This episode of “Ask the Strategic Genius” is about logistics and the 2nd Amendment: two things you typically will not find connected in public discourse. Time to cure that!
“Amateurs talk about tactics, professionals study logistics” – Napoleon Bonaparte*
“I need guns in case the government gets oppressive, so I can defend myself!” – Stereotypical 2nd Amendment Fanatic
“Amateur.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
“Amateur.” – Mao Zedong
/Facepalm – Sun Tzu
The scenario looks like this, in some people’s minds: the US government becomes oppressive and installs a dictatorship, backed by the might of the army. The people need to begin an insurrection, and all those guns come in really handy, as the New Minutemen 2.0 rise up and once again throw off the shackles of oppression!! Freedom! USA! USA!
Consider: Vietnam, 1962 (North and South) – 200,000 square miles with a population of around 15 million in North Vietnam and 20 million in South Vietnam. The US military that fought in Vietnam was about 500,000..
Consider: The USA, 2015 (North and South) – 3,600,000 square miles – that’s 18 times the area of Vietnam – population 320 million. The US military got its ass humiliatingly kicked out of Vietnam when its troop strength was 1.4% of the population. To achieve a comparable troop strength to get a comparable ass kicking, the US dictatorship would need 4.4million soldiers in arms. To succeed with a military occupation, what, maybe 20 million? Our current military strength is about what it was during the Vietnam war, the dictatorship is going to have a really interesting recruiting problem.** That’s only the first problem; it gets worse for the dictatorship, quickly.
Where do the dictatorship’s supply lines run?
Where do the dictatorship’s airplane parts come from? Where does the jet fuel come from? Where does the ammo come from? Where do the nom noms come from? Where does the fuel for the tanks come from? Where do the ships dock? Where do the special forces get their socks? Where does the entire communications infrastructure of the US dictatorship come from? Yeah, see? Logistics.
We, the people, sit right on top of the jugular of the US dictatorship’s military juggernaut.
We, the people, would actually be paying the salaries of the US dictatorship’s military juggernaut.
A lot of We, the people, would be embedded in the US dictator’s military juggernaut, command echelons, supply chains, and intelligence operations.
You don’t need a personal arsenal to bring the US dictatorship’s military juggernaut to a screeching halt; just say “no”, a bit of E.Coli in the chili, some water in the fuel, a wrench in a jet engine, or just a general strike – that’d do it. Just go home – that’d do it. Unlike in Vietnam, the US dictatorship couldn’t very well resort to spraying Agent Orange on US farmland, or carpet-bombing LA – it needs them. And, in case you didn’t notice: none of that worked very well anyway.
In my Sunday Sermon where I discuss De Boetie’s On Voluntary Human Subjection one of the crucial points is that, to a certain degree, a tyrant cannot tyrant properly unless the people help. If the US turned into a dictatorship, one of these things would be the situation:
- The vast majority of people would go along with it and maybe even think it was a fine thing***
- The economy would fall apart as the US turned into a 3rd world country, and its military would fall apart with it****
- The population is divided in its support of the dictatorship and dissolves into a Syria-style hobbesian playground.
In scenario #1, the guns are useless because – no matter how much you don’t like to admit it – you lost the political battle and you’re an outlier, now. Your little (and it’d have to be little!) insurgency is going to end quickly and painfully.
In scenario #2, guns are useless because you have a situation like Mao encountered in China, and Lenin encountered in Russia: a nation that is on the verge of collapse, and needs a quick kick in the ankle to trigger a runaway reaction. When Mao started his revolution in China he had weapons – but not very many. What he had was the support of a lot of people, and interior logistics. Mao and Lenin “invaded” their countries by starting out there. If you’re across your enemy’s supply lines and have enough support, their troops join you.
In scenario #3, there are lots of guns to go around because there are military units on both sides of the conflict. What does happen, really quickly, is that the tech level of the fighting drops rapidly because both sides mutually destroy their supply chains – assuming a high-tech military. Scenario #3 is the 1861-1865 scenario: general civil war. When that happens, there will be plenty of guns and uniforms to go around; there will be too many, in fact.
Successful revolutions succeed at the point where enough of the military join the revolution that the establishment’s military decides it doesn’t want to fight – or the establishment’s military runs away and gets hunted down (interior logistics, again) like the White Russians, and killed like trapped rats. That realization is usually what sets off the cascade reaction in which a government collapses – as soon as the tyrants (or White Russians) realize the game is up, they’ll run for it and die tired.
If enough people don’t want the US dictatorship, since they’re sitting on its supply lines, it’s going to evaporate. If enough people do want the US dictatorship, you’ll be the White Russians and history will record you as a dangerous reactionary who was eradicated by the forces of righteousness. It may be 100 years before an honest history of the time is written but, hey, dead people don’t complain about their historical legacy.
The size, or even the existence, of a personal arsenal will not affect any of those outcomes in the slightest. If you want guns to prevent dictatorship, you’re missing the point entirely. The way to prevent dictatorship is to try to keep your rulers honest, and not let a dictatorship get established in the first place. It is much more efficient to stop a dictatorship from happening than to go through the process of having a civil war; you’d think our 2nd amendment fanatics would have figured that out after what happened in 1861-1865.
PS – the best way to destroy the US dictatorship’s military is: put Donald Rumsfeld in charge of it. Then wait.
(* Kind of funny, coming from the guy who marched a pedestrian army to Moscow in the winter, equipped only with summer-weight wool uniforms and absolutely no cold-weather gear. One of Napoleon’s lesser known military maxims is “Do as I say not as I do” Napoleon did, famously, send a directive to move a cannon he’d noticed in Marseille on his way back to Paris during the 100 days – get that thing on a limber and put it to use! He did understand his craft to an amazing degree; some of his early campaign analysis is amazingly perceptive – this was the guy who was perfecting combined arms warfare.)
(** The war in afghanistan is a notable failure because the Taliban fairly quickly realized that it was easy to plant recruits in the new Afghani army. Not only did they get fed and equipped, they were paid – until it seemed like a good time to frag one of the officers and head off for the hills. The “blue on blue” strategy, when the Taliban began to adopt it, separated the US troops from their support infrastructure and did a tremendous amount to end the “surge” in ignominy.)
(*** If you want something to be afraid of, that’s a good place to start. Fear your fellow Americans.)
(**** Read up on what happens to expensive high-tech military gear when political turmoil interrupts supply lines! You don’t need to shoot down the Iraqi air force, you simply let Saddam Hussein’s minions mis-manage it into virtual nonexistence. Think about this question: how many countries that are experiencing political turmoil have state of the art militaries? If the answer is “not many”, why not?
To keep an air force flying, you need an insane logistical capability. To have a navy, you need even more. To have a credible nuclear capability, you need yet still more. There is basically only one country that has built a nuclear navy with carrier-based aircraft, which is the craziest logistical train you can possibly achieve short of manned space travel.)