Resistance movements generally begin with the desire of individuals or small groups of individuals to remove intolerable conditions imposed by an unpopular regime. Opposition towards the regime and hatred of existing conditions that conflict with the individual’s or the group’s values, interests, and way of life spread from the individual (or group of individuals comprising the group) to family, close friends, and neighbors. This can result in an entire community cohering in an obsessive hatred for an established regime.
Generally, this hatred has historically manifested itself as sporadic, spontaneous, nonviolent and violent acts of resistance towards the regime, or available representatives of the regime. As the discontent grows, natural leaders (historically, former military personnel, clergymen, local political leaders, and community organizers- remember most resistance insurgencies in the last century had a basis in communist/socialist ideals…) emerge to channelize the discontent into an organized resistance movement that promotes its own growth. The population must be convinced by this leadership that it has nothing to lose, or at least, more to gain, by resistance, than by maintaining the status quo.
The ultimate key to progressing from increasing discontent to active insurrection is the belief by the populace that they have nothing to lose by revolting, combined with the belief that they have a genuine chance to succeed. Additionally, there must be some sort of catalyzing trigger that ignites popular support against the regime’s power and a dynamic resistance leadership that can exploit the situation when it arises. (Critical Note: this apparent focus on leadership within the resistance should not be construed to invalidate the concept of “leaderless resistance.” The concept of leadership should not be relegated to some shadowy, mythical central controlling party of the resistance, but rather, individual cells should have the ability and willingness to take advantage of any key trigger events to leverage the already present discontent to begin active operations to win the support of the populace.).
Once the resistance begins to act out against the regime, there are two types of initial resistance: Clandestine resistance and overt resistance.
a) Clandestine Resistance is conducted by people who outwardly appear to follow their normal mode of existence. This type of resistance may or may not be controlled by any level of leadership, and may include the following activities by individuals and/or small groups/cells.
– Political action and campaigning
– Propaganda development and dispersal
– Sabotage (see my previous post on the critical differences between sabotage and terrorism. They are NOT the same thing.)
– Black marketeering
– Intelligence gathering
b) Overt Resistance is conducted by individuals trained along paramilitary lines. This is the guerrilla force and provides the military arm of the resistance. These individuals and groups make no secret of their existence or objectives (once hostilities have begun in earnest), although they may use the leaderless cell approach and compartmentalize information closely to prevent compromise of the entire movement. The guerrilla force will generally be comprised of those individuals who have previously been openly disdainful or antagonistic towards the regime, and recognize the probability that they have been targeted by the security forces anyway (as much as he hates sleeping on the ground, especially in cold weather, your author recognizes that he has probably set himself up to be stuck playing this role if the inevitable happens. This really sucks since I have bad arthritis anyway, courtesy of letting Uncle Sugar convince me what a great idea it was to walk out of perfectly functioning aircraft that were in flight….and carrying a 90-130lb rucksack? Why gee, that sounds swell!)
There are three necessary components to a successful insurgency. The subversive underground is always present and is the first component of the resistance to form and begin active operations. The strategic goals of the resistance movement will determine the level of development for all three components:
the subversive underground
the support auxiliary
the paramilitary guerrilla force
The subversive underground.
The subversive underground is a cellular organization within the resistance movement that has the ability to conduct operations in areas that are practicably inaccessible to the paramilitary guerrilla force, such as populated areas that are under tight control of the regime’s security forces. The underground maintains the ability to operate in these denied areas because it operates clandestinely, returning to innocuous “day jobs” when not performing missions.
Typical tasks for the subversive underground include, but may not be limited to:
-Gathering intelligence and the development of intelligence networks.
-The development and operation of subversive “pirate” broadcast systems that control the dissemination of propaganda through radio, newspaper and leaflet distribution, and/or internet communications and web page development.
-The fabrication of special materials, such as false identification, weapons, and munitions.
-Black market networks and safe houses for transport of personnel and logistics.
-Sabotage by individuals and/or small units in urban centers.
-Operation of clandestine medical facilities to treat injured/wounded resistance personnel.
Members of the underground are normally active, productive members of their community, and their ability to function as part of the resistance is a product of their daily life and/or position within the community. They operate by maintaining a strict compartmentalization and delegating most risk to their auxiliary workers. The functions of the subversive underground are what allow the resistance to have a noticeable effect within urban or built-up areas.
The underground operational cell should typically be comprised of a leader and a few cell members who operate directly as a unit to conduct direct-action missions for the underground. The intelligence cell is different in that the cell leader should seldom, if ever, be in direct contact with the subordinate members of his cell, and the members of the cell are rarely in contact with one another. All communications of the intelligence cell would typically be conducted through dead-drop and other covert/clandestine methods of tradecraft.
It is imperative for the potential future guerrilla fighter to understand that, until he sees and recognizes these actions being undertaken by unknown parties, there is little point to “going to guns.” Doing so will only accelerate the actions of the regime to hunt down such “extremist” outlaws. Since the security forces will not be forced to deal with hunting down members of the subversive underground at the same time, there will be little to prevent them from focusing extensive assets to hunting down the “bandits hiding out in the woods.” If you have friends, whom you trust enough to discuss these matters and potential future issues with, who are not outspoken and openly critical of the current demise, educate them on the need for future subversives. They need to remain quiet and simply prepare for the day they need to wire a couple cans of ether to some douchebag’s engine manifold…(I’ve actually never tried it, but I’m pretty well convinced that it would be an extremely effective anti-vehicle/anti-personnel device to be utilized by a mechanic who happens to secretly support the resistance. If anyone has a junk vehicle that will still run, they should try it and let me know how it works out…Don’t run out and try it on a local police cruiser, please. I am not saying do it now. I’m saying consider such possible weapons in case they are needed in the future.
This term refers to members of the population who provide very limited clandestine support to the subversive underground and/or the paramilitary guerrilla force. Very seldom will they be “active” members of the movement and, as such, offer little intelligence value to the regime if compromised. Functions of the auxiliary may take the form of logistics, labor, or intelligence collection. Auxiliary members may not know any more than how to perform their specific function or service that supports the network. They may not even realize they are actively supporting the resistance. They should certainly never be asked to perform a job by a valuable member of the subversive underground cadre, face-to-face. Even in the modern environment of credit card payments and billing services, there are ways to accomplish such chores remotely. Until they are trusted, they do not learn the names or identities of the resistance.
In many ways however, the auxiliary personnel are at the greatest risk of compromise (thus the importance of their not offering intelligence value to the regime if compromised). Typical functions of the auxiliary include:
-Logistics procurement (either through stealing from a workplace, or purchasing on the black market, or open market, if it can be done without compromising their security or that of the movement.)
-Logistics distribution (transporting goods and dropping them in pre-determined cache locations for later pick-up by resistance forces.)
-Labor for special material fabrication (in some instances, the fabrication will be conducted in assembly-line fashion, to preclude any one group of auxiliaries from recognizing what they are manufacturing).
-Security and early warning for underground facilities and guerrilla bases (obviously, this is a task that must be reserved for well-trusted and very secure members of the auxiliary…cooks in regime mess halls/dining facilities who may overhear conversations regarding upcoming operations, mechanics who notice an increase in the request for pre-mission checks on vehicles, etc…)
-Intelligence collection (intentional or otherwise)
-Recruitment (obviously, in this case, the auxiliary member knows his part, but can still be compartmentalized to reduce risk to the actual underground or guerrilla force).
-Communications networks staff such as couriers and/or messengers.
-Safe house management.
-Logistics and personnel transport (if functioning as part of the black market, the auxiliary member may never realize he is actively supporting the resistance).
The paramilitary guerrilla force.
The paramilitary guerrilla force is the overt military arm of the resistance. As individuals who actively engage the conventional military in combat operations, guerrillas have traditionally held a significant disadvantage in terms of training, equipment, and firepower (it should be noted that, in the event of an U.S. resistance movement, these would not necessarily be the case. That’s the purpose, after all, of this blog). For all their disadvantages, however, the guerrilla force has one distinct advantage that can offset any unfavorable balance – the initiative. In any operational planning, the guerrilla leader must strive to maintain and exploit this advantage.
The guerrilla element only attacks when it can develop and maintain a relative, if temporary, state of superiority of force. The element avoids any sort of decisive engagement, thus denying the conventional force military of the regime the opportunity to recover, regain their superiority, and use it against the guerrilla force (the application of conventional small-unit tactics, such as raids and ambushes, in an unconventional manner, such as an IED/EFP-initiated ambush, followed by selective targeting of personnel, then an exfiltration, or a rapid, snatch-and-grab raid to kidnap a key enemy leader, are the definition of guerrilla warfare tactics). The guerrilla element is only capable of generating this type of tactical success in areas where they possess a significant familiarity with the terrain and a connection to the local civilian population that allows them to harness clandestine support for security and intelligence-gathering purposes. Don’t ever allow yourself or your unit to suffer the terminal disease of testosterone poisoning and think you’re going to survive, let alone win, a toe-to-toe slugfest with a conventional force rifle platoon. You might have better riflemen, and even bigger numbers, but they have indirect-fire support, close air support, and a faster Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to call on for reinforcements.
Depending on the degree of control over the local area, a guerrilla force element may range in size from fire-team size all the way up to a brigade-level force. In the initial stages of a resistance, the guerrilla force, regardless of size, will generally be limited to stand-off attacks that we typically think of as “guerrilla warfare.” This may include the aforementioned raids and ambushes, albeit on a slightly larger scale. As the guerrilla force grows, however, so should its ability to engage the regime’s conventional military forces on a larger scale, allowing some degree of parity with the enemy. In these cases, formerly isolated bands of guerrillas may be able to connect and coalesce, forming liberated territory that allows for the development of a larger, more conventional military force to face the regime’s conventional force.
It is critical to delineate the difference between a true resistance guerrilla fighter, and other small-unit, irregular force operatives that may appear similar but in fact, are drastically different, such as militias (although the local militia may operate as a part of the guerrilla force in liberated territories), mercenaries, and criminal/narco-terrorist gangs. The militia’s only intent should be to provide security for the local community and its residents. Mercenaries and criminal/narco-terrorist gangs will seldom hold themselves to any sort of moral construct similar to that of the resistance-force guerrilla. It is critical for the guerrilla force insurgent to recognize that only uniformed personnel of the enemy regime are legitimate targets for the guerrilla force. Key political personnel, civilian population sympathizers and informants, etc, must be dealt with solely by the subversive underground. This is critical to the PSYOP campaign for the resistance, since conduct of assassinations/kidnappings, etc., by the underground can be plausibly blamed on the regime’s security apparatus if it is not conducted by organized paramilitary forces of the guerrilla.
Somewhere in the mountains
John Mosby is a former Army Ranger and Green Beret, and the author of the Mountain Guerrilla blog.