The three types of adversaries

 This is an interesting article on the strategy of conflict with antifragile adversaries by a Czech student of military history. While I don’t agree with all of Antifragile Adversaries: How to Defeat Them, particularly his dismissal of the strategic significance of the distinction between state and non-state actors, and I suspect his attempt to work back from metaphor to application will not provide him with the answers he admittedly does not have, he does offer an admirable clarity of analysis that is very useful to anyone involved in any form of conflict:

The spectrum from fragility, to resilience to antifragility captures how strategic performance affects the three basic types of adversaries. The first ideal type is the fragile adversary. In this case, the strategist’s performance degrades the adversary’s military capabilities. Fragile adversaries are arguably the most common types across strategic history. The Greek king Pyrrhus and the Carthaginian general Hannibal in their respective wars against Rome come close to the ideal type of fragile adversaries. Roman strategic performance, though often flawed or even disastrous, gradually degraded military capabilities of both adversaries. More modern examples include the Swedish king Charles XII during his war against Russians and the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Both the Russian and the Union’s strategic performance destroyed their adversaries’ military capabilities despite suffering initial setbacks. The logic of defeating fragile adversaries is straightforward. If the strategist is less fragile than the adversary, he has a high chance to succeed with any strategy. Indeed, as the examples above illustrate, the strategist can even suffer a string of defeats and still be successful in the long term. Fragile adversaries do not pose any unique challenge for strategists.

The second ideal type is the resilient adversary. Strategic performance does not affect the capabilities of this adversary in either way. Actors who have access to large pools of military resources and adequate mobilization procedures fall into this category. Typical examples include the Roman republic or the Russians (Soviets), especially in the 20th century. The Romans suffered many defeats in their countless wars but they were always able to recover and deploy fresh troops to replace their losses. The Russians were able to recover from the initial shocks of the German impetus and to field overwhelming numbers of forces throughout the Second World War, first stopping and then reversing the German advance into their territory. Nonetheless, the logic of defeating the resilient adversary does not differ significantly from the previous case. Ultimately, military means are always a finite resource. Therefore, the strategist can defeat resilient adversaries by becoming more resilient himself. If he possesses more resources than the adversary, then in the end he will prevail through the simple process of attrition. Of course, not every strategist has easy access to additional military resources. For this reason, resilient adversaries may pose a considerable challenge for most strategists.

The third ideal type is the antifragile adversary. For this one, strategic performance serves as a stimulus for the growth in his military capabilities. This happens when the adversary with antifragile predispositions faces regular challenges appropriate to his current capabilities. Of course, what is “regular” and “appropriate” is context dependent. Antifragile adversaries are less common in strategic history. This is so because they manifest themselves only in instances when their predispositions match with the favourable character of the strategist’s attacks. One historical example that comes close to the ideal type were the Thebans in their wars against the Spartans (395-362 B.C.). The two polities fought each other regularly during the first half of the fourth century. The continual engagement in strategic performance made Theban forces stronger from one major battle to another. Though first suffering a defeat at Nemea (394 B.C.), Thebans fought Spartans to a standstill at Coronea (394 B.C.), routed them at Tegyra (375 B.C.), and slaughtered them at Leuctra (371 B.C.) and Mantinea (362 B.C.).[vi] Over the course of the wars, Thebans enjoyed gradually increasing morale, explored innovative echelon tactics and developed new kinds of military units. Therefore, by their own efforts as well by the repeated violent interaction with the Spartans, the Thebans fulfilled their anti-fragile potential. Seeing this development in practice, one Spartan sarcastically congratulated his own king that by the repeated attacks against Thebes, he had taught his adversary how to fight.[vii] Antifragile adversaries are not an artefact of a distant past. In fact, as David Betz and Hugo Stanford-Tuck argue in their recent piece, even the contemporary West has often pursued a way of war “which through one’s own efforts leaves the enemy stronger at the end than at the beginning.[viii]” Antifragile adversaries are universal and so is the unique challenge they pose.

The main challenge in facing antifragile adversaries is that what does not kill them makes them stronger. This is a bit of exaggeration, but in general it does apply. To start with, most strategies seeking to attrite that adversary do not work. Worse, these strategies work for the antifragile adversaries. Actively seeking out the antifragile adversary and trying to attrite his military capabilities by frequent engagements is a reliable receipt for making him stronger. This may not seem like a big deal when the other strategies are available. The problem is, most of the other strategies eventually turn into some sort of attrition contest as well. Strategists too often envision quick and decisive wars of annihilation and get prolonged wars of attrition instead. Others, who start out with terrorist attacks and guerrilla raids, turn to attrition once they develop sufficient military capabilities to have a reasonable chance of success. Not all the strategic options lead to attrition but too many of them do. It follows that most options for dealing with the antifragile adversaries convey high risks of failure.

This is important for everything from Qanon and the Antifa/BLM color revolution to the current conflict with Patreon. The problem that every responsible strategist is trying to solve is how to make a resilient adversary less resilient and how to make an antifragile adversary more fragile.

To provide one non-military example of attacking antifragility, Patreon tried to get consumer arbitrants declared not-consumer, then tried to convince the arbitrators to rule that the consumer protection laws and arbitration rules did not apply. They also tried – with limited success – to expand the battleground from arbitration to the courts in order to put pressure on their opponents’ resources. That this particular expansion turned out to be a serious tactical blunder that has already backfired doesn’t change the fact that their strategic instinct in the situation was correct. In strategy, it’s not at all uncommon to do the wrong thing for the right reasons; there is no perfect strategy since timing, execution, and Sun Tzu’s “Heaven” principle always matter.

Anyhow, it’s an intriguing article and I’ll put up another post later reviewing his proposed approaches to finding the answers to defeating antifragility. However, the fact that he cites Echevarria and not Van Creveld doesn’t tend to bode well for success in that regard.

Analysis of an Assassination

Thomas Wiktor summarizes his detailed analysis of the murder of Trump supporter Jay Danielson:

Let’s consolidate the FACTS in the murder of Aaron “Jay” Danielson.

These are only the things I know for sure.

No theorizing.

It was a planned, premeditated sectarian assassination carried out by a death squad of six active participants.

It’s not possible to know if there were more people in addition to the four males and two females.

Read the whole thing. And realize this is why it is very important to keep out of the cities, especially Democrat-controlled cities, and stay away from Antifa. They are being actively protected by sympathetic state and local authorities and their actions have been sanctioned; there is no point in mass public demonstrations and even passing confrontations could put you at risk of a similar operation.

You do not know your enemy, so don’t fail Sun Tzu 101 by putting yourself in a situation where you are as likely to lose as to win.

Antifa is playing for keeps. You are not. So don’t engage.

Reality check

 Four armed veterans, including a decorated Marine, were shocked to find themselves tactically outmaneuvered by Antifa in Portland:

In hindsight it was stupid on our part, I had no idea that they were like that. If it had been a full-blown riot we would not have gone. Bottom line, man, if you had ever given me a scenario like this and said hey, you’re sober, and you have a gun, and somebody is hitting you with a bat and throwing rocks at you that could kill you or put you in a coma, you try to get away but they cut you off with a convoy of vehicles and the assault starts again. They impede your movement and beat you with bats…

Would you shoot?

I’d be like, yeah what fucking planet are you from?

But in all the training that I’ve been through my life, I’ve never been in one where in the first five seconds of the scenario you’re blinded with a strobe light and sprayed with pepper spray…. That changes everything. They were throwing these rocks from 15 feet back in the crowd, you couldn’t see who the fuck through it, etc. things like that…. It’s just a good talking point for guys that carry concealed, but you need to think through all these different scenarios.

It got way worse after that video ended, they chased us for 11 city blocks. They had a convoy of about 25 vehicles that cut us off at the next intersection, They had scouts on the corner with radios, they had a drone following us, they had a bull horn calling us Nazis, and the crowd was following a red strobe light that was up in the air on a stick, so they would announce Nazis and then people would follow the red strobe light, That video is just the beginning, I’ve got a fucking fractured hand from a baton, everyone of us has black and blue bruises up and down their legs and back, I had a guy spit in my face from 6 inches away, call me a pussy and a coward for not doing anything about it, and then tell me that he was going to find where I live, rape my mother, rape my children in front of me and then kill me.

First, the operational level of war is about logistics, not tactics. Second, the enemy always gets a vote. Neither the Boomers confident in their tacticool AR-15 rifles nor the self-reliant GenXers with their concealed 5-shot .357 revolvers have any idea what they’re actually likely to find themselves up against.

Note that these Patriots were sufficiently experienced to run rather than fight when they found themselves facing more than they could handle. Note as well that the police believe themselves to be in over their heads.

Lessons learned

 A security professional shares some observations of his surveillance of Antifa-organized “protests” and their security and counter-surveillance teams:


So what are the lessons for patriots?

  • The protests are organized by a central organization.
  • They have trained and professional security teams.
  • They actively conduct counter-surveillance.
  • Park sufficiently far enough distance away to discourage anyone following, and walk in.
  • They are completely willing to use arms and force.
  • The presence of body armor indicates a willingness to use violence.
  • Blending in is far better than direct confrontation.
  • Have a fully stocked and ready first aid kit, such as a BearFAK.
  • Do I believe there will be a time when confrontation is needed? Absolutely.

However, let’s be smart and gather intelligence slowly and carefully first.


As a follow-up, after I observed one protest in Detroit, my friend Ethan came out of the shadows and made a Twitter post that the Detroit Police had tried to run him over, complete with video.   I was there. They surrounded the police cars and began beating on them, trying to force the police to use deadly force or hit them with the cars. The entire situation was a set-up designed to produce a new incident to create more tension and protests.

Be prepared for many more of these protests as the election nears.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they had overwatch via drones and spotters going before long, if they don’t already.  

Heroism isn’t pragmatic

But it is absolutely necessary. Heartiste is learning to embrace the conflict:

As a practical matter, I lukewarmishly agree with Zman and others like the fine volk at the former MPC that it’s generally a good idea to steer clear of active engagement with the enemy when the enemy is making a villain of itself and the State is firmly in the camp of the enemy.

If Kyle Rittenhouse were someone I personally knew, I would tell him to stay away from riot zones. It’s begging for trouble, and the State or jmedia won’t be on your side should shit go south. Basically, don’t LARP the hero when the means of narrative translation and judicial activation are in the hands of those who hate you and your kind.

But guess what? Kyle became a hero anyway. If he had listened to my eminently practical, reasonable advice, he would not be a victorious champion and gloried icon for Heritage America today.

That means something. We need our heroes. We need our champions, and our adventurers, and our noble warriors facing off against enormous odds. They inspire us to make heroes of ourselves. Their fortitude under numerically impossible assault shames our apathy and cowardice. I’m not saying to go out armed to face pantifag foot soldiers; I’m saying that the existence of Kyle Rittenhouses will rouse us from indifference and steel our hearts and cement our spines for the war barreling down on us. Kyle’s example makes us all warriors, in our own little ways.

No hero was ever baptised in the tepid waters of pragmatism.

Conflict is the air we breathe. It is the water in which we swim. Most men may never be called upon the way men like William Tell and Kyle Rittenhouse were, but we can all be inspired by their examples to be ready to act decisively in case we are. Because what makes a hero is his willingness to pay the price and be the sacrifice for the cause, if necessary.

Kyle Rittenhouse. Casey Peterson. James D’Amore. James O’Keefe. They are the heroes for the next generation because they didn’t do the sensible thing, they didn’t do the pragmatic thing. Instead they stood up and fought back, each in his own way, against a wicked society that hates them and their kind. They are the genuine heroes of the West who the Shapiros, the Pragers, the Petersons, and all the conservatives who have never conserved anything, are desperately trying to neuter.

Trump supporter killed in Portland

A reminder that they genuinely do want you dead:

A man who was fatally shot after supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with left-wing protesters on the streets of Portland, Oregon, was a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, its founder said Sunday.

Joey Gibson, head of the group based in Washington state, told The Associated Press the man who was shot to death Saturday night was a “good friend,” although he did not identify him.

Gibson said he was also in Portland on Saturday night when the Trump supporters clashed with Black Lives Matter protesters downtown. Gibson arrived at the scene of the shooting shortly after it happened and video from the scene showed he was briefly corralled in a nearby gas station by angry protesters.

“I can’t say much right now. All I can do is verify that he was a good friend and a supporter of Patriot Prayer,” Gibson said of the shooting victim in a text exchange. He said he would make a fuller statement later Sunday.

Remember, Kyle Rittenhouse didn’t fire the first shots in Kenosha either.

The end of Pax Americana

To the extent that one could describe it as a Pax, anyhow. Regardless, for better or for worse, it’s definitely over.

There has long been heated debate over whether the United States should defend Taiwan in the case of a Chinese invasion, but little consideration to whether it successfully can. An unemotional assessment of the military capabilities of both China and the United States reveals the odds are uncomfortably high that the U.S. forces would be defeated in a war with China over Taiwan. What’s worse, even achieving a tactical victory could result in a devastating strategic loss. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t alternative strategies to effectively preserve U.S. interests and at an affordable cost.

Few leaders in “establishment Washington” have taken the time to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  Instead, decisionmakers routinely engage in seemingly cost-free rhetorical declarations about U.S. political preferences devoid of context. Policymakers have long argued to jettison the idea of “strategic ambiguity” that has underscored decades of America’s Asia policy, and outright declare that the United States would militarily defend Taiwan in the event of an attack. 

Former Pentagon official Joseph Bosco reflected the desire of many this summer when he argued that Congress should pass the Taiwan Defense Act because “it will move U.S. policy just one step short of an open defense commitment to Taiwan.”

If signed into law, the act would obligate the U.S. government to “delay, degrade, and ultimately defeat an attempt by the People’s Republic of China to [use military force to seize control of Taiwan].” It would be useful to stop and consider what those confident words would mean for America in practical terms on the ground, on and under the seas, and in the skies of the Asia-Pacific region. It doesn’t take long to realize it would be bad for the United States.

Any act or treaty the United States enters into should unequivocally have the net result of a more secure America, preserving (or expanding) the country’s ability to prosper. It is obviously not in America’s interest to tie itself to another state or entity if America must absorb all the risks and costs while the other party reaps the majority of the benefits. Extending a security guarantee to Taiwan fails in the first requirement and thoroughly meets the second.

Recent wargames jointly conducted by the Pentagon and RAND Corporation have shown that a military clash between the United States and China, especially over the Taiwan issue, would likely result in a U.S. defeat. In simulated wargames between the United States and China, RAND analyst David Ochmanek bluntly said America got “its ass handed to it.”

If China committed all-out to seize Taiwan, Ochmanek explained, then it could accomplish its objective  “in a finite time period, measured in days to weeks.” The reason, he said, is because it’s not, “just that they’ll be attacking air bases in the region. They’ll be attacking aircraft carriers at sea . . . They’ll be attacking our sensors in space. They’ll be attacking our communications links that largely run through space.”

As the emailer who sent me the link to this article noted, I’ve been warning of this for years. They say one should choose one’s battles carefully… one should be even more careful in choosing one’s wars. And regardless of how one’s assessment might differ from mine or from the Rand wargamers, it should be impossible to argue with the author’s conclusion that “it doesn’t make sense to risk military defeat or financial ruin when our interests are not directly threatened.”

No, there will be no naval war

The answer is clear due to two reasons. First, the USA cannot lose an economic war with China. And second, the USA cannot win a naval war with China.

Is the U.S., preoccupied with a pandemic and a depression that medical crisis created, prepared for a collision with China over Beijing’s claims to the rocks, reefs and resources of the South China Sea?

For that is what Mike Pompeo appeared to threaten this week.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” thundered the secretary of state.

“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources … and (we) reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea.”

Thus did Pompeo put Beijing on notice that the U.S. does not recognize its claim to 90{4e01b0bc4ab012654d0c5016d8cbf558644ab2e53259aa2c40b66b3b20e8967d} of the South China Sea or to any exclusive Chinese right to its fishing grounds or oil and gas resources.

Rather, in a policy shift, the U.S. now recognizes the rival claims of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

To signal the seriousness of Pompeo’s stand, the U.S. sent the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz carrier battle groups through the South China Sea. And, this week, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson sailed close by the Spratly Islands.

But what do Mike Pompeo’s tough words truly mean?

While we have recognized the claims of the other littoral states of the South China Sea, does Pompeo mean America will use its naval power to defend their claims should China use force against the vessels of those five nations?

Does it mean that if Manila, our lone treaty ally in these disputes, uses force to reclaim what we see as its lawful rights in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy will fight the Chinese navy to validate Manila’s claims?

Has Pompeo drawn a red line, which Beijing has been told not to cross at risk of war with the United States?

If so, does anyone in Washington think the Chinese are going to give up their claims to the entire South China Sea or retreat from reasserting those claims because the U.S. now rejects them?

Consider what happened to the people of Hong Kong when they thought they had the world’s democracies at their back.

For a year, they marched and protested for greater political freedom with some believing they might win independence.

But when Beijing had had enough, it trashed the Basic Law under which Hong Kong had been ceded back to China and began a crackdown.

The democracies protested and imposed economic sanctions. But the bottom line is that Hong Kong’s people not only failed to enlarge the sphere of freedom they had, but also they are losing much of what they had.

The U.S. Navy currently can’t stay out of the way of cargo containers or park a ship in port without setting it on fire. It’s not going to win a naval war against anyone, let alone a nation with considerably more manufacturing capacity than it has.

Remember, in the industrial age, war isn’t about how many tanks, ships, and planes you have, but how many you can manufacture. The USA can’t beat China at sea for the same reason that Japan couldn’t beat the USA. The fact that drones and hypersonic missiles make ships much more sinkable now than in recent decades only underlines the importance of manufacturing capacity.

If the USA is concerned about the the threat posed by China, they should probably worry more about Vancouver and the Ivy League than the South China Sea.

War in the South China Sea

It looks as if President Trump is inclined to call China’s raising the stakes in the South China Sea:

U.S. officials say the Trump administration is poised to escalate its actions against China by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea.

In a move the officials say is expected as early as Monday, the administration will present the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous U.S. sanctions and other penalties on other matters.

The Syracuse Moment approaches….

Convergence at Boeing

Just in case you weren’t entirely convinced yet that the USA is going to lose its next major war, badly, as well as its ability to manufacture vehicles that fly:

Boeing’s communications chief Niel Golightly has resigned over an article he wrote more than three decades ago arguing women should not serve in combat.

The former U.S. military pilot’s exit leaves Boeing trying to fill the crucial role for the fourth time in less than three years, just as it is battling to shore up its brand after the prolonged safety grounding of its Boeing 737 MAX jetliner.

The Senior Vice President of Communications job has become the industry’s biggest hot seat as Boeing fends off criticism for its handling of the 737 MAX crisis.

‘My article was a 29-year-old Cold War navy pilot’s misguided contribution to a debate that was live at the time,’ Golightly said in a statement included in Boeing’s announcement. ‘My argument was embarrassingly wrong and offensive. The article is not a reflection of who I am; but nonetheless I have decided that in the interest of the company I will step down.’

Good riddance to the cowardly cuck, cowering in fear before the crocodile and begging it to eat him last. But you know he’ll be replaced by some moronic diversity who will be less concerned about failed designs causing planes to crash than advocating even more diversity and vibrancy.