The View From Olympus: An Ounce of Prevention


The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is never more true than when applied to Fourth Generation war. Once a terrorist attack has happened, all “first response” is too late for the state. It has failed in its duty to maintain order, which means its legitimacy takes a big hit. Incompetent first response can degrade it further, but from the state’s perspective, prevention is 90% of the game.

It is thus with great delight that I report a new book that addresses prevention in useful ways. The title, Left of Bang, may confuse some; it is military slang for “before an event happens,” i.e., before an IED goes off or a sniper shoots. Written by two Marine officers, former Captain Patrick van Horne and Major Jason A. Riley, USMCR (with a forward by Steven Pressfield, whose book Gates of Fire is the best introduction to warre, war at its most primal level), the book reflects lessons learned by Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those lessons were embodied for a time in a Marine Corps program called Combat Hunter, which in turn suggests a connection to true light infantry (known in much of Europe as Jaegers, the German word for hunter).

The book’s thesis is simple: humans have a universal body language that, once learned by an observer, gives away their intentions and thus enables effective prevention. The authors call the art of reading these signs “combat profiling,” and they divide it into six domains. “Profiling” is of course a dirty word to cultural Marxists, but in the real world all law enforcement is and must be based on profiling. There simply aren’t enough cops (or Marines in combat overseas) to consider everyone equally likely to be a criminal or a threat.

Left of Bang offers more than a theory. It is also a well-written instruction book in how to learn combat profiling. I won’t try to condense the lessons here, as the bones of the theory have too much meat on them to cover in a column. Best advice: buy and read the book if your job has anything to do with preventing terrorism or violent crime.

While written for Marines, Left of Bang has even more relevance to police. The state’s first line of prevention is police, not the military, because in the battle fore legitimacy it is to the state’s advantage to consider 4GW crime (even though it is actually much more than that). Since 9/11, police have pursued “first response” enthusiastically, in part because it had lots of money attached. But, again, first response is too late. From the perspective of policing, the whole game is prevention. Once “bang” has happened, policing has failed and other emergency services largely take over. Every police chief and police agency in this country should get a copy of Left of Bang–and tell the culturalĀ  Marxists, when they howl, to go sit on an IED. Cops profile because they have to.

Left of Bang will face a legitimate question: just how universal, across cultures, are the indicators combat profiling relies on? This question is less important for police, except when dealing with immigrants. But for soldiers and Marines fighting in parts of the world where cultures are very different, it is important. One example: in Bulgaria, shaking your head up and down means no and side-to-side means yes.

This is primarily a question for anthropologists, but even if signs are less universal across cultures than Left of Bang suggests, the value of the book is unimpaired. It would just mean that before going into a foreign country, soldiers and Marines would have to read into body language and other indicators in the particular culture.

Left of Bang was written to keep Marines alive, but its value reaches far beyond the Marine Corps. So long as the United States insists on sticking its nose into every quarrel on Earth, we will remain a target for a wide variety of 4GW elements. Prevention, not “first response,” must be the state’s objective. Left of Bang tells us how prevention might be accomplished. Its authors haveĀ  done a great service to both Corps and country. tr favicon