By Henry Clay and Katie Katz
The concept of Passive Resistance has long been a staple of Special Operations doctrine since the beginning. As such, we have become the experts at stability and counter-stability operations around the globe. With this article, we have chosen to take a hypothetical look at how passive resistance techniques can shape the battlefield and be used effectively across the geo-political spectrum. We have taken a scientific approach in our methodology to illustrate how chaos can be used by demonstrators living under difficult regimes to help transform the battlespace. The Science of Chaos has parallel theories that can be applied to the human dimension in any environment.
Chaos Theory: The scientific study of complex systems that are highly sensitive to minor changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to great consequences.
A classic example of this new science is the study of global weather patterns. For thousands of years man has looked up at the sky and tried to predict what’s coming next. Even with today’s technology predicting the weather beyond a few days is a significant challenge at best. In 1962, Edward Lorenz, Professor of Meteorology at MIT, was trying to develop a simplified model for weather prediction. Using his new 1958 IBM medium speed computer, 16 bits per second, his initial inputs resulted in outputs carried to six decimal points. He decided to extend the forecast to a couple of months, and shorten the inputs to three decimal points.
After letting the computer run for a couple of hours, he compared the first line chart with the output data from the second line chart. A comparison of the two charts revealed something dramatic. Although, the charts seemed similar in the beginning they quickly diverged and the difference seemed to double every 15 days. He realized that with a minor change in inputs, he had yielded a dramatic change in outputs. The system had drifted into chaos.
The study of global weather patterns gave rise to a new branch of science known as Chaos Theory. Complex systems that are sensitive to minor changes are all around us. Over the last few years we have watched the stock market rise and fall reacting to a presidential tweet. One can observe the activity of an ant colony, and see how they act as single individuals to achieve the collective good. After studying these complex systems for 10 years, Edward Lorenz asked the most profound question: “Can a Butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas two years later?”.
This suggests that a minor change in atmospheric conditions caused by the disturbance of a butterfly flapping its wings and taking off can affect the weather elsewhere on the planet. The complexity of weather systems illustrates the enormous number of variables that must be taken into account to receive a predictable outcome. This concept has become known as the “Butterfly Effect”.
This article offers a new look at how passive resistance when used in concert with Chaos Theory can cause problems for the oppressor. In our study of Passive Resistance, we asked a similar question: “Can a campesino, a farmer, cry freedom in the interior of Venezuela and cause a tornado in Caracas?”. The answer is yes, because we know that history is filled with examples of social, political, and economic changes that have emerged from the ideas of one person. One person can reach another person with his ideas, and that person reaches two, and so on.
In the SOF community this is called controlled chaos and it can be used effectively to cause disturbances in oppressive environments. Controlled chaos is the concept of reversing the science of Chaos Theory to cause the oppressor to expend all of his resources to regain control. At which point, he becomes defensive and reactive to the needs of the oppressed. Such as the French Resistance in World War II, or the Gorilla War in Viet Nam.
Chaos Theory tells us that the evolution of a complex system must involve the use of an attractor, as it is known in science.
“A set of values around which a system tends to evolve, from a wide variety of starting conditions”
For example, during the great Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, Dr. King led the people with two primary attractors, civil rights and voting rights. India rose from oppression by the British with a single attractor, freedom from colonial rule. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela led his people with a single cry, “Freedom”. There are some commonalities between these examples. Each illustrates how a single idea can change a nation. Each represents a change in governmental control over its people, and more importantly, each attractor took time to achieve the desired outcomes.
A farmer in Venezuela can affect change if his cry for freedom has a universal attraction that impacts the greater population. In 1962, Cesar Chavez asked migrant farm workers to unionize to demand worker’s rights in California, and won. He came to realize that farm workers as a group had the power to affect change by simply refusing to work. Because there is a time stamp on agriculture, farmers realized very quickly that they needed his labor more than he needed their work. The starting conditions or inputs for the oppressed are inherent within the mass demonstrations because they already have the skills to cause chaos for the oppressor.
Another common theme in these examples is that small changes in the system (the variables) must be targeted toward a specific attractor. Chaos, large demonstrations in the streets of Caracas, is not enough to cause the oppressor to give power to the oppressed. Each of the previous examples illustrates how the principles of Chaos Theory were used in reverse. Each demonstrates how the social dynamics of the population evolved over time with the unrelenting pressure of the individuals working collectively to achieve the desired results.
Passive Resistance in Venezuela is an effective strategy if the individual power of the people is coalesced around a universal attractor and guided by effective leadership. Since the days of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan people have been under the hands of an oppressive regime. They find themselves without the basic governmental services they should expect. There are shortages of food, medical supplies, and utilities. This has been happening in Venezuela for 20+ years. Efforts to resist this kind of Communist oppression has had little effect on governmental change because their efforts at passive resistance has been limited to mass demonstrations demanding change which has led to a hopeless uncertainty amongst the people.
What to do? Organize the population into a cohesive alternative governmental body.
If the point view was reversed and millions of disenfranchised people decided to cause chaos for their governments the outcome would look very different. Most historical examples of public demonstrations have been reactive rather than proactive. By definition Passive Resistance is an offensive strategy that requires planning and skills. The planning must be deliberate and focused to achieve the desired effects. The skills are inherent to the group based on availability. Yes, causing chaos for the government takes more than marching a few blocks or throwing a few rocks. These activities are quickly neutralized and do not achieve the anticipated long-term goals.
Giant demonstrations such as we have seen, become a formidable force when acting as a single organism. Through the eyes of the oppressed people the principles of Chaos Theory can be a model for proactive change in a society. A wise person once said “The mental expertise and knowledge will allow humankind to manipulate results in a more controllable manner”. Little by little, by trial and by error humans can turn chaos into order. In the science of chaos this is called evolution. Of course, this might take time to perfect and require higher degrees of consciousness from the oppressed. History has shown us that this can be done, as human evolution steps up and starts facing unknown dilemmas, variables and attractors. If the oppressed people worked collectively to resist the oppressor their effects would be greater than any military force.
The first step to organizing an effective strategy is to define the common attractor in clear and unambiguous terms. In the case of Venezuela, the people demand freedom from a corrupt government.
(Passive Resistance Organization Model)
First, organize an effective alternative governmental body that responds to the needs of the people. There should be a leadership structure organized around a key and charismatic leader. The leadership responsibility is to set policy and develop a forward vision for the people. His efforts are carried out by subordinate leaders.
Subordinate leadership should be developed into departments of personnel, (the accountability of all key personnel in the organization), intelligence collection and analysis, operations (near term, less than six months, and future operations, more than six months), Logistics, (responsible for the procurement of goods and services the people need), and communications (both mass and individual). As the organization evolves other elements are added such as civil affairs and international policy. The organizational model should be extended to every region or town within the sphere of influence of the leadership organization. The leadership must train subordinate leaders to ensure that policy directives are carried out effectively.
Passive Resistance doctrine tells us that each element of an organization should be stove piped and separated from other elements. This means centralized planning and decentralized executions. Each element acting independently while moving toward the same objective.
(Chaos Theory at work)
The most effective predator in the Amazon is the Army Ant. This complex organism is composed of millions of individuals and has a 100% success rate when looking for food. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals moving along a 10-meter front and they are unstoppable because as a group they are unified in their objective. Each member of the colony has a specific job and is relentless in completing that task. Once on the move, prey will abandon their position and leave the area. Similarly, a massive group of oppressed people with specific skills could use them to provide specific services to others while denying those same services to the oppressor.
Medical Personnel – In Lebanon, Hezbollah started winning the hearts and minds of the people by establishing free medical clinics to the locals and denying medical treatment for outsiders. Much of their medical support came from outside agencies and international relief groups. This system could be set up in Venezuela.
Intelligence Personnel – In the ghettos of South Africa, various intelligence collection services were established to keep the African Congress up to date on all future plans by the South African government. The best intelligence collection was done by marginalized people at the lowest end of society, such as cab drivers and prostitutes.
During the VietNam War, the Viet Cong were able to use these groups to effectively determine US plans, operations, and movements. They exploited the US soldier to gather information that was critical to their strategic plans.
Unionized Groups – In the 1970s, organized trucker unions led a week of disruptive events in the major cities of the United States. Thousands of tractor trailer trucks were slowly driving the streets of DC, bringing traffic to a complete standstill throughout the city. They shut down the Jersey Turnpike preventing commuters from getting into or out of NY City causing chaos for governmental bodies. Their efforts were temporary but very effective in getting their demands met.
International Relief Organizations – A massive amount of critical supplies can be procured by an established organization with a plan for proper distribution and accountability. These organizations give an outside voice to the internal problems of the oppressed.
Specialist – Electricians for example. An organized and committed group of electricians could ensure that if the oppressed people endure an electricity blackout, then government buildings should also be affected for an even longer period of time.
Plumbers – All government buildings need water. Plumbers could disrupt that water and sewage supply for a lengthy period of time. They could also ensure that critical buildings such as hospitals always have a team on call for support.
People demanding freedom, equality, and justice in countries such as China, Iran or Venezuela may believe there is no hope. They believe they are subjugated to oppression (chaos for them) because solutions are too complex and beyond their control. That is a totally reactive submissive position and very understandable.
History tells us that the oppressed can be liberated. Without knowing it, the founding fathers of this country used the principles of Chaos Theory to win freedom from Great Britain. In their cry for freedom they disrupted King George’s ability to impose his will on the patriots and changed the course of history.
“One must choose to be free, otherwise, we live in the state of mind we choose to believe.”