There is no need to rehearse the Ukrainian revolution in blow by blow fashion. The best up-to-date coverage is happening at this reddit thread. But there are more than a few lessons for patriots who want to be prepared for dystopia in America. I’d like to start a conversation about this topic, with my thoughts being in “stream of consciousness” prose rather than rehearsed talking points. This will be a breezy discussion from gasoline and guns to the redoubt and littoral regions.
First there are the immediate stages, or the follow-on to the crisis. The first observation I would make is that each of us should find someone to love. Or another way to say it is that we need tribe – close and extended family for whom we can care and who can care for us. We weren’t made to be lone rangers. We were created to work, provide for, protect, and lead our families, while we also respect the gray heads among our clan and defend and protect them (Leviticus 19:32).
Having tribe means that there are immediate concerns beyond our own safety and security. It means planning ahead for food, potable water, communications, guns and ammunition, and even in the short term power (or a replacement for power). As a boy scout I saw one scoutmaster use a light that burned oil on a wick with a reflecting back, almost as effective as a flashlight. It worked for days on a single can of oil. Our 123 batteries will soon run out. As I said, I’ve looked in vain for this kind of light.
For some in our clan, that may make the difference between life and death for certain medical conditions. This is why Jim Rawles expends so much effort to help others with medical issues and what may seem mundane to us. Medicine and even rudimentary medical care can save lives, while preparation for the mundane can affect the psychology of survival.
Do you have emergency cash on hand? My oldest son does, and I am ashamed to say that I don’t have as much as I should. Has your gasoline supply gone past its shelf life? Do you have firearms and ammunition, food and water for those around you who have not planned, and to whom you wish to extend grace?
If you successfully protect your tribe during the initial stages of the crisis, there is the longer term, or intermediate stage with which to contend. The government will no doubt be a player, and they may even be now studying Dave Kilcullen’s recipe for twenty first century stability operations.
This era’s unprecedented urbanization is concentrated in the least developed areas of Asia, Latin America and Africa. The data shows that coastal cities are about to be swamped by a human tide that will force them to absorb—in less than 40 years—almost the entire increase in population absorbed by the whole planet, in all of recorded human history up to 1960. And virtually all this urbanization will happen in the world’s least developed areas, by definition the poorest equipped to handle it—a recipe for conflict, crises in health, education and governance, and food, energy and water scarcity.
Rapid urbanization creates economic, social and governance challenges while simultaneously straining city infrastructure, making the most vulnerable cities less able to meet these challenges. The implications for future conflict are profound, with more people fighting over scarcer resources in crowded, under-serviced and under-governed urban areas.
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The food security effects are equally severe, as pollution from coastal urbanization imperils fish stocks, and peri-urban areas surround city cores whose infrastructure is scaled for populations far smaller than they now support. This newly settled peri-urban land was once used for farms, market gardens and orchards, but as cities expand into this space, the distance between the city core and its food sources increases significantly. Food must now be produced further away and transported over ever-greater distances, increasing transportation and refrigeration costs, raising fuel usage and carbon emissions, exacerbating traffic problems, and creating “food deserts” in urban areas.
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The three megatrends of urbanization, littoralization and connectedness suggest that conflict is increasingly likely to occur in coastal cities …
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The implications for civilian agencies of government are equally obvious—the ability to expand social services, city administration, and rule of law into peri-urban areas are clearly important …
Kilcullen recommends that the U.S. military prepare for even more stability operations in littoral, urbanized areas rather than jettison that as a paradigm for the present century. [Note: I appreciate the exchanges of e-mail I had about Kilcullen with Dan Morgan]. The redoubt will be more manageable for us, but the urban, littoral areas will be where hearts and minds are won.
Do you doubt the relevance of this? Putin has played Kilcullen’s playbook like an expert. His invasion of Crimea – which began before the Olympics were finished – does three things. First, it focuses Russian forces in high population density, urban and littoral regions. Second, it surrounded significant Ukrainian military assets, and third, it plays the psychology of occupation and control.
Putin now has control over troops who cannot survive without food, water and power, and who will likely be conscripted into military service with the Russian Army should they surrender. But if they don’t, the people of the the Ukraine will possibly blame the revolution for the deaths of the sons of the Ukraine in Crimea. Putin’s game isn’t just one of the clash of forces. He is playing Sun Tzu with the people of the Ukraine.
The Ukrainian revolutionaries had one thing right in the initial stages of the fight.
… behind the barricades, there were thousands of people working together to support the front lines. It’s an important lesson that logistics is what ultimately wins battles.
While the demonstrators at the barricades skewed younger, older Maidan activists ferried supplies and filled sandbags.
Others staffed portable kitchens set up at the main encampment at Kiev’s Independence Square. When there was ample snow on the ground, they shoveled it into bags to bolster the barricades up to 10 feet high.
But they are now facing a master strategist in Putin, and control over water, food, roads, rural areas, transportation and power work in favor of those who have planned and armed well. People need these things to survive. The Ukrainians have a long, hard haul ahead fighting against attack helicopters and APCs.
In the very long term there are other concerns. Rachel Marsden observes:
Ceding to protestors’ demands, Ukrainian parliament members voted last week to impeach President Viktor Yanukovych and hold early elections, which have been set for May 25. Online “slacktivists,” keyboard warriors and various media outlets responded by breathlessly declaring the situation a “revolution” — and in some cases even proclaiming it a successful one. Except that it isn’t at this point. Far from it.
Proponents of freedom and democracy would love nothing more than for Ukrainian citizens to fully control their own destiny. However, mere wishful thinking is no substitute for manifest reality, and semantics shouldn’t replace substance. Otherwise, there’s a danger of never actually getting anywhere. There are historical standards for revolution, and they shouldn’t be lowered just because those standards predate the advent of social media.
Some have already made that mistake in the case of Ukraine. The “Orange Revolution” of 2004 was prematurely named, then prematurely declared a successful revolution. In retrospect, it was merely a rebellion — and ultimately a misnomer. If it had been a revolution in substance, the country would not be where it is now, with parliament having to reinstate the Orange Revolution constitution that was adopted in 2004 but then gutted by a constitutional court in 2010.
There’s a reason that the French Revolution started, rather than ended, with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. It wasn’t considered complete until 10 years later. A revolution, by definition, is the replacement of one political system by a significantly different system. In the case of an authoritarian or totalitarian status quo, it has always required many phases of rebellion over a number of years, and much bloodshed.
The only revolutions that end quickly are those that result in totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, as with the Cuban Revolution. Democratic revolutions are much messier. Moreover, they inherently require democratic legitimacy, which is why even a democratic rebellion such as the one in Ukraine needs to occur within the context of an election cycle and be ratified through a democratic process. Democracy can’t start ironically with a coup. The results of the May 25 elections will retroactively determine the democratic legitimacy of the rebellion.
Now, I think Rachel overplays her hand badly, and I’m not certain that an election is necessary to legitimize anything. I would rather think that the best form of government is a constitutional republic rather than a democracy.
But her point presses for an answer. Revolutions need stability operations. There is no need for the illegitimate government to be the only ones who think of and plan for stability operations. Stability operations can and should occur within the context of neighborhoods, townships and areas of operation. In fact, working to this end would be a much better use of time for most people than any sort of lone wolf scenario.
From the short to the long, there are many concerns in such an endeavor as undertaken by the Ukrainians. As one final pedestrian observation, I would say that shooting is a perishable skill. If you and I are not doing it regularly, we have no basis on which to believe that we can protect our tribe.