Finding Power In Retreat {for intelligence field operators in advanced positions}


It is the fallacy of the field operator, especially the intrepid novitiate, to assume the total responsibility for mission success. This imagery spawned of fervent self improvement regiments, Hollywood and Showtime’s Homeland, stresses that the bulk of mission objectives is carried out solely by one single individual. In all actuality, there are inner and outer circles of operators, military or security personnel, and analysts to handle many of these responsibilities. The duty of the field operator lies not only in aggressive and relentless attack, but moreso in the gathering of intelligence and retreat to analyze and further strategize for future sorties in the field.

“The host thus forming a single united body, is it impossible either for the brave to advance alone, or for the cowardly to retreat alone.” —Sun Tzu, Art Of War

The benefits of a strong field operator in an advanced position seem obvious. They are welcome into places where they should perhaps not be welcomed. They are knowing of things they perhaps should not be knowing. They are a bridge between enemies on either side of conflict. This is a stressful position under even the most glorious circumstances, and worth a second glance. While it has been noted the fallacy to assume total mission responsibility of the new operator, the internal drive to do so (the quarterback running the touchdown) is strongly ingrained into the psyche of especially Americans. This is potentially dangerous, not only for the operator, but potentially for the mission at large.

Ami Toben of is a highly trained countersurveillance professional, often dealing with VIP force protection and covert applications. In his work, he details the “magic circle of protection” which includes an outer circle or perimeter of analysts, and inner circle of operators, and possibly even an elite innermost circle of praetorian guards. When operating in an advanced position, and for extended maneuvers, it does indeed behove the “lone” field operator to remember and heed these layers which are there not only for protection, but to ensure the overall mission success. This is the very definition of mission critical deployment, and the mark of higher strategy.

While it is true that under certain circumstances that no one is in a better or more advantageous position to deliver the mission’s most successful application, or coup de grace if you will, than the field operator in advanced position. Aggressive and relentless attack can have serious deficits which may be overlooked by someone enduring field-stress and the relevant mania associated with operating deep behind the lines. Overexposure leading unto vulnerability is a strong likelihood, but this can be mitigated by the wisdom of these simple and easy to remember maxims:

Accept retreat to avoid defeat.

Quit the fray to fight another day.


Go ahead, say them out loud to yourself several times until they are imprinted upon your memory. It is okay to let go, run, and hide. That is a time when you can come up with your best strategy for the next time you are ready to attack. Retreat is just as important as attack in a winning strategy. Remember that the attacker can often become overexposed; by retreating, a field operator can potentially flush the opposition out of their comfortable positions to send them searching, and therefore exposing them to countersurveillance and counterintelligence tactics. This could mean the difference between winning or losing in a particular theatre during a particular operation.

Last but not least, the strategy for defeat is that of the BLUETEAMThey have more resources, more capital, and ultimately more comfort than the REDTEAM in any engagement. Of course it is the tendency for defense to become complacent and soft, but a field operator in advanced position must be reminded to take it easy once in a while. Get some rest, eat some food, hit the gym, watch a movie. Stop overexposing yourself to the opposing force by constantly wearing yourself down with relentless attack.

Find Power In Retreat