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34


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 34, December 25, 1997

Some Tactical Reflections

by L. Neil Smith
lneil@lneilsmith.org

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 again tomorrow.

         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 effort.

         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 attacker.

         You may never convince the other guy, but it's often worthwhile to keep arguing for the effect it has on bystanders, especially his allies.

         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 unprepared.

         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.


The Libertarian Enterpise and many of its readers and contributors are deeply indebted to the constant good will and energetic assistance of Alan Wendt alan@ezlink.com of EZLink, our internet service provider, as well as a tireless and deeply-principled Libertarian. If you live along the Colorado front range, you should consider switching to EZLink. If you don't, give Alan a holiday jingle anyway at (970) 482-0807, or send him e-mail to thank him for making The Libertarian Enterprise and so much more possible.


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