Logistics, not Tactics

There’s one annoying trend I see whenever a particular topic comes up. This problem is born of small, short-sighted thinking, and an overdose of Hollywood romanticizing of the topic. I’ll tell you the topic after a bit of explanation. There are three general levels in planning: Logistics, strategy, and tactics. Tactics are about what you’re doing at the moment of a struggle with what you have on hand. In military terms, that means what you’re doing in a particular battle or skirmish. Strategy is the next level up, and it’s about how you achieve bigger goals through those individual battles.

I recall a show about Hannibal’s attack on Rome, and from that depiction, it looked to me that Hannibal was a tactical genius and a strategic idiot. He could beat Rome’s armies out in the open quite consistently and even while outnumbered, demonstrating his tactical ability. It didn’t do him any good, however, because he apparently failed to think about what he’d do once he had gotten to Rome: He wasn’t equipped to put the city under siege. Rome’s armies outside the city could keep their distance while skirmishing with Hannibal’s foragers to slowly starve and demoralize the rest of his army.

That brings us to the next level: Logistics. Plans need resources and support. In military terms, soldiers need food, tools, weapons, ammunition, transportation, and so on. Logistics is about how you get those resources where you need them. Good tactics and strategy make the most of what you have, but without supply lines, there’s a limit to what you can do. If you can’t feed and equip your soldiers, it’d be insane to go to war.

Now, for the topic that got me started on this line of thought: Gun violence in America. Whenever I read a thread about it, there are inevitably some irresponsible gun owners who demonstrate their short-sightedness because they obsessively focus on the tactical level. They see the issue like a Hollywood action movie where the heroic gun owner stoically kills the bad guys to defend his family or innocent bystanders, and thus they commonly claim the latest shooting would have been stopped if someone there had a gun.

Of course, it’s not as simple as Hollywood. I can imagine a shooting turning into a meat grinder if the first defender ends up being mistaken for a second assailant and gets shot by another defender because they couldn’t know how many assailants there really were in the fog of war. But the fine details of that argument can wait for other posts, since that’s also at the tactical level, and this post is about the neglect for logistics.

Let’s start with with a person who wants to go on a killing spree for whatever reason. Before he maps out where he’s going to rampage or finalize his hit list, he’s going to need to think about one major concern: How is he going to get a weapon? If he can’t get his hands on a gun, that’s going to put a big damper on the killing spree. Melee weapons may be accessible and even improvised, but the would-be victims can also improvise roughly equal defenses, reducing the lethality of a melee rampage compared to a shooting spree. Even without improvised defenses, it’s generally easier to run away from an axe-murderer than it is a shooter.

I think the purpose of gun control is to make the logistics of a killing spree more prohibitive. Make it harder to get guns, and fewer would-be criminals will be able to go through with their plans. Making it more difficult will prevent crimes before they happen. If the would-be shooter has to buy a gun illegally, the police have a chance to be on his tail before he commits a murder, not after. If the would-be shooter has to take and pass a gun safety course and avoid being flagged for anger management issues, he’s going to have a harder time getting a gun legally.

That particular countermeasure also keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns. One thing America needs to face as a nation and a culture is that a lot of these shooters aren’t inherently “special” or “different.” A lot of them are gun owners who are too irresponsible and too hotheaded to be trusted with a gun. They aren’t sinister, inhuman figures lurking in the shadows, they’re “normal” people without the self-control to prevent a heated argument from turning into a shooting. They’re people who lose perspective when they get stressed and lash out without thinking about the consequences.

I’d be glad if there was some obligation to check for anger management issues before allowing someone to carry a gun. Without the gun, spontaneous shootings are less likely to occur. I’d rather have a black eye than a bullet wound if I ever get on the wrong end of someone’s bad day. A lot of people have paid lip service to the notion that gun culture is supposed to self-regulate and weed out such people, but I don’t see it in action. I’m sure there are responsible gun owners who try to perform that thankless task, but their influence seems too weak to accomplish a change in gun culture. Kudos go to those who try to fight that uphill battle.

Now let’s talk about safety in general. If I thought I needed a gun for self-defense, what would that say about how safe I feel in society? Hollywood action movies may be a lot of fun to watch, but would I want my life to depend on having the qualities of action movie characters? No. If I have to defend myself like that, that means society’s already lost the more important battles.

I’d rather leave that up to experts: the police. It’s simple division of labor. They’re not just there to respond to crime, but to prevent it. Farmers farm so I don’t have to grow my own food, so I can do what I want to do with my life and contribute to society in my particular way. Law enforcement fights crime so I don’t have to. People who have enough sense to think about consequences know they risk getting caught, so the mere presence of police can prevent some crimes that way. If we regulate gun ownership and outlaw means of circumventing the added safety measures, police will be playing an active part in disrupting the logistics of gun violence well before I need to draw a gun or dial 9-11 to defend myself. If I had to rely on gun ownership for protection, that amounts to time and effort spent on maintaining a weapon and vigilance I could otherwise spend on better things.

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4 responses to “Logistics, not Tactics

  1. I was discussing this very matter with a friend of mine last week. We’re both quite happy that the issue is finally taking center stage. The Daily Show has made it a point to not let it drop, and to make it clear how shallow an argument like “this isn’t the time, so close to the tragedy” actually is.

    (My take on that argument? No, I wouldn’t discuss it with the friends and family OF the victims, but everyone else? Yeah, they aren’t mired in morning so they SHOULD be talking about it. Anyone making this argument is hiding behind emotions of actual victims, emotions they themselves aren’t actually feeling, no one but those directly affected are.)

    We had a lot of things to say on the matter. My friend brought up the same point, that if we’ve gotten to the point where we need to Sylvester Stallone it up (here’s a thought, his name is… Sylvester… like the cat… just weird is all), then we’ve already failed. Who actually WANTS things to go back to the Wild West? Is that actually a situation people want, where we are forced to become action stars? Don’t misunderstand me, Valhalla sounds like an awesome heaven, but you’ve got infinite respawns there, so it’s not really all that killy. Make us all immortal and maybe shootouts wouldn’t be that big a deal, reduced to the level of a nerf war.

    The other matter often brought up is the “we need to protect ourselves from tyranny” argument. Stewart put it well saying “So their argument is that we need guns to protect ourselves from imaginary Hitler, even at the cost of the real killing going on, right now, in reality” (paraphrased).

    I’ve got another point. We’ve already lost the “make sure we can overthrow the government” argument a million times. What exactly would the government fear from us? Okay, we’ve got automatic machine guns. They’ve got patriot missiles and unmanned drone helicopters. They win, in every possible scenario, they win. I don’t care how defiant your eyes can look when you stand off on your porch against the world. There won’t be any police officers out there even for the satisfaction of “taking them down with you”. You’ll be confused wondering why no one’s there until you hear that hum of helicopter blades… then nothing. Nothing but a memory, soon to be altered by the big brother controlled hyper media ultra plex that’s in charge of the news in this alternate reality of silencing US citizens. Maybe if you had a plucky hacker side kick with you to take over the drones, but then you know in the second movie that guy’s going to betray you to join “the winning side”, like 5 seconds before being killed by the conspirators with something like “sorry, we can’t afford witnesses”.

    However, that’s all beside the point. It has come to my attention that the original purpose of the second amendment, above the fact that it only referred to state militias to begin with, not strictly private citizens and their own stockpiles, was that those militias were meant as a bone thrown to appease the need to put down slave rebellions in the south. http://mikethemadbiologist.com/2013/01/20/militias-and-slaves/

    • The point I tend to see about resistance against a tyrannical government: It’s not going to be fought with assault rifles in pitched battles, it’s going to be won with a mix of passive resistance, information warfare, IEDs, and possibly opposing nations invading to liberate the oppressed.

      • My impression, from a very great distance, is that if a tyrannical government took over the US, they’d be most likely do it with the help of the gun lobby itself in the first place.

      • Indeed. The “insurrectionist theory” school of thought appears to be politically motivated, and not much respected among Constitutional scholars. Here’s a link to the excellent law review article cited (after three clicks) by Dark Jaguar supra:
        http://www.saf.org/lawreviews/bogus2.htm
        I like the author’s name– “Carl Bogus.” The article is anything but.

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