The Keystone issue should be considered part of a campaign and not just a battle. The difference is that, a battle may or may not be limited to a single tactical engagement. A campaign represents a battle, or series of battles, that are linked to a Grand Strategy.

A classic case of this is that of Erwin Rommel's North-African campaign started in Tripoli. Despite achieving amazing successes by taking Mersa El Brega, Benghazi, and nearly all of Cyrenaica (almost half the North African Coast) in approximately 9 days. It was an extremely impressive array of victories, however since the Western Desert front was never treated as a serious campaign, it was all to no avail. In order to win, as noted by Edward N. Luttvak:

Ultimately Rommel would have to advance through East Africa all the way to Capetown, and also eastward beyond and across Iran to conquer the whole immensity of India
The reason being that the British owned territory throughout the entire stretch, and if need be, could even bring in reinforcements from South Africa to Australia at these various points, along with the reinforcements they could muster from local forces in their colonies.

At the time, the Soviet front was by far the more critical to the war efforts, so it is understandable why it is the German High Command was not particularly interested in investing resources into a North African-Asian campaign. That is why it was treated as a mere series of battles, and that is the difference between mere battles and a campaign: a mere battle can simply be an independent array of tactical engagements, whereas a campaign can have definitely strategic links, aims and effects. Had the fascists been a little wiser, and focused on what would-be Rommel's front, instead of attempting to invade the USSR at all, the war may well have ended differently. Fortunately, Hitler was guided by his hatred of Communism, and admiration for the British to the point of tunnel vision.

Recall that there are three generally accepted levels of confrontation in strategy:

Tactical - Immediate Battles

Operational/Theatrical - A series of battles for a specific geographic region, and/or strategic point.

Strategic/Grand Strategic - The overall strategic campaign which culminates into some sort of political and/or economic gain.

Exact definitions are often debated, and sometimes more categories are added, such as the "technical" or "skirmish" level below the tactical, or Grand Strategic is given a separate category so as to make four or five categories instead of three.

It should thus become clear why it is advantageous to thus, treat the conflict over the Keystone Pipeline as a matter of Campaign instead of mere battle.

By treating it as a mere battle, the definite end point is the construction of and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline or its complete halting. In effect, an all or none situation which lacks flexibility. Seeing it in such a light, and then further realizing it could be a matter of life or death importance is actually dangerous for reasons I will explain later.

Treating it as a campaign however, linked to a Grand Strategy and Political Movement, to aid in the promotion of native rights, environmental concerns, the issue of global warming, and human rights in general makes it so we can take a far more flexible and cautious view of the situation as a series of battles where Native Americans may have more of an advantage then at first appears. This being the case, even if the Pipeline is constructed and operated, it can be resisted with strategic and political benefit, and ultimately, it will mean that to truly defeat their opponents, the corporatists, right-wing politicians and quasi-invading forces will have to break the Native Americans, the Water Protectors, the Activist's/Protesters, and all other opponent's will and/or ability to resist. Seeing as this would include most of the liberal media, a good amount of academics, liberal members of the public by and large and non-liberal sympathizers, the dynamic completely changes from that of certain victory, to that of the Keystone advocates being on the verge of defeat every day. Like the Nixon administration or the British in India, they may seem to own the commanding heights, but those forces will be surrounded and besieged every day, in a political environment that is ultimately turning against the use of fossil fuels and growing in awareness to the vast array of injustices continuously perpetrated against Native American people's to this day.

So given this new way of looking at the issue, let us make some cursory considerations.

First of all, and most critically, it is essential that no acts of violence be conducted to prevent or sabotage the construction or operations of the Pipeline. That could easily become the next 9/11 or Reichstag Fire of this issue, with Native Americans becoming the target for public outrage instead of Muslims. That would not only set back the struggle to ultimately prevent the construction of, or remove the Keystone Pipeline, but damage the cause of Native American rights, and the struggle for environmental concerns in general.

In military terms, that would be known as a Tactical Gain at Strategic Loss. The Germans were famous for engaging in that kind of strategy via their "Total War" philosophy. This lead in part, to the use of unrestricted submarine warfare during World War 1, which sank the Lusitania, and brought the US against them. Another example was their decision to use chemical weapons - previously outlawed by the British and French - during the same war. This failed - because the British had a superior capacity to mass produce gas masks. Thus in the ensuing chemical weapons exchange, now opened by the Germans, they were at a distinct disadvantage. A third example is the US use of Napalm and mass bombing of villages during Vietnam. Such provided a temporary and limited tactical gain - but it turned the whole population against them. Before ever engaging in an extreme action, such as violence, one must consider whether any tactical gain may come at severe strategic loss.

Second, the front-line tactical fighters will be the Activists, Water Protectors, Media and Lawyers. Battles are thus not just protests, but court trials and debates within the sphere of public opinion. The most visible, honorable and direct front-line units which provide pressure will be the Water Protectors and other Activists. They should be provided with logistics, but it should be noted that not everyone will be cut out for this. Not just because most people will be too busy just trying to survive in our dog eat dog crony-capitalist system (people have kids, and bills, actually engaging in front-line protests is a time-consuming, resource intense and dangerous affair. ) But because peaceful protest requires the utmost discipline. In fact, this TED Talk on how to overthrow despotic regimes notes that Discipline may well be the most essential element of a Non-Violent Protest Movement:

Now, at the end, nonviolent discipline. And this is probably the game-changer. If you maintain nonviolent discipline, you'll exclusively win. You have 100,000 people in a nonviolent march, one idiot or agent-provocateur throwing a stone. Guess what takes all the cameras. That one guy. One single act of violence can literally destroy your movement.
In short, not everyone can be a protester for the same reason not everyone can be a front-line soldier. Front-Line soldiers require a whole logistical and support network to remain effective. If everyone just leaves their jobs to protest, the protesters, activists and Water Protectors will run out of supplies. Nor does everyone have the discipline, so the last thing you want in that situation is an idiot and you must be on guard for agent-provokers.

Third, the role of Social Media must very much be emphasized. I am surprised so many people disdain the use of this as cowardly. I imagine, such might feel the use of guns against sword in the age of declining chivalry was likewise cowardly. However Social Media provides a means by which one may make Strategic Gains while wholly bypassing tactical engagements. Strategic gains would include creating sympathy or building a case in the sphere of public opinion for Native Rights, against Fossil Fuels/for Alternative Energy, and creating a negative opinion of Trans-Canada, and its supporters, both economic and political. This could prove critical, especially as public opinion is not just turning against the GOP, the anti-Native racists, and the fossil fuel industry in general, but because such pressure could start to divide them. If the GOP becomes unpopular enough, TransCanada will seek to distance itself from them. If TransCanada is unpopular enough, the GOP and other potential supporters, such as Wells Fargo, and right-wing Democrats may do likewise as well. Social media can be used to unite forces opposing the construction and use of the Keystone XL, while dividing proponents, with little effort and no tactical engagement at all. It is the ability to strike the enemy from a safer distance.

That being said, it will not replace the need for front-line activists and Water Protectors any more then the use of artillery makes tanks or infantry unnecessary. It simply complements the front-line forces as part of a cohesive strategy.

Fourth, it means that the Water Protectors are in a much stronger position strategically then it would seem given only tactical or operational considerations. In terms of tactics and operations the XL advocate may seem invincible - they have superior capital, they have lobbyists with far reaching political connections, even up to, apparently, the Presidency (in terms of pressure if not direct). They have the US military, police forces and security, all of which are given license to use force while the Water Protectors and Activists are only able to engage in peaceful demonstrations, and they have a court system riddled with bias in this right-wing era of politics. However, on a strategic scale they face a huge amount of disadvantages and obstacles. Demographics are turning against the GOP, and if the evolution of Northern Europe, Western Europe, Australia, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, and even from what we know of US history, First World Democracies and Liberal systems tend to become more liberal and leftist over-time. For the GOP this could lead to a potentially explosive backlash due to the dialogical nature of strategic situations. Likewise, the world is turning against fossil fuels in general, with nations as diverse as China to Korea to most of the EU. In fact over 200 nations have signed a petition to start ridding the world of fossil fuels. That means the momentum of political change is definitely on the side of the Water Protectors, and the continued operation of the Keystone Pipeline requires a LOT of capital. Once profits go down, not just from boycotts, but anti-fossil fuel legislation and increased competition from alternative energy markets, their position will weaken even further.

So just like Rommel, they may make tremendous gains in record time with a great deal of force, but just like Rommel, they are in a strategic situation which all but dooms their campaign over time. They can win battle after battle, but they are powerless to effect anything at all in multiple fronts, and are likely to lose the war no matter what.

Fifth, in the era of Fourth-Generation Conflict, one side is not usually defeated unless it loses the will to fight. That is why the US was eventually pushed out of Iraq and Vietnam - for all our superior technology and tactics, our people eventually lost the will to fight whereas the will of the local population to oppose us remained. Here again, Water Protectors have a definite advantage. For the Native peoples, what is at stake is their survival, their freedom and their basic right to exist as dignified human beings. For the corporatists, what is at stake is mere profit. Once the Keystone Pipeline becomes too toxic for politicians, and costly for investors, they will retreat in quick order, whereas the Native forces would have to be all but exterminated.

Sixth, always keep in mind that strategy operates according to dialogical as opposed to monological effects, or in other words, strategy is full of contradictions and paradoxes, whereas the logic of other enterprises is far more linear. In say production, making more for cheaper is just better. Making more of something for your industry is just better in helping you compete with other factory owners of the industry. More money is better, and in science, more data is better. Getting your job done faster and more efficiently is better. In strategy this is different - sometimes taking more ground, leads to eventual loss as supply lines are stretched and the civilians and other critical targets that must be policed saps forces from the front line. Sometimes a weapon is so good - such as the atomic bomb, that it cannot be used at all in most situations without overwhelming political and economic fallout (this is aside even, from the threat of nuclear retaliation). And the GOP is finding out the hard way that winning an unexpected and overwhelming amount of elections can lead to infighting and unpopularity to the point where the culmination of their efforts on an issue they had devoted a vast amount of resources on for over seven years ended in utter and humiliating failure.

Always be on the look-out, especially at a strategic scale for ways in which every gain seemingly made on the XL Pipeline issue for those advocating construction can lead to some strategic vulnerability. For example, their association with the GOP which has now captured congress and the presidency may seem like a boon, but now they are associated, and if the GOP's popularity continues to wane, so will their own image be tarnished. This is also a very expensive project, and so every dollar lost is being felt. Already Wells Fargo may be on the verge of losing billions over the Pipeline. If their product is further hurt by these kinds of boycotts investors will no longer consider the Pipeline worth funding. That is not to say strategic gains do not also equal gains, the GOP for example will likely pick the next Supreme Court judge, which will likely rule against Natives in a Supreme Court case. However again that works both ways, for if the GOP becomes unpopular enough, in part due to its association with the Pipeline, and other pro-racist and pro-fossil fuel movements, that could hurt them in future elections and allow us to alter the character of the Supreme Court (I like FDR's proposal, that after so many years, Congress with a 2/3rds or so majority can retire a Supreme Court judge. ) . The opposite can also be true, for example, having too many on the front-lines: protesters, activists and Water Protectors, can become disadvantageous because such creates logistical strain, and there is an increased chance to get someone or a group, less disciplined, that resorts to violence when provoked. I am not saying this capacity is met, but it does illustrate how in strategy, paradoxical, and contradictory tendencies can arise.