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For the Courage of the Founders

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How would the foes of the United States go about defeating the United States13? This question is fundamentally different than how will an enemy attack the United States. For instance, in January of 2003 if you asked the question "How will Iraq defeat the United States?" you get an entirely different answer than if you asked the question "How will Iraq fight the United States?" Iraq would fight the United States with scud missiles, chemicals, tanks, etc. The question presupposes the answer, which is to fight. However, when considering how to defeat America, a whole new spectrum of possibilities opens up. An obvious component of defeating the United States would be to insure that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the country to undermine the legitimacy of the war. Iraq would spend more time and money preparing its partisan/guerilla capability and develop plans to avoid not taking excessive casualties in the initial onslaught. Decentralized command and control would be designed to prolong the conflict. Plans and operatives would be emplaced to expand the conflict to third parties and neighboring countries, raise expenses and drive wedges in any coalition. Making the assumption that Sadam Hussein was sane and wanted to defeat the United States, and given the circumstances that existed in early 2003, how could he do it? He knows he cannot win a pitched battle. He knows that the United States has announced an axis of evil. He knows that he is not going to be allowed to retain power, or perhaps even be allowed to live. He knows the invasion is going to take place, but you need for it to take place for a false reason. He needs the United States to be embarrassed and put in an untenable situation of trying to justify their actions without the presence of WMD. He will not have won--he will still be dead or captured and his country in "enemy" hands, but through his action he will have set conditions favorable to the eventual defeat of the United States; doubt, mistrust, questionable morality, unnecessary deaths.

The specific point being that once the focus is moved the answer changes. Once the presupposition that the outcome of the fight is the measure of victory is removed, the potential for alternative enemy action and focus is exposed.

This is not an abstract concept. Anyone who has ever been in a fight or argument with a physically and/or intellectually superior opponent and has desired to win (vice back down, compromise or otherwise give ground) knows the basic principles/art of a successful strategy: Never fight the opponent’s strength. This is the art of tactical use of asymmetry for strategic goal. You have to minimize the strength asymmetry/intelligence of your opponent, while trying to utilize your asymmetrical advantages to achieve your goals.

Consider a barroom brawl against a bigger stronger opponent:

  1. Do not open yourself to direct attack of your opponent’s strengths - If you are pitted against a professional boxer in a barroom brawl, you don't "Put up your dukes."
  2. Protract the conflict - If you know that you cannot win immediately, the only reasonable action is to extend the conflict. Conversely, you know that if your enemy believes that he can win immediately he will attempt to do so.
  3. Analyze and identify your asymmetrical advantages. Are you faster, more responsive, have higher endurance, more resolve, more friends, better attorneys etc.?
  4. Seek means to decrease the opponent’s advantage. If your opponent is using his fists, use a bat. The intent is not to attack the strength, but to mitigate the advantage of that strength.
  5. Use the enemy's strengths against them. A basic tenant of many martial arts is to use the opponent strength’s to your advantage. If your can use his momentum for a "throw" you do so. If you can forecast his likely actions based on your knowledge of his strengths and history, you do so.
  6. Gather allies. Forcing him to engage multiple targets can dilute the effectiveness of your opponent's strength and intellectual prowess.
  7. Strike your opponent at his vulnerabilities. Regardless of what will win the conflict, you only strike at vulnerabilities, i.e. never go for the knock out blow. Avoiding your opponent’s strengths and protraction of the conflict is more important.

Simply prevent him from effectively using his strength, confuse him, and use your knowledge of his likely actions to extend the action until his vulnerabilities begin to increase.

That vignette tells us how our enemies are going to seek our defeat. Our foes know quite a bit about our strengths and how we are likely to respond to a variety of stimuli. They are learning more each time we react (increase chatter=increase THREATCON) to their activity. The dedicated enemy will seek to avoid direct contact with the American military for as long as possible. Likewise, they will seek to avoid the positive impact of our economy and social programs. Since we have demonstrated a poor ability to combine social and military strength, they will likely feel comfortable undermining our social efforts while adroitly avoiding our military might. A good example of this is the recent conflict in Iraq. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge in warfare between unequal forces knew that there was no way the bulk of the Iraqi military was going to stand, fight and die. They would, and did, choose to live to fight another day.

A sophisticated foe would quickly realize that they currently possess several asymmetric advantages; time, home field advantage, greater casualty threshold, world opinion on the United States actions and greater potential numbers. The sophisticated non-state foe is going to conceive a strategy that creates a future that benefits the effort of overthrowing the dominance of the United States. Each of the potentially successful strategies will seek to attack different facets of our vulnerabilities while avoiding casualties themselves. The successful strategy will, by design, seek to increase the numbers of conflicts that the United States is involved in and fracture the ability of the United States to form coalitions. There will be significant deception to undermine the credibility of the United States and cast doubt, internally and internationally, on our ability to gather meaningful intelligence and conduct accurate predictive analysis. The dedicated enemy will operate out of places that we don't want to go and won't be able to make the argument of national security interests. They will attack our friends. They will spend time gathering followers, building consensus and gaining control. Through the use of terror acts they will try to create a divisive environment in as many locals as possible, implicating the ongoing activities of the United State. They will seek to have the United States isolate herself from the international community, both by protective action and unilateral reaction. At the same time, the sophisticated foe will build strategic ties with nation states. If the United States is manipulated into reacting to each enemy action, succumbing to the effects based psychological warfare; the United States will begin to lose control. The intelligent enemy will seek to distract the United States from focusing on internal strength by constantly applying external stimuli. This is similar to the strategy of the cold war. Focus the enemy on the external threat as the internal instability goes unchecked. If we remained solely concerned on how we could be attacked instead of concentrating on understanding how we may be undermined or led to undermine ourselves, we will be less like to see that we are being dangerously manipulated.

13This following argument is built on the assumption that the people who may be plotting this demise are intelligent enough and selfless enough to see it through to fruition. At this time that is not a reasonable assumption, but does not remove the benefit of considering the requirements of a sound plan to destabilize the United States.

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