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December 27, 2009

Small bands of Knights—insurgents, guerillas, or terrorists—can effectively oppose or even rout large armies of Knights when they hide among the populace and lure the army-Knights into targeting or cracking down on the populace. As army-Knights raid homes, install curfews, and look suspiciously at every local they meet, insurgent-Knights gain credibility as heroes who defend the populace. Further, insurgent-Knights appear to be winning when army-Knights withdraw to hide in fortresses or travel only in armed convoys rather than mix freely with locals in the cities and marketplaces.

As army-Knights become frustrated in their efforts to defeat the ‘insurgent evil,’ they may become willing to sacrifice their principles—and the locals’ rights—in order to secure victory. Unfortunately, this also sacrifices any credibility army-Knights have of representing values of freedom, free expression—or even the claim that they side with the populace. Army-Knights, however, may believe that these sacrifices are necessary to vanquish the enemy. This army-Knight strategy was used by the British military in Northern Ireland, and the United States in Vietnam and Iraq early on—except by its commanders and soldiers who used counterinsurgency tactics.

Insurgent-Knights are more often defeated by Gardeners than army-Knights. Gardeners work to win the hearts and minds of the populace—the source of insurgents’ credibility, strength, and hiding places. Like any Gardener courting another, the more contributions Gardeners make to the local populace—in roads, water, schools, infrastructure and economy—the more likely they are to win the locals’ hearts and minds because they can outcompete what insurgents have to offer. And when Gardeners paint the insurgent-Knights as obstacles to the establishment and growth of a new local Garden—such as the construction of new businesses, bridges, or utilities—the less tolerant locals may become of the insurgents hiding among them. Then the people may root out the insurgents on their own.

As counterinsurgency expert T. X. Hammes once wrote, “You don’t outfight the insurgent. You outgovern him.” Put another way, you “out-friend”—make more friends than—the insurgent to defeat him. Insurgencies can be thwarted from forming in the first place by employing this Gardener strategy early on.

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