Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Food, Starvation and Famine – Crisis Preparedness and Survival

Starvation is one of the worst killers of all disasters. The worst famine in history, the famine in China during the “Great Leap Forward” may have caused the deaths of 14-40 million people; 30-50 million is estimated to have died during the Second World War. The worst natural disasters like earthquakes historically have killed a couple of hundred thousand people, but in relation to the suffering created by famine these disasters have a relatively small effect. In this post I will try to explain some of the caucus that leads to famine, different perspectives and give some advice regarding food storage from a crisis preparedness perspective.

Timeline and Historical Events
1845-1848 The Irish Potato Famine resulted in around one million dead and around another million escaped from the Island. This is one of the worst cases in history in relation to the total size of the populations.

1846-1847 The Donner Party consisting of American emigrants got caught by a winter storm. Almost half of the party died from cold, starvation and disease. Many resorted to cannibalism.

1932-33 Joseph Stalin introduced reforms in The Soviet Union that would cost the lives of 6-8 millions from famine, mainly in the Ukraine. This disaster was not recognized by the Soviets for a long time.

1958 – 1961 China introduces a number of reforms in “The Great Leap Forward”, this would cost the lives of 14-40 million people from famine.

1972 A plane flying a rugby team crashes in the Andes. The survivors resort to cannibalism in order to survive, only 16 of the 45 persons would survive. The movie “Alive” is based on the event.

1974 Bangladesh around 1, 5 million died from famine.

1984-1985 Sudan around 250.000 people died from famine.

1992 Christopher McCandless dies from starvation after surviving over a hundred days in the Alaskan wilderness. John Krakauer has written a book about McCandless life called “Into the wild”, there has also been a movie made based on the book.

1995-1999 in North Korea somewhere between 900.000-1,5 million is estimate to have died from famine.

Poverty and Famine
Famine is often related to poverty. Around 800 million people around the world live in extreme poverty today, and an additional 1,2 billion are classified as poor. That equals to around one third of the world total population. For those living in extreme poverty there is a lack of food, clean water, sanitation, shelter, health care and security. The access to food is not only a problem in poor countries, in the United States 11% of the households had problem with getting food on the table during 2007. During 2008 5,7% of the US households had a very low food security, this means that one or more members of the family had to change their eating habits and their food intake was reduced. It’s mostly poor households where this is a problem, single parents with children and disabled is also common risk groups. For more information about food insecurity in the US you can check out USDA:s homepage.

Political Reasons for Famine and War
Famine and starvation do not get much attention in relation to the number of dead from as wars and terrorism. The causes of famine are often a combination of natural causes, civil war, poverty and political actions. Starvation takes place more often in totalitarian and non democratic states where the regimes often don’t recognize that people are starving. These countries can often be selling food to other countries and at the same time receive emergency rations for the population. Other factors that can interact and create starvation are fragile eco systems, erosion and problems with water. War reduces the land available for food production and food storage is often targeted by the different parties in the conflict. Fields are often mined to prevent them from being used for food production; this often continues to be a problem for long periods of time after a conflict comes to an end. Blockade against food aid and attacks against food transports is also common problems in contemporary civil wars. When Rome destroyed the city Carthage 143 BC it’s said that the Romans plowed salt into the field so that nothing would grow there again.

When does Famine take place? The Malthusian Perspective
Thomas Malthus was a priest and economist living from 1766 - 1834. One of Malthus most famous ideas was he’s theory that the production of food can only increase slowly step by step and that the human population increases faster than the increase in food production. This will eventually lead to a situation where the population no longer can increase because of famine and other factors. However, the population of the world has increased very much during the last 200 years. 2000 years ago at year 1 the world population was only around 200 million, 1000 years later the world population had only increased to just over 300 million. At 1800 the world population was just under 1 billion. From the 1800 an extreme increase in the world population has taken place, at 1900 the number was around 1,5 billion, 1950 more than 2,5 billion, 1975 over 4 billion, 1990 over 5 billion, 2000 over 6 billion and today the number is over 6,9 billion. Millions die from starvation every year in today’s world but the population of the world still increases rapidly, the main problem for those starving is not that there is too little food in the world, the problem is that these persons don’t have access to this food because of a combination of factors like poverty, political actions, war and other factors. The Malthusian perspective is however shared by many how believe that there might be a collision between the expanding world population and diminishing natural resources. The Peak Oil Movement, those how believe in The Limits to Growth and the Transition Network are some examples.

There are however other situations when food may also become a problem: ship wrecks and airplanes how crash in remote locations are two examples of incidents how can result in a situation when food becomes a problem. There are also other man-made situations when food often becomes a problem like in prisoner of war camps, concentration camps and refugee camps. In this type of camps it’s very hard to get the food that is received by the camps to reach those in the camp. It is very common that those in power sell food or use it for their own purposes. Food is often used to motivate people in this condition since very few will refuse to do work if the reward is an extra ration.

Home Food Storage for Crisis Preparedness
How much food one should storage depends on a lot of things; I would personally recommend that you try to store food for minimum 1-2 weeks to start with and gradually expend your food storage. There are those how recommend that one should storage a supply of food that will last a full year or even more, John Wiseman the author of the "SAS Survival Handbook" recommends one year. How much storage you think is enough is a matter of personal preferences but I suggest that you try to link your decision to a personal Risk Assessment that takes the specific risks for your situation into consideration.

What Should You Store?
My answer to this question is that you should store what you eat. Do NOT start to store food that you normally don’t eat or don’t like. The most important thing about food storage is that you learn how to rotate your food so that the food doesn’t become too old to eat. If you can’t rotate your food storage it will become a rotten investment.

The other aspect is that storing food should save money for you, not cost you additional money. Some foods like rice and pasta are much cheaper if you can buy large amount like a 10-20 kg bag instead of 20-40 small packages. If you use much crushed tomatoes, coconut milk or other canned food it’s a good idea to buy more of these, especially if you can find them cheaper during a sale. Make it a routine to check for deals at your local stores in the beginning of every week. This is where I recommend that you get started. Build up your storage gradually step by step.

The shelf life for different types of food varies highly. Un-grinded Wheat and Oats is often said to have an almost unlimited storage time if it’s stored cool and dry. If you decide to go for these kinds of staples you must get a grinder that can be used to grind these into flower that can be used to bake breads and make other foods. I recommend that you get a hand grinder that doesn’t require electricity to operate. Honey also has an extreme shelf life close to unlimited. The same goes for Salt and Sugar if they can be stored absolutely dry and cool. Salt is an extremely important addition to food and is very cheap to buy; it can also be used to conserve fish or game in a survival situation.

Canned food has different shelf life, often 3 to 5 years. The old canned food produced by the military have a very long shelf life and can often be eaten decades after they were produced if stored well even if the taste might not be the best. I have personally tried this kind of food that expired over ten years ago and did not become Ill. I do not recommend that you normally eat food with an expiration date that’s passed even if especially canned food often don’t present a problem. However during an emergency you might have to eat what’s available. If you ever unsure try to eat a little of the food first and wait for a few hours to see if you get ill. Then increase the amount, wait and see.

Cooking Oil can normally be stored for around 2 years, Olive Oil normally have a shorter shelf life than normal cooking oil. Powdered Milk can normally be stored for around 2 years, buy a little first and learn how to use it and make sure that you rotate it.

There are companies that sell food for emergency situations that can be stored over 25 years. The technique used is often to take freeze fried food, put it in cans and then replace the oxygen in the can with nitrogen to increase the shelf life even further. Mountainhouse is one company that uses this process and sells this type of products. However these solutions is ratter expensive and there is a good chance that you won’t like this food. Before you make a decision to order a large amount of food from these companies make sure to buy a smaller amount and test if you really like this food. This is not a solution that I would normally recommend but if you have the storage space, money and believes it’s a good solution go for it. However if there never is an emergency when you need it, will you use it or eat anyway? A common similar subject among survivalists is to pack food in mylarbags and then use dry ice to replace the oxygen and increase the shelf life of different types of food. Another method is to learn home-canning. This may be a good alternative for long term storage but I would still suggest that you focus on building a food storage that you constantly rotate; this takes care of the problem of shelf-life since you constantly replace your stock.

Where you store is also very important. Store your food in a place that is a dry and as cool as possible. I also recommend that you get strong air tight containers that you store your food in. If you live in a house a root cellar is an ideal place to store many types of food. A root cellar also means that you can store potatoes and onions for much longer periods of time compared to storage in a refrigerator.

Special Food Products
Vitamins pills can be a good complement to your diet, but I suggest that you try to the most of your vitamins from eating fruits and vegetables. Canned fruit and dried fruit can be a good complement to regular food storage.

Ultra High Temperature (UHT) treated milk products have a much longer storage time than regular milk products and can often be stored for months in room temperature if not opened. UHT milk products often have a special taste and cost more than regular milk.

Swedish Hard Bread from the company Wasa called “Knäckebröd” has very much fibers and a very long storage time. I recommend that you try it out and see if you like it, if you do it’s a good complement to regular bread and it’s very healthy bread.

The size of the Portions, freeze portions
I’ve written this before in other posts but it’s worth saying again: One of the most important aspects is that you learn how cook food by yourself. Learn how to make all kinds of food. And learn how to make these foods from scratch; don’t buy the premade food that you only put in a pan and it’s done. The same goes for bread, learn how to bake it from scratch, put the bread you can’t eat right away in the freezer, it will keep the bread fresh and make it last much longer.

Another aspect that I recommend that everyone tries to do is to start making much food when you cook. Then make portions and freeze the food that you can’t eat right away, this way you will always have healthy food available. Start bringing the portions with you to work or school; this will save you a lot of money instead of eating out. And learn how much you eat, don’t make to big portions. It’s estimated that up to 40% of all food in the Western Worlds get thrown away, don’t put more food on your plate than you can eat. During a crisis situation or emergency this is extremely important, you can’t afford to throw your food away.

The Crisis Situation
Things that have to be stored cold in your refrigerator and freezer will be the food that’s going to waste the first if the electrical grid stops working. Start to eat this food before it goes to waste then move on to food that doesn’t have to be stored cold. A generator can be used to keep your refrigerator and freezer working for some time and prevent it from being spoiled during shorter black outs. If the crisis lasts a long time I suggest that you start to ration your food as fast as possible to make it last longer.

Stoves and Cooking
It’s also important that you get the equipment that allows you to prepare food in a crisis situation if the electric grid goes off line. I recommend that you get some kind stove like a Multi Fuel Stove, Trangia Stove, Gas Stove, Jetboil, Wood Stove, Heat-Pal or Esbit. If you intend to use the equipment for your home there are more stationary solutions that also can be used if you’re going camping and have the access to a snowmobile or other means of transport. Primus and Soto has some gas stoves with double heaters that excellent for these situations. There are also military cooking systems for many persons that often can be bought cheap as surplus. Make sure to include fuel to your stove. The safety aspect using these stoves is extremely important, they can cause fire, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning if used indoors. Only use them outdoors or in well ventilated locations. Keep a bucket of water, a fire extinguisher or fire proof blanket handy. Especially the stoves from Trangia must be used with extreme caution; the flame from the burner is often invisible. Get solid containers made from steel, aluminum or plastic safety bottles to the Trangia Stove and other Alcohol Stoves.

A Dutch Oven is a cast iron cooking vessel with lids that can be used to cook food over an open fire. They can also be surrounded with coal and used as an Oven to bake bread. The Muurikka is another excellent solution based on a cast iron/steel wok plate that can be used over an open fire to prepare food for an entire family. Both Dutch Ovens and Muurikkas are a bit too heavy if you have to carry your equipment on your back for longer distances. There are also other types of stoves that can be used together with wood and other pieces of fuel that you may find in your local terrain. The Vargo Hexagon Titanium Stove, The Kelly Kettle and The Nomad Camp Stove are some examples.

A Barbeque grill with either gas or coal is also an excellent complement in an emergency, but most importantly an excellent way to prepare food for party’s or dinners. Pressure cookers is also a very good way to prepare food, they allow you to cook food in high temperatures under pressure and conserves both water and energy in a crisis situation. They also allow you to prepare your food in a much shorter amount of time. Solar Owens is also something that’s often recommended as for cooking during a crisis situation.

Fishing, Hunting and Edible Plants
Fishing and Hunting can be an import addition to your diet during an emergency or crisis situation. This of course depends on your location, but if you’re planning to hunt or fish as a complement I recommend that you learn how to this before a crisis takes place and learn what really works in your terrain. There is solutions for fishing that don’t require your attention all the times like nets or rigs with lines and hooks. The same goes for hunting, you must learn all the practical aspect like tracking, where pray can be found, get the equipment, learn how to butcher, transport and prepare the food.

Edible plants, berries and mushrooms are an excellent addition to your diet that can add extra vitamins, nutrition and flavor. The same thing goes for edible plants as for fishing and hunting: You must learn where you can find these and how they look like before a crisis. If you don’t learn this you risk eating something poisonous and this can have a deadly outcome. Start with studying books, then take a course or follow an expert when they go picking mushrooms, berries or edible plants. You don’t want to learn what edible and not the hard way. During starvation situation it’s common that people will start to suffer and die from vitamin deficiencies like Beriberi (Vitamin B1) and Scurvy (Vitamin C). Learning what local plants that can provide vitamins can mean the difference between life and death.

Another topic often discussed is to produce different kinds of food yourself by gardening and farming. If you have big garden or live on the country side this can be a very good complement to food storage, even if you live in apartment in the city you can grow some herbs and fruit in a small scale on a balcony. There are some experts that recommend the storage of seeds that can be used after extreme kind of crisis situations; if you’re considering this I suggest that you to start to learn this process right now. Get to know what will grow the best in your climate and soil conditions. This will require a rather large amount of time, land, knowledge, equipment and hard work. A good way to conserve fish, meat, berries, fruit and mushrooms is to dry the food. There is excellent equipment that’s used to dry food such as the electrical Evermat.

If you’re going camping or have to carry food during an evacuation I suggest that you mainly go for light weight food like freeze dried rations. Meals Ready to Eat (MRE:s) has the main advantage that they don’t have to be prepared before you eat them, but they have a high weight compared to freeze dried food. Freeze dried food can be bought in portion sized bags, all you have to is to add hot water into the bag and wait for a couple of minutes. If your hiking or camping an area with a limited supply of water MRE:s is a better alternative. I especially like the freeze dried food from DryTech, Blå Band Expedition Meal and Trekn Eat myself. Sea To Summit makes a extra aluminum long spoon that great if you want to eat straight from the bag. Powerbars or Protein bars can be a good addition as a snack during an emergency situation. A trail mix made of chocolate, nuts and raisins is also good. Dried elk, reindeer meat or beef jerky is another alternative.

Psychological and Physical Reactions to Starvation
Hunger and Famine have serious psychological and physical effects. Most people can go for up to three day without food without any serious reduction in their physical and mental capabilities. After this time the lack of food stops to be an inconvenience and starts to become an obsession. Most other considerations starts to become secondary and food occupies both thoughts and even dreams. If people are denied the access to food they can become very violent and get ready to take it from others how posses it. People may even get ready to kill in order to get to food, this have even taken place among friends during expeditions.

As people start to lose body weight they also starts to constantly feel cold. Common reactions are apathy, depression, irritation, emotional instability. When the access to food becomes scares in a society civil unrest and hunger riots are common results. When all reserves are used the body starts to break down organs. Losing around half of the body weight is not uncommon, survivors from prisoner of war camps and concentration camps have often had a weight between 30-40 kilograms. Starvation presents other dangers since it makes people more vulnerable to hypothermia and infections. Severe hunger also breaks down the normal moral that people have, prostitution in order to get food, stealing, robbery and even murder may take place.

In the early stages of this situation it is very important that you eat everything you can from the very start. Even if there is food that you don’t like or would never eat during normal circumstances. When people get hungry enough this stops becoming a problem but by then you will have loosed valuable energy and time if you can’t master the will to eat everything from the beginning. I suggest that you learn to eat everything by training at doing this now, take the food you like the least and learn to eat it. It also take time to recover from starvation, normally it takes one to two months to recover from medium levels and more than half a year from severe situations

Overweight a big problem in most western countries; it’s a much bigger problem than people getting to little food in this part of the world. Too much food, snacks, candy, soft drinks, bier and other unhealthy food in combination with too little exercise creates this problem. Overweight can be a major problem for your personal health; overweight brings big problems both in a short and long term perspective. A common way to measure if your weight is normal is the Body Mass Index (BMI) measurment. The Body Mass Index is calculated by taking your weight in kilograms and divides it by your length (in meters) in square. Normally a BMI between 18,5 and 25 is considered a normal weight, a BMI between 25 and 30 as overweight and BMI over 30 as obese.  The BMI does not measure a person’s body fat so it is not necessary a perfect indictor for health but it can give you an indicator concerning your health.

This is never an easy problem to overcome and you need to change your lifestyle in order to get rid of the problem. If you stop eating candy, sweets and starts to only drink water instead of sodas you’re well on your way. Start to exercise at least three times a week. The problem is often a result of the people around you and their habits, try to get your family, partner and friends onboard. It’s harder to make changes if your family and friends don’t change their unhealthy habits as well. Alcohol also contains many calories and if you drink too much cut down or stop completely.

Breakfast is a very important meal that shouldn’t be skipped. Make sure to eat a healthy breakfast every day and make this into a routine. Eat Lunch and Supper at regular times and make a habit of don’t skipping meals. If you want a snack in between meals eat a fruit or sandwich.

Also see:
Water during Emergency and Survival Situations
Peak Oil
The Limits to Growth

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Upcoming themes on the Blog

Human Conflict is one of the worst disasters in the world. I hope that the readers have been able to get some new information and perspectives on human conflict and the current trends. After finishing the part about Human Conflict the next theme that will be covered is Food, Starvation and Famine. This theme will cover historical examples of starvation and some advice about food storage from a crisis preparedness perspective. Another planed theme that will be covered in future posts is the Collapse of Civilizations and different perspectives on this subject.

If you have any questions about upcoming subjects or have any suggestions about topics that you would like to know more about your welcome to post ideas. Feedback is also welcome. I would like to say thanks to all the members on the Survivalist Boards for useful input and advice. I would also like to thank Despierto how writes the Swedish Blog “Innan det sker / Att leva efter 2012” for recommending my Blog. I hope that everyone has had a Merry Christmas and that you will have a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Survival Knives

One of the most discussed topics when it comes to survival is what knife is the best tool for the job. There is an incredible amount of different brands of knives that range in price from a cost of a couple of dollars up to even 1000 dollars or more. All knives have their strength and weaknesses. There isn’t one knife that’s perfect for all jobs; all knives have their advantages and disadvantages. There are many knives that are specialized for different tasks like hunting, fishing, chopping, wood work, and knives with multiple tools like Multi Tool and Swiss Army Knife. What tasks that you need your knife for must govern what knives you get and what knives you carry. For the native people off Scandinavia, the Sami it’s not uncommon to see two, three or even more knives hanging from the belt.

Before you decide what knife to buy go to a store and check out the knife. How does the knife feel in your hands? The most important aspect is that the knife feels right for you. I personally prefer high quality knives, but in almost every situation a low price knife like a Mora will do the job just as good as a more expensive high quality knife. Your own budget must govern what kind of knife you will buy. It’s very common that people buy high quality knives and not use them at all or very little and later sell them on sites like E-bay. Sometimes you can also make good bargains at yard sales. In this post I will name a few brands and models, but there are literally thousands of different models on the market.

Fixed Blade Full Tang
A Fixed Blade Full Tang Knife is one of the best survival tools you can own. The Swedish company Fällkniven makes some of the best survival knives there is. The model F1 was originally made for the Swedish Air force as a survival knife. The F1 is quite compact with a relatively short blade, the model S1 is similar to the F1 but has slightly longer blade. The A1 is a bigger knife that also can be used for chopping down small trees. These are the three basic survival knives from Fällkniven and they are all very similar when it comes to design. Full tang, 4,5 mm thick blade made from VG-10 steel, simple, solid and functional design. These are the three basic knives that I would recommend that you check out first if you are looking for a high quality survival knife.

There are also other interesting fixed blade knives from Fällkniven like the new Police Rescue Knife (PRK) with a new kind of cobalt steel, tanto style blade and partial serration. The model H1 has a curved blade intended for hunting and the WM-1 is a small fixed blade excellent as a combination with a larger fixed blade knife or for Every Day Carry (EDC). I personally prefer smaller knives and an axe or folding saw as a combination instead of big knives, but it’s a matter of personal preferences. There are pros and cons to all knives and there are some tasks like splitting thick fire wood when large knives have a clear advantage over smaller knives.

The design of knives from Fällkniven is not unique. Many other brands have a similar design to their knives. One example is RAT Cuterly / ESEE Knives that makes excellent knives the RC-3 / ESEE- 3 and the RC-4 / ESEE-4 are two models. The RC-3 / ESEE-3 also come in a model with an orange handle that’s easier to find comapred too a model with a grey handle if you would lose it. The Sissipuukko M07 and Sissipuukko M.95 are also very good knives that’s similar to the Fällkniven F1 and S1. The Gerber LMF 2 is also a high quality fixed blade knife that has a sheath that can be attached to vests and bags of with Molle type attachments, the sheath also has an integrated sharpener. The American made Ka-Bar with a seven inch carbon steel blade used by the US Marines is often recommended. The fixed knives from TOPS Knives and Ontario also have a similar design solid design. The Norwegian Company Brusletto makes high quality hunting knives with wooden handles that are very good both for hunting and as a survival tool. They come in many sizes and have many forms on the wooden handles, make sure that you try the knife out before so that it feels good for your hand.

Mora makes low price knives that have a very good quality considering the cost of the knives. The main disadvantage it that the Mora knives have rather slim blades that can be broken if you’re not careful. There are new models of the Mora from Neverlost that have orange fluorescent handles. Personally I recommend the Mora 2000 as the best model of knives from Mora. There is also other knives like the Mora Bushcraft Forest and Mora Bushcraft Survival that has a similar blade design and a more ergonomic handle. It has a sharp thin blade that’s excellent for hunting, camping and fishing. The only down side is that the you have to consider the strength of the blade when you use it, but as long as you use it with care it will last for many years.

Double edged knives are generally knives that designed to be used as a weapon. A double edged tip makes a knife an effective stabbing weapon, but the tip is generally not as strong as the tip of a blade with a single edge. I do not recommend double edge blades as a survival knife. In my experience a blade with a single edge makes a much more effective tool for survival, hunting, fishing and camping.

• Solid design with no moving parts that can break
• Stronger than a folding knife
• If the handle off a full tang fixed blade knife breaks a handle can be improvised from paracord or leather strips.

• Not as compact as a Folding Knife, Swiss Army Knife or Multi Tool

Multi Tools
Multi Tools are tools that are built around a folding plier resembling a balisong. Multi Tools are generally much better than Swiss Army Knives when it comes to repairs and other mechanical work, but they have a higher cost and weight. Leatherman makes some of the best models, Charge TTi, Charge ALX and Wave is popular models. Leatherman has recreantly introduced a new multi-tool specially designed for military use with tools for maintaining handguns and assault rifles, the Leatherman MUT / MUT-EOD. Victorinox also makes multi tools; one of the models is Swiss Tool. Gerber and SOG also make high quality models. Multi tools often have knife blades, saw blade, scissors, can openers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, bits, and other tools.

Swiss Army Knives
Swiss Army Knives is folding knives with more tools than just a knife. Some examples of common tools are bottle openers, can openers, wine openers, scissors, saw blades and screwdrivers. If you decide to buy a Swiss Army Knife I suggest that you go with a model from either Victorinox or Wenger. In general there are three different sizes of different models. The smallest mini models have really small tools and can be carried on your key-chain without taking up much space. The medium size models are the most common ones; they have normal size tools and are in general just under 10cm in length. The come in many different variants with different tools, find a model with the tools you would use the most in your everyday life. In general the medium and small size models DO NOT HAVE A BLADELOCK. This means that you have to be careful when using the knife or it may close over your fingers; this also means that the blade is not suitable as a weapon. Swiss Army Knives are known by most people and seldom attract that much attention. There are also larger models of Swiss Army Knives that have larger blades and blade locks. These models are generally safer to use and have a thicker more robust blade. The new Soldiers Knife from Victorinox is one example that has green handle, a large locking blade, a saw, bottle opener, can opener and a screwdriver. Victorinox also have the model Rescue Tool that has a florescent handle, knife blade, window breaker, seatbelt cutter and disc saw especially designed for first responders. Wenger also have a number of different larger models. There are also specialized Swiss Army Knives like the Model Biker 37 from Wenger designed to repair bikes.

Folding Knives
Folding knives isn’t as strong as a fixed blade knife but they are more compact and easier to carry in your pocket or in small packs, this makes them good for Every Day Carry. There are many companies that make excellent folding knives; some examples are Fällkniven, Lone Wolf KnivesEKA, Emerson, Benchmade, Spyderco, SOG and Gerber. Light my Fire has a folding knife, the SL-3 that has a built in fire steel and an emergency whistle. There some small folding knives that are often referred to as pen knives. Some examples of pen knives are the models from Sheffield Knives like The British Army Clasp Knife and the Fällkniven U-4. The French Company Opinel makes quite cheap folding knives with wooden handles that’s good for every day carry. The knives from Opinel have a twisting blade lock at the top that secure the blade both when the blade is out or in the handle of the knife. The lock and design is not solid as many other brands but functions well. The knives also come in ten different sizes making it easy to find a blade that fits your hand perfectly.

Large Knives
Larger Fixed Blade Knives have the advantage that they can be used to chop down small trees and other heavy duty work like splitting thick pieces of fire wood. In short: Large Fixed Blade Knives are especially useful for field work, splitting fire wood and constructing shelter. The main disadvantage compared to smaller knives is that they are heavy and often very expensive. For the price of a large high quality knife you can often get a smaller high quality knife, a high quality axe and a folding saw.

Some examples of large high quality knives are the Fällkniven A2, RAT / EESE Knives RC-6 / ESEE-6ESEE Junglas, Ontario RTAK-II, Benchmade Chooper and the Cold Steel Trailmaster. Machetes are commonly used in Jungle terrain to chop down vegetation and smaller trees. Kukris are the famous slightly curved large knives often used by the famous Gurkha fighters from Nepal. High quality Kukris can be bought from Cold Steel.

In general I don’t recommend anyone to get knives made famous from movies like the “Rambo” Bowie knives or the Tom Brown Tracker from the movie “The Hunted”. These knives are mainly designed to have a good looking design; the practical function is not in focus and they are often very expensive. However they may be a nice addition to a collection.

Small Edged Tools
As an alternative to a knife small cutting tools can be used for Pocket Survival Kits or Every Day Carry (EDC). Possible alternatives are razor blades, scalpel blades, the ESEE Escape and Evasion Titanium Mini Blade, ESEE Ceramic Escape and Evasion Razor BladeESEE AH-1 Arrow Head or a P-38 Can Opener. There are also compact credit sizes tool kits from Tool Logic, SOG and Victorinox containing small blades that can be easily carried in your wallet at all times.

An axe is a very useful tool for wilderness survival. With an axe you can make shelter, slit fire wood and chop down trees with little effort. There are many specialized axes but for general use I would recommend an all-round sharpened axe like the Small Forrest Axe and the Scandinavian Forrest Axe from Gränsfors. An axe with a longer shaft is generally safer to use than an axe with a short shaft and it also gives you more momentum when you’re working with the axe. Gränsfors makes axes with hand-forged blades and wooden shafts that have a high quality and affordable price. Gerber and Fiskars also make high quality axes that have composite shafts. Composite handles are often stronger than wooden handles but can’t be replaced as easily as a wooden shaft if it would break.

Axes require different tools to be sharpened compared to a normal knife and I suggest that you get a special sharpening file and sharpening stone especially designed for axes.


There are a number of different Saws that can be very useful during survival situations in wilderness settings, while hiking, camping or for bush craft. There are a number of different models on the market; the Laplander from Bahco is one of the best folding saws that there is on the market but there are also a number of different models from other companies like the Gerber Exchange a Blade. These types of saws has a relatively low weight and works quite well for smaller trees, but they do not work very well for larger trees. If you want a saw that can take on more serious work there are more heavy duty models like the EKA Viking Combi Saw that has three different blade types; one for wood, one for gain and one for metal. One of the most effective saws that you can find on the market is the Trailblazer Take Down Bucksaw 18. The parts of saw can be taken apart and put into the handle of the saw when it’s not used making easy to bring along in your hiking bag, vehicle or Bug Out Bag. When its deployed it’s a solid bow saw excellent for taking down trees or cutting firewood with a minimum of effort.

No matter how high quality a blade has it will always lose its sharp edge after extensive use. Sharpeners come in many shapes and forms; there are small sharpeners that can be worn on your key chain. There are also larger special sharpening systems that allow you to sharpen a knife in a specific angle; the Tri-Angle system from Spyderco and The Gerber DF-8 sharpener is two examples. There are good combination sharpeners that have a diamond sharpener on one side and a ceramic sharpener on the other side from Fällkniven. I suggest that you start practicing your sharpening skills on an inexpensive knife like a Mora.

The Legal Aspect
The legislation concerning knives is different from state to state and country to country. It’s important that you get a good understanding of where it’s allowed to carry a knife and where it’s illegal to carry a knife. Certain models of knives can be illegal such as ballisongs, knives with automatic or assisted opening, one hand opening, blade locks and knives with blades longer a certain size. No matter what the legal aspect states I recommend that you get a knife with a “Peaceful” look. Knives with black handles, double edged blades, black blades, serrated blades often attract a lot of attention if you have to use it in a public environment. The Swiss Army knives with red handles often attract much less attention.

A knife can be very dangerous both to you and to others, it’s a sharp potentially lethal tool that should be treated with respect. Keep your knife in its sheath if it’s a fixed blade knife or with the blade folded in to handle if it’s a folding knife when you are not using it. Never fool around with a knife, swing it or point against any person. Don’t throw you knife against trees or walls, you risk either losing or breaking it. NEVER draw you knife in tensed situation or if you’re in a hostile argument.

Anyone how ever used a knife for butchering an animal knows what kind of damage a sharp knife can do to living creatures. Always be careful when you’re using your knife, you can seriously wound yourself or others if you’re not careful. Keep your knife clean and dry, no matter the quality it will rust if you don’t take care of your blade. If you hiking make a habit of often checking your equipment and check that your knife haven’t dropped from its sheath. Keep knives in secure locations where they can’t be reached by children. If you use knives for butchering animals or taking care of fish there are chainmail gloves that offers very good protection form cuts. There are also gloves with protective liners that offer high resistance against cuts that’s used by police officers and security guards.

Improvised Knives
During a survival situation it’s possible to improvise a blade from a piece of metal by sharpening it against a hard surface like a stone or concrete and then making a handle from paracord or leather straps. Other materials for a blade could be bone, glas or stone, but such a knife is much harder to make and will not have the same strength as a metal blade.

Also see:
Bug Out Guide and Checklist
Get Home Bag
Every Day Carry

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peace building and State building missions

Modern Civil Wars are the most common form of human conflict. These conflicts have accrued in a large number of countries and have caused an enormous amount of death and suffering. This kind of conflict separates different groups from each other trough excluding identity politics and new kind of economy that finance the conflicts actors emerge. The government institutions are often destroyed and functions like police, military and healthcare often collapses. Other basic functions such as electricity, water and communication often become damaged during a conflict and become unreliable or seize to function. With no police or military to provide security groups are forced to bond together in order to get some security.

Traditional Peacekeeping
The traditional peacekeeping mission focuses on that a neutral group monitors a seize fire between different party and acts like a security to prevent that the fighting reemerge. This can be done by patrolling border, creating demobilized zones and monitoring troop movements. His can help the parties to trust each other and create a balance needed for future efforts. This kind of missions is easier to implement if the parties of the conflicts are forces from different nations.

State building Missions
The response the new kind of civil wars that have emerged have been a much more complex response than the traditional peacekeeping missions seen before. The new wars basically mean that nations collapse. In these scenarios there is very little security for the population, no military and no working government. Under these conditions the peace building force is often sent in to the conflict zone without the consent of the parties. Additional tasks to the traditional aspects of peace building additional tasks is undertaken such as
* Policing
* Delivery of humanitarian assistance
* Disarmament and demobilization
* Rebuilding infrastructure

The most complicated aspects of these missions is the reconstruction of government and the institutions of the countries such as police, military, juridical system and other basic government functions that’s taken for granted in most countries. In order to create a stabile new institutions democratic institutions and elections is often a central part of the process. One aspect of state building missions that have gotten a lot of attention the last years is the making of constitutions. The idea is that by creating a constitution as the foundation for how a country should be governed a lot of the problems that civil wars present can be bridged. One of the leading experts in this field is Arend Lijphart. Some of the central ascpects that Lijphart identifies is:
• Cross community executive power sharing
• Proportionality rules throughout the government and public sectors
• Community self-government – or autonomy – and equality in cultural life
• Veto right for minorities

State building missions have taken place in Iraq since 2003, Afghanistan since 2001, Bosnia since the 1990:s and in East Timor to name a few examples. In none of these cases has the UN or the peace building forces been able to make complete withdrawal.

There isn’t much literature on how peace building should be managed in the field, however the book “Peace building a field guide” by Luc Reychler and Thania Paffenholz contains some practical advice on various subject for those how are interested.

Problems with state building missions
In modern civil wars the actors have to finance their own activities, this is often done through harvesting natural resources, trafficking with women and drugs, kidnapping and other activates. In order to get anything done in these areas the peace keeping forces and other actors like humanitarian Non Governmental Organizations have to make deals with the groups controlling the country in order to get help to the people that they are trying to reach. The actors in the civil war can also gain money by providing prostitutes to soldiers and aid workers in the area. This means that the actors that trying to build peace can end up contributing to the finances of militias, rebel groups and criminal networks.

The interaction with Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies
These kinds of conflicts present an extreme challenge for the peacekeeping forces. In order to have some protection NGO:s often contract PMC and PSC to provide security for their personnel within the area. These are also often the case for other corporation that’s active within these areas. Other tasks involve training police and military forces, providing logistics for the peacekeeping force etc. How many contractors that operates in these areas is very hard to estimate, in Iraq the figures vary between 30.000 up to 180.000, in other words more contractors than US regular troops. The later number is mentioned by Peter W Singer in the article “Can’t Win With ‘Em, Can’t Go To War Without ‘Em: Private Military Contractors and Counterinsurgency” from 2007. My personal guess is that the real number lies somewhere in between. The central aspect is that this type of missions has become a major market for these companies.

Freedom in the World
The American organization Freedomhouse follows the development around the world and rates all countries depending on how free they are. They release reports every year that can be accessed through their homepage. This is a good resource if you want to get a picture of how the situation is in a country before you leave and how the situation has changed from the previous years. You can find the site at

The civil wars of today’s world can be described as the collapse of societies. The response from the international community in some of these cases has been an attempt to recreate these states or build new ones: state building missions. This has proven to be extremely costly projects that haven’t been successful enough for the state building parties to leave Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia or East Timor. This doesn’t mean that these kinds of projects are all doomed to fail, but there is no universal concept that can fix these problems in a short period of time. When the international troops are present in Iraq or Afghanistan they can hold the hostile parties at bay. But the parties adjust their tactics to ambushes, improvised explosive devices, mines, bombing, suicide bombings and other tactics that is very difficult to handle. These missions is extremely complex and the task to build a new nation is extremely difficult both when it comes to cost of money but also when it comes to the suffering of the people working and living within these areas. So when you hear experts talk about this subject know that it’s never easy and real progress will take a very long time to accomplish.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Human Conflict, Wars and Survival

Wars are one of the most puzzling and destructive of human activities. Millions of lives have been lost throughout history. There are no easy answers for either the causes or how they can be prevented. This is an attempt to present a short time line for the changes that have taken place the last 100 years and with a focus on the development today.

War and conflict is one of the absolutely worst survival scenarios. Direct violence in different forms is a major danger. There is also the possibility of being damaged indirectly from artillery, land mines, unexploded ordinances and air strikes. Other tactics to spread fear and terror are systematic sexual abuse, snipers, mutilation, child soldiers, torture and kidnapping. Modern precision weapons systems mean that vital infrastructure like electrical power; water and communications easily can be targeted. This was the case in 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. Transportation of food and other essentials may also be disrupted. The response in many cases from the population is to escape from the areas where most of the violence takes place to other regions within the same country or other countries. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina two thirds of the population was displaced. And after a conflict it can often take long time before the residents can return to their homes. Secondary effects like epidemics and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis are also common.

1914-1918 The First World War 15 million died in this conflict. The most deadly battle was the battle of Somme where 1,3 million died. The war introduced a number of new inventions such as machineguns, chemical weapons and artillery. The United States lost just over 100.000 men in the war.

1939-1945 The Second World War is the most devastating conflict that has ever taken place in human history. How many that died in war is a debated question, but estimates vary from around 30 million up to over 50 million. The Holocaust also ended the lives of millions of Jews living in Europe.

1945 After the Second World War ended a new kind of conflict would start: The Cold War. The Cold War never developed to a full scale war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Weapons of mass destruction and especially nuclear weapons was a very important part during this period. Both the US and the Soviet Union supported many states with weapons, training and funding during this period.

1948 Israel declared its independence. The neighboring countries attacked Israel in order to stop the creation of the new state. In total six more wars have followed in 1956, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1982 and last in the summer of 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah. There has also been a long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians both inside Israel and the Palestinian refugees that live in other countries until today. There have also been internal conflicts between the Palestinians.

1950-1953 The Korea War between the South and North Korea would become a very violent conflict. The US and long number of countries that made up the UN force supported South Korea and the Soviet Union and China supported North Korea. The American loses is debated, but around 30.000-40.000 men is believed to have been killed. There is also information that the US would have lost around 3000 planes and the Soviet around 1000 planes in the struggle for the skies. The War ended with a separation of the two states and this segregation has lasted up until this day. The tensions between North and South Korea have continued and North Korea is a state with nuclear weapons today.

1959-1975 The Vietnam War would cost the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers. This was a very costly conflict for the US that would last more than two decades. The war ended with US withdrawal.

1960s The conflict between the Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland start. The conflicts have claimed over 3000 lives up until this day. Today many of the strongest groups of former combatants have been disarmed and joined the peace process, but small groups have continued carrying out attacks.

1964 The Civil War in Colombia brakes out. Government forces and the guerilla groups FARC and ELN are the most important actors but private armies like the AUC have also played a big part. The guerilla groups finance their activities through drug trafficking, kidnapping and other illegal activities. FARC still controls big areas of the country.

1975-2002 The civil war in Angola between the communist MPLA and the rebel group UNITA started. During the Cold War South Africa would support UNITA, The Soviet Union and Cuba would support MPLA. After the end of the Cold War UNITA would have to finance the war on their own, this was mainly done through the harvesting of diamonds. After the end of the Cold War the conflict would continue until the leader of UNITA Sivimbi was killed in 2001 and UNITA was disarmed in 2002 bringing an end to the 27 year civil war.

1979-1989 The Soviet Union occupies Afghanistan. The United States together with Saudi Arabia supported the Mujahidin resistance with training, funding, weapons, equipment through the Pakistani Intelligence Agency. After the Soviet Occupation ended the civil war continued and the Taliban would gain the upper hand in most of the country and the northern alliance would control the rest of the country up to the 2001 invasion by US and coalition forces. The Taliban is suppressed today but the civil war continues.

1980-1988 The Iraq and Iran War was one of the most destructive Wars between states during the cold war. The conflict would last for many years and Weapons of Mass destruction was used by both parties. The US gave covert assistance to Iraq, and Israel gave covert assistance Iran during the conflict.

1982 Margaret Thatcher also known as “The Iron Lady” leads Great Britain to war against Argentina in The Falklands War. The war was a result of an Invasion against the Islands by Argentina. The conflict ended with the withdrawal of Argentinean forces from the Islands, just under 1000 persons died in the conflict.

1983 American Marines intervenes in theon going civil war in Lebanon. The coalition forces have a hard time to maintain their neutrality and on the 23rd of October a suicide attack with a truck bomb hit the compound where the American Marines were located. This was the most powerful non nuclear explosion since the Second World War. 241 Americans died in the attack and the US withdraws from Lebanon. It’s believed that the attack is connected to those how latter form the group Hezbollah. The civil war continued and Hezbollah can almost be described as a state within the state of Lebanon today.

1989 the Soviet Union collapsed and the cold war ended during 40 years the world had been slip between the two super powers the United States and the Soviet Union. This was a turn in history that very few anticipated. The world as we know it has changed fundamentally ever since. The United States is the only remaining super power in the world today.

1991 The First Gulf War "Operation Desert Storm" between Iraq and the American collation took place after Iraq invaded the neighboring state Kuwait. There was large fear that Iraq would employ weapons of mass destruction, this had been the case a few years earlier during the War between Iran and Iraq. This war was a major victory for the US. After this war sanctions would follow up until 2003 when the US coalition invaded Iraq and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein.

1991 The Conflict in Sierra Leone started when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) starts taking control over the diamond fields. This is another example of a conflict where the lines between different parties become unclear. Many of the soldiers fighting for the government forces also fought as rebels, these soldier where often referred to as Sobels. This conflict was extremely brutal with systematic amputation and sexual violence, the use of child soldiers and torture. Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest countries in the world this day.

1991 the Conflict on the Balkans started. The conflict would lead to the independence of many regions. The conflict was extremely complex, government forces, militias, none state actors, mercenaries, private security companies and peacekeeping state forces from other countries all became involved. This is the most extreme collapse of states in the Western world. In Bosnia-Herzegovina the peacekeeping forces haven’t been able to leave the area until this very day.

1993 America intervene in the Somalia Civil War. During an operation in the capital Mogadishu American forces lost two Black Hawk Helicopters and 19 men. The event is often referred to as “Black Hawk Down”. The event got a lot of attention in the Media and the US withdrew from Somalia. The country has not to this day recovered from the civil war and pirates from the country have been a large problem for the transports outside the coast of Somalia.

1994 The Genocide in Rwanda started the 6th of April after the presidents plane was shot down. Around 800.000, mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutu was killed in the Genocide. I recommend the memoirs of Romeo Daillere “Shake hands with the devil” for anyone how wants to learn more about the event. There have also been made a movie about with the same name. “Hotel Rwanda” is another movie based on the actual events.

2001 After the terrorist attacks on 9/11 2001 Afghanistan was invaded by the American coalition in "Operation Enduring Freedom". The American coalition assisted the Northern Alliance how fast gained a upper hand in the civil war and forced the Taliban from the capital Kabul. The Taliban’s influence in the country has been reduced but the civil war has continued up until this day. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have become a part of what is known as “The War on terror”.

2003 Iraq was invaded by the American coalition in "Operation Iraqi Freedom". The conflict started as conflict between two countries, but the conflict would turn into a civil war where different groups have been fighting each other and the foreign troops. The Iraqi conflict has often been described as a religious or ethnic conflict. But there are many groups from the different groups and in some cases they even fight each other.

2006 War breaks out between Israel and the non state group Hezbollah in Lebanon.

2008 War broke out between Russia and Georgia. Russia won the conflict and recognized two small territories: South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after the conflict.

Civil Wars - New Wars
So what has changed? Wars between states s no longer the most common form of human conflict. Internal conflicts within countries or civil wars is now the most common form of conflict. Civil Wars has taken place in these locations after the second World War among others: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Chechnya, Colombia, Congo, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Palestine / Israel, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Northern Ireland, Moldova, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Mary Kaldor has made one the best descriptions about what separates the conflicts of today from the Wars in the past in her book “New and Old Wars”. I strongly recommend the book for everyone how wants to learn more. Two of the factors that Kaldor identifies are Conflict economies and Excluding Identity Politics. The actors in today’s conflicts have to finance the wars them self’s. An illegal economy always comes in to play on a large level after a civil war breaks out. Kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, trafficking with drugs and people, forced prostitution, harvesting of all recourses and natural recourses like gold, silver, metals, gems, oil and timber. These resources are often gathered with the use of slave labor. Children often get used as soldiers and they often get forced to kill their family as they are forced into to service of Non State Actors. This is also a very important part because the conflict economies keep this kind of wars going, the actors are gaining something from the conflict situation and in case of peace they may find them self’s being charged for the crimes they committed and losing the economical advantages that they had during the conflict. Another common problem in many parts of the world is when the elites of the countries start to use the resources of the states as their own and don’t serve the population of the country. These states are often referred to as “shadow states”.

Excluding Identity Politics
Identity politics also becomes a important part in a civil war: To make a difference between the parties. This is often done form “ethnicity”, religions, family or clans. Most countries have a population where different groups are interconnected through marriage and other means. In a conflict where identities become a important part these groups often become targeted as well.

Non State Actors and Civilians
The lines between civilians and combatants blur and Non state actors had become the major actors in these conflicts in addition to government forced from the country where a collapse has taken place and other countries. Terrorist Groups, Insurgents, Criminal networks, Guerilla Groups and other violent groups in addition to Non Governmental Organizations (NGO:s). One example of an NGO is the Red Cross that is the world largest NGO. Mercenaries and more recent Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies give services in protection for installations, personnel and convoys, logistics, weapons systems, intelligence and more ordinary activities like running bases, doing laundry and driving trucks. The Non State Actors in today’s contemporary world has the capacity to challenge the state authority and can often take on government forces. Some examples of powerful Non State Groups are the Taliban in Afghanistan, Serbian forces on the Balkans, FARC and ELN in Colombia, UNITA in Angola and RUF in Sierra Leone.

In today’s civil wars it’s not military groups that suffer the greatest loses, it’s the civilian population. They civilians get hurt in direct attacks or as collateral damage from airstrikes and artillery. But most often the civilian groups get systematic attacked with mutilation, forced castration, amputations, systematic sexual violations, killings, land mines, snipers, concentration camps and torture. This high level of terror helps explain the high number of people that become refuges during a civil war. In the war in Bosnia Herzegovina two third of the entire population was displaced.

AnalysisIt’s impossible to say what the future will hold for human conflict. Conflicts have changed from conflict between states to conflicts within states. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq has not resembled the classic wars that have been seen between states both more like state building missions with the attempt to build new states with institutions, police forces, new armies and democracy. However these kinds of missions are extremely costly and haven’t presented a possibility for an exit. This is the case in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. This is subject that will be addressed as the last part of Human Conflict, Wars and Survival: The new kind of peace building/peacekeeping missions.

The history is changing all the time. I believe that some trends return in some conflicts, but I believe it’s a severe mistake to believe that the next conflicts will follow the exact logic that present conflicts have followed. When a civil war breaks out the consequences are extreme and the way back for any country is often very long. These kinds of wars have mainly taken place in poor countries but in Europe Northern Ireland and the Balkans are two examples where these kinds of conflicts have occurred. Terrorism is another current trend of human conflict; this trend might be covered in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Private Military Companies, Private Security Companies and Mercenaries

Human Conflict is a very big threat in todays world. Conflicts are much more destructive events than natural disasters. I believe that understanding conflicts is very vital in order to survive and avoid dangers. I’m going to write about different trends that we can see concerning conflicts in today’s world. The first trend that I’m going to write about is Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies. This is not a trend that has emerged from nowhere but a trend that has developed throughout history. In order to give some deeper understanding of this phenomenon I’m going to describe some of the historical contexts where outside assistance has been used in conflicts.

The Thirty Year War
During the thirty year war 1618-1648 mercenaries constituted a large number of the forces engaged throughout the war. The war ended with The Treaty of Westphalia 1648. This is often marked as the beginning of international system with sovereign states by many scholars.

The American Revolution and The Hessians
During the American Revolution (1775-1783) the British forces hired a large number of different foreign soldiers to fight for them. The most famous soldiers were from the area Hesse-Cassel in Germany. Even if not all soldiers were from this area they were often all referred to as the “Hessians”. At the beginning of the American Revolution things weren’t going that well for the British forces, even if the British won the battle at Bunker Hill there was a very high price to pay for this victory. The Hessian Forces was first introduced at the Battle of Long Island and they preformed excellent against the American troops. It was only through high skills of General Washington and mistakes from the British that the American forces could make a retreat and avoid capture. The Hessian troops continued to play an important part in the campaign at other battles, including the one at Fort Washington. The Hessians almost help turn the war into a victory for the British forces until General Washington defeated the Hessian forces at Trenton with a surprise attack. The victory can be blamed on the Hessian commander Johann Rall that didn’t fortify the city and still was hung over when the attack took place. But Rall paid the ultimate price for he’s mistake as he died in the battle. The Hessian Forces would continue to play an important part, but it was in this initial stage they had the most importance. The Hessian and British forced were defeated and the colony’s won their freedom. Up to 30.000 troops from the German states would fight for the British in the revolution and they fought well. The recruitment of these troops where mentioned in the Declaration of Independence: “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation

Ghurkas and the French Foreign Legion
The British and French Forced started to include foreign nationals into their own armies in the 1800s. These forces were integrated into the regular forced in special units that has performed very good in many conflicts. The British recruitment of “Gurkhas” from Nepal, most famous for their long curved knives have proven them value in many conflicts fighting for both the British and in private service of different companies. Both the Gurkhas and the Legion has proved to be a successful concept that still is a part of the French and British forces today.

The Congo Crisis 1960-65
During the Congo Crisis Mercenaries were employed by all sides made a critical component. The Mercenaries even came into direct conflict with the UN peacekeeping forces. The Congo Crisis was a very complex conflict with many parties. Famous mercenaries like Mike Hoare also known as “Mad Mike” fought in the conflict. Even the famous guerilla leader Che Guevara joined the conflict but was forced to escape. The mercenaries even turned on those that hired them and thought for themselves during a period but eventually they were defeated and forced to leave the country.

Executive Outcomes
Executive Outcomes was formed by Eeben Barlow from South Africa. Barlow has previous combat experience from the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and the South African intelligence services. Barlow was head of the European section of the secret intelligence agency Civil Cooperation Bureau. Barlow started EO in 1989 and started with selling training to the South African Intelligence services. In 1993 EO was contracted to assist the Angolan government forces so that a corporation could evacuate some equipment used to extract oil from a territory controlled by the rebel group UNITA. South Africa had given military support to UNITA during the Cold War and many of the Special Forces operatives that were contracted had experience from assisting UNITA. The mission became a direct confrontation with UNITA one side and EO plus the Angolan Government Forces on the other side. Many were skeptical against EO possibility to success before the mission; the employed were described as old men with little chance of success. But after their first mission no one where laughing.

EO was contracted to train the Angolan government forces, supply intelligence and spearhead the operation against UNITA. With EO:s help the Angolan conflict took a turn and UNITA were being put on the retreat. EO pilots used aircraft that were being used for training by the Angolan Air force and mounted rocket tubes on them in order to use them as air support. In the end of the conflict they were even given the possibility to use a MIG-29.

1995 The situation in Sierra Leone was critical, the government forces were being pushed back by the rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and EO was contracted to help secure the capital and help train the government forces. The RUF were an extremely brutal rebel group that often amputated body part by civilian in order to spread fear, kidnapping children and using them as child soldiers and financed their war by using slave labor to harvest diamonds. The mission is one of the most successful interventions in modern history. With a forces of only a couple of hundred of men EO drove the RUF consisting of thousands of men on the retreat using only weapons provided by the government, Land Rovers, a few Armored Personnel Carriers and a Russian Mi-24 Hind Attack Helicopter. In combination with electronic and airborne intelligence gathering, mortar attacks, airstrikes with the Hind Helicopter and direct attack with ground forces EO defeated RUF in engagement after engagement. EO confronted the rebel group directly and in combination with training of government forces this once again proved extremely successful. Sierra Leone had a democratic transition during the EO mission as a result of the stability provided. The new presidents choose to rely on a UN peacekeeping force instead and EO leaved the country. This is one of the biggest failures of the UN, the country plunged back into civil war and it would not be until Special Forces from Britain got involved in the conflict that the conflict would come to an end.

EO is the only corporation in modern history that engaged in a large scale in offensive operations. The corporation was closed in 1998. The reasons for the company’s success are many. First of all both the management and the soldiers working for company had direct experience of combat and conducting operation in challenging conditions. The second part was the fall of the Apartheid regime that enabled the company to recruit many person how where being relived from service as a result of this. The third factor is companies’ ability to gather intelligence. The company had make do with what they had, they didn’t have their own weapons, even if they had their own equipment in form of body armor, transport helicopters and night vision to name a few things. There have been a massive critique against EO, it’s my belief that much is a result of the fact that many of the employees had a history of serving the Apartheid regime. I’m sure that many of the employees in their past had some questionable actions behind them. But no matter this they were in no doubt excellent soldiers that managed to do what other countries where unable to do by themselves. In the case of Sierra Leone the soldiers from EO that had served the Apartheid regime became the most unlikely saviors. Peter W Singer where one of the first scholars to write one the subject in he’s book “Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry”. The journalist Jim Hooper has interviewed many of EO:s employees and followed them on actual missions, he’s written about these events in the book “Bloodsong!”. Eeben Barlow wrote he’s memoirs’ in 2007 called “Executive Outcomes: Against All odds”. This is just some of the books covering the subject, but I recommend all persons want to learn more about the subject to read the memoirs of the people that were there and not only the work of scholars.

Sandline International
The British company Sandline International (SI) was another Private Military Company that has taken part in offensive operations. SI was contracted the by the democratic elected president in Sierra Leone Tejan Ahmed Kabbah after a military coup by the RUF and rebel forces. The company assisted Kabbah and was contracted to supply these forces with weapons. During this period there was a British arms embargo against Sierra Leone and the owner of the company Tim Spicer was suspected of violating this embargo. All charges were later dismissed and the affair is often referred to as the “Sandline Affair”. Kabbah was reinstated after ECOMOG forces with the assistance of SI drove the rebel forces from the capital Freetown. The company SI is no longer an active corporation, but Spicer has created a new company called Aegis in 2002. Aegis has coordinated a lot of the efforts by Private Security Companies in Iraq. Spicer have also written a memoir about SI called “An Unorthodox Soldier: Peace and War and the Sandline Affair” in 1999.

The Conflict on the Balkans
During the conflict on the Balkans the company Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) was contracted by the Croatian government to train their forces. During “Operation Storm” in 1995 the Croatian forces presented a coordination and professionalism that they hadn’t shown before. After the war was over MPRI was contracted to train the new Bosnian Army. Other companies like Kellogg Brown & Root, DynCorp and Armorgroup have also provided logistic, training and security services on the Balkan to state forces, the UN and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO:s). Individuals also fought for money on the different sides in the conflict.

Afghanistan and Iraq
During the last conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan the use of private security companies have increased dramatically. Contractors perform a lot of the jobs that military personnel used to perform, mainly logistics like driving trucks, running military bases, construction, and laundry and so on. But contractors have also had a lot of defensive surety for both military and civilian compounds and personnel. Armed escort for persons and NGO:S is also a increasing field of expertise. Much of the most modern military equipment is so advanced that only the companies that have created the equipment have the capacity to perform maintenance and control it. This was the case of “Global Hawk” in the initial stage of the second Iraq War.

Blackwater is one of the Private Security Companies that’s has been getting the most attention in the media. Blackwater has the largest private training facilitates in the world in North Carolina where they offer training for military and police forces from all around the world. The 31st of March in 2004 four security contractors working for Blackwater was ambushed and killed in the city of Fallujah in Iraq. The employees where killed, their bodies burned and pictures of this was broadcasted all around the world. The response to these events was very strong and the occupations of Falluja would claim many lives on all sides. In Iraq Blackwater was contracted to protect the Central Provisional Authority how governed Iraq up to the takeover of the transitional government. In the 4th of April 2004 a complex in Najaf was attacked and the security contractors defended the complex against the attackers. The numbers of attackers killed varies strongly between different estimates. Video from this event was filmed by Blackwater employees and can be found on Youtube. The 16th of December 2007 a security force from Blackwater was driving through a marketplace in Bagdad. Exactly what happened is unclear, but the employees opened fire and killed around 20 people. After Hurricane Katrina 2005 personnel from Blackwater was fast on the ground in New Orleans. The information about Blackwaters work in New Orleans is hard to verify but the journalist Jeremy Scahill writes very negatively about the company in he’s book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s largest mercenary army” from 2007. There have also been reports from The Wall Street Journal that some rich individuals hired Private Security Companies to guard their homes after the hurricane. I’m personally of the belief that much of the details in he’s book are correct, but I don’t think that the book gives the entire picture about the company. There is no doubt in my opinion that Blackwater personnel has done some mistakes and used excessive force during the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it’s my guess that future research will find both more negative events as well as positive effects. Blackwater has changed their name in 2009 and is now known under the name Xe Services LLC.

The American Development
Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) is one of the biggest contractors that works with the US Military, the company mainly provide logistical services. DynCorp have been training the new Iraqi Police Force. The major development is that today corporations handle very much of the logistics in military operations and the maintenance and in some time even operation of advanced military equipment. Armed security personnel may attract much attention, but this is not the largest form of contracting that’s taking place. I once again would like to stress that the companies operating today may carry military weapons but mainly offers defensive security. There is no company that provides the offensive kind of services that Executive Outcomes provided today.

Are contractors working for PSC and PMC:s Mercenaries?
Mercenaries are often described as individuals how fight for money in the media and literature. In the international law the definition of a mercenary can be found in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, article 47. The definition is very specific and a person must follow all the criteria in order to be regarded as mercenary. A Mercenary under this definition is a person that:
(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

It’s very hard to apply this definition to the personnel that works for Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies. So the personnel recruited by these companies may do it for the money, but that doesn’t mean that they are mercenaries, at least not according to the definition in international law.Under article 47 Mercenaries are not entitled the right to be regarded as either a combatant or prisoner of war.

In the Media Private Military Companies, Private Security Companies and Mercenaries are often described as villains that are only causing trouble. This picture have been portrayed in TV shows like Jericho where the fiction firm “Ravenwood” kills civilians without regret and in the TV show 24 where Private Military Companies tries to over trough the US Government. This is often the case in movies to, where “Blood Diamond” is one example.

Corporations have started too do much of the work previously done by military forces – this is the reality of today. The companies provide many services that benefit the armed forces of many countries my providing logistics, training and advanced equipment. These corporations are most likely the most well armed and well organized non state actors in the western world. But it’s important to understand that this is not standing armies, they recruit personnel from databases for specific mission. You may encounter these kinds of companies both in conflicts zones and after natural disasters, and it’s my belief that this kind of companies will continue to expand their business. There is a lobby organization that works for these companies called International Peace Operations Association (IPOA).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

World in Conflict

After finishing the analysis about weapons of mass destruction the next series of topics will be about the conflicts we see in the world today. I hope that the readers will have been able to find some useful information and gotten a broader understanding for what kind of threats that weapons of mass destruction present. In short I would say that the risk for these types of events would take place is rather small, but the consequences can be extremely high.

The first topic out will be about a new kind of private actors: Private Military and Security Companies. The second part will be about the wars that we see in today’s world, where they have taken place and what lessons can be learned from them. The last part will address the response to today’s conflicts in form of peace building and state building missions that we seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia to name a few examples.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biological Warfare and Disease

The third kind when it comes to weapons of mass destruction is biological weapons. Biological agents are either living microorganisms like bacteria or viruses or toxins produced by microorganisms. In the case of bacteria and viruses they may continue to spread from human to human after an attack with biological weapons have taken place.

Bacteria and Viruses are the most common form of micro organisms that causes disease. Bacteria are living organisms; infections caused by bacteria can often be treated with different forms of antibiotics. Some types of bacteria are by its very nature very resistant against antibiotics, TBC is one example. Lately some strains of antibiotics have started to develop a resistance against different forms of antibiotics. Viruses are different from bacteria: they can only live inside the living cells of living creature. The multiply by infecting a cell and making it produce viruses instead. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, but there are some new anti viral medicines that reduces the impact of viruses.

Bacteria can also produce biological toxins; one of the most famous examples is the botulinum toxin produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This toxin is incredible toxic; 1 gram of the most dangerous variant could theoretically kill millions of people. The toxin is destroyed by heat; boiling water for a couple of minutes will destroy any toxin within the water. There is a vaccine against the bacteria and an antiserum against the toxin.

Historical Examples
1300:s Bubonic plague kills millions in Europe

1346 the Mongols catapulted infected bodies over the city walls at Kaffa in order to spread disease.

1763 during the French and Indian war the British forces gave blankets infected with smallpox to hostile Indian tribes.

1870s epidemics of Yellow Fever strikes Memphis, Tennessee. The population of the city is majorly reduced both because of deaths and because people escape from the city.

1918 The Spanish Flu turned into a pandemic that killed around 20-50 million people, that equaled around 3% of the world total population at that time.

1928 Alexander Fleming discovers Penicillin.

1939 with Fleming’s discovery Ernst Chain and Howard Florey managed to produce the first commercial penicillin. This was a major breakthrough in medicine for the treatment of bacteria.

1939-1945 During the Second World War Japanese forces in China experimented with different kinds of disease on Chinese prisoners. The Japanese also spread bubonic plague against Chinese cities. There is a lot of different data on how many that actually died from these attack and figures vary from tens of thousands to hundred of thousand dead. During the Second World War only around 1% died as result of infectious disease, this was a rapid reduction compared to the first World War, around two third of all deaths then was related to infections and disease. This decrease came as a result of better living standards and new medications.

1956-58 The Asian Flu Pandemic caused around 2 million deaths worldwide.

1968 Around one million dies from the Hong Kong flu worldwide.

1969 President Richard Nixon brings an end to the US Biological Weapon Program.

1971 – 1973 The US destroys its stockpiles of biological weapons.

1975 The Convention on the Prohibition the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BWC) was signed by the Soviet Union and the US.

1973 The first outbreak of the disease Ebola is recorded. Some strains have had a case fatality rate over 80%, sometimes close to 90%.

1979 There was an outbreak of Anthrax in the city Sverdlovsk in the Soviet union. It was later confirmed that this outbreak was caused by an accidental leakage from a military production facility. The number of dead from this event varies from 60 an up.

1980 After an intense global vaccination program the disease Smallpox is officially declared eradicated. This one of the few diseases that mankind has been able to eradicate. The virus is however kept in laboratories in both Russia and the US today and is one of the most effective diseases that could be used as a biological weapon.

1981 The first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS is reported by the US Center for Disease and Control (CDC).

1984 an sect in India contaminated salad bars in India with salmonella, many people became sick but no one died as result.

1986 The first cases of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) also known as Mad Cow Disease is found in Animals. It was not believed that the disease could be contracted by humans at first and the number of infected animals kept increasing for a long time.

1988 The Soviet disposes much of their biological weapons by burying them instead of destroying them. There is some fear that some of this sites eventually may start to leak some of these pathogens.

There is some unconfirmed information concerning that the Soviet Union created a super plague during the 1980:s that would be resistant against all kinds of antibiotics. The Soviet Union had a very ambitious bio weapon program with tens of thousands of employees.

During the 1990s the Japnese sect Aum Shinrikyo that attacked the Tokyo Subway with nerve gas tried to develop biological weapons as well.

1992 Boris Yeltsin officially admits that the Soviet Union has continued its bio weapons program after signing the BWC in 1975 and ends Russia’s bio weapons program.

1995 The first cases of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) was recorded, the persons effected had worked with cattle during the BSE epidemics. Around 200 persons have died so far from CJD, most of them in Great Britain. The case of BSE & CJD is examples of what can happen if government agencies don’t take threats seriously. It’s by belief that cases like this may be a factor on why we often see over reactions from government agencies, like in the current case of the Swine Flu.

1996 The HAART treatment against HIV/AIDS is introduced.

2001 After 9/11 attacks there was at least five letters containing Anthrax spores sent to three media corporations and two US senators. 22 people were confirmed contracting anthrax, five of these persons died from the disease. 45 buildings was contaminated with anthrax spores and antibiotics was given as a prophylactic measure on a massive scale to people how could have been exposed. In spore form anthrax is resistant to sun light and temperature changes. Anthrax spores may have a life time up to a hundred years.

2009 Swine Flu has become a major topic in the media. Right now there is about 620.000 confirmed cases to the World Health Organization and around 8000 that died from the disease worldwide. In comparison to the Spanish Flu 1918 and the Asian flu 1957 the real threat and mortality seems to be very low.

There has also been some accusation against the US for using smallpox against the North Korean capital during the Korean War and other biological weapons against Cuba but there have been no conclusive evidence that this have been the case.

Early Warning
A disease that is used as biological weapons does not have the same instant effect a nuclear or chemical weapon has. It may take days or even weeks before symptoms start to emerge. So there is a big chance that the people how’s exposed to a biological weapons won’t know that they been exposed before they start to get sick, and even then it may be easy to assume that disease has natural causes.

Personal Hygiene and Protection
One of the most important aspects when it comes to avoiding biological warfare and different kind of infectious diseases is personal hygiene. The importance can’t be overstressed. The most important part of personal hygiene is to clean your hands, the majority of all infections is spread when people somehow get a pathogen on their hands and touch their face, mouth or eyes. Soap and water is an excellent way to clean your hands, soap is a natural killer of different pathogens. The skin is an excellent barrier against diseases as long as it’s not damaged, if you use to much soap your hands may become dry and your skin may rupture and pathogens may enter your body. There is other alcohol based hand sanitizer that also is very effective. The combination of soap water, drying your hand and then using alcohol based disinfections is best. Remember to your entire hand and your wrists. Give extra attention to the back of your hand and your thumb, these areas is often missed. If you’re treating people with wounds use surgical gloves if possible, clean your hands before and after. Hygiene in general is very important in a crisis situation: keep your nails short, brush your teeth, use floss and fluoride mouthwash. A safe solution to use as a toilet is also important. A portable camping shower, bleach, soap, washing powder to clean cloths and shampoo may be good equipment to have in storage at your home. Facemasks may provide some protection against airborne disease, but the most important part is to not stand in front of the airflow from anyone sick that’s coughing. NBC gasmasks also offers protection against airborne attacks and disease but it’s very hard to know when an attack is actually happening; it can be days before symptoms start to appear.

Tuberculosis - TB
10 million contracts TB every year, mainly in poorly developed countries and 3-4 million die each year from the disease. The disease is highly resistant against antibiotics; the normal treatment requires three form of antibiotics to be taken every day for six months. However in many parts of the world people don’t go through with the entire treatment and this causes resistant strains of TBC. There are some strains of TBC that are resistant to all forms of antibiotics. There is also a vaccine against TBC available and new ones are being developed. The data for how effective the current vaccine are varies but in some cases it may provide a protection up to 80% and the effect is believed to last for 15 years. The vaccine can cause lethal side effects, but this is very unusual and normally happens to person how another disease or a low immune system function.

The HIV/AIDS virus has gotten an enormous amount of attention in the Media. The HIV/AIDS virus is a Virus that attacks the human immune system and in time this causes the victims to die from secondary infections or cancer. If not treated patients normally die 10 years after they contracted the virus, the HIV/AIDS is basically deadly in all cases if not treated. There is however effective treatment that was introduced 1996 called HAART. These drugs are antiviral drugs that reduce the amount of virus people have in their system to a level that doesn’t present any health issues. There are side effects to this treatment and some people are allergic against the antiviral drugs, but most people how live in the western world don’t have health problems because of the virus. There is how ever an enormous social stigma to carry the disease and the antiviral drugs must be taken at a regular basis every day. Around 30-35 million people worldwide carry the HIV/AIDS virus, around 1,5 million of these cases are in North America. It’s been sad to many times but the best way to protect yourself is to use a condom and make regular checks at your doctor.

Cholera is the worst form of diarrheal disease that exists. It’s a very common disease that often follows war and disasters when the sanitation systems break down. The number of people how dies in this disease are normally under 5% but the disease will seriously weaken the person how get exposed and make them vulnerable to other infections. This is one of the major causes why hygiene, clean water and sanitation are very important after a disaster; this will reduce the risk that you contract this and many other diseases. There is a vaccine that offers around 80% protection. But the effect only last a few year, then new doses are required.

Recommended vaccination:
Booster against Tetanus
Tuberculosis - TB
Hepatitis A & B
Cholera if you’re going to a high risk area.
There are also regional diseases that there are vaccines against, always talk with your doctor for advice and a recommendation.

How is most vulnerable?
In general there are some categories of people how are more vulnerable to disease then other:
· Very young children
· Very old people
· Pregnant women
· People suffering from cancer
· Untreated persons with HIV and AIDS
· People suffering from Starvation or Famine

Threat Assessment
Biological organisms are a natural part of our world and we have developed different kind of medications and vaccines to cope with these problems. Bacteria may become a very serious problem in the future if antibiotics resistance continues to increase; the life expectancy may drop sharply around the world as a result if not new effective medicines are produced. Biological weapons may be genetically designed to have this resistance but in the long perspective I believe that natural resistance against antibiotics is a larger threat than genetically modified biological weapons. Should a new disease with high mortality breakout it’s important to understand that the sanitation system today will help to reduce the spread compared to the spread of plague in the 1300s. But modern communications like air travel may spread a disease very fast. It’s my belief that the current pandemic of swine flu will increase most countries ability to handle this form of crisis because valuable lessons have been learnt and people in general have become more aware of the threat and the importance of especially hand hygiene.