Untenable

An answer by Jon Davis on Quora recently got me to thinking about the possible prosecution and ramifications of a second American Civil War here – specifically, the areas which are frequently ignored throughout casual discussions about the direction some feel we are headed. It was late, so my comment was brief and off-the-cuff:

Effectively, any start of an internal conflict would mark the drastic slowdown of many ancillary, but important roles: research & development, production (ammunition, fuel, and food), logistics (air, land, and sea), and tip the scales of bargaining power towards the labor force which would be loyal to the government.

A quick search on the latter is along the lines of a blog post I have been mulling over:

“On the eve of World War II, 2.3 million workers engaged in 4,200 strikes, more strikes than in any other era in United States history.”

“A series of strikes swept American industries during the early years of the war. Workers went on strike 2,970 times in walkouts that idled 840,000 workers in 1942.” (https://research.library.gsu.edu/c.php?g=115684&p=752252)

You get the idea – without unity, there is little effort, without full effort, there is limited production… and this is with the mindset of a time when production jobs were basically it for the middle class (factory, farming, or mining). Now? With those fields in dire need already… and performed by an often politically overlooked/disregarded section of our population?

Going back to your answer:

“Tell me what good that $2,000,000 bomb was if it killed 3 insurgents, but recruited 10,000 more.”

I would expand upon that a bit:

“Tell me what good that limited supply of $2,000,000 bombs would be if it killed three insurgents, but recruited from the limited national manpower pool 10,000 more.”

Logistics, labor, and production… can’t do much without an uninterrupted chain.

Over the last 24 hours since I came across that question, I have been wrestling with numerous PDF’s, web sites, and notes in my characteristic hurricane of validating data…

What it all boils down to is the untenable nature of civil strife when it comes to the basics of national will to fight and the logistics and industrial component of warfare.

Being a student of history brings with it some very odd crossovers with other disciplines. Rarely is an effective study of the past viable or relevant when primarily discussing tangible dates, capabilities, or tactics. For me, I have purposefully strayed into diverse ponderings on sociology, psychology, ethics, economics, politics, doctrine/theory, and organizational behaviors; while I have never made the claim to be a subject matter expert on any of these things, there are some connections I cannot help but make.

Antoine-Henri Jomini (1779-1869) is often credited with being one of the first military theorists to elaborate on the ideas of logistics in warfare. His definition of logistics in The Art of War (1862) was simple and complex at the same time:

Logistics is the art of moving armies. It comprises the order and details of marches and camps, and of quartering and supplying troops; in a word, it is the execution of strategical and tactical enterprises.

In a way, logistics could incorporate everything I mentioned – research & development, production, and manpower; for the sake of this post, I will run with this broad categorization of these distinct, yet interrelated, areas.

Conflict – regardless of whether it is intra- or interstate – is costly beyond the monetary value of the men, munitions, and machines directly involved in the fighting. For example: a UH-60M Black Hawk might cost around $50 million, this price doesn’t include the annual operating costs or the investment in the crews needed to operate it with any respectable level of proficiency; nor does that price reflect the necessary infrastructure to provide the facilities or consumables for daily operations.

With the exception of a few very minor outlying examples, the United States has not had any major armed conflicts on the continental mainland which directly threatened the populace or industrial components since the end of the American Civil War in 1865. The geographic isolation provided by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans afforded our cities, factories, farms, and shipyards production uninterrupted by attack or potential seizure by armed forces. Similarly, the abundance of natural resources in relatively close proximity allowed for a relatively constant flow of the raw materials which fed the industries and the aggregate population which tended them.  

However, history demonstrates the perils of neglecting these most basic components of warfare. The vulnerability of supply depots and lines in two distinctly different conflicts posed similar threats to offensive strategic efforts and goals by diverting resources to ensure their safety:

During the German offensive, the rear services worked under extreme hardships. As a result of the surprise attack, the rear services personnel were faced with the problem of supporting the mobilization efforts while concurrently providing support to combat operations. Large quantities of food, forage, clothing, medical supplies, and ammunition as well as engineer, signal, artillery, and transport equipment were urgently needed by the defensive forces which were rapidly being pushed backward toward the interior of the Soviet Union. The rear services personnel expended tremendous effort and personal sacrifice in ensuring that the materiel requirements of combat troops were met. however, many needed items of supply were not in the reserve stocks, or had been in the reserve warehouses and were captured by the Germans.

LTC Edmonson, Gilbert H., USA, Logistics: The Soviets’ Nemesis to Conventional War in Central Europe

Much of the Soviet combat in Afghanistan was a fight for control of the road network. Soviet security of the Eastern LOC (lines of communication) required 26 battalions manning 199 outposts, patrolling the LOCs or escorting convoys. The more-open Western LOC required three battalions. More than three-fourths of Soviet combat forces were routinely involved in security missions. DRA (Democratic Republic of Afghanistan) forces were also tied down in LOC and area security. The Mujahideen ability to interdict the LOC was a constant concern to the Soviets and prevented them from maintaining a larger occupation force in Afghanistan.

Jalali, Ali Ahmad and Lester W. Grau – The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War

Just east of Kabul, Afghanistan, 3Oct2004. (Source: author)

Likewise, the specter of unrest among those who provided the labor on the homefront hampered production:

During 1941 there were 4,288 strikes involving almost 2-4 million men and women. Work stoppages were more widespread than in 1937, and only 1919 surpassed the year in overall strike statistics.

[Regarding the 1941 North American Aviation strikes] On the morning of June 9, 2,500 troops with fixed bayonets moved in, broke up the existing picket lines, and prohibited public assembly within a mile of the plant. Stimson ordered California draft boards to cancel the deferments of those who refused to return to work. When leaders of the strike attempted to organize a march back into the plant, military forces on the scene disrupted this show of solidarity.

Lichtenstein, Nelson – Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in World War II

Finally, a contemporary warning and possible response:

Moreover, the fact that modern ground forces are so large, unwieldy, and dependent on logistics that they cannot respond as quickly in a crisis as other forms of military power – primarily air power – constitutes a significant disadvantage that has accelerated efforts to make them a more flexible instrument of military power.

Martel, William C., Dawkin, Deborah, and Martel, William C. – Victory in War: Foundations of Modern Strategy

A conflict within our nation, whether it occurs within the next five years or fifty, wouldn’t be as simple as “Grey versus Blue” of our past. It would be a complete mess of strikes in the civilian workforce, possible desertions within our military forces as obligations towards Constitution, community, or comrade strain the ranks, and the reprioritization of the harvesting, mining, and transportation of the raw materials at the beginning of the logistics chain. Topping this off, the loss of able-bodied men and women to the conflict as either one less person producing or as casualties would not only lead to a tenuous short-term tactical problem but would jeopardize the long-term strategic plans as well as any viable post-war reconstruction efforts of the nation.

The problem with writing this post is that I sort of lost myself in the research. In re-reading what I have written thus far, the notion of deleting it out of frustration with the topic has entered my mind; this has turned out to be a bit of a dark prediction of what could await us if we aren’t mindful of the results of so much free-flowing angst towards each other.

Ever the vicious optimist, however, I feel that this brief journey into disturbing possibilities may provide others a moment of pause when considering how much they despise their political antipode… and to what end those unchecked emotions may bring them – and us, for that matter.

The original question that launched me into this post – “If there needed to be a revolt against the government’s tyranny, would ‘the people’ and their arms stand a chance against the U.S. military?” provides interesting responses either in confirmation or denial. That this theme seems to be revisited so frequently is both troublesome and reassuring. The former because it is being pondered; the latter because it can be pondered. That we haven’t gotten to the point where there are no more questions to be asked or permitted is still a good thing…

…Because anyone who has known such conflict knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they never want to be there again.

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3 thoughts on “Untenable

  1. Pingback: milsurpwriter
  2. So a couple of ill-digested, off the cuff thoughts:

    “Amateurs talk tactics. Professional discuss logistics.” – Ike

    The idea of a “new Civil War” is oddly romantic to some. It’s as if they pay no attention to Lee’s comments about the terribleness of war. It is much like the populist opinion of war in early 1861, or commander Kor in Star Trek, “It would have been glorious.” None of the real lessons of war, the destruction, the damage, the death, the stench, the pain are given any attention.

    In the idea of a “new Civil War,” there is a great deal of ignoring that there are no longer the sectional lines that existed in 1860. Even then, there were anti-slavery Southerners (my great-grandfather among them) and pro-slavery Northerners. But today the dividing lines are even more blurred. I’m this, but my next-door neighbor is that. Are we really going to fight for control of every block on every street in the USA?

    I would hope that calmer heads will prevail and people will realize that those agitating for such a thing are, quite literally, insane.

    And that’s before we get into how what manufacturing we still have would work.

    Will we have “This” shifts and “That” shifts” in the same place? It boggles the mind to even think that such a conflict would be sustainable let alone intelligent.

    Well.. off to work! Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good points – many which have crossed my mind, as well as many others.

      The thing that crossed my mind earlier today was to update this post to reflect how things might pan out when it comes to logistics and the worst-case scenario of such a violent shift in our society…

      When looking at how the popular vote was broken down, it would be fair to say that a lot of the solid production/transportation is performed by those derided as “deplorable” while much of the technology which serves as the foundation of those processes and systems is the realm of the political “others.” This is a broad generalization; to break it down further would be speculation on a LOT of sub-categories of motivation and affiliation. Suffice to say that such a conflict within the U.S. would be a disaster on the local and global scale… after all, not many people seem to remember what happened with the global economy when Thailand devalued the baht back in 1997.

      For those who dare think that a Second American Civil War would be an event to “set things right” from the perspective of EITHER side, such a desire indicates not only a blind hatred, but a willing ignorance as to what that would mean for the rest of the world. As a long-time student of history, I cannot see any “win” for either side… and perhaps there *are* saner heads which are prevailing in their efforts to keep such a disaster from happening. My blame for the increased grumbling and simmering resentment again goes back to the individual for not stopping to consider the consequences / inability to think independently as well as the media who stoke those fires of angst daily.

      The problem with reactionary measures is that they often are rooted in emotion rather than logic… and once the heady feelings of vindication subside, they very could well be replaced by remorse and shock that what was thought to be desired isn’t what is truly wanted. This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes which has appeared here and there in my posts:

      “The regulations say that you can complain, but the result will not be the one you expect.”

      Like

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