On Strategy

April 18th, 2014   Submitted by Michael Hendricks

strategyLife is a giant competition. Opportunities and threats constantly present themselves and the people with the most efficient, and decisive strategy are rewarded with success. Though many people are attached to the notion of “fairness,” the reality is that life isn’t fair, and it pays to be a winner. Strategy is used in all aspects of life, but for some reason strategy is seldom taught. I’d like to rectify that situation by introducing formal strategic thinking to activists, hopefully increasing their understanding of how to effectively accomplish their goals.

A strategy is abstract, while tactics are specific. A strategy requires a set of objectives, and the means to accomplish them. Often firms outline their strategy with mission statements, which include their vision and values. Inevitably, these abstract concepts must be translated into tactics that can be implemented through several levels of strategic planning: the tactical level, operational level, strategic level, and the grand strategic level.

The tactical level is where the available manpower gets the work done. The operational level plans the tactical level. The strategic level manages multiple operations in a campaign. And the grand strategic level orchestrates all available resources within a theatre toward the attainment of the ultimate objective.

The operational level of strategic planning is a process of linking tactical goals with strategic goals, or assigning means to ends. Broadly, the difference between strategic and tactical decisions is that strategic decisions are made with the most long term effect in mind, while tactical decisions are made with the immediate effect in mind. An operational plan should include well defined objectives, actions to be performed, asset allocation, implementation timetables, and a process for monitoring quality and progress.

Operations can be single or multi-phase events. A military operation can be as simple as a patrol route or as complex as a beach landing. In the business world operations include everything from transporting supplies and personnel, to marketing and promoting a product or service.

A Simple Activist Operation: Bob and Martha are protesting a local ordinance.
Step One: Defining Objectives

  1. Inventory current sign making supplies, and purchase as needed.
  2. Survey interest among like-minded activists in their immediate area.
  3. Select high traffic, high visibility public venue.
  4. Schedule date of operation, and proceed to location.

Specific tactics that Bob and Martha can use include

  1. Cultivating a directory in which they list the contact information of team members.
  2. Dividing labor among team members (lettering, cutting, transportation, media etc…).
  3. Activists can work in teams with one holding signs and one handing out materials.

I’m sure these ideas are familiar to most activists. The goal isn’t to introduce new concepts but to bring them to the forefront of cognition.

Strategy is used on a daily basis by activists who may not even realize it. However complex goals require a well reasoned plan to have a chance at success. Intelligence gathering is key to building an effective strategy. You must know everything you can about your obstacles, and have contingencies planned for all possible outcomes. Bruce Lee once said that any process was better than no process when it came to training. The idea being that economy of motion was to be found through study. This is equally true with strategy. The more knowledge one has, the easier it will be to build an effective plan. Information is often received in bits and pieces. Knowledge is never perfect, which is why it is important for your strategies to be adaptive. But any intel is better than no intel when it comes to strategic planning.

It is important to understand that all the planning in the world goes out the window when the situation changes, especially when a thinking opponent attempts to counter you. Thus flexibility as a situation develops is another key to success, on both the tactical and strategic levels.

In life there are seldomly second chances. Every year people go hiking and get lost, or get stranded by a storm. It is incredibly easy to find yourself in a situation in which your very life is in danger, and it is possible for experienced survival strategists to make simple mistakes and wind up dead. On numerous occasions I’ve seen hikers walk off without water, which is a serious error in planning that could get someone killed.

In anti-State circles it is common for activists to reject the idea of political action, but strategies of reform, abolition, and obstruction should not be ruled out simply because they are distasteful. These are short term tactical tools, not a long term strategic tools, and while the very concept of voting may be abhorrent it is a very real part of life.

In an article titled The Consequences of the Drug War I summarized reports in Mexico that reporters and journalists were targets of cartel violence. While it is impossible to truly know much about these secretive criminal empires, the intelligence suggests that 50% or more of their income comes from marijuana. Legalizing marijuana in the United States would remove a substantial portion of their incomes. For that reason alone political action on this issue is worth considering as a strategy. While it is not possible for the anti-statist to accomplish their grand strategic objective through political action, that doesn’t mean that progress can’t be achieved on the tactical and operational levels through political reform. If nothing else, delaying the inevitable gives us time to prepare, and time is our most valuable resource.

No struggle for social change is won over night. Furthermore the ultimate objective of a free society is not achieved when the State is gone. The tactics, and strategies that we use to bring about revolution in society, inform what the post revolution world will look like. This campaign requires multiple operations, therefore we must consider how we are going to transition from tyranny to liberty. The State must be chipped away slowly over time using methodical tactics and well thought out strategies. This is not to say that there is a universal methodology. Decentralization is one of the greatest strengths of anti-statist thought.

As insurrectionists have said, it is necessary for us to conceive of another concept of power. As we enter the information age we have the ability, now more than ever, to bring decentralization and challenge the State hegemony. The State controls massive powers of disinformation. However, now more than ever we can record the State doing what it does best, victimizing people. Our power lies in the fact that we are decentralized. The State can crush any particular spot that it chooses but if we are spread out they have to work that much harder.

“Main rule: do not act en masse. Carry out actions in three or four at the most. There should be as many small groups as possible and each of them must learn to attack and disappear quickly. The police attempt to crush a crowd of thousands with one single group of a hundred cossacks.
It is easier to defeat a hundred men than one alone, especially if they strike suddenly and disappear mysteriously. The police and army will be powerless if Moscow is covered in these small unseizable detachments[…] Do not occupy strongholds. The troops will always be able to take them or simply destroy them with their artillery. Our fortresses will be internal courtyards or any place that it is easy to strike from and leave easily. If they were to take them they would never find anyone and would lose many men. It would be impossible for them to take them all because to do this they would have to fill every house with cossacks.”
—Warning to the Insurgents, Moscow, December 11 1905.

The strength of the State is in its census lists. Those who are anti-State should refuse such centralization. I’m not advocating violent action, such as insurgency. However if we are to decentralize our business efforts we need to think in similar lines. This is the power of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is not a solution in and of itself. It is a tool that gives us options. Just as social media enabled the Arab Spring. We can use social media to convey our ideas, and use Bitcoin to fund them.

I’ve seen a defeatist attitude in far too many people. I’ve felt it myself. The situation is bleak, but so long as we draw breath we can work for a better future. We need to dominate the information theatre. We don’t need to convince people to reject the State all at once. Educating them on ways to improve their lives by rejecting the State bit by bit is enough to weaken State power.

Our allies needn’t even be apathetic to the State. Consider the movement throughout the nation to legalize marijuana. Many advocates of legalization sweetened the pot for government with tax figures. This legalization moves society in the right direction, and raises the wealth of entrepreneurs, capitalists, and even the proletariat.

The idea that we can achieve revolution through purely peaceful means needs to be reconsidered. Martin Luther King Jr. is dead. Ghandi is dead. The libertarian socialists in Ukraine and Spain lost their wars.

It only takes one side deciding to kill the other to start a war. Governments are good at war, and we need to expect some of them to resist our attempts to create a freer society. These are not reasonable people. They want power and we have to take proactive steps to defend ourselves. If you sit in your camp your enemy is going to come and kill you.

The opposition to our movement, the State, and its actors are quite skilled operational planning. Our skills at planning and execution need to increase lest we lose to a superior opponent.

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39 Responses to “On Strategy”

  1. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    All businesses that are in business to earn a profit should have the same mission- to earn a profit for their shareholders or owners. When John Allison was the ceo of BB&T the mission statement of the bank was that but not worded that bluntly. There are times when activists acting en masse is an effective strategy. An example is when a few years ago liberty activists in NH showed up en masse at a hearing in Epping, NH to support pro-liberty police officer Brad Jardis. The desired outcome of the hearing by Jardis’s superiors in the police department was that he be fired from the department but that did not happen. See: http://youtu.be/Kv_TURsgC0w

  2. autonomicNo Gravatar says:

    Even if we win, we will lose eventually. It took less than a century and a half to reversed the progress of Ben Franklin and company.

  3. Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

    Great article, Michael. I love that pic: a pawn, toppling a king. Yes!

    Strategy is vital. I spent many years with the LP, but never once came across a strategic plan. With one, one may miss the target; without one, one certainly will miss the target. If there is even a target.

    So I formed one, see http://takelifeback.com/oto/astrateg.htm

    • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

      As you say it’s a bare outline. I’m a fan of diversity of tactics. I can see using everything, re-education, civil disobedience and political action to bring social change.

      Leading by example seems like a good way to convince people to me, I could be wrong…

      • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

        A good strategic plan will, as I see it, focus action somewhat, rather than to do “everything.” Would “everything” include violence, such as firing a bullet or casting a ballot? And is “civil disobedience” more effective when government can readily suppress it, or after government has lost much of that capability?

        • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

          At some point blood will spill.

          • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

            Blood may spill, if some government goon loses his cool and shoots first; so your prediction may be right. However if you were to propose a strategy that necessitates the first use of violence (eg voting) by us who wish to end the government era, I’d have to part company with you.

            http://takelifeback.com/oto/astrateg.htm shows a strategy for achieving freedom that does not require any violence at all.

            • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

              Not all votes are made equal. Voting for reforms is something I advocate, reforms give us more freedom, more freedom means more options, more options are better than fewer options.

              Until a political leader arises that I’m willing to kill for I won’t vote for them. I’m not holding my breath for such a leader, but who knows someone may surprise me one day.

              Alot of people advocate dropping out completely, do what you will but like it or not I live in a tax farm and there are things we have to do to survive. Reforms are better for everyone including those trying to drop out completely so say what you will of me, say I’m evil and part company with me. I’ll take solace in the knowledge that every reform I help sow makes your struggle easier :).

              • Jim DaviesNo Gravatar says:

                We must agree that government will survive for as long as anyone will work for it. Therefore, any plan for a zero government society must cause all its employees to quit, and all others not to replace them. Anything less does not qualify as a strategic plan, but is a total waste of time and effort.

                In this country I reckon about 20 million work directly for government, plus another 20 million indirectly but substantially, in firms that contract with it. So there are 40 million parasites who must quit, and another 100 million producers who must abstain from replacing them.

                If you studied the page whose URL I provided, along of course with its outbound links, you’ll have seen that a plan is now in process that will, on reasonable assumptions, accomplish that large job before the year 2030.

                I’d still want it to be non-violent, but if your alternative plan promises to do that sooner, I’m very interested. So please, spell it out.

  4. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    Davi found the picture, he’s pretty good at his job.

    • Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

      Yes, he is.

      As proof; none of the posts I wrote would have been nearly as good without his editing.

    • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

      I’ve not seen many here that are anything but solid, but this one in particular doesn’t quite measure up to the typical level of image quality. Smacks too much of the whole “power to the people” BS.

      That very meme, of course, is how armies of useful idiots get made, over and over for each successive “game” that features Ancient Mystery adepts maneuvering freshly-reset pieces (i.e. new generations of kings & queens & bishops & knights & rooks & pawns). I suppose it might have been worse if the image showed a whole mob of pawns standing over a dead king. Maybe not, though, because now that I think of it that image does stroke the narcissism of “I am the embodiment of People Power” individualists who frequent sites like this, in a way that wouldn’t be possible if it showed some collective of “kingslayer” pawns. In any case, I don’t buy that the image suggests a future without rulers — rather it seems to suggest another impending revolution (the Great Individualist Revolution?), which by definition guarantees that things will end up right back where they started after secret societies reset the bloodstained pieces. In other words, it is their game, so work toward excluding yourself instead of gunning for some perceived king as the “rules” demand.

      Bottom line: freedom is in no way empowering, and only freedom counts. Remove yourself altogether from the checkered “playing” board, and laugh in the face of anyone who claims that “heroes like [so and so] are playing three-dimensional chess, which is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay impressive.”

      Oh, and for those who still believe at this late hour that revolutions — even a Great Individualist Revolution — could ever be helpful or legitimate, the doctor will correct you now.

      • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

        You can’t remove yourself from the board. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can.

        • Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

          You may find this essay interesting / useful:

          http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2823 “Taxonomy of the haterboy”

          What they all have in common is what I’ve been calling the “60-cycle-hum”, the tendency for anything substantive they have to say to be overwhelmed by their emotional fixation against the subject of their haterism.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            That was interesting thanks.

            I don’t think you can remove yourself from the board because the board is life, so death is the only escape. Life is awesome though I’m in no hurry to get off the board.

        • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

          I disagree. That’s like saying that all must work within the system.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            Not at all. The board is larger than the regulations set on it by those with power. Power is the ability to control, power is options.

            In my current conception of the world you can’t have freedom without power.

            • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

              I think seeking power is precisely the thing that guarantees a return to tyranny. Those who seek power have already demonstrated that they walk a path other than Wu-Wei.

              The board metaphor represents the institution of regulatory pretense, not the world at large. The world at large includes the chess players themselves, those self-professed dragon bloods who pretend to be in a position to make everyone else take a place on the board of ultimate dominion. Color combinations that are typically associated with the game provide good hints: black and white, red and black, red and blue.

              In any case, the image for this article doesn’t show a board at all. So perhaps it’s a symbol of what might happen sans the institution of regulatory pretense. Still nothing to wish for outside revenge fantasies, but there it is nonetheless — not a tragically poor choice for an image, and not great either.

              That Putin image from the other day, now that was a top-shelf statement.

              • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                How do you secure your freedom without power? That’s the question… That article about NWO and what not doesn’t have much to do with any of my positions.

                I don’t want a revolution, I don’t care about running the country, I do however want to have Dominion over some scarce resources necessary for the survival of my team and I. How the team decides to regulate those resources is something I’ll worry about after we have them.

                To be clear I don’t want to fight anyone. But I will if I have to.

                • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

                  Yeah, good stuff.

                  Initiation of force is seeking power. Being forced (by someone seeking power) into a position of doing something immoral as an act of self-preservation is plain-and-simple natural instinct. Neither action, of course, could ever be a right, for rights are imaginary constructs — but even “lower” animals will react with instinct when threatened.

                  It’s called the Grrrrrr Gambit. Even Kasparov trembles…

      • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

        Ironically I intentionally chose an image that was not a mob of pawns, but a single pawn for individualist reasons. I also intentionally chose an image that was not on a chess board. I don’t conceive of chess as a game of revolution, or a game of warring principalities. I think of it as a game of strategy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

        But great! If you’re biggest criticism of the article is the image, that speaks volumes to Michael’s writing.

        • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

          Ha, I merely corrected those avatars who claimed that the image for this particular article was as good as usual. As I stated, most times they’re top-shelf (e.g. the one of Putin riding His Little Pony). I didn’t say a single thing about the writing.

          If the metaphor was supposed to suggest strategy, then a dead king is even more inappropriate in NAP-land (I’d say “checkmated king” but there’s no board so there’s no actual game happening). Revenge fantasy wet dream is more like it — no wonder so many people enjoyed it (people who apparently make claims from their other face that they embrace the NAP).

          Here’s an interesting thought: what if pawns and rooks are the only pieces designed as faceless (they appear similar when viewed from 360 degrees) precisely because:

          Rooks represent inanimate objects
          Pawns represent untermenschen — themselves mere objects

          A good chess-based metaphor for anarchist strategy would be a bunch of pawns standing with their backs turned to the king. Can’t have that, though, in this ancient game of teaching caste priorities to aspiring aristocrats. Pawns, by definition, get to have no opinion — but they can still kill…

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            The NAP is flawed.

            • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

              Can’t disagree there, although I wonder if fallible mankind is capable of anything other than flawed everything. Kate Upton’s body might come close, but I’d need to study it more.

              The NAP seems to be a less flawed freedom-something-something than any other flawed freedom-something-something I can conceive. Too many people, for instance, mistake the instinctive action of self-defence as some violation of the NAP. Self-defence, for what it’s worth, exists completely outside the purveyance of NAP wisdom.

              That doesn’t mean there aren’t actual flaws to the NAP. I just need to figure out what those might be and what might be a better alternative (or adjustment).

              • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                The NAP accepts things that are coercive as non coercive. 3rd Party ownership of the land for example.

                Coercion is always going to be there the question is when do we take up arms?

                “No man is free. Only children and fools think elsewise. “

                • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                  Last quote was Tywin Lannister. But it’s true step outside the Republic’s peace and Lawmen are sent after you. Coercion is necessary to keep the peace.

                • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

                  Good Game of Thrones quote. Here’s the biggest grammarian lesson to glean from that series: pretend dragon-bloods (analogized and romanticized by way of an actual dragon-blood character on the show) are always eager to start holocausts for claims of glory and birthright.

                  Oh, wait, though, that character is freeing the slaves she encounters, and she’s pretty, so therefore dragon-bloods are always the good guys. Remember that, all you mind-control serfs out there.

                  • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

                    Haha plenty of those folks are fucking nuts. If I lived in said world I’d have wanted to put Aerys’ head on a spike too. His granddaughter though she’s not crazy yet…

                    She’s silly though.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            But that was interesting.