Intelligence analyst Sam Culper at Forward Observer discusses riots and low intensity conflict in Where to we go from here?
Are these protests and riots the beginning of something larger in our country’s low intensity conflict? I’m going to try to answer that question here in a few points…
First, let’s start with a simple fact: These riots are what we consider “low intensity conflict,” which exists below the threshold of conventional war (tanks and bombers) but above routine, peaceful competition. This is a gray zone between the black and white of war where we see both violent and nonviolent activity that fails to meet the definition of declared war.
The United States is in a low intensity conflict and has been since at least 2016, if not 2008.
Second, these riots are a continuation of a broader conflict. While many were rather pure in their desire to protest the death of George Floyd, there were other elements using the opportunity to take other action.
Those who committed violence over the past several days can be separated into four categories.
1. Opportunistic actors who sought personal gain.
2. Social conflict actors who expressed their anger over the death of George Floyd and used violence as a means to coerce the political class into making desired changes.
3. Class conflict actors who committed acts of violence in their class struggle against the capitalist system. As one professor recently put it, “[L]ooting is an expression of power.”
4. And, yes, I’ve seen plenty of criticism over some of law enforcement’s heavy handed tactics. This violence should not go unnoticed, because police forces are a part of this conflict, too.
(I’ve also seen some claims that “white supremacists” were in some way responsible for the violent rioting, which comes as no surprise when one considers the outlets pushing that narrative. Pressed on that claim, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said over the weekend that “nobody really knows” the political motivations behind the violence. It didn’t stop him from making that claim prior to the interview. I’ll wager a guess: those responsible for the violence weren’t doing it on behalf of white supremacy.)
Third, it’s important to note the development of soft power. Some on the Right minimize the capability of the Far Left because the Far Left is largely unarmed. This is a mistake.
Aside from hard power — the ability to project force — there’s soft power, which exists on the moral and information plane of conflict.
Over the weekend, we saw much of mainstream media excuse the behavior of the rioters and deflect responsibility for what’s happening.
CNN’s Don Lemon complained on his show that America’s power class weren’t coming to the defense of the protestors and rioters.
“Why aren’t they helping these young people? These young people are out there standing on a platform at the edge of an abyss by themselves… Get on television or do something and help these young people instead of sitting in your mansions and doing nothing. And have some moral courage and stop worrying about your reputation and your brand,” Lemon begged.
That’s soft power. Money and funding, influence, moral support and framing the moral authority — these are the elements that enable hard power. And Don Lemon pleaded with celebrities and the donor class to help develop this soft power.
Finally — let’s look at where we could go from here because the worst might still be ahead for at least two reasons.
First, over the past few days, I’ve seen numerous examples of protestors and rioters saying they want to go to the suburbs next.
With the exception of the one video that was linked to the Drudge Report, the evidence has been on social media, with organizers and influencers putting out these suggestions to those who want to continue the protest outside of urban areas.
I read most of these comments with some skepticism, but I’m completely open to the possibility that protests and violence do migrate in some instances. That would be a mistake, in my opinion.
Today (Sunday), Attorney General Bill Barr published a press release in which he warned that the Department of Justice and the states will “reestablish law and order” through a large scale presence of police and the National Guard.
Barr also threatened that federal law enforcement is out for “violent radical agitators,” and labeled the antifascists as engaging in acts of domestic terrorism. The Department of Justice is working with all 56 regional Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) to facilitate this action.
The risk in either of these cases is that violence is escalated.
For one, some suburbs might make easy targets in the beginning, but just as we saw militias forming to protect businesses, the suburbs are likely to become harder targets for would-be rioters and looters. If it develops, this scenario obviously brings a likelihood of violence.
And two, law enforcement actions, to include arrests or raids on the homes of “violent radical agitators,” are going to aid the argument that the United States has descended into fascism. That could spark more protests and more unrest.