First, let me say this: it’s always easy to know the right thing to do when you don’t have to actually do it your ownself. So when I say I think the Feds fucked up strategically in their dealings with the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot, but did well tactically, remember that I’m mostly talking out my ass.
Second, let me make a pretty bad analogy. I mean, it’s not a totally horrible analogy, it’s just pretty bad. Here it is: Pretend you have a child (unless you actually have a child). That child knows he (and yeah, it’s a boy on account of boys are just like that) isn’t supposed to have chocolate. Now, pretend that boy takes a damned chocolate. You take the chocolate back from the boy, and he’s pissed on account you’re mean and stupid and he hates you. Now pretend that the boy takes a damned chocolate and you tell him “Child, you are NOT to take chocolates” but you just stand there with your thumb up your butt while he eats the chocolate. Then the next day the little bastard takes another damned chocolate. This time you take the chocolate from him, but now he’s pissed times two on account of you let him have the chocolate last time and didn’t do anything.
Get it? Wait, I meant to tell you the Bundy family is the child and the chocolate is seizing control over government lands. Now, get it?
My point is if the Feds had confiscated Cliven Bundy’s livestock like they were authorized to do before he called in all his faux patriot buddies, then it’s unlikely the Lesser Bundys would have started the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot. Strategically, the Feds fucked up. If you tell the boy he can’t have chocolate, then you have to be ready to take his damned chocolate.
But they didn’t, and now there’s a dead fuckwitted cowboy and a wounded fuckwitted whatever-the-hell Ryan Bundy is.
It could have been worse. It could have been much worse. And there’s a very real possibility that it will get worse. On account of it’s not over. Not yet.
It’s important to remember that the people involved in the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot aren’t just fuckwits. They’re fuckwits who are part of a religious/political/ideological movement with a long history of violent confrontation with law enforcement, a penchant for armed resistance in a siege, and a tradition of martyrdom. That’s not a recipe for peaceful resolution.
We’ve seen this same basic situation several times since the early 1980s. Well-armed, conspiracy-oriented, survivalist-minded, right-wing fuckwits with strange notions of Christianity and a deep, abiding suspicion of the U.S. government have repeatedly sparked violent confrontations with Federal law enforcement agents. Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus in 1983, Robert Jay Mathews and the Brüder Schweigen (the Silent Brotherhood) in 1984, Richard Wayne Snell and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord in that same year, Randy Weaver — whose wife and son were killed during their stand-off in 1992, David Koresh and 75 members of his group died after a long siege in 1993, the Montana Freemen in 1996, and on and on and on.
Some of those conflicts were resolved peacefully. Most weren’t. Most ended in bloodshed. Because these people have some real issues with impulse control AND they have guns.
Earlier I said the Feds fucked up strategically. I personally think they also fucked up by not taking a harder line against the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot plotters in a way that’s what you call ‘timely.’ Like, say, a couple of days after they moved in. Instead, the Feds allowed the Lesser Bundys to think this was going to be BundyFest II.
Still, when the Feds finally decided to act, they did well tactically. By that I mean they handled the arrest of the Bundys and their camouflage remora in a professional way. They waited until the leaders of the movement left the compound, stopped them, and took them into custody with relatively little fuss. Aside from, you know, shooting the cowboy (and I don’t mean to make light of that; it’s sad that it happened, but it seemed clear from the beginning that Lavoy Finicum was redolent with the smell of burning martyr).
The problem is there are still at least a couple of Finicumesque fuckwits camped out in Malheur, working on their Braveheart imitations. It may not be easy to dislodge them.