Normally, people assume that the Right is the group champing at the bit to arm up, kill or drive off their political opponents, and enthrone their political philosophy in the US. Mind you, usually it’s a matter of warning people not to push things to the point where that becomes the only way people see that they can protect their liberty rather than anything they want to have happen, but in any case the vision is that the Right will be the ones to set it off.
After the events that prompted yesterday’s post, I have to wonder how much of that is projection? In this case it’s people on the Left fantasizing about wholesale slaughter of their political opponents, and wanting to set of a hot civil war (a strong argument can be made that we’ve been in a “cold” one for years).
Well, I’ll tell them the same thing that I told others before:
There’s a problem with a “Second American Revolution”.
People always point at the American Civil War as this paragon of “proof” that civil wars cannot unseat the established US government. However there have been a lot of civil wars in history. Sometimes the existing government wins. Sometimes the rebels win. Sometimes the results are confusing at best.
This worship of the American government as some kind of unstoppable monolith would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic (because it’s leading toward exactly the same kind of disaster I’m warning against).
They aren’t. Consider, the US military numbers under one and a half million people on active duty. There are over twenty million military veterans in the civilian population. There are over 100 million gun owners, with more than 300 million guns between them. The term for that, even considering the “heavy weapons” of the military (which are of limited use in a civil insurrection–you think a government that ordered the carpet bombing of Des Moines would still be in power by the time the smoke cleared?) and even ignoring that a lot of the military would say “no way in hell”. is “adverse correlation of forces”. (Flip side: if you’re not of the political persuasion of not only the majority of the military, the majority of those civilian gun owners, and the civilian leadership who would be giving that military its orders, you might want to consider which direction “adverse correlation of forces” points.)
So what are you going to do with that many people? You’re either going to need a lot of new prisons or a lot of new mass graves. Either way, the rest of the population is going to notice. This isn’t China or Russia, which have pretty much always lived under totalitarian regimes and accept it as the status quo. If strong military action in the Middle East, would, as is often claimed, “create more terrorists”, what makes you think it won’t have exactly the same effect if applied internally in the US?
And then you need to consider that the whole idea of open field battles or even “hiding in the woods” is not how an insurgency would work. It won’t be some guys hiding in the woods. It will be some folk going about their daily business then, from time to time, pulling out one of those 300 million firearms (or one of the hundreds of millions of “improvised weapons” that would come up after the fact–guns are easy to make once you know how, as are explosives by the way) setting up somewhere and killing one or two politicians, or soldiers serving the “regime”, or influential backers of the regime, or people working for them. Some will be caught. Some won’t.
Those tanks the military has? They won’t be fighting the tanks. No, they’ll be avoiding them (mostly by mixing into the non-combatant population. Yes, they will be “illegal combatants” by definition, which is a problem…if they lose). If they need to take out tanks, it won’t be head on. It will be by sniping tank crews when they’re not in the tank (can’t stay buttoned up 24/7). It will be by hijacking trucks of fuel (or just blowing them up with improvised rockets) or blowing up pipelines. It will be by poisoning food being delivered to the post where the tanks are stationed. And it will be by assassinating the leaders giving the tankers orders.
There’s a book “Fry the Brain” about “urban sniping”. It’s one of the things that was not uncommon in Northern Ireland and a practically daily occurrence in Beirut during the worst of it. It would be ugly. And it would be here.
Catching the insurgents? They would not be using electronic media to communicate. The cat’s out of that bag so the smart ones will know better (and the non-smart ones will either soon learn better or be culled). Or if they do use electronic communication it will either be one-time pads (unbreakable if they’re truly “one time”) or mixed in with so many false messages that the authorities have to burn up so many resources chasing down all the false leads that they do the insurgents’ jobs for them.
Well, they’d have informants. But I guarantee that very soon indeed policy among insurgents would soon become “you inform; you die.” Doesn’t matter if they dangled a million dollars in front of you. Doesn’t matter if you honestly believed the regime was the “good guys”. Doesn’t matter if they “beat it out of you”. Doesn’t matter if they threatened your family. You inform; you die. And if that doesn’t work to keep the rate of informing down, it will become, “you inform, your family dies.”
It is not moral. It is not ethical. But history has shown that in existential wars morals and ethics are among the first casualties.
If you think I’m painting a rosy picture for the insurgents, think again. Because once you start playing that game all civilized warfare goes out the window. You think waterboarding is torture? Waterboarding will be a refreshing warm shower compared to what will be pulled out to get prisoners to roll over on other insurgents. Some innocents get falsely accused that way? Well that’s just too damn bad but, hey, omelets and eggs. At some point, yes, they will carpet bomb Des Moines to get a few insurgents because the equation becomes that or death.
Insurgency, revolution, civil war has its own inherent logic in the modern age. And that logic is one of horror. And the worse part of it is that whoever wins, both sides lose. Whatever they set out to gain at the start, they don’t. The Genie of violent suppression of opposing views is not easily put back in the bottle.
I desperately want to avoid anything like that because if it gets to that point, then whoever “wins”, the end result will almost certainly bear no resemblance to “liberty.” Because one of the things that history has taught us is that the winners of revolution are rarely the “nice guys”. It’s the people who are strong enough, who are ruthless enough, to squash all opposition. The virtue minded who want to “save civilization” get pushed aside or outright liquidated (that’s an old euphemism for “killed” if you didn’t know). The ones with the strength and viciousness to seize power for themselves rise to the top. Exceptions are extremely rare. The American Revolution is virtually unique in its outcome. The close kin of The Terror and Madame Guillotine are the far more likely result.
Please don’t pull that trigger. You wouldn’t like the result. I wouldn’t like the result. Nobody sane would like the result.