What was the American civil war? Here’s a short recap. The war lasted from 1861 to 1865. It was fought all over the U.S. and was between the northern states (known as the Union) and the southern states (known as the Confederates) over what one historian says were “uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states.” With 2.1 million soldiers, the Union had roughly double the manpower. About 620,000 soldiers died in all, which is the biggest loss of life in any war for the U.S. 51,000 died in one battle alone, at Gettysburg.
Ultimately, the North won. But the question we’re asking today is: Could this happen again? Let’s find out, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Could the U.S. have another Civil War?
Some of you might be thinking, hell no, the USA could never be that divided again. Why would anyone think that? But the division between what we call the Right and Left has perhaps never been bigger in modern times, which is evident just by looking at social media. The right, especially what people call the Alt-right, calls the Left names such as “snowflakes”, while the Left is sometimes equally as combative when calling out its nemesis as being violent, hostile, and racist. How did it ever come to this? Each side is so unwilling to make amends, which has sadly resulted in riots over the last few years.
In 2017, The New Yorker published at article called “is America headed for a new kind of Civil war?” In the beginning of the article, we read the stark lines, “How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy?” A man named Keith Mines was interviewed. He has worked in the Special Forces, for the U.N., and for the State Department. What did Mines say? Well, he believes that there is a 60 percent chance of civil war in the U.S in the next ten to fifteen years. Yes, you heard that right. So, what’s going on?
Well, firstly we should say that his idea of civil war is not mass bloodshed like at the battle of Gettysburg, but a large portion of America no longer having trust in what we might call “the system” and so some kind of anarchy emerges. The National Guard will have to be called out, and those militarized police stations will be putting their equipment to work. This will all happen, according to Mines, because the polarization that we presently see will deepen, and there will be no chance to resolve it. News media and other media will help entrench people’s opposing opinions, violence will be legitimized as the only way to solve the issues, and the government will be too weak to do anything.
Hmm, that’s kind of disturbing. Maybe Mines is just paranoid, or maybe he’s pessimistic, or does he have a point?
Well, although the LA Times in 2017 mentioned a slew of media op-eds and columns that came out that year asking the same question, columnist Dennis Prager didn’t ask the question. His piece was titled, “America is currently fighting its second civil war.” Is a war of words on Twitter, a divided media, and negligible violence in the streets enough to state that America is at war with itself?
We should remember that there are very intelligent, peace loving people endorsing right and left viewpoints, and that zero-tolerance left and right-wingers don’t represent everyone in the USA. The LA Times writes, “The division between ordinary Republicans and Democrats has itself been overstated.” And perhaps if we believe the sometimes-hyperbolic headlines, we might feel unsafe enough to take a side. “The atmosphere that produces negative partisanship can fuel a paranoid loathing of the other party’s members,” said the article. We live in an era where everyone has a voice and that voice can attract a lot of attention. Partisanship is the norm and being wrong is not an option.
So, what does the average American – someone we’ve discussed in detail in the past – think about all of this?
Foreign Policy magazine created a poll asking both security experts and the public about the chance of civil war. The experts were all over the place, saying there was a 30 percent chance, a 60 percent chance, and a 95 percent chance. But the readers were way more optimistic, saying there was about an 18 percent chance of war. How was war defined? This was the description given: “(1) military action internal to the metropole of the state system member; (2) the active participation of the national government; (3) effective resistance by both sides; and (4) a total of at least 1,000 battle-deaths during each year of the war.”
So, it seems we are not talking about all-out warfare with people in those leafy suburbs taking their politically divided neighbors’ head off with a Black and Dekker chainsaw. We are talking about public disturbances and violent protests leading to a lot more violence than we currently have seen.
All over the world, throughout history, this has happened, sometimes with factions on the same side even taking arms against each other. To prevent this from happening, Foreign Policy says the U.S. right now needs to “establish more formal practices for identifying and tracking domestic extremism — with an honest recognition that young, white males on both ends of the political spectrum are the most likely to commit violence.”
We must remember that things like peasant revolutions came during very harsh times in some countries, when the hierarchy of elites were happy to see people starve. The question in America is, are times bad enough for people to want to give their lives to the cause. Probably not. But these are also paranoid times, so when moderation and censorship effects certain content online, it only infuriates and vindicates those it edits or expunges. It’s a tricky situation.
We might also recognize that the soothsayers of technology tell us automation is going to put a huge number of Americans out of work, and that those that own the tech will have way too much power and control. Will there be a revolution against this, a kind of new-age Luddite uprising? If we can see our mistakes throughout history, those in power should know that the people need to be protected and cared for, lest they pick up the proverbial pitchfork (or in this case, an assault rifle).
Foreign Policy agrees, writing, “As our government and corporate leaders continue to deconstruct rule of law and economic opportunity, the norms degrade and the space for transgression becomes bigger.”
Whose side would you be on anyway? As the Chicago Tribune writes, it would not be that simple, so a new civil war would be very fragmented. It would happen inside states, rather than between them. Perhaps the ‘haves’ will revolt against the ‘have nots’ in some very divided states, especially as education standards drop for some, healthcare is out of reach for many, and old industries are folded because artificial intelligence has supplanted human intelligence.
If you look at Walmart and Amazon (the two biggest employers in the USA) and see their new tech and new patents, it seems they are both looking to take human workers out of their stores ASAP. This could cause problems beyond politics, political correctness, and Big Brother fears. Mass unemployment could create a new wave of discontent in the nation.
What do Americans think about all of this? The question has been asked a few times on Quora. One American didn’t mince words, saying, “We’re talking many, many factions, foreign intervention, brutality, rape, murder, torture, all of it over huge areas of the U.S.” The unsettling thing is, many other people thought the same, or similar.
Others said there would be random acts of violence, invoking the movie Brazil, where bombs go off all over the country, planted by small extremist groups. Others weren’t so pessimistic, stating as we said earlier that perhaps the desperation level won’t get that far and people won’t be willing to kill, or be killed, if they still have some relative comforts and a security net that many other nations don’t currently offer their citizens.
So, all we can do is turn this over to you. Do you think the US can have another civil war? If so, what side would you be on? Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called What If The World Was One Country?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!