Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Next American "Civil War"?

From time to time in the universe of Internet one may come across some comment or discussion of the possibility or probability of a second American civil war. For some, such comments come from a perspective holding to a romanticized "lost cause" view of the first American Civil War of the 1860's; a view that engages in the vain yearning or perhaps more accurately the vain conceit that the "South" will somehow "rise again..."

For some time now, I have viewed such romantic conceit as totally out of touch with the reality of modern warfare and the changing face of what modern civil war has become. My classic case in point for that assertion is the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930's. I recently started reading Stanley G. Payne's account of the Spanish Civil War published in 2012 by Cambridge as part of their Cambridge Essential Histories series. The following is an extended quote from Payne's introduction on pages 1-4 in which he deals with how the nature of civil war changed in the 20th century.

"By 1918, civil war had broken out in Finland and Russia, and it was not the traditional kind of civil war in which two contestants engage in a power struggle with equivalent goals and similar values, but a new kind of revolutionary civil war of the sort first essayed in France during the 1790's and in 1871. In the new civil wars, sharply contrasting revolutionary and counterrevolutionary programs vied for power, aiming not merely at political domination, but at imposing totally contrasting programs in society, economics, culture, and even religion--two completely antagonistic ways of life, virtually two different civilizations. These civil conflicts were fought with unprecedented bitterness and violence, extending far beyond the field of battle. Red terror and its counterrevolutionary counterpart during the Russian civil war sought not merely to conquer, but to some extent to eradicate the opposition completely, rooting out antagonists physically as well as politically, as though they represented contending religious or metaphysical principles, forces of absolute good or evil that had not merely to be conquered but completely extirpated. The result was unprecedented political violence in many different parts of the former Tsarist empire, while violent internal conflict also broke out in central and southern Europe..."

"...In this perspective, civil war in Spain was not a complete anomaly, but rather the only massive internal conflict to break out in Western Europe during the 1930's. It would reflect all the tensions, hatreds and ideologies found in these other conflicts, while adding further features of its own, characteristic of Spain and to some extent Europe as a whole during the decade before World War II."

Simply put, a modern civil war in the United States would not look much at all like the Civil War of the 1860's. Further more, we have very ample reason to believe that a modern civil war in the United States would very likely make the first Civil War look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison in terms of the level of violence and terror from both sides of the conflict. Also a modern civil war in America would very likely involve two antagonists of whom both would be repugnant and despicable, but in their extremism, there will be no allowance for any middle ground or moderation. In the Spanish Civil War there was nothing to like in either the Franco party on the one hand or the so called Republicans on the other. Both sides had repudiated the democratic process and both sides engaged in their share of violence and terror.

There may very well come a time in the future when the United States falls again into the scourge of another civil war, but if it does, it will have little or nothing to do with the "South rising again..."

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