The 19th-century German Field Marshal Helmuth Von Moltke said that “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy”.  Despite this, military people always make plans anyway.  They have to, I guess, to gather intel. Or at least to feel like they’re doing something, so they can be accused of idleness in the face of looming disaster.

There’s a minor controversy over an article published in something called the “Small Wars Journal”.  It’s by Col. Kevin Benson (ret.) and Jennifer Weber, and it concerns what an American civil war in 2016 would be like.  It puts forth an imaginary scenario in which “an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the ‘tea party’ movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina.”  (I assume the authors picked South Carolina for the irony, since that’s where the real Civil War began.)  They go on to postulate how it would play out, and how the Federal forces should respond.

Needless to say, the article has generated a backlash from Tea-Partiers, who are both understandably upset at the idea that they would try such a thing, and by the fact that, by all appearances, the government is thinking about how to wage war against them.  The Washington Times published an editorial denouncing it as “a choppy patchwork of doctrinal jargon and liberal nightmare.”

First of all, I understand why the Tea Partiers are upset, and I think Col. Benson and Dr. Weber would have been better served by leaving politics out of it and just using generic rebels in their example. There are some real lunatics in the movement, but most of the Tea Partiers I’ve seen are just rural, usually older, people who yell slogans they heard on talk-radio.  Most of them seem harmless, apart from tending to vote for bad candidates.

Having said that, I do understand why they wrote the article, and why they filled it in with political details: because military people love war-gaming  hypothetical scenarios.  My guess is they used the Tea Party because the military tends to lean conservative, and they were trying to compensate, and clearly that didn’t work.  But then, with all the money we spend on defense, it’s not surprising to see them wargaming all kinds of “what-if” scenarios.  It’s related to the old saying “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

I do think it is a very disturbing article–mostly because of its context.  I think there have been tons of “awful civil war in the future” novels, movies, etc. but to see it presented dryly as something that might really happen is something else altogether.  Plus, it gives the people who are always getting ready for the apocalypse even more fodder for their beliefs.  (Which is ironic, since they are doing the same thing as the people who wrote this article: getting ready for all sorts of unlikely eventualities.)


  1. I think they chose the wrong militia group. If something like this were to happen it would be by a professional para military organization like Blackwater. Many have speculated that New Orleans after Katrina was practise for a coup de tat. It would also be a take over of Congress and the Supreme Court in D.C. with the corporately owned radio and television networks acting as cheerleaders. I might write a story like that, but it would be too depressing.

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