This article originally appeared in the 30 January 2003 Issue of Close Quarter Combat Magazine (Issue 15). It is used here with their permission.
The “War on Terrorism” Has No Front Lines
For the first time in history, American policemen have
been pitted against foreign soldiers. SWAT and Security Teams don’t have the
luxury of resorting to overwhelming force. To protect noncombatants, they must
depend on surprise. This article will discuss what police departments can do to
help them prepare. First, one must
take an hard look at the status quo. Because big-city SWAT teams
get a lot of real-life experience, most are quite proficient at what they do.
Still, up until now, their opposition has been relatively unskilled at urban
warfare. There are ways of defending buildings that are so effective as to
necessarily be omitted here. Security teams also get plenty of practice at
preventing the traditional kinds of intrusion. But there are saboteurs in
this world who are so skilled as to be able to sneak through triple-concertina
barbed wire and wide-awake sentries. If those sentries are equipped with
thermal imagining, the saboteurs have only to wait for heavy fog or rain.
police departments pattern their SWAT and Security Team instruction after U.S.
military training. We would not have won WWII, if there had not been
American units with high levels of individual and small-unit skill. But,
sadly Korea and Vietnam did not turn out as well. In essence, the U.S.
military has never had a way to add to its corporate knowledge what riflemen and
squad leaders learn. As a result, our officially endorsed small-unit
tactics have lagged behind those of other nations. Every German squad
participating in the Spring Offensives of 1918 had a way to covertly penetrate
Allied lines. The technique was so strong that the majority of defenders
never even knew they were under ground attack. God help us if the
terrorists ever discover the method.
the assault squads and sapper teams of a third-world nation were able to destroy
so many of our strategic assets that Congress got tired of funding the war.
How did tiny units manage to do that much damage? Their activities went
largely unnoticed because the destruction was made to look like accidents or
lucky mortar hits. To fully understand the current threat and how to meet
it, police departments must study the Eastern way of war.
German) military commanders employ a different thought process than our own.
They are “bottom-up,” holistic thinkers who have much less difficulty
decentralizing control. They focus more on the training of individual
riflemen and squads, than on large units. Those riflemen and squads get
advanced training in close-range combat and constant practice at
tactical-decision making. While the U.S. recruit gets punished for making
a mistake, a German recruit recently got punished for not showing enough
initiative. In the Eastern World, every Private gets schooled on the
strategic goals of his organization so that he can either contribute or get out
of the way.
Germans (and potentially everyone in between) also know how to fight in a way
that is difficult to predict. They understand how Americans think and
appear to base much of their technique on the yin/yang antithesis.
After the Easterner shows his Western opponent what he wants him to see, he
waits for that opponent to make the first move and then does the exact opposite
of what the opponent would do under similar circumstances. In other words,
the Easterner routinely practices the “false face” and art of delay. At
his disposal are a myriad of deceptions based on the ancient 36 Stratagems.
With respect to the events of 9/11, some of these ruses are quite chilling.
What has been called “asymmetric” warfare really isn’t. It is simply
well-thought-out technique that has been disseminated as guidelines rather than
doctrine. Then, under decentralized control, every unit does something
slightly different. Until the pronounced trends in enemy small-unit
technique were disclosed by Phantom Soldier: The Enemy’s Answer to U.S.
Firepower in August of last year, American troops were entering combat with
very little idea of how their enemy counterpart would fight.
those who follow the same “maneuver” or “common-sense” approach to war) will
also capture their opponent’s attention with “ordinary” forces while beating him
with “extraordinary forces.” Those extraordinary forces are, for the most
part, solitary assault squads and sapper teams. Published in late 1998,
One More Bridge to Cross: Lowering the Cost of War describes how to
defend against both threats. To fare well in the expanding “War on
Terrorism,” policemen will need advanced infantry skills with which to generate
more surprise. To provide the required support, many departments may have
to switch over to the less traditional, “bottom-up” way of training and
operating described in this book.
As a point of
departure, S.W.A.T. teams can use the surprise-enhanced but doctrinally correct
techniques in The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO’s Contribution to
Warfare. First published in 1997, this book is only available to U.S.
military veterans and through Posterity Press at 252-354-5493 or
(About the Author — After two infantry tours in Vietnam, John Poole worked as an agent with the Illinois Bureau of Investigation in Chicago from 1970 to 1972. Upon retirement from the Marine Corps in 1993, he established Posterity Enterprises (www.posteritypress.org) — an organization dedicated to helping U.S. units to adopt advanced small-unit infantry technique. So far, he has has written three books and conducted multiday training sessions for 31 battalions, 8 schools, and 1 special warfare group).
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