What Might Civil War Be Like? – Forward Observer

What Might Civil War Be Like?

The American Thinker ran an interesting piece entitled, “What Might Civil War Be Like?” and the author brings up some good points. I don’t agree on all points, as I’ll explain, but let’s start with what the author gets right and my thoughts.

A second American Civil War would be much more similar to the Spanish Civil War, with the leftists dominating the cities and conservatives controlling the countryside.

One thing I noticed in Iraq was the U.S. focus on securing population centers. We look at Operation Gold Rush and the many T-wall projects followed, and we see an effort to root out destabilizing factors like attacks against civilians and critical infrastructure. That was David Kilcullen’s “You have to kill a city in order to save it” strategy. These T-walls were concrete barriers about 12ft. in height and were put around neighborhoods to wall them off. The only traffic into or out of the city was via guarded checkpoints. This enabled — at least in theory — U.S. and Coalition Forces to slowly squeeze off supply lines to insurgents and terrorists operating inside the city. And once you’re out of explosives and ammunition, fighting becomes much more problematic.

But it also enabled — again, in theory — the Government of Iraq to hold elections, where the highest concentration of citizens inside population centers could vote in relative peace. Democratic elections were intended to bring order back to the country, while the remaining insurgents were fought and killed. That was the plan, at least.

And so we read this first statement and we actually see that, as far as state or national elections go, securing the population centers with the greatest number of voters would allow what remains of the nation or the states to hold “free and fair” elections that would give legitimacy to one side of the conflict.

Typically, I’m not a fan of describing what a war would look like on a national level. That really is a fool’s errand at this point. But we can look locally or regionally and get a much better idea of what things could look like. You are probably best suited to do that, as long as you understand some basic tenets of intelligence analysis and have an expert grasp on your locale. But consider that controlling the population centers where voters are certainly would be high on my list if I wanted to retain ‘legitimate’ power.


The collapse of the world’s remaining superpower would take much of the world down with it. A global economic crisis would be inevitable. The withdrawal of American forces from bases across the world to fight at home would also create a power vacuum that others, even under economic strain, would be tempted to exploit.

I don’t disagree, however, we do run into a conundrum here. On the one hand, if the U.S. government is collapsing, then how can it order and/or pay for the logistics of getting the soldiers home? Something like this would have to be done early in the conflict, before the collapse occurred. If the collapse of the U.S. Government was sudden — let’s say a cyber attack or sudden and overwhelming financial/monetary crisis — then I’m just not sure that we’d be closing down bases overseas and repatriating arms, vehicles, and equipment back to the States. We also have to consider that orders have to be ‘cut’ for redeployment from overseas and money has to be allocated for the logistics behind those moves. So this is not as simple as getting everyone onto planes and coming back to the States. In a true ‘collapse’ scenario, I would not expect U.S. military personnel or equipment to come home any time soon.

Add to this the breakdown of our transportation system… The internet would fail… Financial systems would fail… All Federal government functions, including Social Security, would fail… Food production, heavily dependent on diesel fuel, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, not to mention a steady supply of genetically engineered seeds, would slump alarmingly.

This is a worst case scenario. Part of the doctrine of Low Intensity Conflict is that conflict can happen without the nation stopping. We can look at the IRA’s activity in Great Britain as one example of a low intensity conflict that was fundamentally disruptive, but did not result in collapse. Our national infrastructure certainly is vulnerable, and during a high grade conflict, critical infrastructure is likely to be targeted. That means local or regional systems disruption, however, that does not necessarily mean national collapse. An accumulation of these degraded systems could lead to to a national collapse, though. But I don’t necessarily think a ‘national collapse’ is a foregone conclusion.

A large concern is that if 10-20% or more of working Americans stopped going to work because of a wide scale conflict, then demand for electrical power and cell/internet bandwidth could cause brownouts and blackouts. That would cause a cascade of effects until virtually no one is going to work, and we’ve gone from somewhat small and regional conflicts to a truly national conflict.

And on that point, the trigger of a domestic conflict is likely to dictate what the conflict actually looks like. Organized political violence limited to a specific area might remain limited to that area.

As I see it right now, economic conditions are the lynch pin in question. If economic conditions are improving, if people are working and finding economic success, then they have much less reason to quit their jobs and fight in the streets. But if economic conditions turn south, then a great many more people will lack the optimism we see now, resulting in an ‘I have nothing to do and nothing to lose’ attitude. That’s an attitude we see now, especially in inner cities where conflict is already ongoing, and it’s for that reason the cities will absolutely bear the worst of any domestic conflict.

All in all, it’s a good read, and the author certainly provides some topics to consider.

[Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/12/what_might_civil_war_be_like.html]


Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper

If you’re concerned about where we’re headed as a country, whether on the near-end of the spectrum or the far end of the spectrum (social, political and economic instability; domestic conflict; or collapse of empire), and want to stay informed on what the headlines don’t cover, then I invite you to try us out. If you’re not happy within the first two weeks, I’ll refund your monthly or annual subscription cost – no questions asked. You can get access to our intelligence reporting and training area here.



Mike Shelby is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. He's now the CEO of Forward Observer.


  1. The linchpin of any scenario is the electrical grid. If it goes down the second order effects are:

    * You don’t have a job. Most office work requires the use of a computer. Lacking juice you can’t use it. Even order pickers use computers to pull orders so the warehouses shutdown.
    * Refueling is not possible as the pumps are electrically driven.
    * Food shortages in 3 days. JIT creates a situation where there is no slack in the food distribution system.
    * The cities cease to function. Anything taller than 4 floors is a death trap. No elevators.
    * Future food sources crater. The megafarms are highly dependent on irrigation all pumped out of the ground by electricity.

    The idea that the govt would wish to maintain a hold on the cities for political reasons is correct. But that the cities can be maintained is highly doubtful. Consider if you will, electric generation is not located in any major US city but in the hinterlands. Sever some major hubs and things go dark.

    1. Disruption of the grid would most likely be regional, not national. As long as there are resources (DHS, National Guard, FEMA, etc.) to throw at the problem, I would image that the situation would be akin to a Hurricane Katrina-type event on an entire region, but with the psychological effects on the nation like that of 9/11.

  2. With severe economic conditions, there is always the possibility of accompanying electrical grid shutdown. In the time it takes to effect the human condition of those who make electrical generation possible, you can count on the power going out on an East Coast, West Coast, or Texas grid, which is what the US is split into. I don’t see NG and so on taking their place, as it requires a lot of skill and knowledge to keep these electrical grids going. Add in civil strife and uncertain food supply, and you’ve got the perfect storm.

  3. Probably the first thing that will happen is that the arms and ammunition of the civilian population will be confiscated. This happened during Hurricane Katrina – law-abiding citizens were disarmed and forced to leave their homes, those that did not leave were left without means of self-defense, and when the police either ran away, or in some cases turned feral, they were victimized by those who were not disarmed – the criminal gangs, some of whom picked up rogue police officers as new members. That was a major city. As for rural areas, mass gun confiscation has occurred as well. In Greensburg, Kansas, a tornado struck and the town’s population was removed, some at gunpoint:
    “The first thing I would like for everyone to acknowledge is that the residents of Greensburg were forced to evacuate and that, in and of itself, was an illegal action as martial law had not been declared. There were many people who wanted to stay and they were threatened with arrest and forcible removal if they did not leave as ordered. The tornado happened at 9:46pm on Friday evening, May 4, 2007 and they were forced to leave within a couple hours of it, being given no time to collect themselves or assess the damages or even try to pick up anything such as guns and valuables. Ed Klummp, Police Chiefs Association, testified at the House committee hearing with a position opposing The Emergency Powers Act and said the evacuations were so they could search for bodies and shut off gas and power and that the evacuation was for the safety of the residents. I have been told by a reliable source that the electricity was shut off prior to the tornado striking and the gas was shut off within a few hours after. It would seem that the evacuation was not necessary in light of that information. … This town was locked down tight for several days and no one was allowed in or out. The only people in that town during this time were Sheriffs Officers, Kansas Highway Patrol Officers, ATF, FEMA, National Guard, Police Officers from surrounding areas and some volunteers from Ft. Riley, generally speaking, government officials. … Many guns and other valuables such as jewelry have gone permanently missing and have never been recovered. There were some houses that were not destroyed and were in tact and habitable. Those folks did not want to leave but were forced to do so. When they returned they found their houses had been broken in to and all of their guns missing. … One family, whose house was not damaged, reported that officers were going to remove them at gun point when they refused to leave their property and a gun fight was only averted when a KBI agent stepped in front of the other officers and pleaded with them to consider what they were doing. Those residents had taken up their shotguns and were not going to leave.” http://www.reddirtreport.com/around-world/gun-confiscations-wake-greensburg-kan-tornado

    Most people on the right obey the laws, they believe that not complying with the laws is a very bad thing to do, and they are very well conditioned to be obedient to authority. Because of this, they’ll be an easy target – low-hanging fruit, so to speak, and they will be the first to be targeted in advance of credible intel in advance of possible hostilities. Greensburg will have been a practice run. This kind of gun confiscation may already be underway, with laws like Florida’s confiscation on receipt of a court order with affidavits from law enforcement that a gun-owner might be dangerous, to date 450 people have had their guns and ammunition seized. It doesn’t matter how many guns or how much ammo you have stored up, you have to have the will to use it, and in a situation where you may know the law enforcement people, this is going to be really difficult if not impossible.

    On the other hand, Maoist authoritarian leftists and gangs, such as MS-13, do not have the same regard for the law, and are likely to fight back, to the point where military units may have to do house-to-house search and seizure raids, and this may not be possible for too long – leaving people whose guns who have been taken vulnerable to them.

    This is probably something that people should think about in advance and settle in their minds as to what to do – and cooperation with neighbors might be a good idea as well. Finally, these raids occurred with the full cooperation of local law enforcement. Minus that, and a soft target might become a hard target.

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