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Books: My Review Of Civilian Warriors

I finally got a chance to read this book and I was not disappointed. Much of the book went over material that I was already familiar with because I have been blogging about this industry for quite awhile now. But it is cool to finally hear Erik Prince’s version of events and his thoughts on the industry.

So what I did with the book is make footnotes on things that I thought were interesting that I was not aware of. Like did you know that the guy that threw a shoe at President Bush during a press meeting, was tackled by a Blackwater guy and not the Secret Service? Or that it was BW that rescued Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry on a snowy mountain top in Afghanistan? That is crazy, and it is stuff like that, that I will bring up in my notes. I will also mention the books that Prince was influenced by or thought important enough to mention in his book.

The first book mentioned by Prince that inspired him for building Blackwater was called Entrepreneurs Are Made, Not Born–By Lloyd Shefsky. Prince read this book while posted on the ship USS America, and the ideas that came from this book helped him to formulate a plan on what he wanted to do when got out of the Navy. He was a businessman/entrepreneur at heart, just like his father, and he wanted to be closer to his family–hence why he wanted out of the Navy. This is where he got the idea for building a world class training facility that could fill a need for the government, and especially his Navy SEALs, whom were constantly on the road for training. What Prince wanted to do was get a centralized training facility in Moyock, North Carolina for multiple government and private clients that would have everything they needed to train. The courage and drive to take the risk to do this, came from the motivation Prince got from reading this book.

As to the name of the company, did you know that the original names being thrown around were the ‘Tidewater Institute for Tactical Shooting’ or the ‘Hampton Roads Tactical Shooting Center’? They went with Blackwater because as they built the ranges on their new property, they were constantly slogging through the peat stained black water mud. It had a better ring and meaning for them at the time I guess.

In the beginning of their business, training was not their big money maker. It was their targets they constructed and they used a tougher steel combined with a pop up mechanism to make targets that folks all over the US wanted. These targets accounted for 50 percent of their revenue in the early days of the company.

He also makes mention of the pride he had in his contractors and employees. One story he mentioned was about a wounded contractor in his company that I did not know about, but thought was really cool. His name is Derrick and his blog is called Small Victories, and it is about the process he has gone through as a severely wounded contractor.

The second book mentioned was Unrestricted Warfare, written by a couple of Chinese colonels back in 1999. This book documented the coming future of terrorism, and it is what woke up defense insiders–to include Prince, as to what was coming. What happened on 9/11 was not surprising to those who foresaw this type of unrestricted warfare or terrorism.

Prince made mention of Frank Gallagher as the first detail leader BW assigned for the task of guarding Bremmer in Iraq. That 36 man detail later grew to a massive operation protecting a multitude of DoS folks in Iraq and later Afghanistan. What is interesting though is that Frank and company were the guys making the innovations on the ground in Iraq when it came to close protection in war zones. (Frank is also coming out with a book)

Frank’s group were so good that their protection schemes would later be adopted by the US Government for protecting it’s highest risk personnel. Not only that, but Osama Bin Laden at the time was extremely frustrated that none of his clowns were able to get a shot at Bremmer. So OBL fired up some offense industry, and put a bounty out on Bremmer and his protective detail. Bremmer was worth 22 pounds of gold, and anyone on the PSD team was worth $30,000 dollars according to the book.

Another interesting aspect of the way Prince did business was in order to show capability, he would build it first with the hopes that clients would see how useful or important it is, and then contract it out. Prince would put his own money down on the venture as well.

A good example of this is Presidential Airways and the advent of using smaller scale paracargo in Afghanistan. In the early days of the war, the Air Force did not have a small scale paracargo capability. They would use large aircraft to drop 600 lb pallets, and do it way too high up in the air. It was Presidential Airways that recognized a deficiency–that the military needed small scale paracargo, and lots of it in order to meet the demand out there. They would go on to do a proof of concept and supply outposts, and then the government later set up a contract to continue using this service. This would later be called LCLA or Low Cost, Low Altitude and I have talked about this on the blog in the past. Thanks to Presidential Airways, I am sure many outposts received life saving ammunition supply drops or food drops. (Cofer Black’s son was actually resupplied by Presidential Airways when he was at an outpost, serving in the military in Afghanistan)

Then there are the other projects that Prince funded that did not get off the ground. Like the armored vehicle called the Grizzly or their blimp. Or the 1700 man peace keeping force called Greystone.

According to Prince, Greystone would have had it’s own air force, helicopters, cargo ships, aerial surveillance, medical supply chain, and combat group. It was Prince’s alternative to the ineffectual UN peacekeepers that we continue to see deployed all over the world. I remember he was wanting to send these guys to Darfur, Sudan if DoS was ok with it. They were not, and this project never got off the ground.

According to the book, Prince spent about 100 million dollars on various BW projects that never went anywhere. He had the attitude of if you build it, they will come. With his creations, he felt eventually someone in the government or in private industry would want this stuff, and he mentioned that if he threw enough darts at the board, they were bound to hit the bull’s eye. He said this is the price of continually innovating. Whatever the government needed, or what they might suddenly realize they needed, Prince would provide it. (kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs with his drive to create products that people didn’t know they wanted, but when made, they absolutely wanted and needed them)

And really, this is at the heart of what he was all about. His father was the same way, and I kind of got the impression that Prince was constantly trying to live up to what his father was all about. His father was very successful and had the same attitude of seeing a need or potential need, and filling it. He is the one that invented lighted mirrors in vehicle sun visors. But his father also had a lot of failures before that lighted mirror took off as a viable concept. Both men were visionaries and risk takers, and that is what you need in order to create something new. To create something that people want, or didn’t know they wanted, but do now.

In the book, Prince also talked about Executive Outcomes and how successful they were. So EO was an inspiration and it is always cool to hear about visionaries getting inspired by other visionaries and their creations.

Prince also made mention of his Libertarian roots and his ideas on contracting and free markets. He was a big fan of fixed cost contracts, versus cost-based or cost-plus. He felt that a contractor should be able to put their money where their mouth is when they say they can deliver something for a certain price. With cost based or cost plus, you are basically giving a contractor an open check to spend whatever they want to get the job done.

You see this theme throughout the book, and that Prince was all about funding a project in order to show proof of concept and viability, or that BW was interested in providing a good value for the tax payer’s dollar.

Speaking of which, BW funded their own rescue operation of folks off of roofs during the Katrina Hurricane disaster back in 2005!  BW also went on to provide effective security in the region after that disaster.

Another business unit that Prince mentioned was Total Intelligence Solutions. TIS was BW’s private intelligence firm that offered services to not only the government, but to private institutions. The Walt Disney Company was mentioned as one of those institutions.

TIS also had Cofer Black in it, and he was very much impressed with the way it operated compared to the government. Black mentioned that ‘every mid-level government official should spend a two-year sabbatical there to learn about efficiency and effectiveness’. My opinion on that is duh, private industry can be very efficient and effective compared to the government.

The third book mentioned was On War by Carl von Clausewitz. Prince’s father was the one that recommended this book to him before he joined the Navy. As to what lessons he learned from this book is hard to say. He mentioned a Clausewitz quote on courage and that is about it.

Moving along through the book, he mentioned stuff about the An Najaf attack. Travis Haley was mentioned multiple times in regards to this attack and it is cool getting some info on what happened during that deal. Travis was brought in by little bird after the attack began, and he was definitely a force multiplier during the fight. The video he and his team posted of the event has received many views over the years. One thing mentioned that I did not know is that his team did receive mortar fire that day. Accurate mortar fire, as we saw with the Benghazzi attack, can be very bad for the defense.

It is also interesting that General Sanchez did not want to acknowledge that Blackwater was so heavily involved with the defense of this facility. The reality is that if it wasn’t for the actions of BW, they would have lost that consulate in An Najaf. It would have been very embarrassing to Sanchez’s command, for it to get out that a contractor did so well, and in his AO.  Or that the US military was not in a position to defend it because it had so many other things going on at the time. This incident was also unique because there were military folks there, but BW was running the show.

It was interesting to find out how much WPS made for BW. Prince quoted well over a billion dollars. At the peak, BW had over a thousand men on the ground in Iraq performing the WPS mission. I am sure Frank Gallagher and others were pretty amazed at how big this thing got.

There was mention of BW’s perfect record of protection, and the most significant injury of a principal at the time was a ruptured ear drum. BW used Mamba armored vehicles in Iraq, which were manufactured in South Africa. An EFP was used by the enemy against one of BW’s Mambas, and everyone survived, to include that principal mentioned. A BW guy lost his arm in the deal as well. I have to say that is some serious luck and EFPs are no joke. I actually drove these same vehicles in Iraq and I can attest to the protective qualities of it–and that is awesome that these guys actually survived an EFP.

Prince also wrote a lot about the CPA’s Order 17, which was the 16 page document that outlined the rules and laws that folks were to follow in Iraq. In absence of a working country, the CPA had to come up with some rules to operate by until Iraq got itself in order. Contractors were often charged with having immunity in Iraq or not having any accountability for their actions because of what was in Order 17. Prince argues just the opposite, and that Order 17 did provide legal accountability.

Many critics of BW pointed to this so called lack of accountability, and because of the non-disclosure agreements BW signed with DoS and other clients, that they could not defend their position or correct the record. So Prince dedicated some space in this book to explaining why they were legally accountable.

The myth of pay rates was also dispelled in the book. You often heard about this $1,000 dollar a day contractor pay that everyone was getting in the company, in various books and articles. But that was not true with this company. According to Prince, the pay ranged from $450 a day to $650 a day, and averaged about $500 per day across the entire contractor force. He also goes on to compare the military’s ‘total military benefit’, which adds up to about $99,000 dollars a year for an enlisted member. The point here was to compare the compensation of soldiers versus contractors, and I have seen the same CBO stuff that he is talking about. Matter of fact, I blogged about it awhile back.

After the Nisour Square deal, Prince had to do a congressional hearing and that thing is floating around on youtube. What is interesting is that according to the book, Prince actually got advice from Oliver North on the whole process. North had to go through 45 hearings back in the day during the Iran Contra deal.

Prince made mention of the company’s process for growth. Gary Jackson was quoted as saying that they were always searching for the 80 percent solution now, as opposed to the 100 percent solution later. This is interesting to me because it is about being faster to market than the other guy. Get it out now and own that business, despite it not being perfect. Then work to continuously improve it later. Or something like that. Jackson was actually named by Harvard Business Review and Fast Company for his leadership and for the growth of the company. The 80/100 solution scheme is part of the reason for that rise.

Finally, at the end of the book Prince talked about the future of the industry, which I really liked. He also talked about another inspirational book that is significant for a number of reasons.

The book’s name is The Machine That Changed The World, By James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos. Prince was very much inspired by this book and he was in awe of Toyota’s managerial system of lean production. He referred to BW as a sort of factory that produced security specialists, much like how factories produced cars. The client requests ‘X’ amount of contractors, and the BW factory provides that amount just in time. Their ability to get the job done and deliver that product–be it a human or weapon or aircraft, to where the client needed it, and on time, was what made them successful.

Which is cool because I too am heavily influenced by Toyota and it’s concepts. I have a category called Kaizen, in honor of the continuous improvement principals that Toyota was so famous for. Kaizen is also mentioned in my Jundism page.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. My one take away with this is that Prince was a visionary and had the courage to go forth and make Blackwater happen. It is also a tragic story, because he basically had to let go of that in which he built and loved so much–all because of politics… Check it out and you will find his book in my book store on Amazon here. -Matt

Edit: 04/04/2014- Travis Haley just wrote about his experiences during the Battle of Najaf and you can read this story over at OAF Nation. Pretty cool and it expands upon what was said in Prince’s book. Especially the part about General Sanchez not sending a relief force to help, and how Ambassador Bremmer instructed Frank Gallagher to assemble a relief force to come to the rescue. Here is a quote from Travis’ story.

There was heated discussion between Ambassador Bremmer and General Sanchez, Commander of Coalition Ground Forces in Iraq. In the end, the Army was unwilling to dispatch a relief force to the Najaf compound. Bremmer then instructed Frank, “I am authorizing you, by any means necessary, to get our people out.”  With that, Frank sent me to round up the air team and to start pulling together weapons and munitions to bring on the flight. I hit the ready room and started pulling kit. My M4, magazines and a CS Rifle. The Counter Sniper Rifle was more of a moment of opportunity thing than a plan and Terry, one of our detail’s Counter Snipers, quickly fished through his gear to give me his dope card as I headed down to the air strip where the Little Birds were spooling up.

Edit: 04/07/2014- A blog named CIMSEC did a podcast with Prince that was interesting. Prince mentioned two more books that he has read recently and recommends. The first is Invisible Armies by Max Boot. The other is To Dare And To Conquer by Derek Leebaert.


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Books: Civilian Warriors, By Erik Prince

This is the much anticipated book by Erik Prince about his former company.  You can go to Amazon and pre-order, or wait until November and check out all of the various book stores and sites that Penguin Group is releasing it at.

One thing that has come up recently about the book is a lawsuit between Prince and one of his ghost writers. We will see how that turns out and how the book sells. -Matt

Pre-order the book here.

Edit: 12/17/13– Prince has been doing tons of interviews to promote his book. Probably the best one has been The Daily Show. Check it out.



Summary of Civilian Warriors
The founder of Blackwater offers the gripping, previously untold story of the world’s most controversial military contractor

Blackwater is one of the most misunderstood companies of our time. As Erik Prince, its founder and former CEO, writes:

“Hundreds of American citizens employed by private military contractors, or PMCs, would lose their lives helping our government wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to have their memory tarnished by the unfair and/or ignorant depiction of PMCs as profiteers, jackbooted thugs, or worse.”

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Books: Trust Me, I’m Lying, By Ryan Holiday

You are probably wondering why a book like this would be reviewed on a website like Feral Jundi? Well for one, FJ is a blog and blogs are a crucial element to media marketers and their schemes. So after hearing about this book over at Global Guerrillas and at Shlok Vaidya, I wanted to check it out.

In the book you will hear about simple but effective methods that Ryan Holiday uses to get a story of his choosing, be it fake or whatever, up to the national levels of media. One of them is called ‘trading up the chain’, and it basically a how-to on how to hack the media machine. Very useful information to marketers, and very dangerous information for those with malicious intentions in mind.

Specifically, Ryan discusses the Terry Jones Koran Burning incident as one example of a lethal ‘trading up the chain’ scheme. To quote Ryan from the book, he says this about the incident.

One kook, one overeager young journalist, unintentionally show why trading up the chain–feeding the monster–can be so dangerous (though for Jones, very effective). They weren’t just turning nothing into something. The beast these blogs built up was set off needless bloodshed.

You can trade up the chain for charity or you can trade up it to create funny fake news–or you can do it to create violence, hatred, and even incidentally, death. I’ve done the first two, while others, out of negligence or malice, have done the latter. At the end of the day, intentions are not a justification I’m going to hide behind. There is enough blame to go around. -Page 29

The ‘one’ journalist he was talking about was a college student named Andrew Ford, a freelancer working for Agence France-Presse. This was the guy that broke the media blackout directed at Terry Jones and his scheme, and once Andrew decided to post a story about Terry actually burning the Koran, the rest of the media could not resist. Especially the second tier blogs that highly depend upon pageviews and advertising. Then once those sites grabbed the story, the national media could not resist either, and then the thing just blew up all over–causing a stir throughout the world of Islam–and causing riots/deaths in places like Afghanistan.

So the question is, could a person or group ‘trade up the chain’ in order to kill or cause harm to an enemy?  Imagine hiring Ryan to conduct a campaign against Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and tasking him to use his dark arts of media manipulation to cause some serious headaches for these folks?

Also imagine the enemy reading such a book, and further adding to their ability to hack the media and create buzz for their cause?

This trading up the chain method was also comically evident in the military and technology blogging industry recently. The Duffle Blog posted a funny but fake story about a new bayonet system the DoD was about to purchase, and the popular upper tier Gizmodo blog picked it up as a ‘real’ story. Of course they finally figured out that it was not true, and they had to make the edit. But I wonder how close this was to being picked up by the national media? Or if this story got legs in some corner of the world where they actually thought it was real? Interesting stuff.

The other reason why I was interested in this book is I wanted to understand how I can protect the integrity of this site, but also if I could gain any insight as to why stories go viral–or what gives a post legs. Stuff like how to format a title, or what really grabs a reader.  For that, there are ideas in the book that are extremely valuable. Check it out and let me know what you think? -Matt

Buy the book here.

Buy the Kindle version here.


Trust Me, I’m Lying

By Ryan Holiday

You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me.
I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs—as much as any one person can.
In today’s culture…
1) Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.
2) Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.
3) Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch—online and off.
Why am I giving away these secrets?  Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m pulling back the curtain because I don’t want anyone else to get blindsided.

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Cool Stuff: A Georgia Town Takes The People’s Business Private

I got a kick out of this article, and I really enjoyed reading the contract methods and processes that these towns went through in order to accomplish efficiency and privatization. There are a lot of great quotes in this one, and I figured I would share a few that jumped out at me.

The first is about the process in which the city of Sandy Springs moved to this privatized model and how it seems to be working really well for them.

As a fan of Ronald Reagan and the economist Friedrich Hayek, Mr. Porter came naturally to the notion that Sandy Springs could push “the model” to its nth degree. His philosophical inclinations were formed by a life spent in private enterprise, and cemented by a visit to Weston, Fla., a town that had begun as a series of gated communities.
Mr. Porter tells this and other stories in “Creating the New City of Sandy Springs,” a book that will leave readers with one indelible lesson: incorporating a city is dull. Super duper dull. The book is composed mostly of the codicils, requests for proposals and definitions of duties that were required to jolt Sandy Springs to life. Without a love of minutiae and a very long attention span, forget it. But this is intended as a blueprint, not a gripping narrative. Mr. Porter regards the success of Sandy Springs as a way out of the financial morass that has engulfed so many cities in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
“Many are on the verge of bankruptcy,” Mr. Porter says. “They have significant unfunded liabilities, like pensions and other benefits. It’s almost like a poison that a lot of people are unaware of, and this model could be an answer.”

There are a couple of things here that I recognized, that has some commonalities with today’s contingency contracting game in the war. That FOB’s in war zones are basically small cities, that are a public/private partnership in a few ways. FOB privatization is quite evident if you ever have a chance to work on one. From the KBR chow halls, to the Dyncorp auto shops or aircraft servicing, to CADG/IAP construction, to security performed by contractors on the perimeter and the various internal camps. The key offensive duties are performed by the military, but everything else is privatized.

Not only that, but this move to privatize as much as you can during wartime also reflects budgeting realities. A contractor does not have legacy costs like a soldier does. Things like a pension and other long term personal costs are things that add up over the life of that veteran, and you do not have to worry about that with contractors. To give you an example of how big the costs are, and how worried the pentagon is about these legacy costs, check this quote out from another article I found.

The Pentagon’s retirement benefits bill will only get larger after 2014, creating a major financial problem as annual military spending is slated to decline after a decade of war.
Yearly military retirement payments alone are expected to more than double by 2035, growing from $52.2 billion in 2011 to $116.9 billion, according to an estimate prepared by the Defense Business Board, which reports directly to the defense secretary.
More broadly, the Bipartisan Policy Center study further highlights what some call the military’s “people problem.”
“In 2017, the DOD plans to have 100,000 fewer troops, but still spend as much on personnel as today,” states the report.Military officials said they have spent around $245 billion on personnel costs in 2010, more than a third of the $636 billion appropriated that year to the Defense Department. Some analysts put the actual number at more than $300 billion.
Pentagon officials are increasingly concerned about the growing costs, saying health care expenditures alone have swelled over the last decade by over $30 billion, from $19 billion to $50 billion annually.
James Jones, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama and a retired Marine Corps general, told reporters last week that when any organization spends so much on its employees it has “big problems.”

I highlighted that last part, just to emphasize that what is happening in the military is what was happening to Sandy Springs, and this city made the jump to privatize just so they can stay in the black.

The other part that perked me up is the contracting method that the city uses. I liked their Miss America analogy. lol

Mr. McDonough, the Sandy Springs city manager, says the town has sidestepped such problems. The key, he explains, lay in the fine art of drafting contracts.
Initially, and for the first five and a half years of its life, Sandy Springs used just one company, CH2M Hill, based in Englewood, Colo., to handle every service it delivered. Mr. McDonough says CH2M saved the town millions compared with the cost of hiring a conventional public work force, but last year Sandy Springs sliced the work into pieces and solicited competitive bids.
When the competition was over, the town had spread duties to a handful of corporations and total annual outlays dropped by $7 million. (Representatives of CH2M, which still has a call-center contract, said at the time that they were “deeply disappointed” by the results, but wished the city well, according to a local news report.)
To dissuade companies from raising prices or reducing the quality of service, the town awarded contracts to a couple of losing bidders for every winner it hired. The contracts do not come with any pay or any work — unless the winning bidder that prevailed fails to deliver. It’s a bit like the Miss America pageant anointing the runner-up as the one who will fulfill the winner’s duties if, for some reason, Miss America cannot.
“In most cases, Miss America serves her whole term,” Mr. McDonough says, warming to the analogy. “But every once in a while something happens and they don’t have to run a whole new competition.”

I kept scratching my head here to see if this contracting method was derived from something being done in contingency contracting now, or if there is a different term for it. (feel free to say so in the comments)

The big one here is that the town found a way to navigate the principal-agent problem, and write up contracts that benefit both parties. That the city actually has a means of booting out the poor contractor and instantly go to the backup contractor, as opposed to going through the whole rebidding process again. Nice.

It is that mechanism that allows a city to exercise their right to demand good service, and punish for bad service without a major shock to the system. If only today’s contingency contracting for wars was set up to be more fluid like this. To be able to have standby contractors, ready to jump in if another contractor fails to deliver, and have a government contracting agency that actually fires poor contractors when they suck. That would be great, but I also realize that the size/scope/complexity of contingency contracting just doesn’t lend itself to easily do something like that. But still, there might be something we can learn from Sandy Springs…. -Matt



A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private
By David Segal
June 23, 2012
If your image of a city hall involves a venerable building, some Roman pillars and lots of public employees, the version offered by this Atlanta suburb of 94,000 residents is a bit of a shocker.
The entire operation is housed in a generic, one-story industrial park, along with a restaurant and a gym. And though the place has a large staff, none are on the public payroll. O.K., seven are, including the city manager. But unless you chance into one of them, the people you meet here work for private companies through a variety of contracts.
Applying for a business license? Speak to a woman with Severn Trent, a multinational company based in Coventry, England. Want to build a new deck on your house? Chat with an employee of Collaborative Consulting, based in Burlington, Mass. Need a word with people who oversee trash collection? That would be the URS Corporation, based in San Francisco.
Even the city’s court, which is in session on this May afternoon, next to the revenue division, is handled by a private company, the Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, Calif. The company’s staff is in charge of all administrative work, though the judge, Lawrence Young, is essentially a legal temp, paid a flat rate of $100 an hour.
“I think of it as being a baby judge,” says Mr. Young, who spends most of his time drafting trusts as a lawyer in a private practice, “because we don’t have to deal with the terrible things that you find in Superior Court.”
With public employee unions under attack in states like Wisconsin, and with cities across the country looking to trim budgets, behold a town built almost entirely on a series of public-private partnerships — a system that leaders around here refer to, simply, as “the model.”

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Books: The Privateering Stroke, By Capt. Michael Rustein

Henry Adams stated flatly that “the privateers contributed more than the regular navy to bring about a disposition for peace in the British classes most responsible for the war.”

For those of you that have been following along with the blog’s focus on privateering, letter of marque and reprisal, and offense industry, then you will know why this book would interest me. I have not had a chance to check it out yet, but from the sounds of it, it was written by a privateering ‘maven‘.

The author has actually built a schooner called the Fame, based on the first privateering vessel to capture a prize during the War of 1812. He has written several books on the subject and even has a business that teaches the public the history and the workings of a privateer vessel. I would say that would be defined as pretty passionate about the subject. lol

Probably the most interesting aspect of this book from the description below, is the author’s focus on how important privateers really were during the war. This was the ultimate in old school privatized warfare and offense industry in overdrive.

An entire industry focused on attacking the weakness of an enemy, and Britain’s weakness was their commerce/trade. There is no way our navy and privateers could have taken on the Royal Navy directly, so instead we did like most small disadvantaged forces would do in that situation, and attacked their poorly defended commerce/trade. Check this quote out.

Deprived of customs duties, the United States government was in dire straits by the end of 1814. Had the conflict continued, the nation would have been incapable of defending itself without a central bank, new taxes, and conscription. Meanwhile, America’s privateers were waging a highly effective war against British trade. They captured an estimated 2,000 prizes worth $40 million, sent insurance rates to unprecedented levels, and drove up prices at a time when Britain’s economy was groaning under the strain of two decades of warfare. The British public was outraged; merchants bombarded the government with protests and appeals. With the United States incapable of maintaining the initiative in Canada, privateering became the nation’s last, best, and only offensive weapon. 

Pretty neat and this book would be another good one to check out. Especially if you are a student of ‘offense industry’ or are interested in the letter of marque concept. This would also be a good read for those of you interested in naval history and guerrilla warfare. -Matt

The Privateering Stroke

By Capt. Michael Rustein
Book Description
Publication Date: March 25, 2012
High school and even college textbooks oversimplify the War of 1812 — when they don’t ignore it completely. Popular histories emphasize the military as opposed to the economic and political aspects of the war. The U.S. Navy’s role has been written about ad nauseum. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for a definitive work on the equally important contributions of American privateers. While the Navy’s outstanding performance in single-ship engagements remains a source of national pride, those victories did not change the course of the war one iota. Had Constitution defeated a dozen British frigates, the thousand-ship Royal Navy would still have blockaded our coasts, strangled our commerce, bottled up our warships, and hunted down those that escaped. Even her former commander, Tyrone Martin, conceded that Constitution’s victories were “no more than pin pricks” that “had no direct effect on the course of the war.”

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Books: Apache Tactics 1830-86, By Dr. Robert Watt

This is a small book and a quick read, but packed with some fantastic information about the Apaches. These guys were certainly masters of guerrilla warfare back in the day, and definitely gave the Mexican and American forces a run for their money.

As to the tactics discussed, and what led to Apache success in the face of such large forces, is what I was most curious about. I was also really interested in what eventually ‘defeated’ the Apache. Books like this help to understand what makes for a successful guerrilla force, and also helps to understand today’s enemies. It is fun to read this stuff, and compare it to other successful guerrillas campaigns in history.  Or compare it to the wisdom of Sun Tzu or Boyd. (like attacking weakness with strength, Cheng and Ch’i, etc.)

The Apache were really into raids in order to maintain their stores of weapons and ammunition. By attacking and taking horses or cattle, or anything else of value that could either be used or sold, they could further sustain their way of life and war out in the field.  So raids were a big part of their thing.

If Apaches were killed, then ‘attacks’ or ‘ambushes’ would be in order to get revenge.  So raids and attacks went hand in hand for the type of guerrilla warfare they waged.

They were also keen on how to attack the large cumbersome forces of the Mexicans and Americans. Many of the attacks the Apaches conducted involved decoys or trying to sucker these large forces to pursue these small bands of warriors.  They would try to anger the forces, and let that anger cloud out their better judgement. Meaning, if they could get a troop of cavalry to chase them into a narrow canyon or into really rough terrain, the Apache then could ambush those forces in advantageous terrain.

By getting these forces to pursue in rough terrain would also destroy their horses and mules. The Apache knew that if they could destroy those animals, they could take away the mobility of the cavalry. They could get those soldiers on the ground, and on the ground is where the Apache really shined. Matter of fact, the Apache also targeted the mounts during ambushes, just to destroy that unit’s ability to be mobile. (the book discussed how many horses and mules the Army lost during those years, and it was very significant)

Once their target was without a horse or mule, they could then apply their ground game to annihilating this force. That’s if that force was not prepared to fight on the ground. The Apaches were smart fighters, and they knew when to fight and when to go.  But they weren’t really going anywhere.  If anything, they would break contact and hope that the enemy would chase them, all so they could ambush them again. Hit and run, hit and run, hit and run…. And it is that process that would weaken a large force that is highly dependent on carried supplies and horses/mules, and does not have the stamina or fighting skills or knowledge of terrain to compete with the Apache.

Other tactics used were decoy methods. They would have a lone woman act like she was caught in the open and start running away if a force spotted her. The hope was that the force that spotted her, would give chase. Then the Apache could ambush that force as they get sucked into an ambush. They would try anything and everything to get these forces to chase them into ideal ambush sites.

They would also attack in areas where their prey would not suspect, just to keep their ambushes unpredictable. Like attacking on flat ground as opposed to compressed canyons that look perfect for ambushes.  Or they would position ambushers in areas just on the other side of small canyons, knowing that a force would think they were in the clear once they reached the other side. The point was to attack the enemy when they least suspected an attack–when they were at their most relaxed and unguarded.

Some other cool little tidbits included the Apache method of attacking communications. The telegraph was key to the Indian Wars and the expansion out west. You could call up more reinforcements, or communicate that you needed more ammo. You could also give quick intelligence reports via telegraph as to the location and size of enemy formations. The Apaches knew all of this, and they frequently targeted the telegraph wires/poles.

The method they used was to cut the wire close to the tree or pole, then reconnect the wire with leather strapping to make it look like it was still connected in the tree or pole.  That way the repair crew would have to climb every pole and tree, just to see where the line was broken. lol This tactic would help to frustrate those who depended upon the telegraph, and drain more resources for the ‘secure’ repair of these lines.

As to Apache brutality, they had plenty there. One of their favorite methods was to cook their captives to death on a tree or wagon wheel over a fire. The idea was that they wanted folks to ‘fear’ them, which would also help in ambush or raids in the future. If a homesteader feared being tortured if caught, they would run away during an attack, and the Apache could take the horses and cattle. In the thirties, they did more of this type of thing, but later on in the war they did not have the time for this stuff because they were always on the move. They would just kill prisoners on the spot or not even care to take prisoners, and move on.

The Apache would also stick around after the ambush. A force might see the dead and be compelled to think that the Apache were long gone, or that force would be driven by emotion to rescue or bury the dead–and then the Apache would ambush that force. Or they would purposely let a survivor of the ambush run back to the fort, just so a rescue force would come out.  Anything to anger that force, and get them to chase the Apache into prepared battlefields.

I also thought it was cool that the Apache culture was very much geared towards this kind of warfare. You could not be a warrior until you completed four raids. Leadership positions were based on merit. That successful operations with minimum casualties and lots of loot captured was the key to becoming the head honcho.  Hunting and tracking was a way of life, and stamina and the ability to run long distances in brutal terrain was something the Apache trained for and celebrated. These guys were truly the ultimate guerrillas.

Finally, and this is the part of the book that I really enjoyed. What ‘defeated’ the Apache? There were three areas that led to their defeat. One was attrition–or just losing folks due to constant warfare over the years. Eventually their numbers began to dwindle and they just could not sustain the fight against Mexico and America in the border areas.

The next area was ammunition. It became increasingly harder for them to get enough ammunition, and especially if they were constantly on the run. They had to depend upon raids and buying ammo and weapons from arms dealers, and because the Apache was not organized logistically to help disperse this loot to all other friendly tribes, that war fighting suffered. So what is true for large armies, was true for these fighters. Beans and bandages were easy for the Apache, but bullets is something they had to depend on others for. You saw this in Libya as well, and getting organized and having a steady source of good ammunition and weapons is vital to sustain combat.

The final area that was identified, and the one that I have touched on in the past, is the use of Apache Indian Scouts to fight Apaches. It is odd to think that Apache would hunt and kill Apache for the Mexicans or Americans, but they did. The hatred they had for other Apache tribes was strong enough where they would join forces with the Mexicans or Americans so they could defeat those other tribes. It is these tribal wars and feuds that were used to great advantage by the Mexicans and Americans to defeat them all.

These Indian Scouts would also require management that knew the land and how to track just as well as they did. Contractors like Tom Horn or Buffalo Bill Cody were hired as guides by the US Army and used as Chief of Scouts for these Indian Scouts. These men were the guys that understood the ways of these various tribes, and could keep tabs on what their scouts were really up to. Plus, these men lived in these areas and their profession was scouting. The military units would cycle folks in and out of these areas, and new officers would need advisers who knew how to fight Apache.

The cavalry units were highly dependent upon that system of Indian Scouts in order to fight the Apache.  In other words, it takes an Apache to find and defeat an Apache.(echoes of ‘it takes a network to defeat a network‘) It is how Geronimo was found and forced to give up, and this war of attrition wore down the Apache into defeat.

Pretty cool stuff and I recommend this book. One thing I will not give away and allow the reader to check out on their own, is the Apache’s choice and use of weapons. Fascinating stuff, and the book covers a very interesting angle on their tactics and lethality with such tools. Nor will I give up how they were able to evade the forces hunting them and what tactics were used to ensure survival.

I have put this publication in the Jundi Gear locker if anyone wants to come back to it in the future and it would make a fine addition to anyone’s military history collection. Also, I have put the Kindle e-book version in the locker as well, and you can check that out at this link. -Matt


About the Book
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
The Apache culture of the latter half of the 19th century blended together the lifestyles of the Great Plains, Great Basin and the South-West, but it was their warfare that captured the imagination. This book reveals the skillful tactics of the Apache people as they raided and eluded the much larger and better-equipped US government forces. Drawing on primary research conducted in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, this book reveals the small-unit warfare of the Apache tribes as they attempted to preserve their freedom, and in particular the actions of the most famous member of the Apache tribes – Geronimo.
About the Author
Dr Robert Watt is a lecturer at the University of Birmingham where he teaches a course on the Indian Wars for the History Department. He has previously published a number of articles for American history journals on both the Apaches and their campaigns throughout the 19th century and has travelled widely throughout Arizona and Mexico researching the subject.
Buy the book here.

Buy the Kindle e-book version here.

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