After seeing this video posted around social media a handful of times, I finally decided watch it. It’s on a YouTube channel called John Mark and it’s about his views on Civil War 2, which is a frequent topic on this blog.
I’m reminded of the Clausewitz quote, “Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.” In other words, thinking through and executing a war is easier said than done. The killing people part can be commonly understood, but winning a war is actually very complex. That tends to glossed over when talking about conflict, especially “Civil War 2,” which is why this topic has become a pet peeve of mine.
What really piqued my interest about this particular is that it’s supposedly an “in-depth analysis,” a point on which I disagree. I found it to be very superficial. And I don’t mean to be rude or condescending, I just think for as complete as its being sold, it lacks a lot of important factors, which I’ll detail below.
And that’s not to make light of the serious points discussed, but I’ll point out some glaring flaws of the thinking here, along with time stamps. (John Mark, if you read this or if someone can get us in touch, there are a lot of things to consider when thinking through a conflict scenario. You’ve considered a lot of factors. I believe you’re missing some critical ones. I do this for a living, and I’d be happy to talk with you about your video and matrix.)
First, let me start off by saying I agree with a few things.
1. Many Americans on both sides are angry at each other.
2. Demographically speaking, the Left is going to be able to achieve one-party rule within the next 10 years. (The next time they get power, they can push through amnesty and create a permanent majority. My thoughts on this point are covered here, from April 2018.)
3. Trump very well could be the last Republican president, which I’ve pointed out numerous times on this Dispatch blog.
Now let’s get into what wrong, which is a lot…
~4:00: John Mark begins reading off this alleged “red team” (RT) planner’s analysis. RT makes the statement: “The moment civil war is declared, the government loses,” which is patently false.
Let’s consider that the government is full of bureaucrats, many (possibly most) of whom are Left Wing apparatchiks, as evidenced by how President Trump finds it so difficult to get mid-level apparatchiks to implement the policies with which they disagree. Unlike you, they will keep their jobs during this war.
I would push back on the idea that the federal government is completely helpless because government controls financial institutions: bank accounts, 401ks, IRAs, other retirement accounts and pensions, etc. An enormous amount of power and influence can be brought to bear against those involved in a legitimate civil war. (Side note: If you expect to fight in this civil war, you might want to cash out before it happens.)
Under a Democratic president, that power and influence would absolutely target the ‘domestic terrorists’. We’re talking about easy territory for Emergency Powers, in which the finances of those involved would be immediately frozen and probably confiscated.
That means in addition to being on the run from at least federal law enforcement (if not parts of the military), you have no job, you have no income, you have no access to your finances, you will lose your house, your family’s well-being will be put in jeopardy, and that’s going to keep a lot of people out of this supposed fight.
We’re not talking about millions of Americans walking away from their jobs, or taking time off work, to go fight in some fantasy civil war. And it’s incredibly short-sighted to think that any force opposing the federal government would win in the snap of some fingers, as RT alleges.
We’re not looking at a high intensity, conventional war. It’s not going to happen. What’s far more likely is that states or regions disassociate themselves from federal authority and decouple from the Union, if a war were to occur. But, again, I’d point out that so many Americans are so dependent on a functioning national economy and our financial system that there’s too much at risk for most people to get involved at any level. This is going to bring financial hardships that most have not considered.
You have to understand that a conventional war like the one John Mark and RT are talking about would be the end of trillions of dollars of financial interests. Win, lose, or draw, it means losing everything because a left wing government is not going to allow ‘domestic terrorists’ to have comfortable lives. They will immediately seek ways to raise the cost of your involvement, and they need the money, anyway. Stealing your bank accounts and retirement savings is a no-brainer.
6:20: “[Disrupting public utilities like electricity] would also turn the people against the government more quickly and paralyze the government’s propaganda machine.” I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan where utilities were disrupted by insurgents. The people didn’t blame the government for the attacks. They mostly blamed the Americans, followed by the insurgents.
Even if attacks to take down the grid were successful, we’re again talking about the immediate loss of trillions of dollars in financial interests. You are not going to be heralded as the saviors of the country. You are going to be seen as domestic terrorists, and you’re going to piss off a lot of people — including law enforcement, military, and others who may have nominally been on your side, but who’s lives will be vastly more difficult because they no longer have their livelihoods, retirements, pensions, or benefits. And now their families are put at risk because you took away the last part of convenient life they had.
I also need to point out that John Mark gives a “big advantage” to the right wing in their ability to take out the power grid. Furthermore, John Mark says of this: “The Left establishment and the military have no equivalent ability to create such a big bang for buck type activity [sic] or leverage over the grassroots right wing revolutionaries.”
You know what’s easier than taking out the power grid? The government selectively turning off parts of the grid under its emergency powers. The power goes down in areas where the uprisings are the worst and the government lets the people know that the power comes back on as soon as the uprising is quelled. This happens around the world all the time. It’s a standard procedure, along with cell services. That’s a lot of people who want a return to normalcy and who are now turned against the insurgents. That’s a lot of people turning on the insurgents so they can get their lives restored.
8:00: RT then goes on to describe that government studies show that 30 percent of the American public would join a revolution against the government. I can’t confirm or deny that, and neither can RT without some evidence. (Does John Mark even mention where he found RTs post?)
We’d have to break down this 30 percent along the lines of what we know to be true about modern civil wars: only a small fraction does any of the fighting. Maybe one percent on average, certainly no more than five percent. The rest would provide what’s called “combat support” or “combat service support.” Transportation, logistics, sabotage, propaganda, etc. — the other two sides of the three-part insurgency (guerrilla fighters, the underground, the auxiliary). Read this for additional information.
RT claims that, historically, you only need 10 percent of a population to participate in an armed rebellion in order to win. One of the most preeminent thinkers and strategists on guerrilla warfare, USMC Brigadier General Samuel Griffith and his studies show that popular support from 15-25 percent of the population is the bottom of what’s required for a successful insurgency. I don’t know where RT got his information, but I’m willing to share my citations if he’ll share his.
John Mark claims that 10-15 million Americans consider themselves Alt-Right, which was probably based on the famous 2016 poll, back when Alt-Right still meant merely ‘fed up with the GOP establishment,’ instead of the association with white nationalism that it carries today. Maybe there are legitimately 10-15 million white nationalists in America, but they’re geographically dispersed and have negligible political power. And the establishment is dead set on limiting their influence. Even if that number were 15 million, the Alt-Right represents less than five percent of the American populace — which is far short of what’s required for a successful insurgency. In other words, a “white nationalist civil war” is not going to happen. A “conservative civil war” is only slightly more likely, as I’ll explain below. When viewed in proper context, the point John Mark is actually making favors secession or a regional conflict with a higher likelihood of success… which is a far more likely possibility than a conventional, nationwide, coast to coast civil war, which is just bonkers to consider.
11:45: RT points out that the U.S. is among the world’s largest arms manufacturers. In the event of a civil war, the federal government would immediately move to shut down and confiscate production. In the lead up, there would likely be laws and additional regulations, which would ironically accelerate the conflict. Either way, these factories won’t be churning out arms during the conflict.
On the topic of 4GW and Afghanistan, the thinking here is incredibly, incredibly short-sighted and people who say these things have no clue what they’re talking about.
YES, the Taliban has run circles around U.S. Forces in Afghanistan but let’s keep in mind a few things…
– The kill ratio for U.S. soldiers is something like 30:1. That is, 30 Taliban killed for every one U.S. soldier. U.S. Forces win a large majority of tactical engagements. By a landslide, it’s not even close. Tactically, no one is better than the U.S. military. Afghanistan was a strategic loss due to politics, the doctrinal failures of nation building, and our “security partners” in the Afghan military and government, 90% of whom were too incompetent and/or too corrupt to win.
– U.S. Forces were greatly limited by resources and manpower in Afghanistan. Nearly everything soldiers used or consumed was flown or driven in from out of country. That won’t be the case in the United States.
– This is probably the greatest differing factor: Had Afghanistan ubiquitously adopted social media like Americans, that war would have been over in weeks. If I, as a targeting intelligence analyst, had access to years worth of Facebook photos and check-ins, Twitter posts, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, and other information, we could have mapped out insurgent cells in hours. (In fact, there’s software that can automatically do that for you.) Access to that kind of data is a targeteer’s dream.
You throw in Google data, cell phone geolocation, Ancestry DNA, and people who know you and also hate you, and we’re talking about an incredible amount of targeting intelligence — not to mention some of it would be real-time. Yes, there are frustrations with that volume of information and those kinds of data, but most people who engage in the “civil war” talk don’t understand how radically their lives would have to change in order to avoid being killed or captured.
John Mark and whoever else can talk about 4GW as much as they want, but if that’s as much as you understand about warfighting and how wars are executed in real life, you don’t know enough.
AT THIS POINT…
At this point, I’m going to stop annotating this whole video and end with a few final points and some conclusions based on John Mark’s final conclusions.
There’s far more to consider about this conflict than what this video shows. John Mark’s matrix is extremely simple and likely inaccurate for at least a few reasons.
The first reason is because America is so geographically, politically, and ideologically diverse, generalized statements will be wrong in many cases. For instance, even generalizing about the military is difficult because there are other important factors than merely how they voted. Yes, there are good reasons to believe that the military favored President Trump in 2016. That doesn’t mean a majority will favor, much less fight, in a revolution. There are economic, ideological, and psychological factors to consider. It also doesn’t mean that a vote for Trump is going to be a vote for revolution. Some may have voted for Trump because he promised to end the wars and not start any new ones. A vote doesn’t indicate die-hard ideology, which is why you can’t just say, ‘Well, the military mostly voted for Trump, therefore the military would fight in a revolution.’ (That’s not a direct quote, but that was the gist.)
Additionally, conditions in western Oregon, northern Georgia, and Rhode Island are so widely different that they defy a shared generalization. If you’re going to look at a civil war, we have to look region by region. Politics, race and ethnicity, ideology, human terrain, physical terrain, willingness to get involved in the conflict, law enforcement opinion, other particular advantages, etc., all widely vary. YOU CANNOT MAKE SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS about a country this diverse. It’s a shortcut, it’s lazy, and you’ll be wrong about a great many things in a great many areas if you do.
Another reason why the matrix is superficial is because it doesn’t contain a wide enough spectrum of indicators. There are some really great factors not considered, like quality of leadership, quality of troops, operational terrain, military efficiency, appeal of program, ability to (securely) communicate, and lots of others. You can’t accurately analyze two sides of a conflict unless you can accurately measure what matters. John Mark’s matrix is very incomplete.
Another reason why it’s simple is because it doesn’t portray a specific measurement of anything. The right way to do a matrix like this is to assign points, such as on a scale of 1-3 or 1-5 or 1-10. Actual measurements scored according to empirical data is a far better way to accurately measure who has the advantage in any particular factor… and I’d again point out that these advantages differ greatly by region, so the integrity of the entire matrix is questionable at best, even if some generalizations are generally true (i.e., the moot point of nuclear weapons).
Based on this oversimplification, what John Mark probably doesn’t realize is that a complete matrix would actually make a case against a national revolution or civil war, and instead make a great case for a regional conflict or possibly war for secession.
I’ve been writing about low intensity conflict and why it’s the model for what’s ahead — and also for what’s already happening — for the better part of two or three years. (Start here for a primer.)
John Mark ends his video by saying, “[The grassroots Right] will have ZERO political power in the current system,” which is also not true.
Red states will continue to have state power. The lower courts and Supreme Courts have conservative majorities. The GOP will be relegated to a regional party, but they’ll maintain some political power outside of the Executive branch. The Senate favors the GOP for next several years if not a decade, unless amnesty happens. Even then, you’re going to see states file lawsuits, a lower court Trump appointee is going to issue an injunction against amnesty, and it’s going to play out with a conservative majority SCOTUS.
But generally I do agree that we need to start looking at our options because this stuff is going to happen. There’s a good likelihood of Democratic one-party rule within ten years. That’s going to be significantly disruptive, and it makes eventual conflict inevitable… not nationally, but regionally.
My two cents. Disagree? Let me know in the comments. (You can watch the video here.)
Always Out Front,