What another civil war might look like

This is a fairly decent article from ForeignPolicy.com.

I agree with the last paragraph and it’s interesting how quickly it is trending upward.

“For now, America is held in line by a strong rule of law and a good-enough economy that most people still have something to lose by choosing violence. But as our government and corporate leaders continue to deconstruct rule of law and economic opportunity, the norms degrade and the space for transgression becomes bigger. To FP’s poll, my gut says the likelihood of a second U.S. civil war in the next five years is between 20 and 40 percent but trending upward significantly.”

This part of the article I don’t agree with.

“For the United States, the shape of future homeland conflicts will be asymmetrical, distributed, and heterogeneous. A contemporary homeland conflict would likely self-compose with numerous dynamic factions organized by digital tools around ideological and affinity networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups and their counterparts engaging in light skirmishes along the overlapping edges of their networks, mixed with occasional high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they wield transgression. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less territorial than ideological.”

It’s the “heterogeneous” that throws me. In this context heterogeneous is a fancy way of saying diverse. That may be the case eventually. This is what happened in the Chinese civil war where at one time there were more than 30 different factions.

But at the beginning it very likely will be two sides. Not big armies, but growing groups aligned around one or two core issues. The diversity and multiple factions only happens after the initial two groups sub-divide.

There is another  piece that is missing in the FP analysis and that is the flow of food and materials in The United States. The left are smaller, highly populated islands surrounded by the folks more aligned with the right. This means that another civil war may not be initially very violent at all. It could just be blockades of major cities. If  you consider the beltways around most major cities it becomes clear that a physical, economic blockade would be relatively inexpensive but very effective.

Furthermore, digital networks erode the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can browse the literature, claim allegiance in some far-flung burb, and start whipping up violence against their targets. Antifa and the Alt-Right are a hodge-podge of varying affinities loosely coupled under their respective brand names with local chapters coordinated across global networks. These are not top-down hierarchies. They’re agile and shapeless with the capacity to grow quickly then disappear.”

This part is true, but I don’t think it will be a factor. I think what is more likely is that the right would cut the digital pipeline. Snipping a few fiber lines around the cities and knocking over a few cell towers would almost immediately end digital communication with the cities. This would stop them from coordinating a defense with other cities or suburban areas. The geographic nature of the left/right divide would suggest to me that the right could communicate and coordinate without the digital infrastructure much more efficiently than the left.

We’re working on a much larger analysis of what it would look like if civil war were to break out. But it can never be perfect and may not even be close. Once the violence begins things tend to deteriorate into chaos rather quickly.


What a new U.S. civil war might look like

34 thoughts on “What another civil war might look like”

  1. I got internet last week. Never had the option of cable tv. No cell coverage until the turn of the century. Almost 20 years ago fiberoptic cables were buried through my property but I had no OnRamp to the information superhighway. Dial up.

    For a long time the local joke was Siria had better internet and roads. This makes me seriously question if anyone would damage the internet infrastructure as as attack on the cities.

    In the article opening statements rule of law and economic opportunities are established as both barriers and triggers for violence.

    One of our largest local employers is the debt collection industry. This debt is not shed at death, but is passed on to the heirs. Our trailer parks are full of intergenerational debt, surrounded by farms and industry with intergenerational wealth. Cities and rural areas are frequently viewed as the combating sides, but they do not interact and mix. Just as a fire cannot start or sustain itself without a complete fire tetrahedron https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/News-and-media/Press-Room/Reporters-Guide-to-Fire-and-NFPA/All-about-fire violence needs all the components together.

    Trying to guess the tactics of a war without identifying the components needed to start and sustain one is not productive.

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