Civil war is not a reference taken rhetorically, nor is it made lightly. In fact, it is possible that it – or something like it – has drawn much closer to reality in the conclusion of the Russiagate investigation.
MarketWatch published an opinion piece written by Dr. Ian Morris, in November of 2018. Dr. Morris is an historian and archaeologist, a contributing editor at the strategic forecasting company known as Stratfor, and currently teaches at Stanford University. His article gives some information that establishes the possibility of such a conflict:
According to Newsweek magazine’s polling, a third of all Americans think such a conflict could break out within the next five years, with 10% thinking it “very likely to happen.” Plenty of experts agree. Back in March, State Department official Keith Mines told Foreign Policy magazine: “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.” He rated the odds of a second American Civil War breaking out within the next 10-15 years at 60%.
October’s awful events — pipe bombs sent to leading Democratic politicians and supporters, the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh — have only amplified these fears. “We are now nearing a point comparable to 1860,” my Stanford University colleague Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote in the National Review.
The historian Niall Ferguson, another Stanford colleague, suggested in The Sunday Times of London that if someone were to design a “Civil War Clock” comparable to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ “Doomsday Clock,” the designer would probably now be announcing that it is “two minutes to Fort Sumter.”
However, Dr. Morris was far more cautious about drawing conclusions like this, and rightly so. His piece is well worth reading for careful consideration, and his conclusion is well-reasoned and can be summarized as follows in Dr. Morris’ own words. (We edited this summary for brevity:)
So, the obvious questions: Why do the polarization/regionalism/financial crisis/political violence package and civil war sometimes go together and sometimes not, and will they go together in America’s short-term future?
…Rome lurched into civil war in 49 B.C. because Caesar and Pompey each had armies to back their political ambitions. It did so again in A.D. 69 because no fewer than four rivals found themselves in this position. It did not lurch into civil war in 133 B.C., though, because its mighty armies remained aloof from politics.
England stumbled into civil war in 1642 because it had no standing army at all. When relations between the Royalists and Parliamentarians broke down, each could safely set about raising its own armed forces with no fear that Leviathan would intervene and stop them. This was Thomas Hobbes’ central point in his 1651 masterpiece Leviathan; only a powerful government with terrifying armed force can scare people straight and deter them from using violence to pursue their own ends.
When relations between Northern and Southern states broke down in 1861, the United States had more in common militarily with England in 1642 than with any of the other cases discussed here. It did have a professional army, but it contained just 16,367 men… The government in Washington effectively had no army to enforce its will, and both sides — like King Charles I and the English Parliament in 1642 — had to set about raising forces almost from scratch.
Nothing could be less like the United States’ position in 2018. It has the most powerful and professional armed forces the world has ever seen, and there is absolutely no doubt about their loyalty to the legitimate government or commitment to the principle of civilian command. American soldiers, sailors and airmen do have political opinions, but they currently can be relied on to put their duty first… So long as the armed forces remain true to their highest traditions, it will not matter how angry the American people get or how badly their politicians behave. There will be no second Civil War.
However, there certainly are seeds for some sort of civil conflict, nevertheless. We have seen already what much of this looks like, and what it will look like, with the riots in Washington DC, Charleston and elsewhere. We see two major political alignments – the virulently anti-Trump people, mostly city-bred and urban Democrats and extreme liberals deepening their conflict against a largely rural, traditional body of the population of the United States. The electoral maps show this, with urban population centers tending liberal and rural sectors tending conservative. The religious line cannot be underestimated in this situation, and it is a much stronger factor in the present conflict than it has ever been in the history of the United States.
This is because the faction that does not want President Trump is also filled with people that want some very odd things: drug legalization, same-sex marriages, the silencing of Christian morality, and the marginalization of the Christian religion as a formative factor in civil life. The conservatives reject most or all of these ideas, and feel quite threatened by the nature of them, in fact.
The wall-to-wall media coverage of the political conflict admittedly does help exacerbate the conflict on more personal levels, though it is also almost impossible to simply cede and not cover this story. Peggy Noonan, writing in her opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal noted:
Sometimes you write about the most obvious thing in the world because it is the most important thing. Reaction to the outcome of Robert Mueller’s investigation shows Americans again how divided we are. If you are more or less of the left, you experienced the probe as a search for truth that would restore the previous world of politics. Instead the traitor got away with it and you feel destabilized, deflated. If you are of the Trumpian right, it was from the beginning an attempted coup, the establishment using everything it had to remove a force it could not defeat at the polls. You are energized, elated.
Mrs. Noonan notes here that each side got more entrenched in its emotional and rhetorical position. We have reports that give confirmation to this from the Associated Press, carried by various sources like The Chicago Sun Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. The Irish Times also offered its own analysis of the matter, though more from the political point of view than that of the average American.
The deepening of the division appears to be along very shallow terms, though, most of which have to do with the person and partly alignment of the President. There is even a bizarre policy alignment shift, taken because, quite simply, anything President Trump wants must be opposed by his adversaries, simply because it is President Trump that wants it. A great example of this is the Democrat and “never Trumper” opposition to the construction of the border wall, over 600 miles of which was completed under the previous two presidential administrations, in other words, with bipartisan support.
Pure passion here, no thought required. In fact, we require you not to think.
The reason for this is that there is no reason being applied in this discussion. Consider this set of statements from the Associated Press piece (emphases added):
“The one side that’s happy is happy. And the other side that’s not happy wants to do some more investigation or do something else,” said Stephen Turner, an electrical engineer from Belmont, North Carolina, who is Republican and voted for Trump. “I wish it’d just go away.”
Across the union, the split reaction to the Mueller news repeated.
In West Palm Beach, Florida, along the route Trump’s motorcade took before returning to Washington on Air Force One, Mary Jude Smith got a wave and a smile from the chief executive. The 71-year-old retiree from Hypoluxo, Florida, speaks about him with passion and insists he has been exonerated. She sees the investigation as Democrats’ pathetic attempt to impeach Trump.
“I think Mueller was a crook. He wasted millions of our tax dollars for nothing,” she said, before offering her assessment of Trump: “He’s as clean as the driven snow.”
In blue-state New York, 49-year-old filmmaker Dan Lee of Brooklyn Heights felt let down by Mueller and left with more questions than answers.
“It stings a little, because I trusted Mueller,” said Lee, a Democrat. “There are still so many questions and it seems inconceivable that obstruction isn’t one of the conclusions.”
But this statement is loaded. Mr. Lee really means “It stings a little, because I trusted Mueller to deliver the results I wanted to be true, and he didn’t do that. Therefore he betrayed my feelings!” Dan Lee might not agree with this assessment unless questioned carefully, but it is true. This is extremely important in this issue. We continue:
In red-state West Virginia, 44-year-old truck driver Michael Tucker of Bancroft, declared the Russian investigation “a joke, for the most part” and that Trump has been treated unfairly.
“It’s one witch hunt after another,” said Tucker, who gave his vote to Trump in 2016 and likely will again next year. “If they could have found anything, they would have.”
This is also loaded, though for a Trump supporter it appears as “reasonable”, but again that is because the report aligned with the Trump supporter’s own emotional connection to the issue. The piece goes on to amplify this point:
There were morsels in Barr’s letter both sides could savor. For Republicans, it was acknowledgement that there was no evidence Trump or his campaign conspired with Russia. For Democrats, it was the admission that while Trump wasn’t charged with obstruction, he also wasn’t exonerated.
Tasty tidbits for both sides to try to gorge themselves on, all the while increasing animosity towards one another.
Fox News and CNN both covered the rebuke of Rep. Adam Schiff. CNN gave the Representative the platform to restate his claim that the collusion is in plain sight (and so on…). Fox took the letter that comprised the Republican rebuke of the chairman as its mainstay. However, that heated and personal moment in the House Committee was broadcast across social media and finally, in face to face conversations, one American to another.
At the heart of this problem it is the inability to approach controversial or difficult topics from and through discursive reasoning. Passions now lead the way, amplified by television news, the newspapers, opinion and blog sites, social media and news sites. In fact, where a reasoned argument is put forth, one notices that it usually does not get read or heard. This applies regardless of what the reasoned argument is about.
It is as though everyone is getting wound up for a fight. The love of many has run cold, and even calls for “unity” are ineffectual, because they themselves are based on emotional appeal to people that are only existing in a hyper-emotional state. It will not work.
And, by the way, Russia didn’t do a thing to cause this, despite Senator Graham’s allusions. This conflict is totally homegrown.
The cause of this situation is simple
The point has been put forth before many times that this division is the result of the collective rejection of, and lack of humility towards, a sovereign God as the real King over the nation. This may look like it is religious or simplistic reasoning, but it is not. There is no other reason for it. Considering the depth of anger towards President Trump, one finds no reasoned argument for it. Instead people go on about the man’s artificial hair, or his hands, or his voice, but never his policies, except as those policies are represented as causing various further emotional problems (like the Border Wall).
Similarly, resentment of the American left by the right is often more coolly framed, but no less passionate. The right believes that the Left is going to try to subvert everyone, and that creates defensive anger and the desire to defend and retaliate.
The seeds of the next American civil war are in the ground and sprouting. It is not likely to be a war fought by armed forces. But it may well take the form of more and more riots, prejudiced actions, manipulation of social media companies, stigmatization, and it will be one of the nastiest conflicts anyone could imagine. Civil war is probably not the best title for it. Societal implosion and self-destruction are probably closer terms to describe this.
This conflict has no rational cause. It is the collapse of a decadent nation which has rejected everything that made it great in the first place. Humility and repentance would stop this.
But who has the courage to be humble?