Real strategies for removing federal presence from Western lands
Posted on January 12, 2016 by Brandon Smith
Oregon standoff
Oregon standoff
When activist movements enter into confrontation with a corrupt government or establishment structure, often the temptation is to stick rather closely to what they know. The problem with this is that even though circumstances change and the fighting escalates, people will still turn to their old standby methods for defending themselves. This makes these movements repetitive, predictable and ineffective.
In the case of the liberty movement, the more passive tactic of marches and sign waving is immediately suggested. But inevitably some hothead is going to demand one of two things: a mass armed surge on the steps of Washington, D.C., or some kind of Alamo-inspired cinematic standoff. You would think that these strategies were the only two in existence; they are brought up so often it becomes mind-numbing.
I can understand (to a point) why the standoff concept keeps popping up. The movement has seen it work at least once at Bundy ranch. However, Bundy ranch came with a very specific set of circumstances that made the standoff strategy useful. The ranch was private property owned by freedom-minded people; it was a home being invaded by federal agents exhibiting intent to do physical harm and confiscate the livelihood of those in their crosshairs. Whether or not people agreed with the grazing rights issues that originally triggered the standoff, no one with any moral fortitude could deny that the Fed response was unacceptable.
The standoff had direct strategic value to the situation; it had a concrete purpose, which was to stop the federal incursion, prevent harm to the people involved and prevent further theft of property. The liberty movement also had the most important advantage of all: We were invited to make a stand there, and many of the locals supported our initiatives.
If all of these elements are not present in any given situation, then the standoff method is a pointless and foolish endeavor. It ultimately does more harm than good.
To argue the nature of the cause does little to change the strategic reality. We can wax philosophical all day on the nature of federal overreach and the train of abuses suffered by common people. We can preach passionately about the villainy of the Bureau of Land Management and the need for its erasure. We can discuss endlessly the nature of patriotism and duty and the will to do what is right or necessary. It is a fine thing to clarify your standing on the issues in the face of ideological opposition from statists whose only interest is to blindly support the power of federal government because they believe they benefit from the existing system. That said, in the end, strategy is not subject to emotional arguments.
Some methods are going to work, and others are definitely not going to work. And no amount of pride or fear or moral outrage or tears or indignant, reactionary thinking is going force bad strategies to become good strategies.
If you do not have an intelligent plan behind your actions, then your actions are pointless and doomed to failure. There is no way around this.
The argument has come up over and over again in the face of the recent Oregon standoff that any action is better than no action. I disagree. All actions have consequences. And if you are not patient enough to weigh the good consequences with the bad consequences, then you should not be taking action at all. Period. This is one of the few weaknesses of a leaderless movement like the liberty movement; when crisis strikes, hotheads forget the “leaderless” part and proclaim themselves the “tip of the spear.” Sadly, parts of the movement gravitate toward these hotheads because they see it as easier to be told what to do. And generally, hotheads make terrible leaders and inadequate tacticians. Disaster is usually the result.
As I outlined in “Internal war is now on the horizon for America,” anyone demanding support from the liberty movement must be willing and able to give a logical and practical analysis of why their strategy is the right one. Emotionally manipulative arguments and attempts to shame people into participation are not the right way to go. The burden of proof is on them, not you.
I am not here to ask for anyone’s support. I have put forward my concepts for non-participation and self-defense for years, and I have been enacting those strategies within my own community with success. I have been told many accounts of other people doing the same.
But if situations like Oregon are to escalate, I can see no other option but to offer alternative strategies that would work far better than the standoff model. All of these strategies are hypothetical in nature, and I am not responsible if any of them are applied in the real world. In this hypothetical analysis, I am not necessarily concerned with questions of “legality,” only questions of morality. There are often vast differences between that which is legal and that which is moral. I am also not interested in the arguments of statists who claim that the federal government’s jurisdiction is sacrosanct. Clearly, even if that were true, I do not care.
The following is a short list of methods that could be used effectively to remove federal presence from Western lands. None of these methods require directed violence, only self-defense if required.
Empowering locals
There is a plague within the liberty movement called the “sheepdog” mentality. The overall attitude by the pro-Oregon standoff crowd has been driven by this mentality. The sheepdog ideal is that some people are simply born helpless, and some are born with strength. That is to say, the locals in Oregon are seen as sheep, while Ammon Bundy and his associates see themselves as protectors (sheepdogs) that must travel from across the country to the rescue. The problem with this attitude is that it breeds arrogance and prevents the empowerment of locals.
If you are an outsider arriving in all your bluster to pat the little people on the head and treat them like children, then you will be seen as an unwanted carpetbagger. This is exactly what has happened in Harney County, Oregon, as the locals have released a statement asking Bundy to leave while they handle their own conflict with the Feds.
I applaud this mindset. You cannot help people that do not want your help. This is the bottom line. All you can do is offer your assistance or offer to make those people more effective in fighting back.
Oath Keepers has presented a standing offer to the people of Harney County to send Community Preparedness Teams to train locals so that they can handle their own problems. This should be done across the nation, but only where the locals have asked for such aid. Militias and other groups cannot possibly hope to project to every single place where there is conflict with the Feds; they can only prepare local people to take charge whenever possible. Treating them like children solves nothing.
Removing federal footprint
If you are facing off against an opponent vastly superior in arms and resources, then asymmetric tactics are the only way to win. And asymmetric tacticians recoil in horror at the very mention of a static position ending in a standoff scenario. This is the exact opposite of an effective plan, and smart rebellions avoid these situations at all costs unless there is considerable public support and a clear symbolic and psychological advantage to holding that piece of land.
Standoffs leave all initiative in the hands of the opponent. He decides how he is going to hit you and when. He has all the time in the world. He decides perimeter; he decides whether or not you receive further resources; and he can even determine the kind of information the public receives on the standoff itself if you have not thought ahead and established off-grid, long-range communications. It’s a dumb strategy.
I would first ask: What is the point of holding the ground that you are on? If there are no direct advantages except to thumb your nose at the Feds, then you are involved in a pointless exercise.
If you want to present a real threat to federal presence on Western lands, then why not remove their facilities one by one? Why not move in quickly, bulldoze the damn buildings into the dirt (there should be no people in them, of course), and then walk away? If this were done at numerous BLM sites across the country, their ability to remain active on these lands would be greatly hindered. Bureaucrats need their offices.
This is the same strategy the Founding Fathers used against the British; they attacked symbols of oppression as well, but they did not stick around like idiots afterward. When the Sons of Liberty dumped British tea into Boston harbor, they did not then take over the merchant ships screaming: “Come and get us!” No, they wore disguises, did what mattered and then left.
Helping locals use resources
A major point of contention between rural populations in the West and the federal government is the use of land to aid local economies. Because of draconian BLM and Environmental Protection Agency regulations and heavy-handed treatment, rural towns and counties are stifled in the use of the resources right under their own feet and around their very heads. This has resulted in the near collapse of rural economies, creating populations almost entirely dependent on the federal government for welfare and a minimum of jobs. It would appear to me that the goal of the Feds is, in fact, to make sure that rural people never achieve any kind of industrial independence again. So what is the solution?
Ignore federal obstructions and build industry anyway.
If a town or county wanted to actually save its economy from a steady downward spiral, if they asked for help, then the liberty movement could provide security while it rebuilds. For example, if a community that once depended on responsible logging is being strangled by the Feds, we prevent obstruction while the locals begin logging again. As stated earlier, this requires that the locals want aid. It is also the only instance in which holding a semi-static position makes sense. Saving a community from financial despair and welfare dependency is something I can believe in. Holding a meaningless piece of land with no tangible direct benefits to the community? I can’t put much faith in that idea, and most of the country will not buy into it either.
If a movement is going to take action, then it must be intelligently planned and executed. Being mindless and reactionary is often romanticized as if it is “decisive.” It is anything but. If the goal is to win, then staging one Alamo after another is not the best method. I fight to win, and so do many in the movement. The best way to win is not just to fight but to fight smart. As statists are happy to constantly remind us, the odds are already well against us. Intelligent strategy evens out all odds.
–Brandon Smith