Scrolling around before bed, I saw that the Washington Post, the Imperial Capital’s hometown newspaper, is going all out to signal who the State believes to be its enemies, and what things should be done to them. These two pieces caught my eye, because they reminded me of things I read in the Washington Post in 2002 and 2003, explaining why we had no choice but to go to war with Iraq to defend and advance democracy.
See, I cannot stand the January 6 rioters, and think they all deserve strong punishment. I’ve even taken the unpopular position on the Right that Ashli Babbitt is responsible for her own tragic death by her foolish actions committed in the process of sacking the Capitol. I think we on the Right have some pretty crazy people, as I wrote last year, and I don’t want them getting anywhere near power. If genuinely bad people — neo-Nazis, for example — are in the ranks of the US military, they need to be expelled.
Having allowed myself to be spun once before into supporting an unjust war that the Washington Establishment wanted, I hope I have learned a little something about how war propaganda works, and how the Establishment manufactures consent for what it wants to achieve. And that’s what I saw tonight in the Washington Post.
She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”
Oh no! Who is responsible for the threat? As if you had to ask!
Things deteriorated so dramatically under Trump, in fact, that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.
An “anocracy.” Not even a democracy anymore. Sounds real bad. What now?
The enemies of democracy must not be allowed to prevail. We are on the doorstep of the “open insurgency” stage of civil conflict, and Walter writes that once countries cross that threshold, the CIA predicts, “sustained violence as increasingly active extremists launch attacks that involve terrorism and guerrilla warfare, including assassinations and ambushes.”
It is no exaggeration to say the survival of our country is at stake.
So a CIA academic adviser is telling a liberal columnist from the Imperial City’s hometown newspaper that the Trumpkins are lying in wait, ready to fire on Fort Sumter all over again.
I suspect we will be hearing this kind of thing a lot in the national media in the months to come. And we who say, “Hey, wait a minute — ” will be denounced as defenders of the January 6 riot, and soft on threats to Our Democracy.
The Post prepares us for the banquet of b.s. to come with a second amuse-bouche in the same day. Here’s an op-ed by three retired generals warning that the military must prepare itself to put down a Trumpist insurrection in 2024. Excerpts:
In short: We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.
To their very bones. This paragraph is big:
One of our military’s strengths is that it draws from our diverse population. It is a collection of individuals, all with different beliefs and backgrounds. But without constant maintenance, the potential for a military breakdown mirroring societal or political breakdown is very real.
Diversity is our strength, as they say. The “constant maintenance” term is code for the Great Awokening the senior military brass are pushing through the ranks. What these retired generals — who almost certainly did not write a word of this op-ed, but only agreed to put their names on it — are saying is that the Awokening must be done to keep right-wing elements from starting a civil war.
All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution. But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war.
In this context, with our military hobbled and divided, U.S. security would be crippled. Any one of our enemies could take advantage by launching an all-out assault on our assets or our allies.
This is starting to sound like a 1990s Hollywood movie. “In a world where…”. But they are serious. Three retired generals are sounding the alarm that
white conservatives “Trumpians” in the military might betray the country and start a civil war that could turn into World War III.
I’m not kidding! Read it yourself. They are actually saying that. And then, in their to-do list for the military, to try to head off possible insurrection:
In addition, all military branches must undertake more intensive intelligence work at all installations. The goal should be to identify, isolate and remove potential mutineers; guard against efforts by propagandists who use misinformation to subvert the chain of command; and understand how that and other misinformation spreads across the ranks after it is introduced by propagandists.
If you are white and under arms at present, and this all goes down like the generals ask, you had better not let people know that you are a conservative. Better keep your political and religious views to yourself. Your fellow soldiers will have been incentivized to rat you out. And you’d better be careful about the websites you read. Anything to the right of Vox.com could trip the algorithms.
I read this Post op-ed as a trial balloon by the Washington establishment to see how successful they might be in instigating a national media freakout over the Enemy Within — a bona fide Red (State) Scare. They could eliminate all internal dissenters from the new left-wing ideological orthodoxy enforced on soldiers, sailors, and airmen by kicking them out, and convincing sympathizers to keep their heads down and their mouths shut. And all those former brothers and sisters under arms who will have been expelled? The military would have framed them as (implicit or explicit) racists and traitors — just like the Confederate scum who fired on Fort Sumter.
Do you see what they’re doing (“they” being the Washington establishment)? Having introduced into the military, and disseminated through its capillaries, the twin poisons of Critical Race Theory and gender ideology, which cannot do other than make troops hostile towards each other, or at least mutually suspicious of each other, along racial, sexual, and political lines, now the Establishment seems to be blaming those in the military who don’t bend the knee before this ideology as bigots and traitors who just might launch World War III. Insofar as those three generals represent the views of the senior military leadership, then that bench of generals reminds me of the killer who murdered his parents then threw himself on the mercy of the court, saying he was an orphan.
Disturbed by this transparent attempt by the Post, on behalf of official Washington, to stir up hatred against dissent from the ruling ideology, I decided to check Twitter to see if there was something funny by Libs of Tik Tok, or something else diverting there. I saw this short thread by the political scientist Zach Goldberg:
1/n 53% of white liberals (48% of white Dems) think that white people should feel guilty about racial inequality pic.twitter.com/amPvoo0VJL
— Zach Goldberg (@ZachG932) December 17, 2021
And I thought: huh.
It’s almost like the senior military and civilian leadership is forcing woke indoctrination on the armed forces as a way to force out any member who refused to comply. This culling of the potential troublemakers would show the military that those remaining either agree with the ruling ideology, or are so morally weak that they care more about living by lies than jeopardizing their careers. The indoctrination can continue, and perhaps the white conservatives who loved their career more than the truth can be persuaded in time that not only are the expelled rebels evil and need killing, but also that they, the ones who stayed behind, can join the liberal white soldiers in recognizing that as carriers of racial guilt and shame, they have a special duty to take the lead in using violence to neutralize these potential right-wing guerrillas. Even if those alleged enemies of the state are their own neighbors, or even their own brothers. How can love ever win if bigots, especially religious bigots, are not crushed?
The kind of education that could create that kind of change of mind would be readings by prophetic radicals who say that the only way America can ever really be free of the legacy of the Civil War is through violence that takes care of the ideological heirs to the slavers, once and for all, making those Red States crimson with the blood of traitors.
See, this is why I’m glad I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I trust my country and its leading institutions, which almost always make the right decisions, and even if they don’t, well, they had our best interests at heart, so it would be unfair to hold them accountable. If I weren’t an upright citizen, I might think that the Deep State, especially the intelligence services, was up to something very nasty. My mind being serenely untroubled by such dyspeptic rumination, I can retire to bed now.
Meanwhile, the really based conspiracy theorists will be up all night wondering who in Washington benefits by turning Americans against each other on the basis of race. One good way to keep the heat off the backsides of generals who lost the war in Afghanistan and lied for years about it is to distract everybody with a new crusade, especially the enlisted and junior officer ranks, who had to put their lives on the line because of the Pentagon’s lies, and who might like to see Congress hold them accountable. As that one active duty service member told me earlier this year, having lost the other wars, the military is now undertaking a fight in which it believes it can prevail: the culture war.
UPDATE: Another deep and interesting comment by Richard York:
It’s appalling that the Washington Post is pushing these kinds of blood libels onto liberal Americans. Publishing this kind of garbage is like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.
But let’s not throw out the civil war message just yet. The problem with these op-eds isn’t their prediction of civil war. I used to think that speculating about a civil war was fever swamp nonsense. Now, I’m not so sure. Increasingly I think conservatives need to start thinking about what civil war with the left would mean and about how exactly things would play out. The fanaticism, insanity, and paranoia in DC is now undeniable. They’re going to initiate some sort of crisis, whether abroad or at home, before they are totally consumed by the demons they have unleashed into the world.
The CIA lady is right that the United States increasingly checks the boxes for some kind of conflagration. The problem isn’t in the conclusion, but in the analysis. The writers’ projection of leftist political beliefs onto a situation that is barreling towards crisis has blinded them to the logic of the culture war and of the institutional overreach that has brought us into the present situation. Everyone can recite at length the litany of recent events that indicate that our country is in crisis. But the thing that strikes me about these op-eds is that they are blind to the real factors that our tearing the country apart. They cite the right events–January 6th, the contested 2020 election, widespread rioting and racial tensions–but they all seem to assume that these crises were the work of a deranged, possibly crazy minority, a small group of fanatics that we can root out of the country if only the military instituted the right personnel policies, if only the intel agencies surveilled more people, if only they arrested a few more extremists and locked them up forever.
In fact, as everyone here knows, the crisis is an outgrowth of an essentially religious conflict between two increasingly irreconcilable factions that number millions and millions of people, overlaid onto an increasingly vicious class war between our corrupt and deranged elite and everyone else in the country. It’s not as simple as making soldiers take more extremism training or spying more thoroughly on everybody. There are numerous elements of American society that now want nothing to do with the people in power in Washington. Every move that the elite has made to solidify its control–publishing deranged op-eds like these, persecuting the J6 rioters, sowing blood libels about Trump supporters–has actually eroded their control of the system. They’ve totally alienated about 40% of the country from the power structure.
Say what you like about the Trump movement. What it represents is a huge critical mass of Americans who explicitly no longer serve the Regime’s goals. And that critical mass of Americans isn’t powerless, not by any means. There are now more than a few anti-establishment, ex-elites like Tucker Carlson, Ron De Santis, the entire far-right mediasphere, and the America First farm team of local legislators, governors, and Congressmen, who are now explicitly committed to taking down the Regime–by which I mean the class of people who owns the levers of power, not the constitutional system itself. Those are the cadres with the potential to blow up the whole system, whether peacefully, as I hope occurs–or through violence, if and when the DC elite finally panics over what is happening to them.
The Regime may not have been as crazy back in 2004, but they didn’t have 40% of the country on the brink of taking up arms against it, even at the height of the Iraq War madness. The erosion of control, by process of dialectic, by pushing the logic of the culture war to its extremes, has been real and tangible to anyone with a sinecure in the Deep State. Mass media has just made them more aware of it. They really and truly do fear people like the J6 rioters, not because the J6 rioters are dangerous, although they tell themselves and us that endlessly, but because the J6 rioters are personifications of powerful forces at work just twenty miles outside the DC suburbs. The elite does not want to face up to its responsibility for misrule. I’m not convinced that they’re committed to any cause other than their own power, but in association with the left, they will double down on madness, tyranny, and provocation in the hope of forcing a reaction that they can then crush.
In this, they will prove badly mistaken, to the ruin of us all. The cottage industry of civil war speculators–now working overtime–is correct to think that the next civil conflict won’t look like the last Civil War. The divisions across American society are broad and deep; they exist even in the bluest of blue states and the reddest of red states. The war will not turn into relatively unified states sending armies into the field of battle against each other.
I think this is right, so far as it goes, but it baffles me that nobody has paid any real attention to the one civil conflict in the Anglosphere that actually provides an excellent template for how civil war would probably play out. The next American civil war will probably look something like the Troubles in Ulster.
People have forgotten how insane and violent that war was. It was not a low intensity conflict, by any means. Centralized authority across Ulster collapsed for a generation. Ethnic gangs and terror groups parceled out enclaves in the six counties and effectively prevented the British government from exercising any kind of control over the territory. In theory, things still, worked, the trains still ran, everyone still had electricity. In practice, the provision of services and the appearance of constitutional order concealed gaping divisions in social organization and political authority that have still not been reconciled. Bombings, shootings, riots, looting, extrajudicial killings, and assassinations were a fact of daily life across Ulster for thirty years.
No one has attempted to calculate, by the numbers, how damaging the Troubles were to Ulster, but a glance at the Wikipedia page provides some appalling data on how bad it was. In a population of a bit less than 2 million, some 3,500 people were killed between 1969 and 1998, or about 100 per year. Tens of thousands, possibly over a hundred thousand, were wounded. Alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and other forms of social pathology skyrocketed. Traditional society in Ulster broke down. Apply those numbers to the United States, and that’s thousands upon thousands of dead and wounded per year.
And, what is more, a good chunk of the American population–the part that will most assuredly do most of the killing, fighting, and dying in any future civil war–are blood relatives of the Irish Protestant faction of the Ulster Troubles. People think that the Troubles ended peacefully with the Good Friday agreement, but this reading totally misses the true meaning of the agreement. The British government effectively surrendered to terror in 1998. They surrendered to the IRA by implementing a constitutional means by which Ulster could be severed from Great Britain and reincorporated into a United Ireland, something unthinkable for an older generation of Britons.
They surrendered to Ian Paisley and the Orange Order by abandoning their attempts to get rid of Ulster by postponing the decision into the future. This aspect of the Troubles is also little remembered, but the British government initially did everything it could to encourage Catholic emancipation in Ulster and to enable a peaceful reunification between Ulster and the Irish Republic. The British political establishment still intensely dislikes the hardline religious fanatics and conservative monarchists who inhabit the countryside of Ulster and their neighbors just across the Irish Sea in places like Ayrshire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland. They wanted to get rid of them. Paisley and his Loyalist goons prevented that by conducting a horrendously violent terror campaign against ordinary Catholic citizens so vicious that the Catholic paramilitaries were forced to strike back at both the Loyalists and their sympathizers in the British government. The Irish Loyalists signed on to the 1998 accords knowing full well that they could do the same thing again if at any time a referendum endorsed Irish reunification. Terror–the achievement of political goals through violence against unarmed civilians–and not peace, was the real victor in 1998.
Something very, very similar will probably happen to the United States in the event of a civil war here. The warlike, Scots-Irish, Protestant men of Appalachia and of the American countryside will be impossible to subdue in an actual war between DC and the heartland. But that’s not the only factor in play. Of course, these op-eds miss the real, central fact of American life in our age: the utter corruption of our nation’s elite and its pathologically evil rent-seeking behavior. Paradoxically, our elite has rewarded grift and stupidity for so long that it no longer recognizes actual economic value for what it is. Liberals love to crow about the ‘economic success’ of the blue states, I’ve heard ad nauseam from progressives how economically backwards the red states are, how civil war is stupid for that reason, but the GDP of places like New York and California is a reflection of inflated real estate values and dubious accounting of services and financial speculation. The real economy in the United States–and with it, huge chunks of the country’s economically valuable, resource-rich land, and the elites who sit on top of it–is owned by the red states, and the red parts of the blue states. Blue state America is a rickety contraption that will fall apart in a real crisis. In tandem with hollowing out the American economy, our elite that is so panicked about J6 rioters has also ceded control of virtually every aspect of the real, manufacturing economy to red staters.
I don’t like to contemplate the kind of violence a second civil war would involve. It would fundamentally be a religious conflict. Left and right hate each other now. Nobody really believes in Christianity, the restraining force the limited the atrocities of the last Civil War and made it possible for the country to put itself back together again imperfectly after the war. There would be real atrocities, mass killings, massacres, that kind of thing, in a second American Civil War.
But above all, another civil war in America wouldn’t be a cakewalk. These generals are whistling in the dark if they think they can repress the problem away by getting rid of a few dissenters. There are powerful, populous, and economically viable chunks of the country who despise the Regime. And, increasingly, the logic of our elite’s crazed insistence on retaining power is driving red state leaders to commit themselves to breaking up the union. People still don’t appreciate the significance of the red states using the National Guard to secure the Texas border or the steps people like Ron De Santis are taking on vaccine mandates to limit the ability of the federal government to influence their polities. All of these things are the kindling of which war is made.
The tragic thing is that our country probably can’t be put back together if we fight a second civil war. Yes, our elite is evil and stupid, but good chunks of the country will rally to them purely because they cannot conceive of any other kind of social order. America is a dizzying patchwork of diverse communities with few common interests. It’s a rickety empire held together by a precarious allegiance to hazy ideas about freedom, and CRT is about to put paid even to that much. A lot could happen to prevent a civil war, and I’m certainly not hopeful that any of this comes to pass, but this is our future if it does happen, and I am not confident that our elite will show the wisdom and forbearance to refrain from dividing the country any further as their power erodes and people start to react against their incompetence.
Thanks for this. And yes, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing to speculate about the prospects for civil war, or at least sustained civil unrest in this country. I think it is important to face these facts so we can do our best to avoid such a calamity. My main problem is that the elites in this country absolve themselves for their leading role in driving us to hate each other along tribal lines.
Think of all the white, Latino, black, and other soldiers who were killed or wounded in our wars of choice, supported by both parties, in this century. What’s a good way to keep them and their families from turning on the leaders who sent them there and kept them there?
And yes, readers, I know that Birds Aren’t Real is a parody of QAnon.
UPDATE.2: I still can’t understand why an elite worried about the prospects of a civil war would be doubling down on policies and ideas that emphasize our differences, not what unites us as Americans, and weaponizing those differences. Seriously, I don’t get it at all. Previously I had expressed skepticism about the Great Replacement Theory endorsed by Tucker Carlson (I find the theory far more applicable to Europe), but I’m now more open to the prospect that the elites want to replace right-wing Christian white people with left-wing ones that have absorbed the baizuo ideology. You don’t have to agree with or even like the crackpots on the Right, especially the Christian Right, to recognize that something weird and ugly is going on here.