Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Civil war

I've discussed this before, but I'll elaborate on a few points:

i) It wouldn't surprise me if, at some point, Democrats try to confiscate guns. There's an incremental strategy. You can see Obama attempting to build a case. 

If there was an attempt to confiscate guns, that could trigger a civil war. At the very least it would lead to massive civil disobedience.

In addition, I think many liberals would welcome a civil war. With the gov't on their side, they think their side would win. That would be an opportunity to stamp out the "rightwing" once and for all time. 

ii) I've seen liberals mock the idea that an armed citizenry is any check on gov't. Surely an armed citizens are no match for the US military. 

iii) That, however, overlooks a number of complications.  There's the question of which side our soldiers would take in an American civil war. 

And I don't just mean soldiers quitting to fight for the rebels. You might have a sizable percentage of soldiers (as well as police, FBI, NSA) who keep their jobs, but assist the rebels from the inside. Spies and sympathizers. 

iv) The US military has awesome firepower at its disposal. Remember, though, that we're discussing the scenario of a civil war on American soil. You don't fight that the same way you fought the Japanese in WWII, or the Viet Cong in that war. It's one thing to destroy someone else's country, it's quite another thing to destroy your own.

v) Unlike the American Civil War (1861-1865), which was a regional war with fairly clear geographical boundaries, in the scenario we're considering, the rebels would be distributed nationwide. In the American Civil War, the Union could treat the Confederate states as if they were a foreign country, like a border war. In addition, the Southern economy was largely agrarian whereas the Northern economy was largely industrial. The North was able to damage the South in a way the South was unable to damage the North. 

So, for instance, Sherman could get away with burning Atlanta. But if you had a nationwide Civil War, then the gov't can't afford to use the same scorched-earth tactics. It's not going to firebomb cities or suburbs, is it? It's not going to send cruise missiles to take out residential skyscrapers, is it?

With rebels dispersed in urban and suburban population centers all across the nation, military firepower is fairly useless. Tanks, bombs, missiles, &c., are too destructive. The battlefield isn't foreign territory, but your own cities and suburbs.  

The rebels would resort to guerilla warfare. Blend into major population centers. To combat that would require US troops going door-to-door to ferret out rebel cells. 

vi) The modern-day US economy is far more fragile than it was in the 19C. Just consider how dependent we've become on electronic communications, including mobil networks. 

In the past, cities were largely suppled by local farms. Communities were more independent. Now stuff is trucked in from out of state. If interstate commerce began to break down, if the power grid failed, cities would begin to shutdown. Just imagine what would happen nowadays if mobil networks were disrupted. 

There's no telling in advance how damaging the effort would be. The degree of popular support. Inside help. Hacktivists. 


  1. And as we've learned from recent conflicts, military and technological superiority does not always guarantee victory in urban warfare against opponents who know their territory and are prepared to fight a war of attrition.

  2. When guns were confiscated in Australia there was no hint of civil disobedience let alone civil war. While granting that Australia is not the USA., this scenario is pure fantasy.

    And while one might perhaps conceive extreme scenarios in which the military would side against the duly elected government, the idea that gun laws would do it is again pure fantasy. And in a post snowden world the idea you would get far inside the NSA being a rebel is also pure fantasy

    and if, according to your theory both sides are reluctant to do major damage to the other side, the rebellion is unwinnable. Like northern Ireland or Israel, annoying but not fatal. So what's the point? Either you have overwhelming force and you use it, or you don't win.

    Afghanistan may have been a quagmire, but it was only lost to the extent of a lack of appetite to throw men at a foreign land. There would be no such withdrawal on home turf.

    1. You give us a throwaway line about Australia is not the USA, but proceed to act as if it is. In the runup to the American Civil War, the officer corps was dominated by Southerners. Most of them resigned their commission to fight for the Confederacy. We're not talking about the euphemism of "gun laws," but national bans and confiscation. BTW, the vulnerability of a hitech society extends to a hitech military.

    2. It depends on the extent of the revolt. How many Americans, inside and outside of gov't would participate in the revolt. It doesn't take that much to gridlock a city or hitech society.

    3. The Australian laws are national, they involve bans and confiscation. It's still possible to get a gun but it's a lot harder.

      You complain about the comparison to Australia ( a society that is quite similar to the USA) yet your rebuttal is to refer to the ancient history of the civil war. Things couldn't be more different then to now in every possible way.

      For one thing, like most wars, follow the money. The south perceived is economic livelihood was based on slavery thus the call to arms came from the top down from the big money. By contrast guns are not the foundation of the economy and there is no profit, in fact massive losses for a country in civil war.

      Furthermore any gun bans would happen a little at a time. First assault rifles, moving up the chain. Each step would be met with little more than sound and fury.

      The idea that society would entirety break down because a democratically elected government was doing something that would in fact be widely popular is pure fantasy. Does the republican right jump to civil war when one of its hobby horses is rebutted? Nope.

      And... What if I'm right? By supporting the status quo, because of an outlandish fantasy, means hundreds of thousands are killed that could have been saved. Is that good christian thinking?

  3. A survey I'm looking at says 55% of Americans want stricter gun laws. Assuming there is a revolt what makes you think the rebels would win? And having won, what then? Do you institute a military dictatorship to stop the majority getting their way again? And in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, what would that do to mass opinion on gun laws? Do you think maybe it would be the final nail in the gun support coffin?