Counter-Optical Operations

Militant anarchists have always been the most creative of agitators. So it’s not surprising that they may be turning to the usage of lasers as means of countering law enforcement tactical advantage. Robert J. Bunker has an interesting article at Red Team Journal on the usage of both weak and strong lasers against law enforcement. Most recently, rioters last December in Greece attacked police by concentrating green lasers into a focused mass. This blinds and causes injury, disrupting tactical police organization and response. As Bunker points out (no pun intended), many riots take place at night–when the human eye is most dilated. “Lasers provide the rioters with a stand-off less-lethal weapon with a greater range than that of responding riot control police forces,” Bunker warns.

Sprinkled throughout the piece are some interesting vignettes about laser usage by rioters, including the theft of an industrial laser by a British anarchist group that apparently brought down a police helicopter. Also interesting is Bunker’s overview of directed energy weapons about to be fielded by law enforcement–the Area Denial System (ADS) and infra-red PhaSR. If Robert D. Kaplan and John Robb are correct about future political violence resulting from the economic collapse, the ADS and PhaSR (or variations on the models) may become a part of the urban battlespace.

“Holy Death”

Hakim Hazim has a corrective for anyone who thinks that prison radicalization is solely a problem of radical Islamic terrorism. His latest blog post in GroupIntel deals with the growth in popularity of Santisma Muerte, aka “Holy Death.” Santisma Muerte is a folk saint increasingly seen in jails, drug labs, and “failed neighborhoods” in Mexico and the western United States:

“Radicalization is proliferating in many forms. Proliferation often takes place through mentoring. In fact, ideas about faith, ethnicity, culture and identity itself are being captured in diverse forms of indoctrination through questionable mentors who seek to undermine any form of legitimate rule of law. These practices are common with cults, sects, insurgents and revolt leaders. ….It’s the latest craze in radicalization. Shrewd criminal networks and gangs are now acting upon the tenets of the Saint of Death in hopes of creating an even stronger bond with their members and solidifying their claims to authority by adding religious identity.”

Of course, Santisma Muerte is also a widely popular folk saint and her popularity among ordinary citizens should not be confused with radicalization. But as Hazim argues, “versions of this faith are being used by criminal organizations, gangs and inmates in order to justify their actions and gain assistance in their pursuits. Such belief fuels criminal activity and emboldens those who feel they can actually get away with their crime because of supernatural aid.” It goes to show that criminal insurgency, despite its overwhelmingly secular dimension, has a powerful spiritual element that cannot be overlooked.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Hakim observes that Santisma Muerte is associated with Catholicism by many in Mexico despite the Catholic Church’s overall disapproval of the practice. It is an “innate revolt” against established religious and social beliefs and structures.

Distributed Resilience in Nature

Zenpundit flags a great interview with a biologist who sees lessons for counterterrorism strategy in natural responses of human systems. Key paragraph:

“….In nature, a threat is dealt with in several ways. There’s collectivism, where one meerkat sounds the alarm about an approaching hawk, or camouflage, where the ptarmigan hides in plain sight. There’s redundancy, like our wisdom teeth, or unpredictable behavior, like the puffer fish’s sudden, spiky pop. Under the unyielding pressure of 3.5 billion years of evolution, the variety of defenses is beyond counting. But they all have a few features in common. A top-down, build-a-wall, broadcast-your-status approach ‘is exactly the opposite of what organisms do,’ Sagarin says. An immune system, for example, is not run by a central authority. It relies on a distributed network of autonomous agents that sense trouble on the local level and respond, adapting to the threat and signaling for backup without awaiting orders from HQ.”

I’m beginning to believe that resilience–especially the kind that Sagarin writes about, may have the potential to be a “theme for vitality and growth“–if not the first genuinely bipartisan defense strategy since 9/11. It certainly, to paraphrase Lincoln, appeals to the “better angels of our nature.”