The Importance of Mobility During Times of Danger

Recently I read an article shared on a Facebook which was apparently written by a Bosnian who had lived through that country’s extremely violent civil war. Although each type of danger one might face in is unique, I took issue with several items shared in the article. They may apply to that person’s situation, but they are not, in my opinion, universal.

While I do not have that particular experience, I have spent a significant amount of time studying (on location) the behavior of drug smugglers and migrants on the US/Mexico border. I also lived on the streets of Tunis during the Arab Spring and briefly entered Libya just after US and NATO forces started their bombing campaign, interviewing refugees about their journey as I did. Most recently, I crossed into Syria multiple times during the current rebellion, observing the flow of people in both directions as well as the training and organization of rebel forces and pro-regime terrorist groups inside Lebanon. I have been detained and interrogated (harshly, but not reaching a physical level) by the security forces of Syria, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

In all of these situations, what I have found is that the simple ability to move – whether that is within a specific area or to leave the area of danger – is absolutely critical to survival. This means not only one’s physical characteristics and abilities, but the vehicles that one has at their disposal. In the linked article, the author states that vehicles were useless inside the city; this may have been so, but in Libya, where the only escape lay across hundreds of miles of desert, only those with cars or the money to hire a car and driver were able to escape.

The rest stayed put (a difficult decision with pro-regime artillery razing their houses) or tried to walk if they could make it far enough. Hiring a car with driver cost the equivalent of a middle class man’s monthly salary, by the way. I initially expected there to be abandoned cars near the border with Tunisia, but there were none – all had been stolen by enterprising souls wanting to make a ton of money transporting people from the cities to the border.

In Syria, walking on foot near the border was reason enough for the Syrian Army to shoot you, or at the very least capture you and put you in a dark place for a long time. Thus, ignoring a vehicle as a possible mode of transport there was suicidal.

Camel futures were up in Libya.

This leads me to the second major issue I take with the article – that money will be worthless. Again, this may have been so in Bosnia as time went on, but in Libya two months post-uprising, American dollars were the currency of the land. Items of value had, of course, skyrocketed in cost, but money was still money.

In Syria twenty months post-uprising, food shortages caused massive inflation for basic items like bread. Again, those who could leave did so; those who couldn’t begged for food – or money with which to buy food, meaning that money still had value. Syrian currency did not, but Lebanese and American currency did. A currency is only as strong as the government backing it.

In summary – you should not ignore the importance of having a reliable vehicle suited to the terrain around you (in a city, a small car may be best; in the country, a truck or SUV might be better), the skills and abilities to drive that vehicle under stress, and enough cash or other valuables in reserve to trade for a significant amount of items. “Bugging in” may sound appealing if your home is well-stocked and well-located, but when bombs or artillery shells start falling on your neighborhood, you might find it a better idea to leave. Having options in an emergency will only be of benefit to you.

I may write more on these topics in the future, but these are two things I wanted to get off my chest tonight.

8 comments

  • This is why I’m glad I know how to ride horses. Where a car or bike cannot go, a horse can. Since they also forage and graze, one doesn’t need to worry so much about gasoline shortages or costs.

  • Jeannie Casillas

    While I was slightly surprised to be unable to provide comment on facebook, I understand and respect your use of that venue for semi-professional purposes and jokingly referring to you as a hypothetical douchebag could easily be misconstrued by your readers, even though I have participated in much more heated diacussions with bigger professional implications. Anyway…
    I really appreciate your insight into this matter. Partuclarly for using modern warfare as point of reference. Many of the survivalists rely far too heavily on historic accounts. The Bosnian war was a huge anomoly in warfare that has since shaped war, war crimes, and international politics because it was so atypical. To assume that a single case study is rule of thumb is just bad research. And, as always, you delivered a well-rounded and supported argument with the purpose of education.

  • Having done a few sit-down interviews with survivors of the Balkans conflicts I think you’re right in your assessment that it was a unique place and time with rules and strategies that applied to that specific scenario.

    Reading the translated article I found the reference to “gas masks” oddly videogamey. To the best of my knowledge, no chemical weapons risk was really present in Bosnian or Serbian arsenals. Maybe CS gas though . . .

    I think the key difference between the threatening situations you’ve experienced and the “post-apocalyptic-SHTF-WLGO-EOTWAWKI” events that various people like to get themselves excited about is bottling in that happened in Sarajevo. I would say your advice on money and transport applies to 90% of the conflict zones currently on the planet. While the “trapped rules” of Bosnia are more for some imaginary event where “no-where is a safe place.”

  • For average Americans, most houses offer no match for even .22lr bullets. .223′s go through front to back and out. As I think about preparation for riots and w.r.o.l. scenarios, I find each time safety concerns in the house are not manageable if armed aggressors are shooting wildly. Suggestions? I’m in a rural area.

    • If you are really in a W.R.O.L situation and you got to the point where people are unloading rounds on your house you got behind the 8 ball somewhere. when things go south the most important thing you can do is be alert.

  • This article might better be titled “the value of flexibility during times of danger”, though the input on the value of vehicles is enlightening and much appreciated. Adaptability tends to win the day.

  • This is the guy who has a bologna now called SHTF school

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