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Are Americans Really Too Pampered and Neurotic to Fight a Civil War?
Here’s the problem with this type of thinking…
Over at the Daily Beast, Bonnie Kristian wrote a piece that has been getting a lot of attention called, “Americans Are Too Pampered and Neurotic to Fight a Civil War.” In it, she makes some good points:
Are we, as a people, really going to fight each other on the beaches, in the fields, and in the streets? Shall we really fight in the hills, where there is no air conditioning? In the forests, without refrigerators? Do we hate each other enough to eat hardtack? To undergo battlefield surgeries? Who knows about foraging anymore? Can you start a fire with nothing but sticks? (And there’s no YouTube tutorial—they’d knock down the cell towers.) In the last two years, large swaths of the country declared their lungs too weak to breathe through a cotton cloth, while others insisted it was deadly dangerous to take an open-air walk on a beach without that same cloth.
Gun control advocates like to note that fantasies about fending off tyranny with our private arsenals are unrealistic because the U.S. military is so well-armed, to which gun rights activists respond by pointing at places like Afghanistan, where insurgents can frustrate that same military for decades with small arms and guerilla tactics. And that’s true, but how many of us can do what those insurgents do? We don’t have traditional farming and survival skills. We can’t live in caves. We had a multi-month national discourse about toilet paper shortages.
If political violence becomes a regular feature of American life, then, my suspicion is it will be less pitched battles and more The Troubles (where Protestants and Catholics battled in typically low-intensity urban warfare in Northern Ireland for decades), crossed with Waco (where a religious separatist group fought federal law enforcement, with tragic results), with Twitter hell layered on top. More likely than a second civil war resembling the first would be intermittent spasms of violence around which, as the journalist Aris Roussinos put it, our “‘normal life’ continu[es] much the same as usual, except everyone [is] more fearful and depressed,” and the feds use escalatory violence to retain control, while the inflammatory pundit class does a steady business.
Places like Afghanistan are full of revolutionaries because day-to-day life is already miserable. If you’re poor, living in a hut, crapping in a hole, working all day, and worried about being murdered by some other tribe, civil war doesn’t seem so bad. Just being able to say, “Sure, this dirty, poor village might not be much, but if anyone’s going to be pushing people around here, it’s going to be us,” has a lot more appeal there than it does for an American. Personally? I live at the beach and appreciate my air conditioning. I have high-speed Internet, regularly take vacations, and have a massage chair in my living room. Do you think I’d like to get into a situation where I’m hiding in the woods, throwing my back out sleeping on the ground, and looking for opportunities to trade potshots with the other side?
Hell, no – and I’m not alone.
Just a few weeks ago, we were hearing stories about the military having difficulty finding recruits. Some of that is undoubtedly because the military kicked people out over vaccines and is going out of their way to show everyone how woke they are, but it’s also because Americans are getting softer, fatter, unhealthier, less mentally stable, less law-abiding, and generally less capable of fighting:
The pool of those eligible to join the military continues to shrink, with more young men and women than ever disqualified for obesity, drug use, or criminal records. Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testified before Congress that only 23% of Americans ages 17-24 are qualified to serve without a waiver to join, down from 29% in recent years. An internal Defense Department survey obtained by NBC News found that only 9% of those young Americans eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to do so, the lowest number since 2007.
Ultimately, wars are always fought by the young because the older people get, the less physically capable they are of fighting and the more they have to lose. So, what happens when the young are increasingly incapable of fighting as well? You might say, “Well, what about the BLM mobs? What about Antifa?” The BLM mobs were a problem solely because the people in charge forced the police to allow it. Could the police have shut them down in any city by using more aggressive tactics? Absolutely. The same goes for Antifa. They’re a problem because they’re allowed to be a problem. Yes, they do assault people, but it usually seems to be in the most cowardly fashion imaginable. It reminds me of the way that the Boggies (a hobbit parody) were described in Bored of the Rings (a Lord of the Rings parody I found hilarious in my twenties):
“…They remained masters of the low blow and the gang up… any small, slow, stupid beast that turned its back on a crowd of boggies was looking for a stomping.”
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If they’re jumping people 15-to-1, Antifa is aggressive and dangerous. However, from what I’ve seen of them, they’re soft, pampered weirdos who are going to get their skulls bounced off the pavement in most even fights. Similarly, if Jan. 6 was supposed to be an insurrection (which, of course, it actually wasn’t), it was the worst run, least organized, most poorly executed insurrection in modern history. A few violent people attacking the sort of glorified mall cops that guard the Capitol 10-to-1 along with hundreds of lookie-loos that wanted to get pictures of themselves committing a crime because they thought it would look cool on social media are not anchoring one side of a civil war.
So, to sum it all up, there’s nothing to worry about because Americans are just too soft for a civil war, right?
For one thing, if we’re just “too soft” to fight anymore, how do you explain Iraq and Afghanistan? If we’re talking special forces, drone strikes, and missile strikes, in the last twenty years Americans have intervened in Libya, Syria, Uganda, pirate ships in the Indian Ocean, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. The reality is that when there is war or civil war, most people aren’t fighting in it. In the actual Civil War, only roughly 10% of Americans were fighting. In WW2, that number crept up to 11%. Today, the number of Americans serving in the military is less than 1%. In other words, if there is a civil war, percentage-wise, there may not be huge numbers of people fighting.
Nor do there need to be for exactly the reasons Kristian stated. America is a very big, very soft country filled with pampered, neurotic people that are prone to panicking over even statistically unlikely threats. There’s probably just as good a chance that you’ll be struck by lightning as there is that your child will be hurt during a school shooting, or you’ll die from COVID that you got walking around on a beach, yet look at the endless terror that those scenarios have produced in America in the last few years. Unfortunately, what that means is that a cataclysmic amount of damage can be done by a relatively small, well-armed, decentralized force that’s intent on creating panic, destroying important things, and creating a body count.
I’ve never served in the military, but I absolutely guarantee you that if you gave me 25 million dollars, 200 well-equipped, five-man teams of men with military training, American IDs, a familiarity with the country, and a week to prepare, they could kill 100,000 people, do 10 trillion dollars’ worth of damage, and nearly shut down half the country over the course of a year. What do you think a professional with a bigger budget and real intel could do? Before you answer this, think about the supply shortages, how many high population targets there are in America with minimal security, how a handful of mobile men with sniper rifles could shut down whole areas, and how vulnerable our food supply, pipelines, and bridges are – it just goes on and on. A “civil war” with just 25,000 trained men on each side determined to hit and run in force where the other side isn’t could do cataclysmic damage over the course of a year.
It’s also worth noting that a civil war is just one way our nation could end. There could be a coup, a revolution, or a series of secessions. If you correctly conclude that America isn’t going to put 25% of its population in the field, fighting to take America trench-by-trench, it can lead to a level of complacency we cannot afford because as I’ve written about before, America is much closer to the edge than most people realize and a number of scenarios could lead to us falling over it.
Let me conclude by also noting that Bonnie Kristian is also right when she says, “Americans have yet to show ourselves at anything like a critical mass inclined to kill each other over politics.” However, this is kind of like saying that the Titanic was in no danger of sinking 20 minutes before it hit an iceberg. That would be absolutely correct, but it could (and did) change in a hurry. We’re in that same kind of danger today and if anything, that danger is ramping up, not decreasing right now. The icebergs are there for everyone to see and we’re taking an enormous risk as a society by refusing to treat that possibility seriously. Hopefully, it won’t end the same way it did for the Titanic.