“A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.” Robert E. Lee, 23 January 1861
Robert E. Lee, still a Union Army officer in January of 1861, penned these words in a letter to his son just three months before resigning his commission and joining in the defense of the State of Virginia.
Over the course of five Aprils that followed, the nation threw itself into a catastrophic war that in many ways still affects us today. Some 620,000 soldiers died, and that’s not counting the civilians who lost their lives and livelihoods as collateral damage during the war. Past the statues, flags, heritage, and myths that surround the Confederacy, the United States — which appear to be quite disunited — struggle with the proper role of the federal government, appropriate limits on federal power, and fundamental civil rights issues some 226 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified by the Congress. It’s been over 150 years since the War of Northern Aggression and we remain as entrenched in our beliefs as ever.
Some argue that we’re now reaching another 1860 moment in American history. Op-eds in national media outlets lend credence to the idea, even as they fan the flames of racial and ideological division, emanating from centuries-old national wounds and exploited to the risk of increased violence. Identity politics pushes us closer to a collection of competing tribal groups, which is often a characteristic of domestic conflicts.
A few weeks ago I was shooting the breeze with a group of veterans about whether or not a civil war would start in 2018 or beyond, and what it might look like. And that’s how this blog was born. Welcome to the very first post as we put our thoughts into words and chronicle the development and likelihood of a domestic conflict in the United States.
I’ll quickly give you my take: we’re already in a “domestic conflict,” albeit a low grade one on the grand scale of things. It’s difficult for me to see the widening ideological gap, the increasing inequality, and the sporadic political violence and not arrive at or near the conclusion that we’re already here. What we’re seeing is called a low intensity conflict.
FM 100-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict (1990, which I believe is no longer valid), provides us an official definition of the term:
Low intensity conflict is a political-military confrontation between… groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition… It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the use of armed force. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications.
In other words, low intensity conflict is marked by politicized tribes and social bases who wage irregular, small-scale wars.
What I’m specifically looking for in this conflict is a development of organized political violence; graduating from sporadic, opportunistic attacks into coordinated insurgent action. I don’t know how soon we’ll see that, or if we even will. For me, that’s the Rubicon that differentiates politically-related violence and a small war.
And it just so happens that the men who write for this blog are not just scholars of war, but also veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other “small wars” — places where we, for right or wrong, grew intimately familiar with insurgent warfare in low intensity conflicts.
Composed of former intelligence and special operations soldiers, our goal is not to be overtly political, but to describe what’s happening in this country and to peel back the hype and misinformation/disinformation out there. So I hope that you’ll join us as we examine, analyze, and explain this burgeoning conflict that we see unfolding in the United States.
photo via Montecruz Foto