Some misconceptions about another civil war.


From the time I first started talking about this site a good number of people have expressed concerns about the topic.

Some believe that it is dangerous to talk about civil war. Others believe that we won’t have a civil war because the nation isn’t divided in half. So there can’t be two big armies against each other on battlefields. Still others believe that the military would step in and the citizens couldn’t fight back.

I think the first and most important thing is not talking about it. Keeping a lid on a boiling pot just allows the pressure to build. If we don’t talk about the division, it may get worse. If won’t don’t talk about the horrors of civil war, I think they are much more likely to be realized.

When we begin to see the incivility and divisiveness as just part of modern politics we can miss the danger signs. Political disagreement does not and should not be violent. And it should not be mean-spirited. Political differences should be resolved with intellectual debate and failing that, compromise.

If we aren’t talking to each other we cannot possibly compromise. If we are mean to each other we are on a path to violence.

Violence is always, and I mean always the result of two things. Either someone is so angry with another person, they lash out with violence. That’s domestic abuse or street fighting among teenagers..

The other cause of violence is you want something you cannot get on your own or you want someone to do something they will not otherwise do. This kind of violence is almost always a lack of intelligence. If you cannot move someone to your side with logic, you lash out with violence. This kind of violence is committed by people who cannot otherwise win. If you cannot convince the voters to vote for you, you bash your opponents over the head.

Defending yourself is not violence. It is self-preservation. There is a huge difference between smashing someone over the head with a baseball bat because you disagree with him politically, and shooting a bear that is about to attack you.

To stop the potential for civilian violence or civil war, we need to talk about it. People need to understand that whatever victory may be obtained will almost certainly be temporary. The loss will be permanent.

The nation doesn’t need to be divided in half to have a civil war.

In fact most civil wars are small battles that move from location to location. The Lebanese civil war, The Yugoslav civil war, The Chinese civil are and the French civil war of the 16th century all took place in many different locations. In France the fighting started among neighbors in Paris and quickly moved to the suburbs and more rural areas. In the Lebanese civil war the fighting was generally in Beirut, but there were also pitched battles with hundreds on each side in small cities and towns. The civil war in China in the early 1900s ranged far and wide. Some towns were literally wiped off the map. Other towns never saw a single battle.

The American notion of a civil war of half the nation seceding and raising a large professional army is rare. A modern civil war is more likely to involve violence between a few dozen combatants in St. Louis Missouri or Portland Oregon. Then the violence grows both in numbers of fighters and locations. In a relatively short period of time commerce shrinks. Movement of goods and people becomes dangerous. This results in further anger and more violence.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines may not get involved at all. Hopefully this is the case. If the military engages things will quickly get much worse. The same could be said of the local police and National Guard troops. Once professional, government paid troops are involved in the fighting the perception will be that the government has taken a side. Then of course there will be mass defections to one side or the other. Possibly with the introduction of much more powerful means of war.

Then we may have two large armies going at it. But what of the suburbs and rural areas? They cannot all be subdued by half an army. So the fighting quickly devolves to small clashes again.

So to dispel those misconceptions: Talking about civil unrest is the only path to avoiding it in the first place. Most civil wars throughout history have been a series of small battles. And the United States military may not be involved at all.