What will it take to start a domestic conflict?

8

“It will never happen.”

That’s often a response I get when I start talking about why I think we’re headed towards a domestic conflict. Never mind that we’re seeing the early warning hallmarks of a civil war/domestic conflict; most people can’t be bothered to consider the possibility. But, in fact, we’re probably already in a very low grade domestic conflict and we’re just waiting to see when/if it goes hot.

Here’s the key thing about our future conflict: it won’t be a conventional war. We’re not talking about tanks in the streets or bombing insurgents into submission. The combatants of tomorrow won’t take part in pitched battles of maneuver warfare, but they’ll engage in what we’re already seeing:

  • political warfare
  • economic warfare
  • information operations/propaganda
  • cultural/class war
  • sporadic political violence

In other words, our war includes all the activities below the threshold of conventional war, but above routine, peaceful competition. Calls to boycott Tesla because Elon Musk donated to Congressional Republicans is an example of economic warfare. Boycotts of all stripes and terminating employment based on political affiliation is economic warfare; it’s intended to damage the livelihoods of political opponents. The steady stream of labeling as “fascist” and “Nazi” those who aren’t actually fascists or Nazis is information warfare intended to de-humanize political opponents and make them easier to target. Fomenting racial animosity and class war is a great indicator of social unrest because one of the requisites of domestic conflict is a politicized social base with a grievance; the bigger the grievance, the more the unrest. Politicized social bases who arm themselves to solve their grievances, instead of solving them through political channels, start insurgencies and revolutions. Violence against civilians to achieve political goals is terrorism. (We’re seeing examples of all these things, as reported in the National Intelligence Bulletin.)

It’s increasingly likely that we’ll arrive at a point where one or more of these politicized social bases arrives at the conclusion that their problems can’t be solved through political channels, or that nonviolent solutions are less preferable than violent ones. Some will scoff, but there’s a very good chance that we have another recession within the next few years. High youth unemployment is a universal early warning indicator of civil unrest, and we’re likely to see high youth unemployment during the next recession (and especially so as automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence change our economic landscape). We should absolutely consider the possibility not just that a domestic conflict is possible, but that it’s probably already here — again, just a very low level.

Let’s address the psychology of violence in general and compare it to domestic conflict. At an individual level, why is anyone moved to violence? Why do people engage in seemingly irrational behavior (like indiscriminate or targeted violence)? Because they feel that violence is justified or they’re able to rationalize their decisions (i.e., violence against “fascists” is rationalized because “the mere existence of a fascist is an inherently violent act”). Why did a shooter attempt to murder Republican congressmen last year? Because he was able to rationalize the violence against them (“Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”, according to his Facebook post). The media greatly aids in extending the myth of fascist Trump (he’s obviously no fascist), and the constant drum beat of victim pimping over issues of class, race, privilege, and capitalism perpetuate a grievance and victimhood culture. It’s this resentment, especially over issues of race and class, that’s historically been exploited to move people to violence.

At a broader level, countrymen (politicized social bases) go to war against themselves when the alternative to war (i.e., being dominated or conquered) is less preferable than fighting, and they feel that they can or should use violence to achieve their political objectives. War in America will increasingly look like tribal and gang conflict, but along the lines of politics, culture, race/ethnicity, and class, and armed with the tools of economic and information warfare that ultimately generates violence.

According to a recent Rasmussen survey, nearly one-third of Americans believe that the U.S. will have some kind of civil war within the next five years. In that same poll, half of all Americans felt that the country was more divided as a result of the Obama administration, which divided Americans by race/ethnicity and class for eight years. [source] You can’t create fault lines to exploit for political gain, and then complain later when there’s an earthquake… yet that’s exactly where we are.

No one can tell the future, but we can identify trends. We are trending towards more social upheaval, spurred on by demographic and cultural shifts (“America is for us” nationalists vs “America is for everyone” internationalists; traditionalists/conservatives vs progressive globalists; capitalists vs socialists/communists) and technological advancement (machine learning, automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics which will be very economically disruptive). All these factors will change the political landscape in America, and we should be open to the potential for generational war because that’s how long this domestic conflict could last until it can be resolved. (For some context, the Irish Troubles lasted roughly 30 years.)

Those are my thoughts this morning. 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.

Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper




 

 

8 Comments
  1. Aesop says

    Von Clausewitz famously wrote,
    War is a continuation of politics, by other means.
    The reverse is also true:
    Politics is a continuation of war, by other means.

    As polarization, public revulsion, and loss after loss at the ballot box closes off the Left’s political options, (and given that they aren’t the most rational, stable, and patient bunch to begin with), they have and will continue to push beyond mere political solutions, and use the means you noted to wage the multi-front war they seem to desire from deep down inside.

    As we learned from Guido the Killer Pimp in Risky Business, “In a sluggish economy, never, ever f— with another man’s livelihood…”

    The Left will ignore that lesson, and there will be pushback.
    Unrest turns to boycotts turns to strikes turns to bombings turns to leg- and head-breakers, and that’s here, in the United States, in still-living memory.

    But we don’t teach history any more.

    Ignorance, stupidity, delusion, and gullibility will be the midwives that bring about the birth of a hot war with multiple loci from those different assymetrical warfare approaches, rather than a great classic conflict. And no one will be more surprised when it gets away from them, both by incompetence and malign design, than the Left.

    Agitation turns to shouting turns to shoving turns to punching turns to shooting.
    It’s true when psychotic patients escalate in the hospital, it’s true during police confrontations, and it’s true in mob actions. Except in the last case, with less reason or accountability, once groups descend to mob mentality. People that start out from a basis of irrationality and incivility don’t give birth to calm, considerate discussions of issues.

    We’re already regularly at Stage 4 and occasionally Stage 5 in that continuum, above.
    People who’ve experienced it describe personal financial disaster as happening “Slowly at first, and then all at once.” The meltdown of society probably isn’t going to be a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 sort of moment. It’s going to be the more frequent, shorter, and sharper escalations, leading to greater amounts of violence, until suddenly anything, everywhere, turns into maximum meltdown.

    At that point, I suspect the biggest crowds with diversity will be the worst, and the places with near parity the likeliest flashpoints, i.e. all the places where big red areas rub up against those little blue islands on the political maps, or those closest to a true 50/50 split. Mostly- and all-red or all-blue spots probably won’t be as bad, though woe to those in the minority in either case.

    Bracken’s “Bosnia times Rwanda” quote applies.

    Those are the political faultlines I see.
    Zip codes, neighborhoods, blocks, streets, house-by-house, and door-to-door.

    That red-yellow-green-blue map may become a lot more important, at least in the faultline areas.

    Just like the no-go areas in Eurostan, it always takes a certain amount of diversity to make a mob, and then it just wants a leader or three, a push, and a spark.

  2. noman says

    “those small blue islands” ….ah, yes…. those large concentrations of folks who depend on others for each and everything they need and use in their everyday lives.

    consider this…most if not all stores have only 3 days reserves. that means if you shut down the supply line for 3 days, the shelves will be empty, the gas tanks will be empty, and the population will be on the verge of anarchy, no matter which flavor of politics they preferred before the crisis.

    if a small group of determined “terrorists” downed several miles of power lines in the most remote areas, on every supply line feeding a city, any city, and delayed repair crews with random sniper fire, all hell would break lose.

    or if that same group blew overpasses on every incoming highway, then set fire to a mile of empty cars, and again used sniper fire to delay fire/tow crews…well, it isn’t hard to see being in a big city is not the most advantageous place to be today is it??

    1. Aesop says

      Srsly?

      And then both halves of that city, the blue half and the red half, will move out into the countryside, side by side, find you, torture you alive, find out your friends and accomplices, torture them too, and then burn you, your friends, and your combined families, alive and screaming, and their homes, and televise it all live, to the last child, stick, and stone, as a lesson pour encourager les autres.

      You’ll turn every inhabitant of every city into an instant convert to the other side, too, including the 500 metropolii you didn’t attack.
      Well-played.

      Kill them all, God will know his own.” may have been a fine strategy in medieval times. In a globally interconnected world and instant communications, not so much.
      So, are you going to burn space too? Shoot down all the satellites? Tear out all the electrical and telephone wires? Jam all the radio and TV stations? What are you going to do when they blow up the refineries and power plants that supply your area, then go on search-and-destroy looking for lit houses with generators?

      How are your neighbors in Hooterville going to feel about your plan when that happens, on Day Two?

      This ain’t gonna be city vs. country, it’s going to be the neighbors in apartment 3C against the guy from 2B, and the folks from the other corner coming up the cul-de-sac for you.

      For crying out loud, do some electoral math: in the last election, the states you won, and the states you lost, aren’t ALL blue or ALL red, the map is purple, down at the individual voter level, sometimes inside the same house, or even the same marital bed.

      BTW, that “three days” nonsense is a myth and hype as well. They’ll run out of Doritos in three days, and then you’ll have to make do with Ruffles. Aside from people panic hoarding, it’ll take a lot longer than that to strip stores, and while people may not have 6 months or three years’ food in the pantry, they’ll get by for a lot longer than you think. BTDT for real, got the T-shirts. So has anyone who’s region has been through a Cat V hurricane or whose town has been hit by an F5 tornado.

      They’ll be around at least long enough to find, fix, and finish any bright light trying to cut their logistical throats, because you’ll have become the biggest threat to their existence there is; hunger will be secondary at that point, and won’t kick in for a couple of weeks. And they’ll have a serious burr under their saddle to solve that “you guys” problem once and for all.

      Other things will make cities untenable, in weeks or months, but not a few days.
      Unless someone nominates themselves to be the bullet- and bomb-magnet for the whole populations’ frustrations. Best that no one volunteers to take that one for the team.

      So maybe re-think that cunning plan for a minute, will ya please?
      Less agoraphobia, more analysis.

      A better early-stage move would be to stay out of X-ring entirely, and let gravity work on its own. Then see what you’re dealing with a bit farther down the road.

      This will be a game of poker, not solitaire.
      The enemy gets a vote.

      1. Anon says

        someone has clearly not seen reports from LA riots, Oakland, etc. Cities can be paralyzed within hours, not days,

        1. Aesop says

          Yeah, living not just in CA, but in L.A., through two riots thirty years apart, and two major earthquakes, and a few other wee local problems, I can see how I might be misinformed on the subject under discussion.

          L.A. wasn’t “paralyzed” in any of them.

          Governed by idiots, yes. That’s been true pretty much since the 1700s under the Spanish.

          The two situations, “paralyzed” and “governed by idiots”, are both bad, but hardly interchangeable values.

          We also weren’t out of food at any point in time after the last earthquake, despite all electricity being off in the entire city of Los Angeles for 11 days straight (no cash registers, no credit cards, no ATMs, and largely pre-cellphones), no potable water running for a month, and hundreds of freeway bridges on every major route into and through the area being out.

          Oh, and no one ate each other, or lost their minds.

          That’s why I’m telling you the “three days” stuff is doomer porn fantasies, not reality.

          But outsiders trying to make it worse would get the perpetrators hunted down like rabid dogs in about a half an hour.

          You want to discuss what happens after a couple/few months, we can talk. That’s when you start getting into Venezuela food riot territory.

          Either way, the best thing to do if you’re not there in the first place, is to not go there, and not poke the situation, unless you’re eager for a short but interesting end-of-life experience.

          Starting with considering how anyone thinks travelling to the nearest big city to sew all that merry mischief is going to be regarded by the Officer Friendlies, Deputy Fifes, and state police who’d be manning roadblocks 24/7/UFN at the state, city, and county limits, within about two hours after things start looking bad.

  3. Brent says

    Another important point is that each side will wage a war of assassination of the other side’s leaders. That’s how you fight an asymmetrical internal get together.

  4. […] Our war includes all the activities below the threshold of conventional war, but above routine, peac… Calls to boycott Tesla because Elon Musk donated to Congressional Republicans is an example of economic warfare. Boycotts of all stripes and terminating employment based on political affiliation is economic warfare; it’s intended to damage the livelihoods of political opponents. The steady stream of labeling as “fascist” and “Nazi” those who aren’t actually fascists or Nazis is information warfare intended to de-humanize political opponents and make them easier to target. Fomenting racial animosity and class war is a great indicator of social unrest because one of the requisites of domestic conflict is a politicized social base with a grievance; the bigger the grievance, the more the unrest. Politicized social bases who arm themselves to solve their grievances, instead of solving them through political channels, start insurgencies and revolutions. Violence against civilians to achieve political goals is terrorism. (We’re seeing examples of all these things, as reported in the National Intelligence Bulletin.) […]

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