Some Tactical Reflections
by L. Neil Smith
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
[Author's note: over 35 years as a Libertarian activist and
self-defense advocate, I learned nearly every one of the following
tidbits the hard way. Think of them as my gift to you, stocking
stuffers, if you will, hanging from the mantlepiece of liberty.]
If you're not a little bit uncomfortable with your position, it
isn't radical enough. How can you be too principled? Take the most
extreme position you can -- you're claiming territory you won't have
to fight for later, mostly against your "allies".
Let the other guy offer compromises. Think of them as rungs on
a ladder. Keep your own goals fixed firmly in your mind and make sure
you never move any direction but upward. That's how the other side
got where they are. It works.
Never aim at anything but total achievement of your goal: the
utter capitulation of the enemy. Every effort involves inertia and
mechanical losses, so adopting any lesser objective means partial
defeat. Total victory means you don't have to fight the same fight
Second thoughts, failures of confidence, nervous last-minute
course-changes are all detours and recipes for defeat. The time to
think is before the battle -- if possible, before the war -- not
in the heat of it.
The shortest path to victory is a straight line. He who remains
most consistent wins.
Go straight to the heart of the enemy's greatest strength.
Break that and you break him. You can always mop up the flanks and
stragglers later, and they may even surrender, saving you a lot of
Always attack in perpendicular fashion, from an unconventional
and unexpected (but relevant) direction. The enemy will be
unprepared; you can strike him with your full strength while he finds
nothing to attack effectively.
Remain the judge of your own actions. Never surrender that
position by default. When the enemy screams "Foul!" the loudest, you
know you're doing him the most damage. Those who help him scream
are also the enemy.
If you can avoid it, never play on the other guy's field, by the
other guy's rules, or with the other guy's ball. He didn't design
his system to give you the advantage. Remember that organisms
defending their own territory are twice as effective as an intruding
You may never convince the other guy, but it's often worthwhile to
keep arguing for the effect it has on bystanders, especially his
Well-timed silence is an effective bargainer. Most people fear
silence at a level below conscious analysis, and rush to fill the
emptiness with accommodation. A difficult tactic to learn and use,
but it works.
The more fundamental position is the highest ground, allowing the
most "perpendicular" attack. If he argues politics, argue ethics --
things seldom go beyond this stage. If he argues ethics, argue
epistemology (look it up). If he argues epistemology, argue
metaphysics. If he argues metaphysics, you're up against Darth Vader
and you're in trouble. Switch back to politics and accuse him of
being out of touch with everyday reality. Or ask him if he's stopped
beating his wife.
Conservatives are accustomed to being called fascists and are well
prepared to defend themselves on that ground. Liberals are used to
being called socialists. Those labels can be switched, however, and
remain valid and instructive. It also catches them completely
Understand from the minute the fight begins that you're going to
take damage. Accept it. (You'll always suffer more from the idiots
and cowards on your own side than from any enemy.) Keep your
overall goal in mind above all. Those who swerve to avoid a few cuts
and bruises defeat themselves.
If you lose, go down fighting. It costs nothing extra, and now
and again ...
Know down to the last cell in your body that the other guy
started it. He's the one who put things in an ethical context where
considerations like decency and mercy have no referent. The less pity
moves you now, the sooner you can go back to being a nice guy.
Otherhandwise, the easiest, most humiliating path to defeat is
thinking that to beat the enemy you must be like him. Avoid the
temptation to set your values aside "for the duration". What's the
point of fighting if you give up what you're fighting for? If
remaining consistent with your values leads to defeat, you chose the
wrong values to begin with.
Truth is a valuable commodity which you don't automatically owe to
anyone. Remember, however, that lies are even more expensive --
they're tiring and costly to maintain -- and even a tiny one can
utterly destroy you.
Never soft-pedal the truth. It's seldom self-evident and almost
never sells itself, because there's less sales resistance to a glib
and comforting lie.
Lies can be custom-tailored; truth comes straight off the rack --
one size fits all. (This gem by my wife, Cathy L.Z. Smith.)
Those who lead through authority have rivals on whom they must
expend as much energy and attention as they do on their enemies. Those
who lead by example have enemies, but no rivals.
Novelist and political essayist L. Neil Smith is the only libertarian
ever to be called a "thug" within the pages of the Libertarian Party
News, as well as an "uptight, repressed, gun-worshiping lunatic" by
another admirer. He's also been characterized by a disgruntled reader
as having written the "single most repugnant piece of tripe ever seen
in an American newspaper." In his spare time, he's the award-winning
author of The Probability Broach, Pallas, Henry Martyn, and
Bretta Martyn. Order all of his novels from Amazon.com through his
"The Webley Page" at http://www.lneilsmith.org//lnsbooks.html, or give
Laissez Faire Books a toll free telephone call at 1-800-326-0996.