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Logic of a Modern Militia

Let us say the 2016 presidential election is won by an anti-establishment candidate—Donald Trump? Bernie Sanders?—who knows that the establishment’s national-security policy was made for the 20th century, not the 21st. What might his alternative be?

To fit 21st-century realities, it would have to begin by acknowledging the greatest change in war since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. That treaty, which ended the Thirty Years’ War, gave the state a monopoly on armed conflict. As laid out in Martin van Creveld’s brilliant book The Transformation of War, published in 1991, the state is now losing that monopoly. All over the world, state armed forces designed, trained, and equipped to fight each other are instead fighting non-state opponents in what I call Fourth Generation war. All over the world, state armed forces are losing.

An American national-security policy designed for an era of this new style of war would have two aspects: security overseas and security at home. Both would look very different from current policy.

Security overseas means avoiding entanglement in Fourth Generation wars. Involvement in conflicts with non-state entities will result in our defeat, as it already has in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Not only do America’s armed forces not know how to win such wars, they have little interest in learning. Comfortable with their expertise in reducing the art of war to the mechanics of putting firepower on targets, they do not want to adjust to wars where the moral level is more powerful than the physical level. Nor is Fourth Generation war much good for justifying expensive programs for complex, high-tech weapons.

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How do we stay out of non-state wars overseas? By adopting a defensive grand strategy. Instead of trying to give orders to the rest of the world, we would leave it alone, so long as it leaves us alone. We would stay out of other peoples’ business and quarrels. We would still engage with other countries and peoples, but we would do so through private means, trade, and serving as a moral example. That was America’s policy through most of our history, and it served us well. It is tailor-made for today’s world.

That would meet half of the challenge. The other half is preserving security here at home. Keeping our nose out of other peoples’ business will reduce the incentive for them to attack us here. But attacks will still come, both as imports and from groups and causes whose home is America.

thisarticleappearsAt present, we meet this threat through a continual expansion of the national-security state, to the point where getting on an airplane is like going through Checkpoint Charlie. The national-security state erodes our liberties, it costs immense sums, and it often does not work.

Where it will continue to fail is in countering the “lone shooter,” the person who is motivated by some larger entity but acts entirely on his own. With guns readily and legally available almost everywhere in this country (unlike bomb-making materials), forces that want to strike here can easily work through “lone shooters.” There is no plot for the national-security state to unravel, no group for it to penetrate.

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The answer to this challenge again comes from our past. We need a militia that ideally includes all male American citizens. In a world where the state no longer has a monopoly on war, we must return to a pre-state world where every able male is a warrior. The Latin word “populus” originally meant “army.”

Unlike our colonial militias, however, these new militiamen would have neither weapons nor organization. Rather, they would take a pledge that whenever they encounter a “lone shooter,” they will stop him using whatever they have at hand: throwing rocks or chairs, tackling him, beating him unconscious, running over him with their car. If they happen to be armed, fine; if not, they attack anyway.

This summer saw an example of such a militia in action on a train in France, where three young Americans, an airman, a National Guardsman, and a civilian, along with two European men, assaulted and stopped an Islamist “lone shooter.” They acted as American men would pledge themselves to act in the new national militia.

Would some of those swarming a shooter get killed? Probably. As the men on the train said, “We figured we were going to die anyway.”

Liberty requires courage. The national-security state, in which the government tells civilians to hide under the bed while professionals take care of them, demands citizens trade their liberties for false promises of security. The state cannot fulfill that promise against “lone shooters.” The state does not become irrelevant in this new era: we will still need the FBI to investigate wider plots and local police to deal with bombs. We will not need a vast Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon Mk. II.

Together, these two sides of the national-security coin would give us policies that could work in a changed world. Our current approach cannot. That is true across a broad range of issues, not just national security. Perhaps that is why Americans are lining up in droves behind anti-establishment candidates.

William S. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook [1].

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "Logic of a Modern Militia"

#1 Comment By Aaron Gross On November 12, 2015 @ 6:40 am

Are you nuts? This is more or less the situation already in Israel, as far as citizens jumping a terrorist. (The state still tries to stop terrorists using its own means, of course.) But the terrorists can still inflict plenty of damage before they’re neutralized.

Even a terrorist using a knife or a car as a weapon can kill several people. And what about a bombs? How do these citizen militia men deal with big explosions?

Maybe this would work in the movies, where the terrorist draws his weapon and gives a long speech before killing people. But except for a few lucky cases like that French train, it’s not like that in real life.

#2 Comment By Fred Bowman On November 12, 2015 @ 8:11 am

Excellent idea but to get place just how is America going to dismantle the Congressional Military-Industrial & Security Complex that has a vested interest in keeping America involved in “forever unwinnable” and expansion of the “security state”? Lind’s ideas here would work well if America saw itself as a Republic and not so for America has an Imperialistic State.

#3 Comment By CJ On November 12, 2015 @ 9:37 am

Aaron Gross –

He addressed your objection in the post:

“Would some of those swarming a shooter get killed? Probably. As the men on the train said, ‘We figured we were going to die anyway.'”

The point is that there is no alternative. All of our post 9-11 security apparatus didn’t stop Sandy Hook, Gabby Giffords, Colorado Theater, etc. There are statistics showing that attacks stopped by citizens have lower casualty rates than those stopped by law enforcement. Citizens are always going to be the first responders, so they need to be ready to respond effectively.

#4 Comment By JLF On November 12, 2015 @ 9:40 am

The sophisticated weapon that gave the nineteen terrorists of 9/11 control of three aircraft was a boxcutter. And the consequent NSA security apparatus cannot effectively deter all similar aggression in the future. Those who court death for whatever reason cannot be constrained by appeals to reason or safety. But that effectively disguises the real beneficiaries of the new security state: the purveyors of security equipment, ever more intrusive, ever more costly, never more effective against the lone wolf or the committed terrorist cell. We sacrifice our liberty (and enrich an opportunistic few at our expense) for the illusion of safety.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 12, 2015 @ 10:12 am

Oh I see. Like taking the simplist action required to address a particuar threat.

Say like having a sound immigration policy that would have snared most or all of the 9/11 hijackers. Or the FBI actually following up on suspicious behavior by flight trainers. The airlines actually confiscatimg weapons and enforcing the terrorist watchlist protocols. Or maybe you mean something as simple as a phine call by the CIA to immigration services, the FBI, and the National Security advisor that known terrorist had been lost upon entering the US.

You mean very simple, and obvious responses suchas those above, rendering the current security state unneccessary.

Hmmmm . . . makes sense to me.

#6 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On November 12, 2015 @ 11:49 am

Totally agree with the first proposal, which is in keeping with a tradition from which we have consistently deviated during the past 100 years, namely the tradition of “no foreign entanglements”. As to the second, I’m not so sure. On the other hand, it is clear that the current system in place will never deter the so-called “lone wolf” and has only succeeded in compromising our liberties.

#7 Comment By Ken T On November 12, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

The author raises some excellent points, as do commenters CJ, JLF, and Elite. But it can’t happen unless and until the majority of the American public recognizes that and starts voting to dismantle the Military/Security/Industrial Complex. But as soon as any politician tries to make that point, the entire apparatus blasts away with 24/7 fear mongering. All of the TSA “security theater” – which does absolutely NOTHING to make anyone safer – exists for the sole purpose of terrorizing the populace. Along with the ridiculous color-coded “threat levels” which go up and down mostly at random (“OMG – it went from yellow to orange today! I have no idea what happened, but there must be some new threat!”) (and you might notice, there IS NO color that says “no threat today”).

The result is millions of people hiding under their beds, desperately pleading with the government to take away even more of their liberty in order to “keep them safe”; and voting for those politicians who promise to do so.

#8 Comment By JonF On November 12, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

Militias are supposed to be trained and organized, not a pack of free-lance vigilantes. Even the famed Second amendment speaks of a “Well-regulated militia”. The last thing we need are long-wolf “enforcers” popping off at will. Recall the bitter controversy over the Travyon Martin business.
Nor is so-called “Fourth Generation War” anything new. Guerilla attacks and low-grade rebellions are as old as civilization.

#9 Comment By Jamie On November 12, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

Articles like this fail to consider how close America’s militias came to losing to King George’s disciplined professionals (which two of the three ‘militiamen” who charged the Paris gunman were). Given the choice between fight and flight, almost everyone will choose flight.

#10 Comment By William T On November 12, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

I can agree with dismantling the TSA and DHS, the former being useless and the latter becoming a threat, but we will still need a strong military. Sure trade being a “shining light on the hill” is good, but it helps to be able to back it up. Other nations would feel better about trading with us if they could also count on some security in the bargain.

A militia would be a good idea, only as presented here, it couldn’t be called “militia.” Even in colonial times some degree of military training was common, as were periodic drills. If people weren’t so skeered of the “military/industrial complex,” militia training and organization could be established. All it would take is a watered down basic training with additional training in disaster preparedness would do. Also, if people could be sure that IF they had to act in such a situation that they wouldn’t be sued or even charged by the local police, that would help as well.

#11 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 12, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

“But it can’t happen unless and until the majority of the American public recognizes that and starts voting to dismantle the Military/Security/Industrial Complex.”

Because we have inadequately informed the public regarding what it means to live in a nation state as we have. We have a leadership pressed against the idea that any failure is complete failure. It’s a mentality that fills all of our force safety structures.

“Not on my watch.”
“Better safe than sorry.”

I hope this example is allowed to stand to make my point. Recently, an reassessment was made about what has generally been accepted as a successful bombing campaign against North Vietnam. It is based on a comment made by Pres. Nixon regarding an attack that occurred despite the bombing. It’s one of those knee jerk, reactions that kept in context is just that a knee jerk to an incident. From which menay have concluded based on that singular scibbed note from Pres. Nixon that the entire capiagn did nothing.

It’s just false. It is equally fales that the occassional successes by terrorists means that US security has failed. By terrorist successes, I am referring to 9/11 and the previous attempt on the Twin Towers in the 1990’s. As 9/11 demonstrates there need but have been minimal attention given to protocols in place to have dimished or completely disrupt those events. There was no massive security failure. There were small oversights with a little luck, allowed those efforts to get through.

The idea that the occassional success means catastrophic failure is entirely false unless the evidence makes that case. This far, the evidence is that basic protocols were missed and none of them pointed to a need for military action.
———-
“The result is millions of people hiding under their beds, desperately pleading with the government to take away even more of their liberty in order to “keep them safe”; and voting for those politicians who promise to do so.”

I am not convinced here. My read is that this is what the governent says needed to be done. I think more out of a ned to appear to be doing their job. I am not sure that the public wanted the security state as much as they were told things were so bad we needed more. I remain more afraiid of the police than I do ISIS/ISIL or even the Muslims, I run into on the street. When at an educational facility, I remain more afraid of liberal students, instructors, and admin. personnell. The behavior of our financial institutions damaged the US more than the disappearance of the Twin Towers. I guess my attitude is what got me into trouble.

But I remain where I came in. I am not even sure the threat is so great that public vigilence might be more problematic than helpful.

A leadership that at the same wnats to make war to make us more secure and import the victims of the wars we start in a bout to secure the US is a very strange posture.

But I remain hopeful, well at times. Perhaps, we have a public that has been so beaten up by the system to protect them, they are saying enough – already.

#12 Comment By Rossbach On November 12, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

The trouble with the current system of “security” is that the public gets an ambiguous message from the state: “You don’t need guns because the police will protect you; and “The police are racist thugs who are too quick to use their guns.”

Notwithstanding all the “security” provided by the government, the first line of defense will always be us.

#13 Comment By Yarfmit On November 12, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

Just males? Why?

#14 Comment By Johann On November 12, 2015 @ 7:34 pm

9/11 terror attacks were a sucker punch. Up to then, passengers figured that they may have to take a side trip to Havana or somewhere else if their plane was hijacked. Not so anymore. The hijackers know a large percent of the passengers will attack them now days. They always go for soft targets. They may still try to blow planes up, but taking them over to use as fire bombs will be much more difficult.

#15 Comment By Bill On November 12, 2015 @ 8:26 pm

Yes!! Let’s introduce the “garrison” state. Every citizen armed to the teeth, suspicious of his neighbor and quick on the trigger. The war of all against all. Sheeesh!

Editors at TAC have apparently fallen asleep. I expect better.

#16 Comment By Interguru On November 12, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

This is off the wall. More guns mean more gun deaths far beyond the lives they save.

To give you one number, in the United States you are more in danger of being shot by a toddler than a terrorist.

Also from a 1993 study “As a gun owner, you’re 2.7x more likely to kill yourself or a family member rather than an intruder in your home.

[2].

#17 Comment By Edward A. Giarusso On November 13, 2015 @ 8:09 am

I spent 30 years in federal service with 16 in the pentagon. It was always interesting on how many Intel analysis in government had problems with Mr. Lind’s thesis. Not myself and I would always ask what is the grand strategy, both foreign and domestic, of the United States? The answers were honestly all over the block. When we answer this we will see a road map on how to build a safe, prosperous, and just society. Right now only one presidential candidate is ringing that bell. You guess which one.

#18 Comment By CJ On November 13, 2015 @ 8:48 am

“Swarm an active shooter” /= war of all against all. Sheesh.

Interguru – did you even read the article?

“however, these new militiamen would have neither weapons nor organization. Rather, they would take a pledge that whenever they encounter a ‘lone shooter,’ they will stop him using whatever they have at hand: throwing rocks or chairs, tackling him, beating him unconscious, running over him with their car. If they happen to be armed, fine; if not, they attack anyway.”

#19 Comment By Bill On November 13, 2015 @ 10:37 am

CJ,

What militia has “neither weapons or organization”?
It is ridiculous to think that whomever takes such a pledge wouldn’t prepare for the eventuality of a lone shooter. That means a concealed carry permit and the bright idea to call themselves a militia. That is the “logic” of a modern militia.

Why not just suggest that we take a personal pledge to obstruct or incapacitate a shooter to the best of our ability? If only for the survival of our neighbors and ourselves. Why fold it into a vision of national security? Why do we need an an entire Weltanschauung to provide that logic?

It’s a tailor-made ad for the NRA.

#20 Comment By Steve On November 13, 2015 @ 10:42 am

22 of our United States have an organized state level militia, and the remaining 35 (:))have the authority to do so, but have not established one. Most are cadre level, which could be expanded to provide a modicum of training to the individual militia members. I seriously doubt that an unarmed militia will be very effective, but CCW laws provide each individual with the option to be armed. But without training, the individual unorganized militia member isn’t much of a defense.

#21 Comment By Emilio On November 13, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

There is nothing actionable here, other than a personal pledge to “let’s roll.” But the people over Pennsylvania who brought down the fourth plane didn’t need this advice. It was already in them as it is in us, as the human instinct to survive. Otherwise I agree, let’s turn back the clock on the security state. But we already have the most well-armed and vigilant population on earth, so let’s not turn unreasonable concerns about the incredibly rare occurrence of terrorist lone shooters (as opposed to unhinged American lone shooters) into dreams of post-state vigilantism, which, as stated, is the NRA’s well-established agenda. They got this. Why buy into their lies that more guns in private hands will lead to more terrorists being taken out by citizen heroes?

#22 Comment By bob On November 13, 2015 @ 12:54 pm

The supposition that our military does not know how to win this type of war is incorrect, because of this the article is inherently flawed.
The military is restrained by politicians who are unwilling to accept that war can only be won by making surrender the ONLY option (other than total and complete anaihalation) available to the enemy.
Or put another way, you MUST break some eggs (or sometimes all of them) in order to make an omelet.

#23 Comment By ck On November 14, 2015 @ 8:39 am

“. All of our post 9-11 security apparatus didn’t stop Sandy Hook, Gabby Giffords, Colorado Theater, etc. There are statistics showing that attacks stopped by citizens have lower casualty rates than those stopped by law enforcement.”

Exactly. And it should be pointed out that the only effective defense against 911, according to official reports, were the folks aboard the flight that downed the plane over Pennsylvania. They were unarmed militia that defended the nation at the cost of their lives.

#24 Comment By Andrew On November 16, 2015 @ 2:58 am

Lind’s proposal could be a lot more fleshed out in terms of how, exactly, in the most atomized and individualistic society in the world, we get people to take these kinds of oaths seriously if we don’t also arm, train, and organize them (they need to identify with their oath’s obligations). Also, they’re most needed in the places with the most individualistic tendencies: big cities. Even the close bonds and communal identity of the close, communal living that cities have ,historically, offered is vanishing b/c city centers (90% of both soft and high-value targets) price out the residential space (Manhattan, SF, LA, etc) and, thus, end up importing increasingly large percentages of their labor and recreational visitors. That and even the people living in city centers are rootless and uninvested in serious civic duties and obligations. We can’t be bothered by such things b/c we need to be “free” to up and leave whenever we want. But such “freedom” can only be had if we never invest deep affection and loyalty in our place.

It should also be noted that the military industrial complex and the nanny state don’t like competition, so they’ll fearmonger about vigilantism, white nationalist militias, gun deaths, etc. Still, militia-like security arrangements are the way it used to be and the way it ought to be. People used to have a situational awareness that was the result of knowing and identifying with a specific place (neighborhood) and its people (neighbors) for their entire lives and the entire history of their families. Now we have no attachment to place or people, so we don’t care AND we’re addicted to distractions so we can’t even be bothered to look out for our own safety in many cases.

@bob

“The supposition that our military does not know how to win this type of war is incorrect…

The military is restrained by politicians…

Or put another way, you MUST break some eggs (or sometimes all of them) in order to make an omelet.”

Are you trolling? I’ll take the bait, if only so casual readers don’t get the impression that TAC readers believe such idiotic things. (Not necessarily calling you an idiot, by the way. You might be smarter than I am, but just haven’t ever thought through the implications of your opinions on this matter.)

If “eggs” here refers to civilians and civilian infrastructure, as it usually does, then you are proposing that the US gov, as a matter of policy, the total disregard for a military operation’s impact on the civilian population. You’re essentially proposing war crimes. Well, unfortunately for your simple mind, the Soviets pretty much tried that and they, too, failed.

So, even putting aside the obvious moral horror, your proposal is foolish beyond that of even the most amateur armchair general.

Lastly, militaries alone are rarely, if ever, capable of setting appropriate victory conditions b/c they’re not designed to do so. Militaries aren’t even necessarily good at properly understanding who the enemy is when it comes to guerilla warfare.

#25 Comment By Andrew On November 16, 2015 @ 3:05 am

@Interguru

“This is off the wall. More guns mean more gun deaths far beyond the lives they save.

To give you one number, in the United States you are more in danger of being shot by a toddler than a terrorist.

Also from a 1993 study “As a gun owner, you’re 2.7x more likely to kill yourself or a family member rather than an intruder in your home.

[2].”

It’s worth reposting a comment from that link.

“Michael Liberty, Skeptic
5.8k Views • Upvoted by Marc Bodnick, Fmr Stanford PhD student, Political Science

The question invites the respondent to commit a statistical fallacy. You cannot use statistical averages over a group to say anything about the individual members of the group. As Dan Zhang said, the average gun owner is 2.7x more likely to kill himself or a family member. However, that does not mean you, as a gunowner (or any individual gun owner), is 2.7x more likely. The “average gun owner” is an abstraction, not a real person.

Consider for a moment that you come to the bank of a river and you ask me, “Is it safe for me to go in?” I say, “It only has an average depth of 2 feet.” After walking out several steps in ankle-deep water you’re suddenly swept away by the current. Well, I neglected to tell you that at the center of this river is a 20 foot chasm and everywhere else it’s 6 inches deep. The information I gave you was statistically accurate, but not particularly useful. In fact, the probability that you’d ever be standing in 2 feet of water is zero.

The story above is a general example of the “flaw of averages.” The gun death prediction is the more specific “ecological fallacy,” or thinking that relationships observed for groups necessarily hold for individuals of that group.

This is not to say that group averages aren’t useful. It just means they have serious limitations when you try to apply them to subsets of the sample (with the individual being the smallest subset). Again, just because I can say something about the average of outcomes, doesn’t mean I can say anything about an individual outcome.

Ok, back to guns. In short, I have no idea if you are more likely to shoot an intruder or a family member. Do you live alone? What’s crime like in your neighborhood? Are you mentally ill? Do you keep your gun locked up? Do you even have living family members? Even if we had answers to these questions, the best we can do is another abstraction based on a more homogeneous group, i.e. an “average” that’s a little closer to you.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a gun owner who is told you are X percent likely to kill a family member would be a little indignant. An African-American man would probably express the same indignation if you told him there is a 29% chance he will go to jail during his lifetime. Their indignation, not your claim, is statistically sound.

Sources:
[3]
Statistics of incarcerated African-American males
The Flaw of Averages”

#26 Comment By Anonymouse On November 16, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

As a gun owner, you’re 2.7x more likely to kill yourself or a family member rather than an intruder in your home

It is also a completely bogus statistic. On one side, it lumps suicides with homicides, as if people without guns can’t kill themselves. On the other side, it scores self-defense against home intruders as a success only if the intruder is killed, which is not even a legal objective, only stopping a threat is.

#27 Comment By splendidanomaly On December 5, 2015 @ 9:08 pm

“We need a militia that ideally includes all male American citizens.”

You’d leave out half of American citizens when we have American women serving in battle zones for the Marines?

#28 Comment By harold helbock On December 6, 2015 @ 9:21 pm

I agree but the problem is : do you really expect the generation of the
“micro-aggression” to risk themselves in any way?