“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,