat
of bodily harm. Much of the engineering of warfare is devoted to
killing and maiming the other team, and preventing killing and maiming
of your team.
To kill-or-maim you must exert force on the other guy's body. You can
slice, dice, bludgeon, pierce, or blast to goo. You can also use
poison gas, foul odors, unbearably loud noises, germs, radiation,
poisoned water supplies. Whatever it takes to take the other player
out of the game.
It is generally assumed per "rules of war" (see above) that you will
pick your targets judiciously (thus the international concern about
bio-war, land-mines and high-altitude bombing). This means you have
to be somewhere in the neighborhood, and thus vulnerable to attack
yourself. This leads to an arms race for weapons which project force
from afar. See harding90. It is also an incentive
to use robots in the battle field.
Modern weapons and tactics are good enough that either side could win
if given a headstart. Thus it is critical to hit the opponent where
and how he/she does not expect it. Speed, secrecy, advance
information, and deception are the tools.
Deception in an era of global internet and cell phones with cameras
means lieing to your own citizens as well as to the enemy. You can
get away with this as long as you never misuse the gambit. E.g., the
BBC apparently tells the truth for years on end. Then just when the
British Crown needs it most, it will tell a whopper with the same
grace and charm used for cricket matches. In contrast, many media
outlets in the USA lie about anything remotely embarrassing to the
ruling-group, so the opponent is not deceived (though the US citizens
Speed and secrecy in many cases dictate small highly-trained teams.
Military organizations all over the world have established "special
operations" groups. The task is to get in, do the deed, and get out
before the opponent knows anything is amiss.
The typical highly skilled special ops warrior is not well paid.
Leaving the official military and joining the mercenaries gives a
massive boost in pay. It is also convenient for politicians to
secretly hire mercenaries to do things they can't formally require of
their official armies (e.g., posse comitatus). This win-win dynamic
makes mercenary armies a growth industry. All you need is an
unscrupulous ruling elite and a complacent populace.
Where small secret teams are not practical, we commit massive forces.
What we lack in deception we make up for in superior firepower.
Thousands of frontline warriors, backed by tens of thousands of
support staff. In the days of lances, swords, and arrows, the rear
echelon would be safe -- you could psychologically let down your
guard. Modern technology expands the depth of the battle zone so that
these days support staff (and the folks back home) are also subject to
attack. For both frontline and rear echelon troops, that attack can
be inhumane, unrelenting, and unexpected.
Keeping track of all these people in "the fog of war" is impossible
without delegation of authority. Warriors are commonly grouped in 5's
to form emotionally closeknit teams, then in 10's to form working
units. From there upward (usually by decades) armies (and navies) are
built in a hierarchy.
If the warriors can operate on their own (motivated, educated to a
common purpose, and capably of taking initiative), then you can
dispense with the higher level structures. A resistance movement
typically retains this flatter structure until it is strong enough to
take on the enemy in massed battle.
Warriors are humans, and thus need food, water, latrines, sleeping
quarters, spare clothes, medical attention, etc. They also need
weapons, weapon repair, ammunition, and transport to/from places of
battle. These combined efforts are the world of logistics.
A modern national army usually expects to provide all its own
It is sometimes possible to "live off the land", with or without
native cooperation. The extreme of "friendly" is a resistance or
guerrilla effort, where you can expect to be fed, re-supplied and
safeguarded wherever you knock on a door. The extreme of
"unfriendly" is to loot, rape, and pillage your way across the enemy
lands, destroying life in all forms (Sherman's March comes to mind.)
The USA maintains the most stupendously powerful armed forces the
world has ever seen. It is used largely for threat-based posturing.
To maintain credibility, ruling elites periodically send it off to
kill people. Except for the loss of a few thousand non-ruling-elite
military personnel and hosts of other non-ruling-elite humans, it is a
freebie for the ruling elite. All they have to do is assure the media
proclaims the exercise to be in the nation's best interests.
Since the USA is the premier military power on the face of the planet,
it is essential for ruling elites worldwide to control it. In the
crudest terms, bribes and blackmail do the trick. The more
sophisticated form is based on revolving doors.
Sometimes the other player doesn't respond to threats. This is often
a problem when a charismatic leader has galvanized opposition to your
plans. It is also a problem where you cannot conjure up an acceptable
reason to officially go to war. In these cases, you just want to
exterminate the other player, without arousing suspicion. Poisons,
drowning, car accidents, and aircraft accidents seem to be the tools
of the trade. Worst case, it is generally recognized as an
assassination but can't be pinned on you.
Sniping (long-distance rifle shots from hidden locations) is at the
boundary of threat and stealth. A sniper team (spotter and sniper)
may crawl for days through the countryside, pulling a drag-bag with
their tools. Then in dead of night, they dig in and camouflage their
position. They wait and watch for the opportune moment. Finally they
fire one shot ("one shot, one kill"). Then slink away just as
carefully. This level of skill also works from rooftops, apartment
buildings, and delivery vans from blocks away. In both rural and
urban settings, this is outside the normal range of lookouts and
bodyguards, and thus essentially undetectable. Apparently, different
weapons are used for different tasks:
- Crossbow or silenced .17 or .22: Short range stealth.
- .223: Standard issue, wall-of-bullets type weapon
not really suited to sniping, but usable in a pinch.
- .308: Normal sniping to perhaps 500 yds.
- .338: Heavier bullet and more energy remaining out to perhaps 1000 yds
- .50 BMG: More for smashing through car engines or brick walls than pure
human killing. Adequate energy to perhaps 1500 yds.
The essence of sniping is that a specifically-chosen opponent is dead
before his/her team knows anything is amiss. This is the stealth
part. However, once you have demonstrated that skill, and willingness
to use it, the threat part is easy. You are targeting the opponent's
rulers directly, and thus have influence over the opposing nation
without its citizens even knowing there is a problem.
The USA maintains a large (and apparently growing) apparatus of death
units for this task. Because the US culture depends on a "good guy"
image to maintain internal social order, it is imperative that these
units and their successes and failures never be revealed or
acknowledged. We therefore usually train other nations to do the
work, and remain nearby as advisors, supplying reconnaissance,
communications, and transport. The trainee pulls the trigger.
As with threat-based warfare, multinationals attempt to control US
resources through back-room deals. However it is sometimes easier to
go directly to mercenaries when independent action is needed.
See also History.
J. B. Alexander. "Future War". St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN
Armies can't politically afford to use their full firepower on
obviously undergunned or even pacific enemies. LEO's can't
politically afford to shoot, club, or firehose political dissidents.
Nevertheless, the people running the show want results. The
enforcers turn to weapons which get results without leaving dead
bodies and/or scars.
These include irritant gases, blinding lights, deafening sounds,
electrical shocks, and similar tools. The idea is for the LEO to be
able display in court a video tape showing that he himself has
experienced the weapon and thus understands its implications.
Thus freed from the onus of mass civic revulsion, the LEO can use the
weapon to ensure results. Since of course neither the LEO nor anyone
else can actually withstand the weapons over extended periods, the
power brokers win and the Gandhi-wanna-bees lose.
The critical issue missing from this book is any sense that sometimes
the dissidents and civil disobedients should win control of the
streets, at least temporarily. Failing that opportunity to express
greviences, the body politic is on its way to truly bloody civil war.
Richard Belfield. "The Assassination Business: A History of
State-Sponsored Murder". Carroll and Graf, 2005. ISBN 0-7867-1343-7.
The subtitle itself conveys the author's position. He writes to
explain what it is, and to thereby compel us to stop doing it.
Potentially controversial interpretations of historical events are
presented as facts, with plenty of notes, but no citations for
cross-checking. Still, he isn't really doing a history text but rather
using historical events to illustrate the mechanisms of assassination.
- Be sure of what you want to achieve, and that an assassination
will do the trick. He cites examples where the outcome backfired --
either because the attempt was botched or because it succeeded but the
societal response was not the intended response.
- Assassinate one, terrify a thousand. Since you are targeting
the ruling class, you need to show you have the power to get past
their gated communities and armed guards and military establishments.
Once you can show this (with or without actually killing someone), you
have their attention.
- Write nothing down. In a governmental organization that is
impossible, but do it as best you can.
- Convince a patsy (e.g., religious fanatic) to do the deed -- or
at least plausibly appear to do the deed. Use a real pro to finish
the job as needed. Then kill the patsy, to eliminate trails.
- Use commonplace tools. A hammer instead of a gun. Rat poison
instead of a fancy poison. Car accidents instead of James-Bond-ish
devices. E.g., a powerful camera flashgun released into a driver's
eyes as he rounds a curve can get a fatal car accident with no evidence
and no physical contact.
Carl von Clausewitz. "On War". Originally published 1832. Published
in English with forward by Col. F. N. Maude, 1908. Republished by
Penguin with forward by Anatol Raporport, 1968.
The key treatise on nation-state warfare with massed armies, in the
days of gunpowder but not machine-guns. It clearly anticipates "game
theory", including arguments that simple computation cannot solve the
The forwards don't do justice to the actual text. Clausewitz is
attempting to analyze complex competing interactions under conditions
of imperfect knowledge before, during, and after the events. In
modern economics and in agent-based artificial intelligence, these
are still known to be difficult problems.
He particularly focuses on the role of "friction" and the
thus-significant role of a strong leader who by technical prowess and
strong personality is able to lead physically and emotionally
exhausted troops to accomplish anything at all, much less victory.
The text is most known to the general populace for equating war to
diplomacy (war is an extension of diplomacy by other means). In the
actual context this is more a comment about how civilian and military
leaders establish achievable objectives.
In military circles, it is known for advocating "total war", with
commitment of all the society's resources to the effort (as compared
to "real war", where the effort is perhaps half-hearted and involves
only a few players.) Clausewitz was responding to the French
revolution and the resulting Napoleonic wars, where massed numbers of
committed French troops overwhelmed formally-trained military
It must be remembered that he was writing in the era of gunpowder
(where anyone can be an effective warrior) but not yet machine-guns
and total-war bombing of civilians (where human bodies wilt under
Jack Coughlin, Casey Kuhlman, Donald Davis. "Shooter: The
autobiography of the top-ranked Marine sniper". St. Martin's Press,
2005. ISBN 0-312-33685-3.
The role of the sniper in Gulf War II, in the form of highly mobile
support units. Coughlin developed the notion and Kuhlman provided the
command-structure to make it happen. Not exactly appreciated by
normal Army or Marine officer corps. The trick was to get into action
at all, and to stay far enough toward the front to be effective
without out-running support. Shots typically at 400yds to 1000 yds,
usually against unsuspecting targets who believe they themselves are
the snipers controlling an area. Each shot is a personal encounter,
which takes a toll on the shooter's psyche.
Also valuable for Keegan-style "face of battle" insights re the
sandstorms and the toppling of the Saddam statue.
Kenneth W. Estes. "The Marine Officer's Guide", 5th ed. United
States Naval Institute, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-408-X.
Covers history, protocols, career advice, social advice, etc.
See esp. the list of recommended readings on the profession of arms
(I've read many of them; some listed here, others under
Interestingly, it includes Tacitus's "Annals", which is hardly history
in the modern sense, and certainly not a source for details of battle.
But it is an insightful treatment of how politics really works in the
upper echelons, by someone who knew it well. A US Marine officer must
be aware of the skullduggery his military and civilian leaders may
commit -- and must sometimes make a personal choice of career versus
I selected this as an example of the social context of a modern
professional warrior. Other branches and other nations have similar
Andrew Flach, Peter Field Peck. "The United States Marine Corps
Workout". Five Star Fitness, 1999. ISBN 1-57826-011-6.
This is not an official Marine Corps publication but it is officially
acknowledged to contain the standard fitness tests and regimens for
bootcamp and on-going training. Flexibility, endurance, and strength.
The idea is to build a body which can carry self, supplies, and
weapons over rugged terrain, in and out of foxholes, and up cargo
I selected this as an example of the physical training needed for a
modern professional warrior. Other branches and other nations have
similar requirements. Someone with this basis can be expected to learn
specific skills fairly readily (e.g., SCUBA diving, sky diving,
NOTE: This physical basis, even with several years of daily training
in specific martial arts, is not enough to make a world-class unarmed
warrior. If a North Korean taunts you into a fight, don't do
it... unless you have been training since you were 6 years old, and
were the outstanding student of the past generation at the Korean
national tae-kwon-do dojo, and have fought the guy before in
competition. But under those circumstances he wouldn't be taunting
Peter Harclerode. "Fighting Dirty: The inside story of covert
operations from Ho CHi Minh to Osama Bin Laden". Cassell & Co., 2001.
History, with battle conditions, operations, deceptions. The
take-home lessons is simply this: Yes, it happens, and good ol' USA
does it as well as anyone (and with a lot more money).
My personal take is this: Military leaders and politicians who say we
don't do it are lieing. They consider it their duty to lie to the
general citizenry, because they tell themselves the citizenry is too
naive to handle the truth, or that secrecy is needed to protect troops
from the enemy.
The enemy already knows you are bombing the hell out of his country,
and are attempting to assassinate his leaders. Only the citizens back
home are in the dark. Despite the ubermensch, Leo Straussian,
talk-show bombast, the man/woman in the street is quite capable of
dealing with grim realities. Women who survive a difficult
childbirth, people who survive serious car accidents, parents who have
lost children, etc. are all too familiar with bloody reality. Given
honest evidence and a choice, most people will make solid decisions.
Trade-offs of blood-for-oil, multinational-control-of-nations, etc can
be discussed openly and resolved stoutly.
What the citizenry will NOT accept is secret wars meant to keep power
in the hands of certain elites. For that reason alone, the elites
will continue to run Iran-Contras, School of the Americas, and a never
ending stream of clandestine operations.
David Harding, ed. "Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from
5000BC to 2000AD". St. Martins Press, 1990. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.
From club and thrown rock to Trident submarines. The essence is to
stand out of range of the opponent and send a projectile at him with
enough accuracy to hit the target and enough energy to kill him when
it does. Similarly, weapons must become more accurate and powerful to
overcome defensive positions. If humans happen to get in the way of a
bomb meant to break open a bunker, oh well.
[Since WWI trench warfare, and on through VietNam to Iraq, underground
bunkers have been able to withstand the heaviest bombs we can make --
except nuclear. The Bush administration wants to turn global warfare
nuclear in order to break into underground bunkers and mountain caves.
See Keegan's analysis of the sanity of such escalation.]
John Keegan. "The Face of Battle" Penguin Books, 1976. ISBN 01400.4897-9.
Keegan, history professor at Sandhurst, is considered by many to be
the top military historian of our times. In this text, he attempts to
recreate battle as experienced by individuals at Agincourt, Waterloo,
and the Sommes.
John Keegan. "A History of War" Vintage Books, 1993. ISBN 0-394-58801-0.
After a confusing (to me) start, Keegan works up from the neurological
basis for fear/rage, through ethology to archaeological and
anthropological evidence, then to prehistory and history of warfare.
His guiding thesis is a rebuttal to Clausewitz's notion of "total
Keegan acknowledges that humans are capable of organized aggression
but argues that the format is not necessarily war or pitched battles
as we know them. Both in "primitive war" (where ritual and shouting
mixes with actual blood letting) and in wars among states "above the
military horizon" (where massed armies and systematic campaigns of
slaughter occur) there are rules-of-the-road. He argues we can (and
must) establish such rules in the machine-gun and nuclear age.
Keegan follows the path from face-to-face battles with clubs, swords,
and lances, through horse-people of the steppes (with compound bows)
to gunpowder and finally to the machine-gun era. Basically, personal
honor and courage may have been useful in past modes, but under
machine-gun conditions, biological humans are too easily killed for
that to matter. [Notice the US attempt to substitute robots on the
Alan M. Laudau. Frieda W. Landau, Terry Griswold, D. M. Giangreco,
Hans Halberstadt. "U.S. Special Forces" Lowe and B. Hould, 2002.
Collection of texts originally published in 1992-93. Covers Rangers,
Delta, SEALS (about 150 pages each). History, training, weapons,
James Mann. "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet".
Viking, 2004. ISBN 0-670-03299-9.
The self-styled "Vulcans" are Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz,
Powell, Armitage. Powell and Armitage are the only ones with military
experience -- and they are the doves of the group. The others have
been hawks-by-way-of-Leo-Strauss since the Nixon era. Strauss of
course was a proponent of ubermensch-take-charge policies. The
Vulcans took that to mean the US was militarily powerful, could be
more powerful, and should use that power to conquer the world.
The presentation is well-researched though flattering to the players
-- they each come off as intelligent, sincere, and hardworking (if
somewhat full of themselves and on the lookout for their piece of the
action). The book concludes by asking if the gamble in Iraq
was worth it. The book dates itself by noting that a few hundred
lives seems a small price to pay for restructuring the Middle East.
Alan Moorehead. "Gallipoli". Wordsworth, 1997. ISBN 1-85326-675-2.
The story of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign to provide a backdoor to the
Russians by way of Turkey. It was a failure.
Notice that Marines are expected to know that battles and wars don't
necessarily turn out the way we might like. [The Bush Vulcans would
do well to learn this lesson.]
Militia Of Montana. "Catalog: Freedom in Preparedness", vol 11:1.
Catalog of books, videos, etc for US-based resistance movements. See
A mix of military manuals and self-published how-to manuals. Caching
food, survival, self-defense, weapons repair, changing identity, etc.
Some of it quite practical, and some a bit farfetched.
Ralph D. Sawyer, trans, ed. "The Essence of War" Westview Press, 2004.
Selections from Chinese military classics such as "Art of War", "Seven
Secret Teachings", etc., organized by topic.
Rob Schultheis. "Waging Peace". Gotham Books, 2005. ISBN
A personal, up-close view of the people doing Civil Affairs (CA) in
Afghanistan and Iraq. These are the people who get out with the
people, set up schools and medical clinics, and generally reach for
the "hearts and minds". The individuals are viewed as intelligent and
even heroic, but the overall effort is swamped by large-scale events
and corruption on all sides.
Patrick Sweeney. "The 1911: A complete look at the use, care and
repair of the 1911 pistol". Krause Publications, 2001. ISBN
The Browning-design 1911 semi-automatic pistol was the US military
sidearm for many years, was replaced by 9mm Berettas as part of NATO
committments, then made a comeback within the Special Ops units. It is
also the current choice for SWAT units. Some say it is only accurate
at conversational distances. Others have said it is more usefully
thrown at the foe than shot. Still, if you take the time to practice
until the see-target/align-sights/squeeze-trigger process is second
nature (say a few thousand rounds over several months), it is going to
work on human-sized targets in close battle conditions. The key is
that it is always there at your side, and the foe stops immediately