Implications in a Domestic Insurgency – Forward Observer

Implications in a Domestic Insurgency

Here are a number of points to consider in the event that an insurgent conflict breaks in in America.

1.  Whenever we talk about conflict, we have to consider the implications on both sides of collateral damage and civilian casualties.  A common practice for the US Army and Marine Corps is to remove civilians from military objectives, so we can kill bad guys and seize the objectives.  We saw a lot of information operations targeting the populace of Iraq, warning them that a US/Coalition military operation was imminent, and they should leave the area, or stay indoors, or not carry weapons on the street.  These operations were aimed at minimizing civilian casualties by keeping them off our battlefield.  During the invasion of Iraq, General Tommy Franks estimated that 28 million leaflets were dropped over the country.  How are you going to protect innocent people in your community?

2.  There were quite a few places in Iraq and Afghanistan where we didn’t go.  We didn’t patrol, we didn’t plan operations there; these places were just basically denied terrain for us.  There are some parts of America where police officers don’t go.  Why?  The juice isn’t worth the squeeze.  No police officer wants to die enforcing the law that’s basically unenforceable given the manpower and resources.  What implication does that have for us?  Simple: organize your communities and turn them into denied terrain for the police state.  If you live in an area where unconstitutional laws will be enforced, then the best time to start is yesterday.  If unconstitutional laws are or will be unpopular in your community, then begin the work now of convincing your neighbors that their children’s only hope are acts of resistance.  (Hearts & Minds, cough, cough.  If they support you, they won’t turn you in.)  If unconstitutional laws will be accepted and supported in your community, then you have three options: move now, move later, or die in place, hopefully in an act of resistance.  What can you do this week to help build denied terrain for the police state?

3.  The populace are a significant part of the terrain, and just like any physical terrain feature, the human terrain can be used by you or be used against you.  There are several people credited with the quote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.”  This is a really good reason why Hearts & Minds is important.  The US media is actively involved in running information operations targeting the populace, and their ability to sway the public is a persistent threat to the future of the Liberty movement.  Go read the The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.  The media is considered an asset of the enemy.  And put quite simply, the populace is a tool.  Aim them in one direction and pull the trigger; that’s exactly what happened after poor, little, seven year old Trayvon and the huggable, lovable, innocent little angel Dindu Nuffins-who-wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly were killed.  As an alternative, look at Alex Jones who infects the internet with lots of speculation and conspiracy theories, which is its own form of propaganda, and those pieces of information get disseminated among the Liberty and Patriot communities.  According to some people, a Russian invasion on US soil is imminent.  Information, whether accurate or inaccurate, controls people.  How can you influence your community to support you in your fight against tyranny?   (Pro Tip: The populace can support your cause, but reject your actions.  Before you act, better double check that those who support your cause also support your actions.)

4.  David Galula was a French Army company commander during the Algerian insurgency (1954-1962) and saw counterinsurgency on three continents. In Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, Galula writes:

To confine soldiers to purely military functions while urgent and vital tasks have to be done, and nobody else is available to undertake them, would be senseless. The soldier must then be prepared to become . . . a social worker, a civil engineer, a school-teacher, a nurse, a boy scout. But only for as long as he cannot be replaced, for it is better to entrust civilian tasks to civilians.

In a conflict where the human terrain plays a factor, as with most low intensity conflicts, security elements or militias may have to be more than riflemen.  Although they may fight in wars, the militia’s mission is to protect the populace and community.  It would, therefore, behoove them to build a strong relationship with the populace, so the populace will offer them unbridled support.  Sometimes they’re going to have to offer their knowledge to the populace and fix things and make life better for the populace.  In one sentence: the more you do for the community, the more they will do for you and the more they will do to keep you aroundWhat can you do for your community to make them want to keep you around?  Answer that question and then start winning some Hearts & Minds.  Because if you don’t win their Hearts & Minds, then the State will turn them against you (though coercion or benefits, not that it matters), and you will lose.

There’s an endless list of considerations if hostilities break out.  Focus on your family, build tribe in your community, foster cooperation among yourselves, and get prepared.  And, if the time comes, then we can deal with each of these factors when necessary.


Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper

If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.



Mike Shelby is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. He's now the CEO of Forward Observer.


  1. It all boils down to “community” involvement. 1 or 2 neighbors would not be able to fight against a police/military action. Slow process, but you can win over your neighbors with activities and skill training. This article provokes many thoughts into how a militia will hold up or survive. Even in a worst case scenario, there will still be small pockets of resistance and those who will continue to support the Constitution.

  2. Great article! This is something my group has struggled with recently. The toss up of working with more people and groups vs keeping things small and testing mainly physical requirements to join training. Many of these militia/prepper group turn into social events, which I see the utility of (hearts and minds) but it stops there and no real and difficult training is accomplished. I am looking at this from a here and now perspective on how we can prepare for things and like you said get the populace on our side and still try to build and train an effective community/family security protection type team. Are you guys having this same problem? I’ve read many things concerning this in one way or another. Wondering if others are dealing with this and ways to remedy it. Thanks!

    1. The problem with more people and larger groups is security. It only takes 1 idiot to turn in all the others to save themselves from that DUI, pot bust, or if they want revenge. Untrained civilians are selfishly shallow like that. Most of us know that humans are always the weak link, If they have no concept of loyalty or sacrifice for others how can they be expected to uphold a code of silence? I’ve learned to only trust former .mil and that’s all. Everyone else is a crap shoot and I don’t gamble-anymore.

      1. It’s better to trust people based on individual merit then past occupation. The military is a cross section of society and hence had the same people society has and same problems.

        If you want to trust someone loan them $10. If you never see them again it’s money well spent.

        Or better yet give them help and ask them for hell. Get to know them on a personal level. Get drunk with them – In vino veritas.

  3. Infiltration is not, nor should it be, purely a military tactic.

    Play the “long game”.
    Find an activity or volunteer community effort, and take it over from the inside.
    Volunteer rescue squad, Habitat For Humanity, Red Cross medical/disaster relief, ski patrol.
    (Appleseed or the Boy Scouts are frequently mentioned, but IMHO, you’ get more bang for the buck by staying away from such obvious “bitter clinger” efforts. Do them/support them, sure, but not in this aspect. Go for neutral or outside-your-comfort-zone groups.)
    If you have a small group of amateur radio operators, join the local group. Ditto for any of the other groups.
    1) Community experience and familiarity.
    2) Additional skill sets and training that may/will come in handy down the road, whether that’s with commo, intelligence-gathering, medical, construction, engineering, transportation, or what have you. Today maybe you and your small group are building some poor family a house, or delivering meals on wheels to a shut in. In five years, you may need to be building houses for your own group, or any number of other things. Now you know how, in an experiential way. (And if you needed a friendly house then, having built it for the occupant, or brought them food, would be a handy calling card when you ask for a favor. )
    2) Historical “good guy” cred, even with people who might be at best neutral to you now. Loners are easy pickings. Pillars of the community give even military commanders pause before they’ll pounce.
    3) Enhanced opportunity to meet prospects and recruit like-minded individuals. Now their group is helping you build yours.
    4) The ability, over time, to supplant entirely those groups, become them in fact, and undermine any aspects of their activities inimical to our side’s aims and goals. Now you and your group aren’t just a paddle, they’re a rudder.

    In an episode of West Wing, one character noted that if they could only get 3M liberals to join the NRA instead of hating on them, on Day One they could vote themselves and the organization into irrelevance. Problem solved, for the liberal writers of that show.
    The same idea works both ways.
    Is there an organization doing things in your area that would give you skills, knowledge, credibility, and a potential recruitment pool? Join it, infiltrate it. If possible, dominate it.
    Does it or would it also undermine your own efforts locally, if things got sporty?
    Subvert it.
    Turn it to your own ends. Milk it for all it’s worth. You simultaneously weaken them, and strengthen your own hand, with all the associated benefits they’re currently getting.
    The people who disagree will be hamstrung, frustrated, or simply leave. If they quit, now they’re the loners. And people who don’t play, can’t win hearts & minds.

    Look around at the community, and think about where you’d like to have an ear, or a pair of hands, come the day.
    Start putting those people in place now, while you can.
    Today it’s a good deeds outreach. Tomorrow it may be a logistics pipeline, an intelligence network, or both.

    1. To your point, we have been encouraging group members to join: CERT, Red Cross disaster response teams, County Search & Rescue (some are armed part of Sheriff Dept), ARES ham radio, sheriff reserves, volunteer fire, food banks, volunteer EMS, hospital volunteers, etc… Had not thought of Habitat, but adding it the list. Great Comment!

  4. Sam, This was a great article and appreciated your tying into military operations in Iraq/Afghanistan. Both are good examples of how military could operate within FUSA.
    Aesop, great follow up comments. Your points are well taken.
    I have always enjoyed Civil Air Patrol, Emergency Management, Search and Rescue. Not only do they provide training, they introduce you to the more action orientated civilians in your area and usually they are under the auspices of local law enforcement typically the Sheriffs office. Hence you have the opportunity to make acquaintances with them, it provides other sources of information.

  5. Great article. Because the masses will control the first movements in the form of government rescue or protection, it will be a very short campaign to marginalize the patriot and his constitution. We have to know the early triggers and be prepared to go grey to avoid detection too early. Being identified after the population is in non compliance is much more viable. Before that, well, the patriot is just a fringe group holding onto worthless documents.

  6. War is simple by definition but very complex in execution.

    Civil Strife whether it is political, economic or racial is the most cruel of all conflict.

    For the sake of brevity I will be short.

    I consider themost likely fault line to rupture will be “economic.”

    The Imperial Mandarins have added all the ingredients to guarantee an out come of violence.

    The actions taken by the EU in Cyprus to force a Bank’s Customers to make the Bank whole should said Bank find itself without the necessary “reserves” to continue to function has been adopted by the FDIC, Federal Reserve and the “Best Congress money can buy.” Additionally, the Crominbus, 1.1 trillion Spending Bill, comes with a Provision that allows the TBTF to use their FDIC insured subsidiaries to book losses on their ONE QUADRILLION Derivitives contracts which means the Banks Customers get to pay for the losses along with the Bondholders and Shareholders.

    When it finally all goes south, the very first step by the Imperial Mandarins will be a “Bank Holiday” of some stated duration, likely two weeks, which will almost certainly be extended. This means 47 Million EBT Cards will not function. Neither will your ATM, Debit or Credit Cards nor will you be able to cash a check.

    This does not take a lot of analytical ability to see what that future holds. I give the ten minority majority cities somewhere between 24-72 hours before the conflagration begins. The “Boomers” will join in when there are no more Social Security Checks. The million or so like me who served in Vietnam will begin a self introspection over just what it is that we might be capable of doing to bring back the Constitution.

    Just some simple thoughts fron an old man this evening

  7. Prompted by a recent forum post on, here’s an implication that I rarely see mentioned, but which holds the potential to completely overrun your AO and perhaps even most of the country, no matter how large, how well prepared, or how well integrated into the community your militia/tribe/bunker may be.

    What happens with the prison population in an insurgency or any other medium-to-long term crisis?

    We’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.2~2.4 million prisoners right now in this country.

    I recently read that we have 800,000 employees in the prison industrial complex. Don’t remember if that was just federal prisons, or whether it included city or county jails. I wish I could find that article again, but point being that even these 800,000 well-paid and well-fed staff with all the resources of a functioning government and tax base behind them are by most accounts just barely holding the lids on the thousands of pressure cookers steaming away across this country while the light switches still work, the water still flows, the food delivery trucks still show up, and the payroll dept still processes its direct deposits every payday.

    What are the implications when this unravels?

    1. Back in the 90s I recall hearing that factions in the Yugoslavian civil war were recruiting heavily from the prisons. Well hell, if I was a cold-hearted power-hungry aspiring evil overlord looking to exploit an SHTF type event, that’s sure as hell where I’d go looking for evil minions. Even more so if I already had gangsta cred myself, and perhaps even established affiliations with a portion of the convicts. Such affiliates would provide a highly loyal core command structure with hierarchy and SOPs for absorbing new recruits already well established. The enormous potential for prestige and power would be impossible to ignore.

    2. That Wikipedia article has an interesting pictograph of federal prison locations across the country. Guess where they aren’t? That’s right, JWR’s American Redoubt. Take a look:

    3. Prisons have armories.

    So what could a local militia or neighborhood protection group do proactively about this?

    Obviously the first thing would be to compile a list of all known jails, prisons, and military brigs in the AO. Recording the population and security level for each will provide key criteria on which to prioritize the list for further attention as discussed below. It might be useful to have information on targets that may need to be secured, such as the prison armory and prisoner files.

    Presumably the cons with strings of violent robberies, rapes, and murders on their rap sheets warrant very different handling than the guys doing time for selling baggies of pot or fishing without a license. There are likely even a few relatively peaceable types in there for gun “crimes”, who are sympathetic to our own world view, especially if you’re operating along one of the coasts. If we’re talking about jails, then we’re including people who haven’t even been convicted yet. “Kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” is an unsavory proposition here.

    So how do we gain information necessary to classify the threat level of each individual prisoner?

    One thing we have working in our favor is that thugs like to use tattoos to self-identify, especially those with gang affiliations. It’s still a lousy sole basis on which to make life-or-death decisions though, so let’s continue.

    Establish connections and dialogue with prison and jail staff. If anyone has ideas as to how to go about this, that would be great because I don’t.

    There are lots of questions to ask, pretty much all of which are likely to get you funny looks if asked directly. Here’s a chance to hone your social skills.
    – Do the staff have a disaster contingency plan, aside from going home and hunkering down with the family?
    – Is there a plan to secure the contents of the armory?
    – What information is available to prison staff regarding their prisoners?
    – Who has access to prisoner files and/or how is access controlled?
    – Is this information held on a local file server or is it stored at a remote data facility?
    – If held locally, is it stored on an encrypted file system?
    – Do they retain prisoner files after release/parole? Keep in mind that >80% of our convict population are serving time on parole, not in prison. More than a few of these likely warrant being tracked down.
    – What other resources does the prison have? Generators? Food storage? Library? On-site well? Metalworking, woodworking shop or other work skill development type facilities? If so, who was enrolled in classes?

    That’s all I can think of for now without straying into references from season 3 of The Walking Dead. Anyone care to develop this train of thought further?

    As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about.


    1. Here’s that forum thread I mentioned on

      There was also a point brought up later in the thread that ties back to my mention of The Walking Dead season 3: if the prisoners get loose, they would likely use the prison as their own base of operations whilst harvesting the surrounding countryside for food, weapons, and wimmens.

      I submit that it will not long be possible to ignore the recruiting possibilities that these people represent, both as a general labor pool and more specifically as trigger-pullers. It’s just a question of who will seize control of these resource first, and what they will do with it.



      1. I have asked similar questions of friends who have previously worked on electronics and security systems in both state and federal prisons nationwide. They tell me the prisons have a 30-day supply of diesel for generators stored, and after that runs out the expectation is the National Guard will start maintaining order in the prisons.

        1. I would like to know if the cells in these prisons are designed to remain “locked” should there be a a complete loss of power for an extended or indefinite period of time.

          What “contingency” plans do the prison leadership have should the National Guard or State police be a “no show”?

          I contemplate what plans the Sheriff of my county has to secure the citizens against such a contingency?

  8. Most prisons these days have on site electrical power production, usually a cogeneration plant of one configuration or another. They are generally natural gas fueled with diesel as a backup fuel,so barring a hacker attack on the natural gas transmission/ distribution control system, or a direct terrorist/ criminal attack on the actual physical equipment comprising that system, a long term power loss is unlikely,but then again never say never. Potable water is also usually produced on site. The common set up is pumped storage via deepwells/ pumps/ water tower, with an intertie to a municipal water system for emergency situations or maintenance. The electrical side of things also incorporates an intertie to utility power for the same reason as well as exporting excess power. Sorry about the long comment,but good answers are like that sometime.

  9. Funny how Alex Jones has been right about 95% of the time,how long have we been engaged in these bullshit wars,that’s right longer than Vietnam which we said would never happen again,lets tie all the Congressman and women to the bumper of a tank in the next surge and see how gung ho they are when it’s their balls in a sling,just how much longer will we fall for this crap?

  10. Trying to teach and train a group of civilians or “freedom fighters” if you will, these techniques is like trying to teach Democrats brain surgery ( you have to have one before you can operate on it). Teaching Intel gathering and clandestine ops to a bunch of shop keepers is not only time consuming, but it borders on impossible because they have a problem believing that these “tactics” are even needed by the American people against THEIR government. This is and always has been my largest hurdle to overcome while trying to lead a group of “civvey’s”.

  11. Great article. Sime people need to keep in mind you don’t have a conflict until you have a conflict. The key is organization organization organization. Oddly, one of the best leaders in building an organization is a choir director. If you can coral and direct children, a bunch of farmers is easy. When the time comes to unit against a singular opponent it is key to have a leader to build the team. No, not necessarily the same leader to charge ahead in the fight, but build the team first. No, you cant build a team with just military experience. No, you can’t expect people to practice practice practice for a potential trial insurgency. The key is to know how to adapt military with civilian. I’ve learned school teachers are incredible organizers. Retired nurses are pretty darn good too. So leadership farmers are an important pool to draw from. The bring diverse talents and experiences. I’ve also learned some of the worst public speakers make the best listeners and observers for a team. Society over values an active mouth.

    It’s not so different, but a grassroots organization opposing a powerline and eminent domain does bring out the best in people. It unifies them. A collective knowledge can overpower a better financed opponent.

    Like the author says, in many ways it is a propaganda battle. You want to motivate your base. You want to humanize your opponent. You want your opponent alienated abd shunned. You want your opponent mocked and not feared….. Humanized.

    Look at Bundy in Oregon and Nevada. He succeeded in Nevada where it was his home turf. He lost in Oregon where he was the outsider. Nevada stayed focused. Oregon was an undisciplined mess in many ways but he still gave his opponent a hard time. It became to outside forces seeking the support of the community. If his camp in the refuge was made up of locals, he would have won. As it was, the feds were able to put pressure on the community and blame the guys in the refuge. Then again probably 1/3 of his group at the refuge was probably working for the feds…..and the feds still can’t convict him of anything yet.

    Sorry, I’m tired and rambling but yes, building an organization is key. If people want to train, that’s a large part right there. Motivating the public is #2.

  12. What’s more important for a state in a society collapse controlling large quantities of rural lands or controlling large quantity of people in urban lands? Who gets the attention and who gets ignored and the juice doesn’t get squeezed? Land or people?

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