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"1780, 2030: regulars vs irregulars" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 9:01 a.m. PST

Put your minds to this:

In the 18th century the gap between regulars and irregulars (militia, etc) was quite large: drilled vs undrilled infantry, plus effective artillery and cavalry vs little to none. Although the irregulars occasionally won a battle, the regulars' advantage was huge.

NOW, compare with the near future, assuming an advanced nation with widespread literacy and access to technology. The "regulars" -- troops supported by a central government -- have, again, some huge advantages, from nukes and supersonic jets and advanced drones and satellites, through armored vehicles, long-range artillery, etc etc. But assume an irregular opponent that can hide among a larger civilian population and is NOT hillbillies (i.e. I'm not talking about Afghanistan) but people who are very accustomed to using electronic media, computers, heavy equipment, advanced chemistry, etc.

Here's the question: is the gap between regulars vs irregulars circa 1780 GREATER THAN, LESS THAN, or ABOUT THE SAME AS the gap between professional troops vs civilians in an advanced society/economy in the near future?

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 9:11 a.m. PST

The question assumes that the "regulars" -- that is, the professional military -- cannot simply "shut down" things like the internet or civilian air travel or the trucking industry etc. etc. without causing massive economic dislocation and paying a heavy political price. But does the "surveillance state" give the regulars enough of an advantage? or are there enough "work-arounds" to defeat surveillance to allow an irregular resistance to survive? (I am assuming, as well, that an anti-government resistance wins if it survives long enough.)

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 9:16 a.m. PST

Finally, assume as well that a resistance is NOT geographically limited (i.e. just a small part of a large country) but rather is either ideological or broadly social class based and represents, say, 10% of the population widely spread across the country. Which is to say, the members of the resistance are not readily distinguishable from the rest of the population.

Legion 426 Jan 2022 9:59 a.m. PST

Modern armies have a lot of high tech weapons the irregulars/guerillas/insurgent, etc., don't. But as we see lower tech insurgents use terrain, tactics, etc., to give them an edge. Plus the high tech force limits it's use of firepower and has to be aware of CD. Which plays into the insurgents' hands. As well as the insurgent generally is more than willing/use to taking high losses. For their "cause". That is an advantage as well.

In many cases the higher tech forces are "visitors", so the home team insurgents know as long as they continue to inflict losses on the "invaders" or even gov't forces. They higher tech forces will tire and eventually go back home. Only some much blood & treasure are the higher tech forces willing expend. Sooner or later plus time & terrain are generally in the insurgents' favor. Usually leaving the local gov't's forces on their own.

As we see … these forces usually are defeated by the insurgents. The insurgents seem to be highly motivated for a number of reasons. Where the gov't's forces not so much … E.g. Vietnam, Iraq, A'stan, etc. … No matter how much training and equipment is given to the local gov't forces … As well as numbers in their favor, the insurgent seems to get outside support too.

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 10:20 a.m. PST

Yes, all true.

I'm simply not knowledgeable enough to know what degree of advantage in electronic warfare (broadly understood) the government would have? I have read that, for example, someone who is at the top end of the scale in reading and exploiting market fluctuations is NOT, typically, going to go work for the central bank or the treasury department, but rather make a lot of money as a private investor.

If there were to be, say, a propaganda war via Youtube or such, with the resistance able to post anonymously its own videos, is there any reason to think they would be inferior at it to what the government comes up with?

We would assume that a government security agency would be listening to all radio transmissions and reading all emails -- but how secure would the governemnt's communications be, in return? I assume the "professionals" would have some advantages, but would they be ENOUGHG advantage? Dunno, but worth pondering ,I think.

Legion 426 Jan 2022 10:48 a.m. PST

IMO … As long as the insurgent is willing to take high losses for their cause(s). Have home court advantage, supplied, etc. They will continue to fight & die. They don't have to be too concerned about CD, like the high tech forces do.

Andy ONeill26 Jan 2022 11:58 a.m. PST

Population density and which country the sides are from matters. Can the supporters of the irregulars be persuaded to turn on them or moved to concentration camps?
How difficult is it for the irregulars to obtain weapons?
What are their aims?
Eg the ostensible aim of irish republicans would have been independence. They settled for less. A fair few of their active funders were not really politically motivated. There's a big moat round their country and few weapons available in the population. But a lot of the population were sympathetic. Outsiders were obvious so inserting agents into the population was very tricky as was recruiting out the general population.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2022 12:16 p.m. PST

Doc do these insurgents have to fight conventionally? That is going to make a difference. Let us say they are dedicated enough to a specific cause, a win at any cost type so to speak? If so, poisoning of water and food supplies, specifically of large cities. Destruction of key sectors of the power grid during winter. Attacks on the families of both political, business and military leaders. Destruction of media HQ's. Bring interstate transit to a standstill, but hitting transportation anyplace and anywhere. Destruction of oil refineries. Hit these soft targets that are everywhere, forcing the military to spread themselves thinly and everywhere. Putting fear, panic and suffering everywhere. Would not make them popular, but really depends on their objectives. I remember what happened when people injected poisons into Tylenol and everyone was in fear of getting groceries and that was just a small example of the panic.

advocate26 Jan 2022 1:20 p.m. PST

Depends a lot on the attitude of the passive population, more perhaps than the technology. Insurgents don't have to fight battles, now more than ever. Disruption is easier to perform than it was 250 years ago. But why is the insurgency happening? Against a foreign occupier? Against a democratic government? Or an undemocratic one?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2022 1:38 p.m. PST

If we assume that the "regular" forces are required to Keep The Economy Going, which means keeping the non-combatant population safe and relative prosperous and their goods and property safe, and that the irregulars don't care about these things, the irregulars are going to be able to make things difficult for the regulars, up to a point. But if the irregulars are too violent and too destructive or disruptive, they will lose the support of the populace, and people will be eager to betray them to the regulars— provided the regulars do indeed act on this information and effectively shut down irregulars. But if the regulars don't or won't act on this information, then the population will give up on supporting the regulars, shutting down the likelihood of such information continuing to be shared.

But at some point, the regulars may well decide They Have Had Enough and pull out the really big guns which the irregulars have no defense against, and set aside their concerns about maintaining property and certain economic situations and Blow The Holy You-Know-What out of any suspected stronghold of the irregulars.

But all of the above assumes that the irregulars don't care what happens to their society and innocent peoples' rights, lives or property. Those sort of irregulars are happy to "Burn It All Down," no matter how stupid that idea is, or how it will end up sending themselves into literal starvation.

However, if the irregulars are trying to protect the lives, liberty and property of others, and restore the society and system to a better place, they're going to be a bit more hampered. But they'll also likely be more intelligent and politically savvy than the BIAD radicals. They will study how to hit precisely against their political opponents, with limited CD impacting the general population, or even the regulars. Their "hits" may even not be violent, but rather political, social, and financial in nature, which could be very high tech indeed— hacking bank accounts, e-mail, and communications of those in power to bankrupt, embarrass or expose them, weakening their political power in visible ways. After all, all political power exists solely on the agreement of the populace, even in a totalitarian state. The question is merely how that agreement comes about. Force can maintain a great deal of tacit agreement for a considerable time, but eventually it will fail. If that force is not actually recognized as being present (even if it potentially is), then the agreement is instead based on the comfort level of populace compared to the power the government possesses over them. If that level begins to drop, then the agreement will be withdrawn, one way or another, and the political power will shift away from the established government to those of a different position— and actual broad force may never actually happen from either side.

Technologically is this possible? Yes. The catch for a totalitarian state is that totalitarian government bureaucracies are really, really bad at developing and producing broad communication and economic technology and systems which make these work. Private economic activity is far more efficient and effective at making these things, which the political bureaucracies then purchase, with little actual understanding of how they function or what the vulnerabilities might be, and few employees capable of determining the same (‘cause the private sector ALWAYS pays better, and gets the best people). So pathways into the communication and control systems of the state are multiple and relatively easy to pursue, especially in a near ubiquitous digital technological environment such as the OP suggests. If it's digital and connected, it can be hacked. And the private sector is going to produce better hackers than the bureaucracy can.
Of course, this all assumes that the "resistance" is more popular than the "establishment." If the reverse is true, the hackers will swing towards maintaining stability over bringing about change, and it will be the resistance being hacked by better hackers.

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 2:05 p.m. PST

Thanks, all. Yes, I'm thinking more than conventional warfare. The VC murdered how many supporters of the Saigon regime? village chiefs and school teachers etc. It would be horrible, but I think we have to assume coercion by the resisters of the larger neutral civilian population. Of course the smaller the % of anti-government fighters there are, the more ruthless they have to be. The middle neutrals will 'support" (reluctantly) whoever they are MOST AFRAID OF.

Of course if the resisters are more like 25% or 33% or 40% of the population, then popular pressure on the neutrals will be stronger and there will be less need for terror to keep people in line.

advocate26 Jan 2022 3:04 p.m. PST

The more I think about this, the less I think there is a useful answer. There are so many variables involved in each uprising that the level of technology probably isn't the most important.

doc mcb26 Jan 2022 4:42 p.m. PST

advocate, yes. Level of tech matters on a battlefield, but the premise I offered means there is no battlefield, or it is everywhere.

I think the equivalent of EW -- a much wider phenomenon including psyops and intell gathering -- is especially important and unknown. Right now a government or a tech giant has many tools for intell gathering -- but "informants", whether humans or tech algorithms, etc -- are easily spoofed. The king of Denmark showed how when he wore the Jewish star and so did every other Dane. Face recognition? monitoring of automobiles through attached devices and satellites? These things have not, as far as I know, ever faced an organized and systematic counter-effort.

Legion 426 Jan 2022 4:52 p.m. PST

They will study how to hit precisely against their political opponents, with limited CD impacting the general population, or even the regulars. Their "hits" may even not be violent, but rather political, social, and financial in nature,
So far we have not run into these types, e.g. AQ, Taliban, ISIS, the VC, etc. They were not that high tech. .. But we don't know what the future of insurgencies hold ?

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP26 Jan 2022 10:14 p.m. PST

A timely wrinkle which I just discovered today: link

In short, quantum computing will create a situation where ALL forms of modern digital encryption can be hacked within seconds. Quantum computers will just be that fast. This would make cyber warfare against government and economic systems extremely likely and grossly dangerous. All those "secrets" locked away in encrypted files and documents? They'll be wide open for viewing by anyone who wants to see them and can access the devices which store them. Say goodbye to online privacy— it won't exist. And that will produce a political upheaval of unimaginable proportions.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2022 6:05 a.m. PST

Heard the US is having all their parts for our Quantum computer manufactured in China. 😂

doc mcb27 Jan 2022 6:41 a.m. PST

The technological balance between offense and defense is always changing. Lines of infantry meet machine guns meet tanks meet stukas. (Iirc Hans Rudel destroyed 300+ Russian tanks.) Same applies to privacy.

alexpainter27 Jan 2022 8:33 a.m. PST

You have also to add an external support for these irregulars, otherwise, they'll end crushed by regular forces, look the difference btw Vietnam and South America, when Guevara tried to repeat in Bolivia the same tricks employed in SE Asia he was literally eliminated, or also in other countries. The Talibans had their bases in Pakistan, but if the USA had decided that enough is enough, you can only guess what would've happened to these sanctuaries.There's another factor against irregulars, they aren't manageable, when a war end generally regulars are very keen to go home, on the contrary too many irregulars aren't, and too often we saw such a thing happen, look to Greece CW, or what almost happened here in Italy after the liberation, when a lot of weapons had to be seized by the allies and security forces to avoid violence.

doc mcb27 Jan 2022 8:52 a.m. PST

Good point, but what does "external support" mean in today's international economy? For starters, money no longer has any borders. Knowledge mostly doesn't either. Heavy equipment does, yes.

Legion 427 Jan 2022 11:05 a.m. PST

Doc do these insurgents have to fight conventionally?
If so it is COIN, otherwise it could be a civil war. Which as we know many times even in a civil war you have some partisan/guerilla/irregular elements. Albeit generally small numbers compared to conventional forces. E.g. the ACW and even Vietnam of course.

You have also to add an external support for these irregulars,

As I said in a post above, "As well as numbers in their favor, the insurgent seems to get outside support too." … E.g. the USSR & PRC supporting the VC[and the NVA].

Plus, as we saw in Vietnam, Iraq & A'stan. The insurgent has to have some support from the locals/population. Even if just tacit support, or turning a blind eye, etc.

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