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Re: <nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation
t byfield on Wed, 4 Jan 2012 05:19:52 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation

jhopkins {AT} neoscenes.net (Sun 01/01/12 at 05:24 PM -0700):

> It's worth keeping in mind that in the next months and years
> (already!), police ranks are being filled with well-equipped,
> well-trained, and battle-hardened Iraq/Afghanistan vets.  They have
> been tested under extreme conditions far beyond a milling crowd of
> disorganized quasi-squatters -- imagining that 'tactical' field
> deployments of Occupiers can work in effective (neutralizing)
> opposition to the police is dangerously naive.  I recommend a closer
> read of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli as well as military field manuals
> available online, etc.  Do not underestimate your opponents. The
> characterization of tactics in this article are, again, extremely
> naive (pretending to draw on 'historical' precedent) and represent a
> high-risk for poorly-informed protesters. Police rank and command
> are quite aware of the simple permutations suggested in this posting
> ...

It's also worth keeping in mind that veterans aren't ahistorical
robots programmed to implement the will of a neo-monarchist executive.

The process you're talking about is called demobilization, and it
has a social history. An important part of that history is how
returning soldiers, and what exactly they're returning from, are
mythologized. At one extreme there's _Dolchstosslegende_ nonsense
and its US variations (e.g., POW-MIA lunacy); at the other there
are things like the G.I. Bill. The experiences of generations of
returning vets aren't reducible to a single analytical axis, of
course. Still, you might want to think about where your macho
rhetoric -- about vets who are "battle-hardened" and "tested under
extreme conditions" -- falls in terms of a willingness to address
vets not just as generic products of war but as individuals whose 
experiences might lead them to seek a more peaceful future. 

Remember, the G.I. Bill, which spoke very much to constructive
aspirations, was central to America's post-WW2 prosperity. Iraq and
Afghanistan vets are returning to a country where many of the kinds
of benefits offered to their predecessors have been withdrawn. How 
and where they see themselves fitting into the "1%" or the "99%" is 
up to them; hopefully they'll be less inclined than you to equate 
what the police are aware of with some final analysis. 

Sun Tzu and Machiavelli have a lot less to say on this subject than
Hunter S. Thompson, IMO. You might want to reread his description of 
the Vietnam Vets Against the War demo at the GOP national convention 
in Miami in '72 -- not to 'predict' anything, on the contrary, to 
see just how unpredictable and challenging vets can be. (HST has the
added advantage, with the exception of a few tired quotes, of lying
squarely outside of the canon of 'strategic' management self-helpery.)

> >    The tactical evolution that evolved relies on two military
> >    tactics that are thousands of years old- the tactical
> >    superiority of light infantry over heavy infantry, and the
> >    tactical superiority of the retreat over the advance.
> IMHO long term strategic considerations have to include methods
> which change/evolve/alter the structural relations in the social
> system overall (addressing the perceived imbalance of wealth,
> etc) -- these issues will not be contested as tactical play on
> the streets which is largely a media circus (count the cameras
> versus 'occupiers'!).  They are generally contested only when
> large numbers of people change their patterns of (resource)
> consumption as it is this consumption which enrich the 1%.
> Occupy, per se, will not accomplish this.

The article struck me as kind of pretentious, but I don't think the
author proposed that a simple 'tactical' observation about protest 
dynamics would resolve capitalism's contradictions. 

I'm not sure that 'media circus' is a particularly useful category 
anymore (if it ever was). There are certainly more useful ways to 
think about the implications of the number of 'cameras' in protest
settings than this kind of dismissal.


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