Defeating Hostile ETs
As Earth enters into the spacefaring community, no responsibility is more important than protecting Earth’s autonomy and the personal liberty of its people. While it is hoped that most ET species will be friendly, one must consider that some may be hostile. Numerous reported abductions of our people by ETs suggest that this possibility is not remote.
It is prudent to assume that any hostile ET force capable of reaching Earth from a distant star system possesses technology and weaponry superior to Earth’s. Given that the ET forces might defeat Earth’s most advanced space weapons, Earth should, also, prepare to defend on a lower tech level, i.e., asymmetrical warfare.
In asymmetrical warfare, a weaker military power uses creative strategy and tactics to eventually wear down and defeat a superior military. Below, we review two important examples of effective asymmetrical warfare campaigns from modern Earth history to learn what military reforms would help us prevail in such a conflict.
The Boer War 1899-1902
Boers, Dutch settlers, colonized southern Africa in the 1600’s. While the British later took over the Boer territories in the southernmost part of the region, the Cape of Good Hope and the Natal, the Boers established two republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, further north. With the discovery of gold and diamonds in the Boer republics in the late 19th century, British commercial interests sought the support of the British military to invade them.
To resist the British, the Boers, primarily farmers, organized an army composed of irregulars. Although outnumbered and outgunned, the Boers stunned the British with initial successes at pitched battles at Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso. However, the British responded by increasing their forces to over 500,000 including auxiliaries.
As the Boer forces did not exceed 10,000 in any of the three battles, it was clear they had no chance of winning in a direct confrontation. Recognizing this limitation, the Boers allowed the British to capture the Orange Free State’s capitol unopposed and initiated a guerrilla war.
Although the Boers were not professional soldiers, they had the benefit of a 200 year old commando tradition. In this decentralized fighting force, each commando unit composed of local volunteers was assigned to a town under a local commandant. The surrounding area was divided into wards under cornets with a further subdivision to units of about 20 soldiers.
Armed primarily with modern bolt action German Mausers and mounted on horseback, small highly mobile Boer commando units launched effective surprise attacks on the British. Afterward, the Boer soldiers attired in civilian clothes would disappear into the countryside where they could count on supplies of horses and food from local homesteads.
The most formidable Boer guerilla leader was Christiaan de Wet. Although lacking any professional military training, de Wet had some combat experience as a cornet in an earlier conflict, the Anglo-Boer War of 1880-1881.
De Wet was an ordinary burgher when he joined the Boer commandoes in September 1899 without rank. However, in six months he rose to become commander of the Orange Free State forces. Using classic guerilla hit and run tactics, de Wet and his men annihilated isolated British outposts. De Wet won notable victories at Sanna’s Post and Reddersburg in early 1900 and evaded strenuous British pursuit throughout the war.
Although foreign countries fearing the British Empire refused to openly side with the Boers, there was widespread sympathy for the Boer cause among ordinary citizens throughout Europe. Over 5,000 Boer supporters from diverse nations including the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Russia and Ireland volunteered to join the Boer’s guerilla army.
As their losses mounted, the British became increasingly frustrated in their failed attempts to grapple with their elusive enemy. Eventually, the desperate British resorted to partitions of the country and civilian concentration camps to break the Boer resistance. However, the suffering and death of Boer civilians stiffened Boer hatred of the British and fueled anti-war sentiment in Britain.
Eventually, the British saw no choice but to agree to a truce. Although the Boers surrendered, it was a pyrrhic victory for the British. Just a few years after the war, the British government had to agree to the establishment of an independent Union of South Africa in which the Boers had majority control.
Irish War of Independence (1919-1921)
Although the British invaded Ireland in the 12th century, it was not until the 17th and 18thcenturies that the British consolidated control through military occupation accompanied by the suppression of Irish civil rights, culture, religion and the confiscation of property. An unsuccessful Irish rebellion against the British in 1798 was followed by a century of unrest culminating in a new nationalist movement.
In 1916 Irish nationalists staged another rebellion known as the Easter Rising. Though the Rising was unsuccessful due to poor coordination and weak public support, the nationalists briefly held important public buildings in Dublin including the General Post Office where they proclaimed an Irish Republic. The British unwittingly promoted sympathy for the nationalists when they summarily executed the Irish leaders by firing squad at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin.
Soon after the Rising, Michael Collins, a young nationalist leader who narrowly avoided execution, emerged as the key leader in a renewed rebellion. In 1917, Collins, who like de Wet had no professional military training, was appointed Director of Organization for the Irish Volunteers, a nationalist militia organization which evolved into the Irish Republican Army. When Irish members of the British Parliament formed an independent Irish government, Collins was appointed Finance Minister, as well as, Director of Intelligence.
Like the Boer leaders, Collins recognized that a conventional war against the British regulars and their brutal auxiliaries could not be won. Organizing the Irish Republican Army into regional units under local commanders, Collins oversaw a guerrilla campaign against the British occupation characterized by “flying columns”.
Operating as small, mobile, locally based units, the Irish flying columns launched surprise attacks on British Army barracks and the Royal Irish Constabulary, a quasi-military British occupation force. Other IRA members aided the columns with scouting information, security, and supplies.
The success of the IRA raids forced the British to abandon many of their small outposts and retreat to large towns. As a result, much of the countryside came under the control and protection of the new Irish Republic.
Additionally, as Director of Intelligence, Collins created a web of nationalist spies in the offices of the British government in Dublin. These assets provided crucial information about British plans that Collins could share with the IRA’s regional commanders.
Among the most notable and controversial of Collins’ war methods was the establishment of the “Squad”, nicknamed the “Twelve Apostles”, whose aim was to cripple the British intelligence apparatus by assassinating its agents. In its largest attack, the Squad killed fourteen British MI5 officers linked to the “Cairo Gang”, a deep-cover British intelligence group.
In June 1921, the British commander in Ireland advised his government that only the imposition of martial law could defeat the rebels. Significantly, this was rejected by the British leaders due to Irish American support for the Irish nationalists. With no options left, the British sought a truce and entered into negotiations which eventually led to Irish independence.
Both, the Boer and Irish conflicts suggest that in preparation for a possible asymmetrical war, attention should be given, not only, to training, tactics and weaponry, but also, to logistics such as, communications and transportation.
While efforts should be made to harden electronics, communications satellites may be destroyed or disrupted. Thus, it may be necessary to rely on low tech alternatives such as short wave radio. Essential information such as maps and maintenance manuals should be downloaded to users’ computers and distributed in hard copy.
Civilians should be able to communicate as much as possible with each other and with authorities to maintain social and political cohesion. As Mao showed in his classic work, On Guerilla Warfare, the military effort cannot be isolated from public support. And this support should be earned by involving ordinary citizens at all levels in the resistance campaign.
As to transportation, Earth’s plentiful supply of civilian vehicles could be adapted for use by soldiers. In this regard, battery powered vehicles with minimum reliance on expensive, difficult to repair electronics would be most practical.
With respect to basic weapons in asymmetrical warfare, simplicity and durability are paramount. For example, a rifle like the AK 47, durable, powerful and easy to operate and maintain, would be more useful in guerrilla operations than the complicated American M16 or its shortened version the M4 carbine.
Based upon the above, important changes in Earth military policy, such as the following, would help Earth defend itself in an asymmetrical war with technologically superior extraterrestrials.
1. Bring overseas military home to focus on territorial defense.
2. Emphasize training on basic soldier skills for all soldiers.
3. Restore locally based active duty regiments.
4. Expand locally based reserve units.
5. Relocate military bases to defensible areas of military importance.
6. Prepare new operation/training plans for small autonomous units.
7. Introduce durable, uncomplicated weapons.
8. Harden communications and develop low tech alternatives.
9. Decentralize energy generation.
10. Encourage local farming to ensure adequate food supplies.
The above changes, including an end to foreign wars, represent a fundamental shift in military policy for the United States and certain other developed nations. However, Earth’s anticipated entry into the spacefaring community is a development of such magnitude that it calls for new ways of thinking. As President Ronald Reagan said in his September 21, 1987 speech to the United Nations General Assembly:
In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites the members of humanity. … I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.
Kim MacDermotRoe, a graduate of Princeton, B.A, History and Columbia Law School hosted the radio series the In Context War Report. Kim is the author of Take Me to Your Leader, MUFON Journal, July 2020 and The Perils of First Contact, MUFON Journal, December, 2020 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Kim MacDermotRoe 2021