Academic journal article Parameters

The Tactical Skills of Street Protestors

Academic journal article Parameters

The Tactical Skills of Street Protestors

Article excerpt

To the Editor:

Two recent Parameters articles, "Bringing Environmental and Economic Internationalism into US Strategy" by David H. Carstens (Spring 2001) and "The Real Military Revolution" by Thomas K. Adams (Autumn 2000), have a real-world intersection in the recent anti-globalization street protests in Seattle and Quebec.

Protests of this nature are, of course, precisely the sort of conflict environment Major Carstens describes in his article. What is not specifically mentioned in Major Carstens' article is the tactical skill demonstrated by many of the street protestors. More aggressive demonstrators, such as the Anarchist "Black Blocs," have shown a high degree of sophistication in employing decentralized, small-team, and individual decision-making and personal communication devices (cell phones) to stymie the hierarchical police forces arrayed against them. Being intent on property damage and political drama, anarchist protestors have yet to wield real military force. However, it is worth contemplating what damage they could inflict if they had more lethal intentions and weaponry.

In fact, the decentralized but effective actions of anarchist protestors are an interesting contrast to the structure of the Army as we undergo transformation. As Lieutenant Colonel Adams points out, the increasing digitization of the battlefield is forcing decisions downward to the individual soldier. This may have the positive effect of allowing small tactical advantages to be exploited. However, decentralized decisionmaking also has high potential to disrupt the command and control hierarchy of the military, jeopardizing mission goals.

Despite their anarchist ideology, the street protestors' tactical merits may be worth studying. …

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