Skip to comments.The CW2 Cube: Mapping the Meta-terrain of Civil War Two
Posted on 07/30/2010 8:41:52 AM PDT by Jack Black
A second civil war in the United States would be an unparalleled disaster. Nobody who is sane and who has studied modern civil wars from Spain to Lebanon to the Balkans and beyond would ever wish to see one occur. But if political, cultural and demographic trends are sweeping us toward that unhappy destiny, it would be wise to at least cast a weather eye over the possible terrain.
First, a caveat. I am not going to waste our time making politically-correct genuflections after every controversial sentence, because this essay is intended to be read by mature and rational adults.
Before we move on to the cube, lets begin with the CW2 Square. The cube is best tackled in another step. Draw the square and label one axis Poorer to Richer. Label the other axis Darker to Lighter. Darker, for brevity, includes African-Americans, Hispanics and so on. Lighter refers to those of European ancestry. The two opposed meta-groups are the poorer and darker versus the richer and lighter, or whiter if you wish to be blunt. The richer/whiter have the power of their wealth, but counterbalancing that advantage is the fact that the poorer/darker have succeeded in wresting control of much of government power. This is so, even if most of their elected leaders are anything but poor or dark.
Now, before you scream out your exceptions, yes, there are rich black cattle ranchers and poor whites living in blighted urban areas and so on. However, to focus on them is to miss the critical centers of gravity of Civil War Two for the over-study of interesting but insignificant outliers. Filling one corner of the CW2 Square will be the poorer and darker, who primarily are liberal and progressive Democrats who believe in a malleable living Constitution. And in the other corner will be the richer and whiter, who mainly are conservative or libertarian Republicans who believe in the original intent of the written Constitution. Again, keep your eyes on the two meta-cores, not the exceptions.
Now, lets add the third dimension and shoot another axis out from the square to form the CW2 Cube. Label the third axis Urban versus Rural, or City versus Country if you prefer. This axis gives a geographical dimension to the meta-terrain, but there will be no convenient dividing line between the opposed sides as there was during the first civil war. It has frequently been observed that todays red-blue political map is better understood at the county than at the state level. Even blue states like Illinois, California and New York are rural-red outside of their blue urban cores. Obviously, these urban cores are heavily populated but geographically small, with all that means to the electoral process today and to a possible civil war later.
So the opposing corners of the CW2 Cube can be seen as the poorer, darker cities versus the richer, whiter rural areas. Again, dont quibble about outliers. Yes, there are a few rich, conservative African-Americans living in Wyoming, many poor white liberal Democrats in rural West Virginia, some rich conservatives in San Francisco and every other exceptional case imaginable.
Most of us live in the mushy, mongrel middle, far from the tips of the two opposite corners. But the centers of gravity of Civil War Two shall be as I have described: the relatively richer, whiter and more rural against the poorer, darker and urban. One can also propose many more axes of conflict than can fit on a cube, such as the religious versus the non-believers, socialists versus capitalists, statists versus individualists and so on. However, after you reflect upon the CW2 Cube, I think you will find that most of these extra axes can be overlaid parallel to one of the three already posited.
So, of what use is the CW2 Cube, other than in providing a conceptual map for Civil War Two? In my research as a novelist who attempts to write realistic fiction about the coming years, I have long been a student of modern civil wars. One repeated lesson of modern civil war is that there is inherently dangerous, even fatal terrain. Some of this predictably-dangerous terrain is often highly desirable and even advantageous before the outbreak of civil war.
To begin: you do not want to live as a trapped and cut-off minority in what might become enemy territory. If you live amidst your civil war enemies, as defined and located within the CW2 Cube, you will be in mortal danger even if your immediate neighbors know, love and respect you. Those persons who have a stake in fanning the flames of CW2 (and their number shall be legion), will intentionally target those remaining holdouts who may be respected minority neighbors. (In this essay, minority means the minority within a given group or area. Blacks are the majority in some areas, and whites are the minorities in others, and so on.)
Frequently in modern civil wars, roaming armed groups (in or out of uniform) will even force people to kill their own beloved and respected minority neighbors as an ultimate loyalty test. If they refuse, they may themselves be killed as traitors. Besides pre-conflict racists and radicals, there will be an ever-increasing pool of persons attempting to expel minorities from their homes. Those embittered unfortunates who have already been ethnically cleansed will be seeking new living quarters, and the homes and property of enemy minorities still living in majority territory will be the first on the chopping block. (Not the auction block, because payment of any kind is rarely offered.) This process of minority eviction becomes self-perpetuating.
Often, those members of minorities who escape as refugees are the lucky ones who do not lose their lives during the back-and-forth of escalating violence. The fact that they may have been loved, admired and respected for many years by their majority-population neighbors will not protect them. This is a clear lesson of modern civil war. Another is that while the rich or the well-to-do can sometimes hide their wealth and pass as proles, the same cannot be said about concealing ones racial or ethnic identity. Religious affiliation and political leanings can also be hidden, but outward appearance cannot. Civil War Two may begin on purely political grounds, but it will devolve into something worse.
Does this mean that all white city-dwellers should head for the hinterland, or that dark-skinned folks living in the country should move to the city? Its not for me to say. We all hope and pray that there will never be a second hot civil war in America, instead of merely the cold civil war we are engaged in today. But the lessons of modern civil wars should not be ignored. Another lesson is that it will take tremendous moral courage to defy the hot-heads and radicals, and shield your minority neighbors from harm. Think of Anne Frank. Think of those indescribably brave inhabitants of the former Yugoslavia who hid their minority neighbors, when the discovery of that fact could and often did lead to their own deaths.
While Civil War Two is on the table for discussion, allow me to introduce two aggravating factors that dont fit neatly on the cube. The first is the concept of multiple embedded minorities. Picture the old cartoon mainstay showing a line of fish getting ready to gobble another fish, from the leviathan down to the small fry. You might live in a neighborhood where you are in the majority, but the neighborhood is in a town where you are in the minority. And the town is surrounded by a larger area where your own kind once again predominates.
Or you might fit into the picture as the smallest of all fish, living in the only minority household within a majority neighborhood. From street to neighborhood to city to state to region can easily place you in the middle of several levels of embedded minorities-within-majorities. This formulation might work for many decades during times of relative prosperity and well-being, but during a civil war it is a recipe for disaster, as unstable as nitroglycerin-filled bowling pins. Its all cool just as long as the pins are standing still and calmly hanging out together, but look out when the Black Swan bowling ball comes rolling in! An unstoppable chain reaction ensues, as each new act of violence is avenged up and down the line.
Remember that funny line-of-fish cartoon, and imagine it a few seconds later when the biting begins. Its not so funny then -- especially for the smaller fish.
The second aggravating factor is the unstable triangle of the three-sided civil war. The Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims provide a classic example. Each side of the unstable triangle will backstab yesterdays ally at the moment they perceive themselves to be at a local disadvantage, or when they see an opportunity to wipe out an historic enemy with a new Final Solution. The unstable ethnic triangle in the United States will in many places be composed of black, white and Hispanic sides. By comparison, the old black and white social dichotomy was inherently stable, even when it might have been rife with injustice.
In some areas, Asians, Middle-easterners, Native Americans and other groups will contribute to the formation of regional social geometries that are even more unstable than the unstable triangle. Study modern civil wars and you will cringe at the implications. A steel roller-coaster overloaded with old dynamite and electric blasting caps during a lightning storm comes to my mind.
And finally, some urban settings are just disastrous during a modern civil war, even if they might offer a terrific quality of life during peacetime. Perhaps the top the list of danger areas are high-rise buildings located near potential civil war flashpoints or fault lines. Living in a cluster of high-rises divided by a green line during a guerrilla sniper war is a worst-case horror show. Not to mention the misery attendant to life in a tall building without running water, electricity, sewage service, working elevators, heating or air-conditioning. While under intermittent sniper fire. For months.
So should you stay or should you go? If you dont believe that another civil war in America is possible, then simply disregard this column. But if you think that a second civil war could happen then picture the CW2 Cube and map your location within it. If you think that you live near a possible civil war fault line, especially as a local minority, consider relocating.
After the fact, a common sentiment heard from urbane, secular Bosnians living in the Olympic City of Sarajevo expressed complete disbelief that a brutal, bloody civil war could have come to their modern European city and tear their lives apart.
But it did.
A parting suggestion to students of modern civil war is to read Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnias War by the British journalist Ed Vulliamy. Its currently collecting dust at your local public library, waiting only to be read.
Forewarned is forearmed.
Matthew Bracken is the author of the Enemies trilogy, beginning with 2003's Enemies Foreign And Domestic. For more information, go to http://www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com/
See also Misha Glenny's The Third Balkan War for his account of what happens when a society commits autogenocide.
“This Civil War is brought to you live and in color!”
Obviously requires a CWII Ping!
Luckily, I am in a neighborhood that is filled primarily with hittable women.
A very sobering essay. Thanks for posting and writing it.
Great article! Thanks for posting!
Coffee can on rebar target practice bump!
Good point. A total breakdown of society is the only way I’ll ever get a date.
Lucky for me I live in a semi-rural, very Republican & White county that has an arsenal in the middle (a Cabela’s store). Bring it on!
That's a different war, there.
A dimension to this cube that I think is important and may actually set it off is the taxpayer vs. non-taxpayer. Socialist policy will ultimately swell the ranks of the dependents to the point where public budgets can’t support them. When services are cut and the dependents start wandering out into the land inhabited by the producers to take what they think they deserve, then the shooting will start.
well done, Matt.
Another strategic factor to consider is that no war — civil or otherwise — is fought in a vacuum. It is not just American conservatives/libertarians against American communists. It will be conservatives versus the world’s leftists. And they are many.
“Lucky for me I live in a semi-rural, very Republican & White county that has an arsenal in the middle (a Cabelas store). Bring it on!”
Always good to see new stuff from Matt!!!
Thanks for the ping. Excellent article, Matt!
how workable, doable would it be to turn this into a graphic illustrating what he’s describing?
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