When Supply Lines Go Down

by R.J. Jacob

Hurricane Sandy serves as yet another example of how federal, state and local government entities including the military are utterly dependent upon US infrastructure and a vibrant local economy to coordinate supply routes to major cities in times of catastrophic disaster.

Even with practiced and prepared FEMA centers, the Red Cross, the National Guard, and other emergency management agencies standing by, it was impossible for the government to send assistance, equipment, medical and food supplies to tens of thousands of people through a collapsed infrastructure and frozen civilian economy.

When FEMA ran out of water on day three (good one, guys) the FEMA Region Contracting Officer was baffled by the idea of delivering millions of gallons of bottled water to areas in New Jersey and the boroughs of New York City without electricity, fuel lines, operational subway services, train tubes/stations, etc. Keep in mind these bottles of water were not coming from nearby local storage facilities. FEMA’s only option was to solicit a request at to try finding private vendors to step in and help expand the supply chain.

Staten Island residents were seen on live TV literally weeping and begging for food, water, shelter, and clothing for three days after Sandy struck their neighborhoods. Not a single government truck arrived, for three days!

With most of the workers incapacitated by the storm and trucks and trains brought to a screeching halt, not only did water and food run dry, but more than half of all gas stations in New Jersey and New York City were closed because fuel supplies dried up. And no one, including the government, was able to effectively distribute these supplies.

Luckily for most eastcoast residents (those who didn’t lose their homes) this was only a three day crisis and not a three year civil war.

The impact of Hurricane Sandy on government distribution networks offers some insight into the struggle the US military would face during a civil war or against a serious American insurgency.

The US military is currently the dominant world military power because of its material supremacy, that is, its ability to coordinate with other governments to setup supply routes and move thousands of troops around while continuing to supply those troops with pay, ammunition, parts, repairs, food, clean drinking water, medical supplies, etc. All the sophisticated weapons, over engineered systems, and air-support strategies are based on (or more specifically reliant on) unobstructed logistics and a decent flowing economy—to name a few, transportation, trucks, trains, terminals, pipelines, racks, warehouses and commercial industry production and repairment facilities remaining operational in the face of chaos.

Imagine distributing and maintaining an army across the world’s most heavily armed society for four to eight years while attempting to sustain dozens of factions of soldiers in different areas of a giant, heavily congested, de-industrialized black-market-battlefield-America. Air support alone requires crews, fuel, parts, tools, work space, as well as sufficient ground time for repairs and maintenance. Ground time would be minimized to a handful of supply routes with military bases serving as outskirt entry points for city supply lines which makes for a highly isolated and parochial supply chain in the event of a widely dispersed First World insurgency.

For instance in Afghanistan, a very poor country smaller than Texas, the same logistical strategies have failed to defeat a few thousand Taliban insurgents with AK-47s. In a heavily armed first world country as large as the United States, state security forces would likely lose control of many large areas and high density populations.

When the supply lines go down, and I mean really go down, small gangs, large mobs, and lone shooters become the major military players, not US combat troops.

8 replies »

  1. Very true, another factor would be motivating servicemen to keep fighting when they know their own families are in trouble at the same time.

  2. One thing that bugs me is that I understand that there are probably more than a few systempunkts of opportunity in how the domestic empire operates, but how do I identify them in practical, rather than theoretical, ways when I’m on the ground?

    • Well, since I can’t answer your question I’ll just throw more theory at you. Open source insurgencies share intel very quickly. When Occupy was heating up I found my way to some interesting, backwoods sites where Anonymous was getting “dox” on various corporations, politicians and even a police officer known for his brutality against protesters. Through a combination of analyzing publicly available information and hacking they were able to reveal all sorts of interesting information like direct office lines to various corporate officers at Monsanto, personal email addresses, home addresses, etc. Aside from that they’ve engaged in vigilante doxing (?) against average Joe’s on the internet for a variety of reasons.

      In a theoretical North American insurgency I would suspect that Anonymous or a network like Anonymous would go into over drive and become the intel wing of the insurgency. The Feds have their massive data centers and analysts; the insurgency would have Anonymous (or something like it.)

    • Also, I imagine a lot of damage can be done by lone wolf insiders in the system either through leaking information or through direct attacks themselves. In a popular uprising the system would have to expect that some of their bureaucrats, lever pullers and office peons would be sympathetic to the cause and seek to do damage.

  3. I would encourage any sort of armed insurgency because that would have the effect of presenting the establishment with a credible external threat. This would allow them to mobilise sentiment behind them against the “terrorists”, this is a game they like playing and are very good at, it is a message the public are ready to receive. For these reasons armed insurgency would probably strength rather than weaken the regime. Possibly the military-industrial complex might use this threat to suck the state dry rather quicker than it other might, otherwise I can’t see any positive effect.

    My experience of the US Army was that a substantial element of it was not entirely convinced by the whole Imperial project. Alex Jones style conspiracy was fairly common as was a mistrust of the US Government. Whilst these kind of ideas are fairly common in the population as a whole a few tours of Iraq or Afghanistan does quite a lot to concentrate the mind on what are to the rest of the population fairly abstract ideas. Once you start reaching around for some explanation for why you are holed up in a sweaty tent in a Baghdad dust storm you tend to opt for the first vaguely coherent explanation you can get, which tends to be variants on Jones’ themes.

    Southern units and troops in particular seemed to be susceptible to a cynicism, although not as much as “stop loss” soldiers most of whom regard the US Army as more of an enemy than, well, the enemy.

    I would think that in the event of a widespread breakdown of order the vigor with which the Army would react would rapidly diminish. That would happen whether or not they were encountering much resistance, the sheer effort of it would quickly make them lose interest. Soldiers are not well paid at the moment, much less after any currency devaluation through inflation or any other means. Unless the state could make it worth their while, far more so than they do today, I would expect the US military to very quickly suffer acute recruitment and retention difficulties in any foreseeable future. The capability of the US military, which isn’t particularly high now, would become more like those of other impoverished nations. Which is to say highly susceptible to corruption, not particularly aggressive in engaging the opposition or in any other duty other than hanging around the barracks.

  4. Well I just want to live long enough to see someone take down this anti-white system.
    Obama is going to be more dangerous now that he is re-elected.
    Best of luck to you and your insurgency, what ever it’s about.

  5. Fair point RJ. However I would say that if a third of the American public can be convinced that the Taliban or whoever the hell those guys in Iraq are represent a threat to the USA then the establishment aren’t going to have too much problem convincing them that people blowing up sub stations and shooting cops represent a threat to them.

    What’s the average Americans opinion of Timothy McVeigh or of Kaczynski?

    I see the whole issue of the American surveillance state as being consistent with losing a 4GW conflict. When an insurgent blows up a Humvee in Iraq what is the material loss of capacity to the US Army? Effectively zero. However the response to that attack has two effects. Firstly it provokes a huge immediate military response which costs hundreds of times the value of the material lose. This is then magnified again by the requirement to up-armour or replace with APCs all the jeeps in the combat zone. A loss which cost the US Army $20,000 (or $0 because the investment in the Humvee had already been made) has ended up costing them tens of millions at least. The loss forces a general intensification in an attempt to prevent a recurrence, the cost of that is hardly calculable.

    The second objective of the attack on the humvee is related to the first. The intensification of “counter-insurgent” activity and the increased militarisation of the US State’s presence has the effect of alienating the population. A good example of this effect is in the USSR’s post war Eastern European Empire, it’s attempts to secure itself from subversion which didn’t exist ended up provoking subversion that brought the whole empire down.

    The point is that the US state is now so paranoid than it does not even require the initial loss to provoke it to expend resources it hasn’t got to protect itself from a threat which does not exist, and which if it did the measures taken would be insufficient against anyway. The US State is already behaving in the way you would want it to if you were an insurgent, an actual insurgency is then hardly worth the effort.

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