(Admin note: I had been asked, more or less, about the value of attending the SHTF Intelligence course. This is the long response.)
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Sun Tzu
The value of the class isn’t complex. I teach students how to collect and analyze intelligence information. SHTF could range from a slow descent into the Third World (which is where my dollars are right now) to grid-down or hard tyranny, or anything in between. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that, but what I’m here to tell folks is that we need to understand the threats and implications of any of the given scenarios. If we don’t understand the “who, what, when, where and why” of the battlespace, then we’re not going to be as effective as we should be.
This may not be a popular point to make, but I’ll make it anyway: intelligence is absolutely the most important way to spend your time right now. More important than medical, more important than communications, more important than tactical. At least in the beginning, everyone needs to begin with the work of intelligence and I’ll tell you why.
By front loading all these skills before intelligence, you are going to be reacting to threats that you don’t understand. If you’re going to prepare a defense, wouldn’t it first be prudent to understand what threats were most or more likely, and which were least or less likely?
What’s happening now in most places is that Americans are gearing up to play a football game, but they have no idea how good the opposing quarterback or receivers or linebackers are. In most cases, they don’t even know what team they’ll be playing against. Tactical, medical and comms training (or shoot, move and communicate) are all learning how to pass, catch, and tackle. You MUST be able to do all three of those if you’re going to win. There’s no way around them; they are critical to victory. If both teams can pass, catch and tackle, then it’s just a competition to see who can do those things the best. You either need to be the best at all three of those things, or understand how you can exploit the opposing team. If you can’t be the best passers, catchers and tacklers, then your only hope of victory is through exploitation. And that’s really where intelligence comes in — exploiting the enemy’s vulnerabilities while not being exploited yourself — and that’s what enables smaller forces to defeat larger ones.
So if you’re playing in the championship – i.e., one shot to win it or lose it – isn’t it prudent to do a little research on who you’re going to be playing against and how the crowd is going to affect the ole ball game? In our case, “We’re preparing for gangs and looters” doesn’t cut it. That’s like me telling my commander, “Sir, we’re going to encounter the Taliban in our AO.” I’d have been cleaning the shitters if that’s what I told my battalion commander.
If we want to talk in Army language, what dictates our training plan? The Mission Essential Task List (METL). What’s the METL based on? The mission. What’s the mission based on? The threat.
It’s just like buying tactical or comms gear. Unless you understand your mission requirements, you’re much more likely to be buying gear and equipment you don’t need and that you’ll never use. But if we first understand what we’ll be doing with a rifle, then we can refine our requirements and select a rifle that fits our needs. It’s ALL mission dependent.
Guys, what happens in the Intelligence Cycle dictates the entirety of the mission. The last thing anyone should be doing is making decisions on the mission without first understanding the “why” behind mission planning. It’s like training without a standard. You’re not going to go out and do medical, comms, or tactical training without first identifying some learning objective, just like we shouldn’t be training to play a game without first understanding who we’re playing against.
The fact of the matter is that we do a bang up job in the SHTF Intelligence course of getting students prepared to not only be their group or area’s intelligence officer, but also to survey the operating environment and begin producing some actionable and predictive intelligence to aid emergency preparedness.
The threat analysis we teach gives students an understanding of who they’re likely to encounter in the battlespace, their numbers, capabilities, intent, etc. There’s a ton of work that we can begin doing now that will pay large dividends when training in the tactical, comms, and medical arenas. And the thing is, most folks not only don’t understand the actual threats (even though they have some ‘concept’ of the threat, i.e., there is one), but they also don’t understand how the populace is going to affect their activities. In these low intensity conflicts, because the people are part of the battlespace, we have to be prepared to fight a parallel war of influence among the populace. The people the eyes and ears of either you or your adversary and they can make or break your security by providing you intelligence information or providing information about you to your enemy. In every single guerrilla conflict, the populace has had a say in the outcome. If you don’t understand the human terrain, then you’re preparing yourself to fail.
One large problem is that folks are preparing “for an enemy.” Well, what do we know about that enemy, and how did we come to that conclusion? Most humans think through what are called ‘heuristics’. They’re mental shortcuts humans take because a) the problem is too complex and mentally painful, or b) a decision must be made quickly (e.g., out of fear). This is illustrated by the problem, 17×24=?. Most people reading this will either see how much work is involved and not make an effort to answer it, or do some loose math and provide an estimate.
With intelligence, we don’t have the option of not doing our best to answer a tough question, especially one that has the implications of losing American lives. You — everyone reading this blog — are a non-renewable resource. The time and energy you dedicate to training puts you in the top 25% of all Americans, outside the military. If you get waxed because you didn’t understand the threat you were facing, then who’s prepared to take your place? How long is it going to take to get someone trained up to replace you (or to replace the person who replaces you)? In most cases, you are irreplaceable but I digress…
We inherited this way of thinking (heuristics) from our paleolithic ancestors who didn’t have time to do a threat analysis. They observed what they thought was a threat and ran, either saving their lives from a danger or running away from nothing. For them, in the end, it was better to be inaccurate and safe than sorry.
In the intelligence world, that’s a very bad way to do business. The less we know up front about a threat or the battlespace, the worse our decision making is going to be. So the first thing we can do is start lining up streams of intelligence information. That’s a great first step, and I talk about it in great detail during the course, however, that alone is just one part of our effort.
Another benefit of this course is learning some structural methods to analyze intelligence information. We get some information, great. How do we know that it’s true? In many cases, we don’t, and we’re very likely to encounter lots of these informational gray areas during a SHTF scenario. What I teach is how to judge a piece of information in a way that gives the student a good understanding of how likely or unlikely it is to be true.
We’re more likely than not going to be making lots of decisions on information we just received, so doesn’t it make sense to learn about how we can quickly judge the veracity of information and the merits of its sources?
If I had to describe this course in three sentences, it’s this:
1. I guide students through the work (collection and analysis) we need to be doing pre-SHTF in order to understand the threats and the operating environment.
2. I guide students through the process of setting up a small but effective intelligence element that directs collection of intelligence information and the analysis required in order to produce timely and relevant intelligence so that decision makers can make well-informed and time-sensitive decisions.
3. After this course, students are much better prepared because they understand the threat environment, they can articulate the mission and mission requirements, and they can begin preparing for facing known or suspected threats that they’re likely to encounter.
And before anyone says, “Well, Culper said that tactical, medical and comms are unimportant,” that’s not at all what I’m saying. All three of those are extremely important, however, I’d refer everyone to the parable of the wise and foolish builders…
Building your house on sand is like fighting without understanding the enemy (the old adage of not picking a fight with someone you don’t know). Building your house on rock is like understanding threats and their capabilities, and identifying the training your team needs to exploit and destroy the enemy. Most folks in this climate are building their houses on sand.
I still need to update my training schedule, however, this is how Q1 2016 is shaping up so far:
23-24 January – SHTF Intelligence (Two Day) – Northern Virginia
13 February – SHTF Intelligence (One-Day) – College Station, Texas
If you’re interested in attending one of the scheduled courses or if you want to schedule one for you area, please get in touch with me. If you’d like to be better prepared before attending class, I highly recommend reading SHTF Intelligence.