Why Civil War is (almost) Impossible in America

Joe Valachi
February 17, 2021 12:20 PM
(Photo via David Butow/Redux)
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America is at a crossroads, or so we’re told.  For the past few years, and especially since the Capitol riot, pundits on both sides of the aisle are predicting a second civil war in America.  


Specifically, the growing political divide is cited as being the root cause for potential armed conflict either between citizens, against the government, or both.  


However, while many are quick to predict violence, few seem to have taken even a cursory look into whether their claims are realistic.  Indeed, there are several basic questions about this war that would seem to put its likelihood in serious doubt.  



Why would citizens fight?


The type of war being alluded to by pundits is something spontaneous – where people become so disgusted with the state of their country that they see no other option but to pick up arms and risk their life.  


However, such a narrative completely overlooks the current situation of American citizens.  


As it stands, the average American lives a pretty cushy life.  Anyone with any type of skill is almost guaranteed a job, decent housing, a car, usually enough money for some entertainment, a few weeks of vacation, etc.    These “guarantees” are features of the American system and, aside from the actions of the Federal Reserve, are almost completely independent of the nation’s politics.


Meanwhile, the effect that politicians have on the American system is superficial.  Sure, they can sell the country to special interests and make it harder to get ahead.  Yes, they can enact foreign policy you disagree with or treat groups of people in ways you don’t like.  But the lights will stay on and your ability to earn a living in a highly developed country will remain, once in a lifetime pandemics notwithstanding.  


Indeed, despite all the political turmoil in the country, life has never been more convenient in the United States, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.


However, participating in a civil war would mean giving up not only these material comforts but much more. For someone with a family, going off to war means leaving their children and spouse completely unsupported.  It also means leaving them unprotected in the face of what is likely to be widespread lawlessness.  On top of that, it means risking one’s life in combat.  


Thus, whatever grievances people have with their fellow citizens or their politicians/government would have to be big enough to justify abandoning their family and entire way of life, as well as potentially dying.  


As it stands, that’s just not the case.  People might hate Donald Trump or Joe Biden for a myriad of legitimate reasons, however very few can say that they were personally harmed by Trump’s policies as president or Biden’s as vice president.  


Perhaps in the future, the government will abuse its citizens in a way that would justify an armed revolt.  However, that would then run into its own series of problems.  



How would they fight?


Beyond the question of whether or not people would fight, is whether they could fight.  Anyone hoping to engage in armed conflict against the U.S. government and its citizens must be prepared to contend with all the capabilities of said government.  Those capabilities are the most sophisticated in the world and have infiltrated every aspect of citizens’ lives.


Simply put, any “freedom fighters” would have to exist completely outside of society.  Thanks to legislation like the Patriot Act, America has built a massive infrastructure specifically designed to root out enemies of the state.  


The first thing to go would be any type of communication device.  The government’s ability to track cell phones and radios would make those items nothing more than homing beacons for the army to swoop in on.        


This lack of communication would mean an extreme level of difficulty in organizing.  Not only could fighters not get in touch with each other but without access to phones or the internet, how could they hope to resupply themselves.  It might be possible to steal food on a small scale, but ammunition and weapons for any sizeable force would be out of the question as sale of those items would immediately become restricted.  


Even if you could find someone to deliver food, medical supplies, and weapons, how would you pay that person?  Electronic transactions would have to be immensely complicated which would also make it difficult to bring in new funds.  So, unless your hideout in the woods is equipped with a vault and millions in cash/gold then your capacity to outfit troops with anything more than the rifles and ammo they brought from home will be nonexistent.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government would be hunting you, probably with a huge amount of success.


Thus, an individual can fight, perhaps even small groups, but they’ll never be able to organize enough to seize a national guard base, let alone overthrow the government.


Regardless, it’s unlikely that many people would ever get to that point considering the role the internet would play in all of this.



The Internet


The flow of information on the internet has become so tightly controlled, and its influence so outsized on the behavior of citizens, that it’s not an exaggeration to call the internet in 2021 the greatest propaganda machine ever built.  


While still technically democratized, by and large, the average person’s internet experience is controlled by a small number of companies.  Indeed, for most people, if something doesn’t show up on the first page of Google, or it they don’t see it in their social media feeds, or if AWS doesn’t host it, then it might as well not exist.  Such is the power of the algorithm.


Yet, the narrative says that people would be sufficiently motivated to leave their entire lives and families behind.  Well, assuming that the government doesn’t come burn their house down, where will this motivation come from if not the internet?  It is the main way that ideas are spread and if something isn’t on the internet then its credibility takes a serious hit.  


Meanwhile, considering that the government would almost certainly hold tech companies responsible for letting the theme of armed conflict spread on their platforms, one can be nearly certain that inflammatory material wouldn’t even see the light of day.  


So, without the type of information necessary to encourage them, how motivated could someone possibly be to engage in partisan conflict?    



Civil War won’t Happen


Right now, many people are disappointed by what is happening in the country.  However, disappointment is almost never deadly on a massive scale.


At the same time, people talking about a potential civil war are envisioning millions of citizens giving up their entire life to fight against what exactly?


Are Republicans meant to fight against Democrats and the wishes of the majority?  Are Democrats meant to fight against a minority that doesn’t have political power?  Are they both meant to fight against the system that feeds them and ensures safety for their families?


America is a deeply flawed country and it’s hard to see a solution to her worst problems.  However, civil war is completely impractical. Right now it's just being used as a scare tactic by partisan pundits looking to show the world just how important it is to give them what they want.  


Yet, even if there was a chance of armed citizens solving the country’s problems, the realities of motivating and organizing enough people to do so would ensure failure.  


Thus, when listening to anyone talking about how “this could very easily lead to civil war” feel free to roll your eyes all the way into the back of your head while simultaneously changing the channel.  

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Joe Valachi
Managing Editor, Disunited State
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