First posted on War on Guns, 14 April 2007, this essay reads pretty well in light of the events of the past year and a half. It anything, the threats posed by the "microstamping" bills and the incoming Obama administration have made it even more true. Perhaps this is why a couple of my long-time readers urged me to repost it now that I have my own blog.
Credible Deterrence & the Logistics of Liberty
by Mike Vanderboegh
"The test of a good strategy is that it achieves its object without the necessity for battle. As Sun Tzu put it: 'What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy; next best is to disrupt his alliances; next best is to attack his army.'"
--General Rupert Smith, British Army, Ret'd, in The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, Alfred Knopf, NY, 2007, pp. 13
"A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition."
-- Rudyard Kipling
What did the Founders intend with the Second Amendment? Liberals ignored, gunnies would all agree that their purpose was to codify the people's natural right to arms. As men who had been compelled to fight for independence by the British seizure of their arms, it was natural for them to ensure that the people of future generations be enabled to maintain the tools necessary to repel tyranny. But I think the Founders' purpose was not only to set up the preconditions to resist tyranny when it appeared, but also to deter it by providing future would-be tyrants with a credible deterrent that would discourage them from making the attempt to begin with. Others think so too. Here are two examples:
"The 'insurrectionist theory' label does not do justice to this aspect of the Second Amendment. True, the Second Amendment implicitly authorizes recourse to arms when less drastic means fail to attain or retain the proper ends of government identified in the Declaration. But the Amendment's greater value lies in the deterrent effect it would have, were it respected and enforced to the degree of its companion rights in the Bill of Rights. Although it implicitly authorizes rebellion-and explicitly provides the means of waging rebellion-the Amendment, if observed, should make rebellion less likely by making it less likely to be necessary. The Second Amendment should stand as a reminder to those who govern of the people's ultimate right to preserve or reestablish their rights by arms. One need not prophesy armed struggle by American citizens against their own government to propose that the citizenry's widespread ownership of firearms could safeguard liberty by deterring tyranny. The great value of the right is political, not military. This value lies not in the fact that the Amendment enables armed resistance, but that by enabling armed resistance it should make the conditions which would justify such resistance less likely to occur."
-- David Harmer, "Securing a free state: Why the Second Amendment Matters", Brigham Young University Law Review, 1998
"Too many people wrongly assume that the purpose of revitalizing 'the Militia of the several States' (or, for that matter, of forming the kind of private citizens 'militia' that already exist in several States) is to fight new battles of Lexington and Concord. To the contrary: The goal must be, if at all possible, to deter usurpation and tyranny, so as to make actually fighting any battle here in America unnecessary. Deterrence is always the best defense. And preparedness makes deterrence credible."
- Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr. "'The Militia Of The Several States' Guarantee The Right To Keep And Bear Arms", Aug 2005
Here we are then, back to Sun Tzu's dictum quoted at the outset. The exercise of the Second Amendment attacks the enemy-of-liberty's strategy at its source, between the tyrant's own ears, strangling the deadly idea of usurpation in its cradle before it can spring forth in murderous adulthood. Note well, I said "the exercise of the Second Amendment." The piece of paper alone guarantees nothing. We are not talking about law or morality or "emanations and penumbras" as one Supreme Court justice has divined. In the end, as with most other things in this world, American liberty is secured by the threat of naked force from the armed citizenry. Tyrants are nothing if not calculating, and the credible deterrence comes from the number of free men and free women opposed to their schemes, the character and number of the arms they hold, the level of proficiency they have achieved with those arms and their perceived will to use them. That, and one other thing, which we will get to in a minute.
But first, you must understand how tyrants think. Joseph Stalin, when informed after World War II that the Pope disapproved of Russian troops occupying Trieste, turned to his advisors and asked, “The Pope? The Pope? How many divisions does he have?” Dictators are unmoved by moral suasion. But you, gentle readers, have the argument that persuades dictators in your gun safes, closets and car trunks: millions upon millions of semi-automatic rifles of military utility-- those evil misnamed "assault rufles" that so frighten Chuck "the Schmuck" Shumer and the Brady Bunch. You have the power, ladies and gentlemen. The question is: Is the possession of rifles and the will to use them by themselves enough? No, it is not.
"Lieutenants study tactics, Generals study logistics." -- Military maxim.
"Then there is ammunition, for above all it is the bullet that kills. Skill is, of course, an essential element in dispatching that bullet effectively, but it is still the bullet that kills.... At the lower tactical levels of command one operates on the assumption that bullets are in continuous supply, but everyone is conscious that it is only an assumption. A rifleman can discharge all that he can carry in only a few minutes, and his commander must then either replace him or resupply him. It is therefore up to the commander to either strictly define or limit a soldier's task to the ammunition he carries, or else ensure that he is steadily replaced or resupplied. As you rise in command, you become increasingly concerned about the bullets rather than the rifles, and all other weapons, since they are the force being propelled and applied."
-- General Rupert Smith, British Army, Ret'd, in The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World, Alfred Knopf, NY, 2007, pp. 79-80
Or as General Walton Walker said in the early, desperate days of the Korean War, "We can win without food, we cannot win without ammunition." And ammunition supplies to the armed citizenry, as many of you have no doubt noticed, are becoming increasingly problematic. Hence this recent story:
Overseas wars causing ammo shortages
By UPI Staff
United Press International
April 9, 2007
SAN JOSE, Calif. (UPI) -- With wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, police departments in the United States are reporting a shortage of ammunition needed for firearms.
The San Jose (Calif.) Mercury-News reported that in addition to overseas conflicts, an unprecedented rise in the price of raw materials is also contributing to the shortage of ammunition. Also compounding the problem are longer delays in the shipment of ammo. Police across the United States said that ammunition shipments that once took 45 days are now taking as long as six months.
Many police departments are stepping up their ammo orders to hold them over during the long delays, the Mercury-News reported. "It has become a nightmare," said Sgt. Don Moore, San Jose police range master.
The U.S. military's increased use of firearms has been blamed for the shortage, but another factor, the Mercury-News reported, is the rise in the prices for ammo. Prices are said to have risen almost fourfold in the past 2 1/2 years, as demand for raw materials has surged in China and India.
Or this one, quoted in part, from the Fort Wayne, IN Journal Gazette:
Mon, Apr. 02, 2007
Bullet shortage tales spur police to load up
By Rebecca S. Green
The Journal Gazette
Some area law enforcement agencies have stocked up on ammunition in recent months after rumors of shortages and backorders caused by increased usage by military and law enforcement in the ongoing war on terror. Though Jeffersonville-based Kiesler Police Supply and Ammunition Co. sent a letter in February to law enforcement agencies in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, alerting them to a continued ammunition shortage, many local agencies are not worried about running out of bullets.
“We wish to advise every police and sheriff department or agency in our territory (whether or not you are a customer of Kiesler’s) that deliveries of duty and practice ammunition are horribly backordered,” the letter read.. . . Increased usage by the military and law enforcement, as well as a number of foreign manufacturers ceasing U.S. sales, has contributed to the backlog, which is “the worst shortage Kiesler’s has seen in its 35 years of being in business,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Journal Gazette.
The letter to police goes on to indicate that .223-caliber rounds, used in assault rifles such as the M-16, are backlogged until the end of 2007 or early 2008 for both training rounds and ammunition carried on duty. The M-16 and its descendants, such as the M-16A1 and others, have been the primary infantry rifle used by the U.S. military for more than 40 years, and are also used by a number of other countries. Officials from Kiesler declined to comment for this story but on Friday referred calls to ATK, a weapons system company. No correlation between the increased demands for ammunition by law enforcement agencies, particularly training ammunition, should be drawn to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Brian Grace, spokesman for weapons manufacturer ATK.
The company manufacturers a large amount of ammunition used in the civilian, law enforcement and military sectors, doing an estimated $1.3 billion in business in its Ammunition Systems Group and produces about 1.5 billion rounds of small-caliber ammunition annually. ATK’s law enforcement ammunition, both training and duty rounds, is manufactured at plants in Minnesota, while small-caliber rounds for military use are made in Missouri, according to the company’s Web site. Grace said ATK has ramped up production of training ammunition, as well as increased capacity at its plants, making bullets “24/7.” He said the move was driven 99 percent by demand, rather than by a shortage in supply. . . .
. . . Huntington police officer Dale Osborn has served as the department’s firearms instructor for the past decade. He said the .45-caliber is the hardest round to obtain, the only backlog for his department’s supplier, Precision Cartridge Inc. in Hobart. Officials at Precision told Huntington that some suppliers were slower because of an increase in the military’s need for bullets, Osborn said. Slightly cheaper than the rounds carried in officers’ weapons, training rounds make up the bulk of police departments’ ammunition purchases, unlike the more complicated duty ammunition, which expands after contact with a target.
Sgt. Chad Hill, public information officer at the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, said his department has had such a hard time obtaining the .223 rounds needed for the M-16A1 military surplus rifles carried by the deputies they have had to buy the ammunition from the Czech Republic. . . .He said the department has also had difficulty getting training ammunition for the duty-issued .45-caliber handguns and 9 mm handguns used by the department. While the department has been told to expect an easier time buying bullets by August, there is no guarantee, Hill said.
We civilian shooters have experienced this lately in the soaring rise in prices, but more troubling was the drying up of entire classes of ammo we have come to depend on, which one observer called The Great Ammo Drought of '06.
"SayUncle (a blogger) mentioned the rising cost of 7.62x39mm ammo, and offered an explanation. While the order of a bazillion rounds of 7.62 for the Afghanis might mean the supply of commercial Wolf/Barnaul ammo remains scarce, it doesn't account for the fact that it has been scarce for almost a year now, and that the scarcity of imported Russkie 7.62x39 is not necessarily directly linked to the price of its domestic alternatives. . . .Thing is, the domestic companies never loaded all that much 7.62x39, since most shooters simply burned up cheap imported Wolf by the case. Then Venezuela bought 100,000 AK's and the ammo to feed them last summer, and that dried up the Russian ammo flow like somebody turned off a tap; the domestic production never really caught up to the increasing demand. If this Afghan contract happens, it'll be another long drought until we see more cheap imported ammo. 'Til then it's going to be brass-cased domestic stuff or nothing, and with metals prices and fuel costs both up, ammo is more expensive than ever. I've seen two or three price hikes from every manufacturer and distributor since last October, with some brands and calibers going up by as much as 20%. Of course, this affects all ammo, not just 7.62x39mm. Combine that with the shortage of Winchester .22 ammo caused by Winchester moving rimfire production to a new facility in Arkansas, and you have a recipe for scarcity and high prices all across the ammunition landscape. Hoard you some ammo today. :)"
"Hoard you some ammo today." Not bad advice. For if we understand this vulnerability, so do our enemies. Says the Small Arms Survey, an adjunct of the United Nations' attempt to control the private use of arms world-wide (including your own, my dear friends):
"Ammunition: Weapons are only lethal when supplied with ammunition. The procurement of the correct type of ammunition for the available stockpiles of weapons is therefore a core concern for states, non-state armed groups, and individuals. While weapons are durable goods, which can be used for many years, ammunition is quickly depleted, and stocks must be replenished. As a consequence, intensive weapons use, such as in contexts of conflict or criminality, requires the maintenance of regular supply lines of ammunition. The oversight or disruption of such supply lines potentially represents an opportunity for controlling arms proliferation and limiting weapons misuse."
Getting the picture now? You know Bill Clinton did this back in 1994, when the unintended consequences of the impending AWB boosted sales of Chinese semi-auto rifles and ammunition through the roof.
"In a sharp change of policy, President Bill Clinton declared Thursday that he was breaking the link between human rights and trade with China. The president's declaration came as he announced what U.S. officials had been signaling for days: that the White House believes China has made enough progress on human rights in the past year to retain most-favored-nation trade status, which means low U.S. tariffs on the $31 billion worth of goods it exports to the United States. . .
Nevertheless, Mr. Clinton took a series of steps designed to maintain at least some pressure on China: He ordered a ban on the importation of Chinese-made weapons and ammunition, but there was no explicit link to human rights. Cheap, Chinese infantry assault rifles are flooding the U.S. market and are increasingly being used in violent crimes. He announced his intention to enhance Radio Free Asia and Voice of America broadcasts into China and increase government support for private human rights groups."
Though couched in terms of "human rights", Clinton's real purpose was clear enough, even to human rights activists. Said Human Rights Watch Executive Director Sidney Jones at the time:
"'By any yardstick, the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the last year,' . . .noting more than 100 political and religious activists have been arrested, compared with three dozen prisoners released.. . the decision left Clinton's administration 'looking vacillating and hypocritical while the Chinese leadership, by contrast, has emerged as hard-nosed, uncompromising and victorious.' The ban on arms and ammunition imports from the Peoples Liberation Army is good for 'gun control, not human rights pressure,' Jones said. 'The only big winner from this decision is the Chinese government.'"
We frightened the Clintonistas with our purchases and so Bubba cut them off, though it was too late to stop the balance of power shifting more than a few degrees toward us, the armed citizenry. Millions of rifles and billions of rounds of ammunition flooded in and, as Clausewitz observed: "In military affairs, quantity has a quality all its own."
Of course the desire to disarm us by starving our ammunition supply is also alive and well in the proposals of liberal congresscritters over the past decade to require the banning of "armor piercing" and "cop killer" bullets and attempts to tax ammunition out of existence, or make it chemically "deactivated" after a certain period of time.
So our enemies know well how to mess with our power. The question is: What are we prepared to do about it?
Finding even semi-accurate "guess-timates" of how many rounds of ammunition are in private hands in this country is almost impossible. Anecdotal evidence suggests that after the Clintons departed the White House, many folks felt the pressure was off and have spent the past six years shooting up those billions of rounds of 7.62x39 at the range. Replacing them now is financially problematic for the average gunowner. Even absent continuing production diversions to hot wars like Iraq and Afghanistan (and potential troublemakers like Venezuela), the Chinese economy has driven up prices on all base metals and with them, the cost of the finished product that makes your rifles go "bang." The only "cheap" ammo (circa 12 cents per) to be had these days is Russian and Bulgarian military production 7N6 5.45x39. This is why the semi-auto AK-74 has acheived new significance in your gun shop's line of profitable guns to stock. When that 5.45 milsurp is exhausted, the price on 5.45 will also rise.
And this is absent any significant push in the market. Should the Clintons return to the White House, or there's another LA riot or Katrina disaster, the rush will be on and prices that are thought to be high now will be looked upon with fond nostalgia. Unless somebody nukes China, the market forces are going to continue to squeeze us, cutting down on our range time (also important to maintain credible deterrence) and threatening to make our rifles nothing more than expensive clubs.
So I guess I've told you all of this, in part at least, as an investment tip. Buy now. Buy a LOT. Start stocking up on everything from finished rounds to reloading equipment and components. It is the only way to maintain credible deterrence with our political enemies who seek to disarm us on the quiet. We all must turn our attention to the logistics of liberty, lest we lose the deterrence and are forced to fight.
And one other thing. We have always said amongst ourselves that any attempt at universal gun confiscation would be a causus belli-- the trip wire to overthrow the gun-grabbers and drive them from power. We said as much publicly, if indirectly, when we purchased those millions of rifles in the early 90s. It is time to get the message across that attacking the armed citizenry by indirect disarmament in the taxing or banning of ammunition is also a trip wire that potential tyrants need to be mindful of lest we make them a footnote to history.