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.
Always Out Front,
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.