Brushbeater: On the Guerrilla, His Ecology and His Communications

In this article, NC Scout talks about Guerrilla warfare vs guerrilla marketing. On the Guerrilla, His Ecology and His Communications

Guerrilla. We all know the term. Conjuring an image of a disheveled, rag tag group of merry miscreants dispelling justice in a particular way. We in the West are fixated on the term itself, for good and bad, romanticizing the image of an individualist gunfighter in its most pure form. To some, a freedom fighter. To others, a criminal reprobate terrorizing so-called legitimate authority through the very audacity of their existence. How dare they threaten the ruling order which is ours – not theirs – shall we remind them of it.

Che Guevara would label the Guerrilla explicitly as a social reformer, stating that his very existence is due to some societal wrong that cannot be corrected through peaceful petition alone. He wasn’t wrong of course, but this commonly gets lost in the marketing. Conversely in the strictly-military context we think of the Guerrilla, and his Force, as the purest context of what we call Small Unit Tactics. A small, armed band of voluntary troops with varying degrees of skill and capability. In every case the romanticize of the guerrilla fetishizes something that it may very well not be. Perhaps the arbiter can be found in the success of said guerrilla’s tactics.

Words must be specific, however, to have meaning. The term Guerrilla is a very specific one, at least in my own context, as that very same Freedom Fighter described above. Armed and defiant in the face of tyranny. That tyranny could come in many forms or any particular form you like. Economic repression, expropriating money from the populace in the form of taxation theft; medical repression, or outright denial; social repression, or the willing destruction of one culture through the use of coercive force; and last, the denial of justice through inconsistent application of law, whether purposeful or by miscarriage. In all cases, however, these realities lead to the creation of the conditions of Revolution. It is that Revolution which grants the Guerrilla his existence and becomes the social ecology in which he resides.

With that said, Guerrilla the label appeals to the later example above – the military context alone, failing to realize the social context entirely. One could argue it is a product of immaturity of thought, and conversely, recognize it is little more than a clever marketing ploy. But anything wearing a ‘guerrilla’ label without addressing the underlying social conditions which must be satisfied knows neither guerrilla warfare nor nor the intended audience. At its worst it creates a disconnect between otherwise well-meaning fighters and those capabilities which engender tactical prowess. But tactical prowess must be defined, with victory being the lone metric to judge.

The Guerrilla must recognize three critical points:

  1. He, and his local network, are his own supply line.
  2. He fights with what he has, not with what he wishes.
  3. He cannot fight as a conventional force.

To the first two points, many of a conventional mindset would think this a detriment. Lacking the enablers of a modern ground fighting force, the tip of the so-called spear, how could a Guerrilla force go toe to toe with the might of a modern leviathan? They can’t possibly win, lest they not have the equipment parity. This fails to recognize the incredible supply line necessary to keep said equipment fielded. There is no army of supplies to back him up. It is for this reason that historically guerrilla movements have fomented best in rural areas, light on government reach and heavy on local favor. Whether that guerrilla is moonshining tax resistors in Appalachia or guerrilla fighters in the Escambray mountains, the Kurds in the Hamarins or the Taliban in the southern Hindu Kush, it is a universal truth that the economic poverty of rural life, the hardships of topography, and the difficulty that creates fosters a unique and favorable environment for the budding guerrilla force. A type of folk hero finding favor among people cosmopolitan modernity forgot.

A particularly strong recent example of this phenomena is the rapid and spectacular equipment failures the Taliban experienced just after the botched US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Anyone who’s spent any time among Afghans knows equipment maintenance is not their strong suit, and further, the Taliban is a loose coalition of competing tribes comprised of a few unifying social goals. They were successful fighting as that underdog. Conventional warfare cannot and will not work for them, just as it did not in post-1994 Afghanistan. Small unit prowess need not be complicated, and most often, is better off without such complications.

Whenever I see certain pieces of equipment being marketed…let’s take ATAK for a prime example…I become immediately leery. ATAK, or the android tactical awareness kit, marketed by a company called “Guerrilla Dynamics”, utilizes android phones to create an inter-team mesh network. In short, it creates the ‘virtual battlefield’ that a Commander can micromanage individual team members or assets on the ground. But what they won’t tell you in the marketing is that we’ve been hunting and killing people based on cell phone data for two decades now. Yay, the capitalism of the Military Industrial Complex. Further, they fail in telling that the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance drones fielded by every nation’s conventional forces includes a spectrum analyzer looking for said mesh networking signals. It becomes a very easy target. All of the ever more impressive levels of encryption do not defeat the physics of RF signals. The Taliban learned, recognizing those three points above, that phones were a quick and easy way to get killed. They may have been ignorant in some respects, but in others, the long term vision cannot be understated. They won.

I can’t think of a bigger intelligence jackpot than snagging up a cell phone loaded with a team’s geolocation, reports, and personnel data. Overlays, maps, report formats…its a goldmine. It recalls a linear ambush we conducted on a Taliban HVI once, on the border with Pakistan, that created a mountain of chatter – it created follow on targets, some of which we interdicted that day, but to the others that remained or became silent, they simply melted back into those remote mountains, probably still out there over a decade later. Had they been using such a ridiculous device, exploitation would have been dramatically easier. Again, they won in the end. What we perceived as ignorant and weak was in fact the hubris which defeated the very best the West had to offer.

Fast forward to Ukraine. In March of 2022 a staging facility for foreign fighters in the Ukraine International Brigade was destroyed and with it over 200 fighters. They were targeted specifically through social media use and the proliferation of the ATAKs system by Western Intelligence Agency personnel guiding them across the border from Poland. It would not be the first or last spectacular failure of the system, but it would be the most well publicized. Enemy nations watched those very same lessons we learned over the past twenty years of GWOT misgivings, in some cases seeking parity, in others, exploiting the hubris granted by so-called ‘technological superiority’. But these are nation-states at war. There is nothing ‘Guerrilla’ about it, and those poor souls seduced to the front of their own accord are little more than suckers for the propaganda; expendable fighters in the great game.

Realizing those three points above, we return to the ecology in which the Guerrilla survives. He fights with what he has, rather than what he wishes. His equipment is kept simple, light, and through those means most capable. If he masters what is simple to its most innate level, the overall effect becomes its own force multiplier. Recognizing the lack of sophistication is no detriment at all, and in some cases, can be assumed to be a major force multiplier when used in the right way. The Guerrilla exists in the seams and gaps of the conventional force’s capabilities. Mirroring that conventional force cannot achieve this goal. A simple Baofeng radio, when configured and used properly, goes a long way in creating competence on the ground. For that matter, any analog radio can do the same. As I cover in The Guerrilla’s Guide to the Baofeng Radio, there are a large number of ways to implement the radio outside of conventional thinking. A Guerrilla is not a Conventional Force of the Leviathan. He exists in spite of it.