THE STRATEGIC ESTIMATE: Questions to Answer


A. Issues and Objectives of the Contending Groups


It is important to have a clear understanding of the issues at stake in the conflict from the perspectives of both sides.  It is especially important for the NVSG to have a clear statement of its own objectives to guide its efforts.  My proposed statement of goals for our NVSG is summarized at the top of this article, and described more fully in the goals page of the Beyond Ballots or Bullets website.


1. What are the broad issues as seen by the opponent group?


It may be useful to ask this question of subgroups; see the question below about organizational structure.


2. To what degree are the objectives of the opponent group and of the NVSG compatible or incompatible?


The point of this question is twofold: (1) identify the fundamental conflicts, but (2) avoid making the struggle more difficult than necessary.  This second consideration is why I have not proposed the dissolution of the State as a goal; it is sufficient that those of us who demand freedom be able to break free of the State's iron embrace.



B. Opponent Group


For our struggle there is more than one opponent group.  There are in fact three classes of opponent groups: the Federal Government, the various state governments, and local governments.


Initially we'll want answers to the questions in this section for each of these three classes.  As our numbers increase, we'll start answering these questions for specific states and cities in which we have significant membership.



1. What is the organizational structure of the opponent group?


This is a breakdown of of the opponent's organization into branches (executive, legislative, judicial) and further into individual departments, agencies, committees, offices, courts, etc.  For each subgroup identified, we have these additional questions:


a. What other subgroups does it rely on (internal pillars of support)?


Include subgroups at other levels of government (e.g., federal law enforcement often relies on the assistance of local law enforcement).  Describe the support the subgroup receives from these other subgroups.  Include flows of information, money, and materials.


b. Does the subgroup directly exercise coercive powers?


That is, does it have its own armed agents?


c. Where does it lie in the chain of command?


In particular, from what other subgroup(s) does it take orders?  To which other subgroups does it give orders?  To what degree does it act autonomously or on its own initiative?


d. How reliable, competent, and efficient is the subgroup in carrying out its functions?


Wikipedia is a good starting point for answering these questions for the Federal Government; see in particular the List of United States-related topics and List of United States federal agencies.



The remaining questions can apply in summary form to the opponent group as a whole, but where possible it is preferable to answer them for the individual subgroups.



2. To what degree does the opponent group rely on each of its potential sources of power?


To review, these are

  • personnel;
  • particular skills or knowledge;
  • psychological or ideological factors;
  • material and financial resources;
  • ability to apply sanctions.

Give the particulars for each of these six potential sources, including numbers where appropriate.



3. What people, groups, and institutions serve as pillars of support?


Do not include internal pillars of support, as these were dealt with in (1).  Some possibilities to consider include political parties, moral and religious leaders and groups, labor groups, business groups, media, particular classes or ethnic groups.


a. To what extent are the pillars of support influenced, or actually or potentially controlled, by the opponent group itself?


For example, employers support the Federal and state governments by collecting various payroll taxes for them, but they do this because these governments require it of them, not because they have volunteered for the job.


b. Are any pillars of support influenced or controlled by the BGG or the NVSG?


c. Which pillars are the strongest and most durable?


d. Which pillars are the weakest and most vulnerable?


e. Who are the opponent group's foreign allies and what is their extent and reliability?


f. Can any of the pillars be considered natural allies of the opponent group?


g. Are there any organizations or institutions that normally support the opponent group but might be targeted for transfer of loyalties or for organizational destruction?



4. What is the opponent group's capacity for organized violence?


Answer this question separately for military forces and each class of security forces (police forces and other armed agents).  Include the following details:


a. Strength, number, size, structure, types of units.


b. Locations of units.


c. Opponent's military or security forces capabilities to counter resistance, impose repression and restore control, including their capacity and willingness to inflict brutalities.


d. Speed with which forces can arrive at specific locations where quick demonstrations might occur.


e. Commanders of the important units and their characteristics.


f. Personality profiles of select officials and commanders.


g. Efficiency, reliability, and morale among troops.


h. General profile of military or security personnel, including

  • socioeconomic class;
  • religion;
  • politics;
  • motivation;
  • ethnic group;
  • age range;
  • possible reasons for disaffection.

i. Logistics of troop movements and operations, location of supply lines, means of re-supply.



5. What intelligence organizations does the opponent group have at its disposal?


This includes any subgroup or external supporting group that collects information on other organizations or individuals for use by the opponent group.  (E.g., information gathered for the purpose of enforcing tax laws.)  What are the characteristics of these intelligence organizations, including their known activities and resources?



6. What means of indirect coercion and control (not directly involving sanctions) are wielded by the opponent group?


Examples may include

  • financial means to influence behavior;
  • influence over the content of news and entertainment media;
  • control of transportations systems;
  • control of communications.


7. What are the demographics and psychographics of the opponent group?


Give the breakdown by age, sex, religion, ethnicity, education, geographical distribution, and income.  Describe the nature and importance of any religious, moral, ideological, or other doctrinal beliefs and commitments of the opponent group.



8. What is the degree of support for the opponent group in the general population?


Include demographics of supporters.  Distinguish degree of support and particular functions or subgroups supported.



9. What is the ideological situation?


This includes kinds and degree of doctrinal / ideological support for the opponent group, or for resistance to its policies and controls.



10. Who are the natural enemies of the opponent group?


One way of answering this might be to identify the opponent group's obvious victims, i.e., those who have been harmed by the opponent group and know it.



11. What are the opponent group's vulnerabilities?


a. Is there any potential or actual support or sympathy for the NVSG from within sectors of the opponent group itself?


b. What are the political fissures and internal conflicts in the opponent group, such as within the leadership group and supporting organizations, institutions, or population groups?


c. Is the present leadership of the opponent group disputed or contested from within, through rivalries, power struggles, or other reasons?


d. What other vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the opponents can be identified?



C. Nonviolent Struggle Group and Broad Grievance Group


These questions are aimed at helping us understand our own strengths and weaknesses.



1. What are the operative or potential sources of power of the NVSG and of the BGG?


Give the particulars for each of the six potential sources, including numbers where appropriate.  Distinguish between current sources of power and potential sources.



2. What people, groups, and institutions serve as operative or potential pillars of support for the NVSG?


Distinguish operative vs. potential pillars.  Some possibilities to consider include moral and religious leaders and groups, labor groups, business groups, media, particular classes or ethnic groups, youth and/or student organizations.  Don't forget existing libertarian organizations.


a. To what extent are such pillars of support influenced, or actually or potentially controlled by, the NVSG?


b. To what extent are such pillars of support influenced, or actually or potentially controlled by, the opponent group?


c. Which pillars are suitable for use in resistance activities?


d. Which pillars need to be strengthened?


e. Do any new pillars need to be created?


f. Who are the NVSG's current and potential domestic and foreign allies?


g. Who are the NVSG's natural allies?


h. What is the actual and potential degree of support for the NVSG from the BGG, specific groups, institutions, and contact networks?


Which of these groups can really help?


i. What sectors of the population are most or least likely to provide support or sympathy to the NVSG over the course of the conflict?



3. What are the demographics and psychographics of the NVSG and BGG?


Give the breakdown by age, sex, religion, ethnicity, education, geographical distribution, and income.  Describe the nature and importance of any religious, moral, ideological, or other doctrinal beliefs and commitments of the opponent group.



4. To what extent does the NVSG and BGG enjoy internal social solidarity and support?



5. What is the broad ideological situation?


This includes kinds and degree of doctrinal / ideological support for the NVSG and its ideas, positions, or platforms.



6. What are the NVSG's vulnerabilities?


a. What are the internal conflicts, rivalries, or power struggles within both the grievance group and the NVSG (e.g., groups with differing ideological positions or long-term objectives)?


b. Are there any rivalries between important sectors of the BGG and the NVSG?


c. Is there any potential or actual support or sympathy for the opponent group from within sectors of the BGG or the NVSG?


d. What other vulnerabilities and weaknesses can be identified?


e. Can any of these vulnerabilities be rectified through deliberate efforts?



7. How well-versed in non-violent struggle are the NVSG and BGG?


a. Who among the NVSG has knowledge of the theory, methods, and practical dynamics of nonviolent struggle?


b. Does the BGG as a whole, parts of that group, or the NVSG have prior experience in using non-violent struggle?


If so, where has it occurred in the past?  What population sectors were involved?  How competently were such struggles carried out?  What were the results?  What lessons can those past struggles bring to the present situation?



8. What means of nonviolent control, if any, are already wielded by the NVSG or its sympathizers?


Examples may include

  • ownership of radio, television, and print media;
  • ownership or control of electronic media sources;
  • control of education (through school administration, teachers, professors, alternate schooling, etc.);
  • control of private enterprises.


9. What is the information and intelligence capacity of the NVSG?



10. What economic resources are at the disposal of the NVSG?



11. What are the communications capacities of the NVSG?


For example, how are communications transmitted, and how secure are these means?



D. Third Parties


These are defined as any group or institution, domestic or foreign, not initially a direct party to the conflict.  They may assist either side with public relations, financial support, applying economic pressures, educational or technical assistance, etc.  We need to decide which third parties to court for future assistance, and which to undermine.



1. Who are the potential third parties?

 

And which of these could potentially provide assistance to either side?



2. Which third parties already serve as pillars of support to one side or the other?



3. What are the possible activities of important third parties during the coming conflict?



E. Dependency Balances


These questions seek to identify in what ways either side to the conflict is dependent on or independent of the other.


1. What is the degree of dependency of the opponent group on the resisting population and on the wider grievance group for meeting identified needs?


2. What is the degree of dependency of the resisting population and the grievance group on the opponent group for meeting identified needs?


3. What is the degree of actual and potential independence of the opponent group from the resisting population and general grievance group for meeting identified needs?


4. What is the degree of actual and potential independence of the resisting population and grievance group from the opponent group for meeting identified needs?



F. General Conflict Situation


In this section we consider information about the background to the conflict.  We wish to consider all factors that might have an impact on either the opponent group or the NVSG.



1.  Transportation


Describe the means of transportation available for either side, and how these might affect the capabilities of either side.  


a. What current control does the opponent group exercise over transportation, and what controls might it exercise in the future?  


b. What has to change here for the NVSG's objectives to be fulfilled?


Transportation in the United States is a good starting point for researching this topic.



2. Communications


Describe the means of communication available, and how these might affect the capabilities of either side.


a. What current control does the opponent group exercise over communications, and what controls might it exercise in the future?


Include surveillance and privacy issues.


b. What communications methods could the NVSG use?


c. What communications methods could the opponent group use?


d. What has to change here for the NVSG's objectives to be fulfilled?


Communications in the United States is a good starting point for researching this topic.



3. Climate and weather


This is typically of more importance to tactics than to overall strategy.


a. What impact do climate and weather have on activities of the opponent group?


b. What impact do climate and weather have on planned resistance activities?



4. Population demographics


Information about both total population and that portion related to the conflict.  This includes

  • breakdowns by age groups, gender;
  • population growth;
  • population densities in varying locations;
  • education levels.


5. Population strata


That is, the types and degrees of social and economic stratification.  This includes

  • socioeconomic classes;
  • ethnicities;
  • religion;
  • language;
  • culture;
  • geographical distribution of the above;
  • variations or differences in these groups in satisfaction, loyalties, or economic interests;
  • any conflicts between or among different population groups.