This next couple posts in the deconstruction left me in a bit of an awkward position, to the point where I’ve really had to think hard about how best to proceed.
The main selling point of Douglas Bland’s work is plausibility. His racist nonsense must be taken seriously because it could actually happen. He is an expert who has studied the problem carefully. You may not like the conclusions, but there’s no getting past the fact that this is a professional assessment by a professional soldier. You might as well argue against the law of gravity, kid, seems to be the message here.
A lot of what I’m trying to put together in this blog is a case, based on actual history, existing doctrine, and personal experience, that Bland’s work is not nearly as reality-based as he would have us think. By pulling up real life examples, part of my goal is to construct an alternate understanding that is a lot more realistic and evidence based.
This is where things get complicated.
The next few posts have to do with Bland’s characters plotting an urban battle in the streets of Winnipeg. Much like his weapons raid in Petawawa, the plan is laughably full of holes and criminally light on specifics, and reading through it I can easily pick out dozens of ways it can be done better.
And that’s the problem. It’s hard to engage Bland’s ideas without (to a certain extent) coming up with a better way to destroy my own country.
I’m not trying to claim that I’m some military genius and that my analysis of Uprising could spell the downfall of Canada itself, I’m not. Seriously, I know a few basic things about room clearing and how to fortify various buildings types against attack. I can explain your basic logistics requirements up to around a company level, and how to manage manpower and divide up tasks. These are important things and they’re going to form the backbone of my criticism, but it’s not exactly the sort secret knowledge that can topple nations.
But there’s no getting around the fact that when I’m criticizing Bland’s hypothetical NPA battle plans, I’m sort of laying out the basics of how to wreck up a Canadian city and kill a bunch of Canadian people.
Yeah, so I had to think things through.
I came up with a couple of basic guiding principles as to how I’m going to tackle this kind of criticism in an ethical manner. If necessary, I’ll add to or modify these guidelines as things develop, and in order to track my line of reasoning I’ll amend this post without deleting prior versions so as to keep a record of my evolving line of thought.
So here’s how I’m going to proceed:
- A lot of the points I’m going to be raising only really apply if you already have a large rebel army with a similarly large stockpile of weapons. One of the huge, consistent failures of Bland’s fictional world is in the field of logistics and manpower. From the very first chapter where Alex Gabriel attempts to steal an army’s worth of weapons on the backs of a dismounted platoon, it’s been pretty clear that Bland doesn’t understand the sheer scale of what he’s working with. It is an important fact that your first priority in taking over a city will be keeping your fighters functional beyond 24 hrs. But by the time you’ve got an army capable of taking on the job, you probably already have someone in the ranks telling you this, so I don’t think I’m undermining Canadian society by writing about it.
- When it comes to more tactical matters, I’ll be speaking in generalities, rather than specifics. For example, when it comes to anti-armour warfare, it’s not a giant secret that you ideally want two teams to engage an armoured vehicle simultaneously from different concealed positions (to maximize the target’s confusion), and these teams need to be able to relocate quickly after firing one or two shots (because someone will be shooting back). This is not a secret. It’s in the original Carl-G & SRAAW(L) manuals which you can find online. What I’m not going to do is get into specifics like say, how one could go about disabling the Winnipeg Police Service’s recently-acquired MRAPs (see featured image). That, in my opinion, would be crossing a huge line.
- A lot of points I’ll be bringing up are based on real-life historical examples which are a matter of public record even if they’re not commonly known. For example, one of the critical failures of the SQ raid on the Pines protest camp (the event which touched off the Oka Crisis) was a lack of up-to-date information about the protest camp itself. Among other things, the SQ officers were unaware that dozens of armed Mohawk Warriors had moved in to the camp and that the location had been fortified with trenches and fighting positions. It was not because the SQ were a bunch of dim-witted cowboys who charged in at night with no plan or organization, and then ran away because they were cowards (Bland will basically say as much later on). The detailed facts of the SQ raid are actually not common knowledge (until I read up on it, I thought the raid happened at night too), but they were published as part of a public inquiry and are the subject of several books.
- A lot of the points I’m going to be bringing up are less a matter of military strategy and more a matter of human nature. Untrained soldiers who are poorly led are likely to panic. Well trained soldiers who are poorly led will be confused and can often end up indistinguishable from untrained soldiers. People suddenly threatened by militant members of a given ethnic group are likely to see all members of that group in the same light (resulting in everything from panic to racist violence). These are not revelations although they seem to be news to a lot more people then you’d expect. A major reason why Uprising doesn’t work is that Douglas Bland seems to think human beings are essentially chess pieces on a board (or a mindless heaving mass of aggression) rather than individuals and groups that generally behave like…you know…human beings.
So that’s the basics of how I’m going to deal with this. Here more than anywhere else, I welcome any comments and feedback from readers.
***I apologize for the delay this post has put on the next part of the deconstruction. This was something I felt was important and needed to be written out in full before I went any further. With luck the next post should be online later today.***
8 thoughts on “So let’s talk about destroying cities…”
Keeping things general and looking at the human side of the equation is likely the best course and it is the weakest part of this novel. That being said, the first three hits on a google search for “urban warfare manual” for me yielded the Soviet, US Army and US Marine Corps manuals on fighting in Urban Areas/Urbanized terrain, so looking at some of the tactics isn’t going to reveal any deep secrets of the military art.