There’s a lot of talk going around about whether there’s going to be a civil war in the US. If you’re worried about that, let me adjust your fears, slightly. The situation is dangerous, and we should collectively respond by ruthlessly disempowering the republican party, then turning on the democrats and forcing them to split into progressives and centrists – and then controlling their agenda. That probably won’t happen, so let me just console you about the civil war.
Today’s militant idiocreeps that talk about civil war are referring back to the US civil war of 1861-1865. Contrary to the ideology a lot of americans accept, the outcome of that war was almost certainly never in doubt, although the south managed to eke out a political victory after a crushing military defeat, by the simple process of: acting as if nothing had happened. Of course things happened, but politically, the south managed to defang ‘reconstruction’ so that high treason was a sort of laudable political error, and they developed a complex, cobbled-together political system of disenfranchisement and violent threats that allowed them to continue to oppress black americans, to this day. It has been a difficult job untangling the Jim Crow regime because its very complexity and cobbled-together nature makes it impossible for there to be a single effective point of attack. Instead, the entire system must be ripped out and crushed, which – as southerners will quickly point out – has economic consequences, etc. As an aside, it appears to me that the southerners’ love of having black people to oppress has intensified after the well-deserved thrashing they took during the civil war; these are stubborn, stupid people who have bought into an emotional stratagem that ought to be familiar to incels everywhere: our vice is actually our virtue and we’re really noble people. That emotional response is important, today, because they still cling to a completely undeserved sense of superiority. This is a massive statement of the obvious, but an undeserved sense of superiority is, basically, what racism is. Violence is all that’s left. And the south already tried to demonstrate their superiority on the battlefield, and got clubbed down like baby seals.*
What about the right-wing militias that are going to cause chaos and violence? Not much, really. Here’s the thing: currently they are being very careful to hang back and not be starting fights unless they’re numerically superior – which says a lot about their own perception of their superiority; it’s realistic. But, if they’re going to wait until they’re numerically or tactically superior for a large-scale action, they’re going to wait forever because they’re not superior at all. As I write this, the Proud Boys had a scheduled “day of rage” in Portland at which they projected 20,000 strong to show up, but wound up with between 200 and 300. [dailykos] The Proud Boys have been reduced to trumping up their numbers and are claiming 2,000, which is such a clear falsehood even the press are calling them on it. This is just another wretched example of right-wing organizations planning an intimidating rally and having it turn into a cosplay session where a vastly outnumbered bunch of fascists or sheet-wearing KKK stand around behind a police cordon that is there to protect them from a well-deserved beating. I’m not particularly scared when I see the militias, because, to me, they look like pop-up targets who are cosplaying at being soldiers. If they want to use violence to demonstrate their superiority, just like the south, they’re going to get clubbed down like baby seals.
I have tried to explain elsewhere that the inner tensions in a revolution do not make it so simple as “overthrow the government, establish our rule” [stderr] because the parties involved will suddenly find they disagree about a lot of things. Hitler, in the shambles after WWI and the Wiemar Republic, had a lot of things going for him that today’s “let’s have a civil war” crowd simply do not – starting with a government that was a shambles, allowing Hitler to fill what was mostly a vacuum (after some shoving) with a focused ideological movement. The US government is not a shambles like Hitler confronted – far from it – in fact it is a global superpower that can wipe its feet on anybody and that has been gaining a great deal of practice, lately, at fighting and losing insurgencies. Sure, there are parts of the US military that might be unsure which side they are supporting, and when, but they’ll fall in line with their command structure because of the aforementioned foot-wiping, and the command structure will fall in line with where it owes its allegiance: the Washington establishment. Which is just as much anti-Trump as it is pro-Trump. Even the republican parts of the Washington establishment are going to hang back and watch to see what happens, before they throw down treason. There are definitely people in Washington who are hate-filled enough to throw down treason, but they’re the latest breed of the southern aristodipshittery, they are not competent to organize a war. If I had to lay money on who in Washington could organize a civil war, it’d be on AOC and Ilhan Omar. Elizabeth Warren is probably the only one I’d expect to show any competence at grand strategy though I admit Mitch McConnell is a good tactician and someone who’d be lethal with a dagger in a dark alley, but only from behind. What I am saying is, if some idiots try to start a civil war, there won’t be anyone in Washington who is willing to grab the reins of that power, step into the spotlight, throw down treason, and take control. I do doubt that any of the Washington set have met in secret to even discuss the possibility, because if you think about it, it’s a dumb idea and they’re rather obviously comfortable with the status quo. I’d be worried if there was a Douglas MacArthur or a Smedley Butler hanging around in the wings, but the US’ military hero factory has lately been coughing up bureaucrat-nonentities of questionable competence; do you see the troops flipping and rallying around David Petraeus? Ironically, Trump was right: the Washington elite are a bunch of losers – on both sides. Where he’s wrong is he’s crazy and overestimates himself. There is no Napoleon Bonaparte for the civil war buffs to rally to, unless it’s (horse-laugh) Ammon Bundy? Don Jr? The fact that there is a severe dearth of resolute leadership in Washington should be comfort to us all.
But there are other reasons we should not worry – reasons that go beyond the incompetence and ridiculousness of the enemy. I’ve already framed out the first for you, but let me make it explicit: the political structures necessary to make a civil war are simply non-existent right now. During the first civil war, the decision to rebel against the established government was made at the level of states. Political entities that already embodied massive organizational frameworks that could be kicked over toward organizing for a war. If Trump loses and refuses to leave office, there may be a republican chucklefuck governor who gives a speech about how they’re thinking about calling out the national guard, but there will not be a coalition of states throwing down treason in quick succession and declaring themselves to be a new nation, like happened in 1861. Remember, too, that in 1861 the southern states had been talking about it and maybe planning a bit, for a while. Sure, those plans weren’t solid, but there’s an important thing that happens when you start planning a war: you start sorting through the people around you and seeing who’s reliable and who’s not, and who’s going to get purged and who won’t, etc. Right now, we are a nation that has been dealing with a great deal of political division, but the response has been largely political: lawsuits, impeachment, long-winded speeches, and – sure – idiots standing around with guns, because the south will probably always have a lot of those, but nobody’s even thinking how to use them as cannon-fodder, yet. Remember: Hitler was able to occupy a power-vacuum in a failed state, whereas a proponent of civil war today would be trying to divide the largest conglomeration of financial and political interests in the history of mankind. The situation does not resemble Weimar Germany, it resembles Rome before Sulla. There are a tremendous number of body-blows that need to be delivered to the political foundations of the US – and Trump has started with a few of them – but any cracks you see are superficial. The one crack, which is genuine, is america’s addiction to racism, which has been a problem and will be until the political foundations of the US are razed and replaced with something a bit less xenophobic and more humanitarian. [That, by the way, I am afraid will happen step-wise as white supremacy loses out to demographics, but it won’t happen in my lifetime so it’s safe to predict]
The second reason there won’t be a civil war is that the US military of today is profoundly different from the military of 1861. The type of logistical systems they had in 1861 were vastly more simple than what they have, today, and – in case you hadn’t noticed – the military is integrated. Sure, the military appears to be dominated by right-wing dipshits, but the US military of today could not divide itself in half, like an amoeba, and yield two functioning militaries. That was actually the case in 1861, too, but it was less obvious and the southerners were able to convince themselves that they could win a war without having any significant industrial capacity, having a land-locked economy based on exporting drugs and cotton, and having minimal railway networks. First off, once he understood trains (which would have taken him 10 minutes) Napoleon would have looked at the south’s military situation and potential, and laughed. Now, what’d the “new south”‘s military look like? Um. There’s only one actually scary scenario but it’s highly speculative so I’ll leave it below the divider. But, really, if you want an idea of what it might look like – worst case scenario, it’s the Potemkin – and, the situation in Kronstadt in 1905 – a battleship flipped sides to the bolsheviks, but then discovered that things were more complicated than just bread and solidarity, and the battleship became its own polity of sorts. Lots of people get killed; that’s how that sort of thing plays itself out. The sailors did not have a chance to plan sensibly, and acted on the spur of the moment. Civil wars that succeed don’t happen that way. Revolutions do. [I am making a distinction between “a revolution” which is when the people get so angry that they rise en masse and overthrow the government, and “a civil war” which is when there are two contenders for who is the government. E.g.: the Russian revolution sequed into a civil war.]
None of this is to say that there won’t be frustrated right-wing nutjobs who decide to offer themselves as sacrifice, but I predict it will not be organized, if they do. For one thing, the right-wing nutjobs have been fairly careful to absorb the “how to insurgency” lessons they believe are in The Turner Diaries which teach, among other things, that stochastic attacks are best. I.e.: no organization, so the FBI or the official government cannot roll up your command structure. That works well for trouble-making and kicking off a personal terror campaign, but civil wars originate in the clash of organized militaries in service of organized would-be governments. Trump can’t government his way out of a wet paper bag and most of his followers aren’t much better. A few of them, however, may need to be clubbed down like baby seals and we should be prepared to resolutely and ruthlessly follow that programme if that’s what they insist upon. On that note, remember that the United States is such a vicious, hateful bunch that our CIA not only reached out and murdered US citizen Anwar Al Awlaki, they killed his 16 year-old son and 8 year-old daughter. Only a ridiculously stupid southern chucklefuck would mess with people who play that rough.**
* clubbed down like baby seals: usually in discussions of the civil war someone comes along about now and says “the south had a chance, early on, because the union generals at the beginning of the war were imbeciles.” Well, for the south to have a chance, the union’s political leadership would have had to remain remarkably comfortable with lousy battlefield commanders for the duration of an entire war.
The scary and credible scenario is one that literally keeps me up at night, sometimes. You remember that great movie with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, Red Tide – where Hackman decides he’s going to order a ballistic missile sub that he commands to launch a spread of nuclear weapons? There’s a lot of back and forth in the movie about who has the key(s) to the missile launch consoles, etc, but the important fact of that movie is hidden: the command/control system that allegedly prevents someone from getting a wild hair and launching a nuke does not apply to ballistic missile subs. The missiles in a boomer do not have a permissive action link that is tied to National Command Authority (NCA) it’s tied to the sub’s command authority – that’s because the (it’s changed now) purpose of a ballistic missile sub is retaliation-strike, and it may be the case that the NCA is unreachable because they’re a smoking hole. Boomer captains are supposed to be pretty stable characters; it is a position of global responsibility, after all. But what if there’s a boomer captain who’s into Qanon? What I said earlier about the current US military not dividing neatly like an amoeba does not apply with the nuclear arsenal.
** If you’re a fan of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History there you can insert some of his commentary about what incredibly horrible ruthless bastards the Assyrian kings were; because what the US did to Al Awlaki and his gene-line is light foreplay in their world.
Random thought: remember, the French army’s big innovation was to march and live off the land; they had relatively light logistics, which let them favor firepower and mobility. By the time of the US civil war, the military would not have been capable of fighting a sudden campaign like Napoleon’s 100 days. By WWI and WWII mobilizing an army was a massive undertaking. Remember the build-up to both of the gulf wars? They were excruciatingly long, to the point where the president was complaining about it to CNN. Today’s US military would need at least 2 years of preparation, and 300 billion dollars, to prepare to fight against itself.
Note: as this is a “sermon” I took the liberty of asserting abbreviated forms of my arguments, rather than going through citing references. I believe that the conclusions I present, drawn from my understanding of history and politics, are honest and accurate (or I wouldn’t say them) but I am not going to have a response to anyone who says “well your conclusions are wrong” this is an opinion piece. I guess we’ll all know by February.