As we await the verdict in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial, now’s a great time to reflect on the absolute awful experience a murder trial is for anyone. The old gun board saying goes, “Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six,” but that doesn’t mean being tried by twelve is in any way a pleasant experience. Sometimes, it’s only marginally preferable to being dead.
Following a defensive gun use, the decision a gun owner has to make in fractions of a second are slowly second-guessed by prosecutors, the judge, and then a jury, who can take days or weeks to think it over. Even with a good judge and a good jury, it’s a situation most sane people would rather avoid.
The obvious answer some people on both sides have thrown around during the aftermath and trial of Kyle Rittenhouse is that it’s better to stay home. While that may be true, I know that not everyone can do that. For the least lucky of us, the bad things happen at our homes or businesses. There are people who feel that they have a duty to go help when there’s unrest. Whatever one’s legitimate reason for going there, we’re all adults and have to make that decision.
Instead of pretending I’m your mom and simply telling you to stay home, let’s look at some ancient ideas on warfare (plus a modern one) that give us ideas of how to handle these situations. Whether we want to call violence and rioting in a city warfare or not, the concepts from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War have been found to be widely applicable in not only war, but business, and even family feuds.
“All Warfare is Based on Deception”
The Art of War starts with a basic idea: using deception to defeat your opponents and understanding that your opponents will be trying to deceive you. In other words, you shouldn’t assume anything is what it seems to be.
At protests that turn violent, many people will be exactly what they appear to be: legitimate people exercising their right to peaceable assembly. Others will look like them, but are really there because they want to push the crowd to violence and destruction.
Skateboards aren’t brought to protests for transportation or fun. Some “EMTs” who are supposedly there to help people have hidden guns and might “accidentally” point them at you. If you’re there with some sort of militia or defense group, some of your friends could be agitators and/or government informants. They may even be working with your antagonists to set you up to be the bad guy.
The Rittenhouse trial shows us that the deception continues right into the trial, and after. In court, in the media, and especially on social media, the vilest of armed attackers are made to look like innocent choir boys, “victims”, and people there to help while people who were actually there to help (misguided or not) are cast as vigilantes looking for a fight and white supremacists.
None of this deception is possible without putting in the prep work. Agitators and informants must gain trust over time. Clothing and weapons are selected to best fit the role someone wants to play. Plans are made to keep the deception going from start to finish so that the deception can last for decades if needed.
Bottom line: if you think everyone is who they appear to be, and you don’t think about who you want to be in others’ eyes, you won’t do well if things get violent.
“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
This is one that we should all know by now. Winning a battle is great, but winning always comes with a cost. In this case, the cost of reputation, freedom, and legal fees is huge. Working with a group and not ending up alone and being chased by individuals or a group is a good start. The provocateurs and professional agitators are far less likely to go after you if you’re part of a group or in a safe place.
Your strategy in working in any kind of unrest should be to avoid conflict if at all possible, and only have fighting as plan C or plan D, or lower.
“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”
Keep in mind that the “Roof Koreans” stood up to Los Angeles rioters in 1992. Do you think people targeting a city for violence are incapable of learning and adapting in 30 years? Many will fine-tune what they’re doing over time.
But, when rumors of “Antifa Bus” attacks on small towns circulated, it was common to see photos of people sitting on their roofs waiting for them. Instead of being ready to fight off a violent mob, they ended up playing right into the hands of whoever spread the rumors, and were mocked in the media.
If your enemy changes tactics, but you don’t, your predictability will be used against you.
“Never let the enemy pick the battle site.”
It wasn’t Sun Tzu who said this one, it was George Patton. But, it’s just as wise as anything you’d find in The Art of War.
When bad people choose legitimate protests as a site for violence and destruction, they’re the enemy of both the victims of the damage and the people who wanted to peacefully protest. But, they’re the ones who get to choose where the battle happens.
Sun Tzu said, “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.”
Going to the protest to fight bad people makes no sense if you don’t know who they are and why they’re doing what they do. By fighting them at protests without this knowledge, you seriously risk playing into their hands.
With a little more homework, you can often find that the people behind unrest are often not who you think they are. One key question to ask is who’s paying the full-time rioters? No one can riot full time and afford to travel around the country and pay their rent.
Accusations have been made that foreign powers, domestic politicians, and government agencies have backed and sometimes stoked violence. There’s a nearly endless supply of low-lifes who are ready and willing to do illegal things with the goal of creating chaos and disarray.
If you want to be effective, don’t let them goad you into doing exactly what they want you to do. Don’t let them choose the field of battle. Find better ways to fight the real enemy elsewhere on different ground.