The idea of a Second American Civil War interests me in terms of fiction. (It really doesn’t matter if it interests me in person. As Leon Trotsky said, “You might not be interested in war, but it’s very interested in you.”)
What was once an idea only discussed on the fringes of American politics and society gets increasingly mentioned by both sides of the political spectrum. State secession is openly discussed. Amazon gives me 75 pages of books with the search words “second American civil war”. No doubt many are Amazon’s often irrelevant listings. Others are history books or books on contemporary politics or alternate histories. But others aren’t. The phrase “cold civil war” is sometimes used for American politics today. If such creatures as historians are willing and able to exist in the future, they may say the opening shots of an American Civil War have already been fired at Kenosha, Wisconsin.
I am not starting another series on the fiction depicting such a war. I already have too many unfinished series in progress on this blog. However, this is not the first book on the theme I’ve reviewed. Adam Connell’s Total Secessiondoesn’t have a Second American Civil War as its backdrop and only a limited discussion of why the nation broke up, but it is set against the backdrop of S-Day, the Day of Total Secession from the Union. The Operation Enduring Unity trilogy by R. A. Peters has the war breaking out and escalating more as a result of political farce and bad luck than anything else. It’s a satire on the bad uses politicians put the military to, but it is not concerned with partisan politics. However, it does seem realistic in its depictions of how such a war might be fought militarily and economically. It is not, however, a work of Fourth Generation Warfare.
Essay: Victoria: A Novel of 4th Generation War, Thomas Hobbes, 2014.Cover by Ørjan Svendsen
That’s military theorist William S. Lind, co-author of our last book, lurking behind that pseudonym. The genesis of this novel was an April 30, 1995 op-ed piece he wrote for The Washington Post.
It’s a long, mostly well-written novel that seriously looks at how implementing 4th Generation Warfare concepts enables the state of Maine to ultimately secede from the United States of America and become an independent nation. Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s worth reading for a depiction of how Fourth Generation Warfare could be fought in a breakup of the USA. I suspect, in fact, that the leaders of the Year Zero mobs are already familiar with many of the concepts of Fourth Generation Warfare. However, I will warn anyone who regards themselves as feminists that they will probably want to sedate themselves before reading it or get some dental appliances lest their molars shatter under the pressure of clenched jaws.
Notice I said “political persuasion” not ideology. This book is decidedly anti-ideological. Lind regards ideologies as thought killers because ideologies distort reality for those who hold them. That makes effective action harder to say nothing of setting questionable goals. Lind follows political philosopher (and weird fiction author) Russell Kirk in this. (Kirk was also a mentor to Jerry Pournelle.)
We’re sometimes warned not to ascribe the views of characters to their authors. That’s not the case here. The principles the secessionists of Maine fight for are clearly Lind’s who has openly stated this novel is about the “recovery of our traditional, Western, Christian culture” and a return to, as the title suggests, Victorian values. At one point, early in the novel, the narrator is referred to traditionalright.com for more information. That’s Lind’s website. There are also characters that clearly reflect Lind’s seeming admiration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Prussian military.
The narrator is John Rumford, born in 1988, and the story starts in 2016 and ends in 2056. Rumford will go from a captain in the United States Marine Corps to the Grand Master of the Order of St. Louis, a group of warrior monks.
Lind isn’t one to pull rhetorical punches. The novel opens on August 18th, 2055 with the burning of the Episcopal bishop of Maine in the town square. Her crime is heresy.
Most of the rest of the book is about
the end of a once-great nation, by someone who saw most of what happened, and why. Read it and weep.
Rumford’s story starts in 2016 when he’s kicked out of the Corps for insulting a female officer at a memorial dinner. Another officer refers him to one Professor Gottfried Sanft at Dartmouth. Sanft is a one of the book’s two figures that serve the function the wise men do in Heinlein novels except Lind avoids the hectoring tone of later Heinlein. Throughout the book, often delivered through Sanft, are Lind’s social critiques, the why of the dissolution of America.
Through a series of political and, ultimately, military conflicts (remember, in Fourth Generation war, they are the same), Lind shows the principles of Fourth Generation Warfare, particularly propaganda operating on the moral level of war, the most important. Cleaning up a drug-infested public housing project in Roxbury, Massachusetts is the first battle. The main story ends with a full-on conventional war in California.
I’m not going to summarize the plot. The book’s main value is its informative details showing the plausible ways such a war would be fought. The perspective of the book is the opposite of Lind’s co-authored 4th Generation Warfare Handbook. It showed how a superpower could fight a 4th Generation war. This is how a group of limited resources can best a superpower.
You don’t have to buy the novel on Amazon to get a sense of it. Lind also has it on his webpage.
However, I am going to give you a timeline so you have a flavor of the scope and nature of the battles:
2017: Battle of the Housing Project in Roxbury, Massachusetts
2020: Tax revolt in Maine in response to Governor’s proposed legislation to require homosexual counselors in public schools and their unfettered access to students.
2021: Federal Democratic administration requires paroled black prisoners be put in public housing in Bangor, Maine. After they are expelled, federal law enforcement dispatched to state but are detained by armed members of Rumford’s Christian Marines. 82nd Airborne mobilized but stands down.
2022: Vermont seeks help of Christian Marines against its governor’s proposed jury reform. Governor kidnapped. General violence throughout America against Koreans and Jews, EPA and IRS agents, abortion doctors, government offices, and churches. Maine First party wins majority in state. Vermont and New Hampshire create similar parties.
2023: Federal ban on all tobacco smoking. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont nullify law. Massive inflation with federal worker salaries and welfare payments indexed to inflation. Federal ban on gold possession. Maine establishes own currency. Federal custom agents detained in Maine while trying to enforce ban on Maine’s currency.
2025: The N’Orleans flu, origin unknown but genetically engineered and with a mortality rate of 80%, empties cities with violence between rural inhabitants and evacuees.
2026: Rural militias, formed as response to mass movement of former urban inhabitants, banned. Flu sufferers deemed covered by federal disability laws.
2027: Collapse of America. A black minister’s group kills black rioters in Newark, New Jersey. National Guard dispatched to arrest them, but they mutiny. Federal troops dispatched to city. Private militias also show up. Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire declare their independence and form Northern Confederation. North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky form Confederate States of America. Rocky Mountain states form Libertas. Oregon and Washington join British Columbia to form Cascadia. Federal government asks for UN peacekeepers, but motion denied by Russia. Indiana declares independence and invaded by troops. Iowa secedes.
2028: Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas secede. All states of Midwest occupied by federal troops but local militias spring up. U.S. and Mexico negotiate joint sovereignty over Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Mexico invades Texas. Counterattack launched into Mexico where local Indians rebel against Mexican government and form the Mayan Empire. Mexico City falls to it. Northern Confederation blockaded and bombed. Maine Governor assassinated by US Special Forces. U.S. ground invasion of Northern Confederation repelled. Special operations by Northern Confederation strike targets in Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. Federal capitol moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Northern Confederation receives Russian aid and enters into alliance with Confederate States. Islamic state proclaimed in Boston. Northern Confederation takes city back. Puerto Ricans expelled from Massachusetts.
2029: Matthews Plan, formulated by former Marine and friend of Rumford, is approved. It resettles blacks in rural areas. Deep Greeners attempt occupation of Maine capitol. They are deported to Seattle. Maine Governor Kraft personally oversees execution of leftist academics at Dartmouth.
2032: Guerilla war between blacks and Hispanics in Confederacy. Tallahassee sacked. Confederate capitol moves from Richmond, Virginia to Atlanta. New Orleans taken over by voodoo priest.
2033: Atlanta secedes from Confederacy.
2034: Free Commune of Black Atlanta declared. Northern Confederation and Confederacy nuke Atlanta. Party of Will, Nazi-like government of Minnesota and Wisconsin, asks for North Confederation help. Request denied on grounds of it being an ideological-based government. (At an unspecified date, the party leader dies, and government falls with parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota becoming anarchic.) Massive die off in Cascadia run by Deep Greeners allied with China. Revolutionary group formed in Cascadia and asks for assistance from Northern Confederation. It, with assistance from Japan, deposes Cascadian government. Pirates from Mexico operate off Maine waters and Q-ship campaign drives them off. Northern Confederation refuses to aid Christians of Mexico fighting Aztecs of Nueva Hispania.
2037: Public referendum for war with Azania, radical feminist state in former Northern California, passed.
2038: Northern Confederation defeats Azania.
2053: Northern Confederation declares work on Algiers and its pirates. Northern Confederation renamed Victoria.
2054: Creation of reunified Christendom by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches.
Particularly in the early conflicts, how the side with less resources can win on the all-important moral level is shown. This is done often using propaganda created and distributed by modern technology though I think the novel has dated a little bit in this aspect. Social media companies have shown much more willingness and ability to censor traffic than depicted in this novel.
On the battleground, the technology used really isn’t futuristic at all. The war with Azania is fought more in a Third Generation way than Fourth Generation way. One thing Lind doesn’t really cover is the use of small drones in warfare, a possibility less foreseeable in 2014.
Lind’s depiction of technology is questionable in parts of the novel and unusual in others.
Its invention and manufacture of improved electrical batteries benefits the Northern Confederation’s economy but seems a bit too convenient. For a large part of the book, the Northern Confederation relies on the resurrected technology of steam locomotives. That’s certainly plausible, but I’m a bit skeptical, given the decay of the infrastructure of the U.S. during the novel and the massive die off from the N’Orleans flu, that such technology would be so easily revived given the dearth of the requisite skills and talent. Lind is on firmer ground when he imagines a massive engineering project by the Northern Confederation and some breakaway Canadian provinces to harness the tidal forces at the Bay of Fundy for electrical generation. Lind is also entirely correct that the way to avoid a cyberattack on the military and financial institutions of the Northern Confederation is to simply rely on paper-and-pencil. Lind, in general, is skeptical of relying on technology to conclusively win wars.
But the most interesting technological discussion concerns Retroculture, the idea that the social order of the past can be recreated by abandoning technologies developed after that period. Kraft, the other wise old man of the novel and Rumford’s political advisor, is an advocate of it, and Lind seems one too given that he’s written a book on the subject. I find Retroculture’s social critique credible given what I’ve seen in my lifetime, but, frankly, I’m not sure I’m willing to abandon new technologies to cure their attendant evils. (Well, maybe the smartphone and its spinoffs.)
Lind illustrates the principles of Fourth Generation Warfare well, but is he convincing in his attacks on multiculturalism? I don’t know since I was largely in agreement with him before I read the book and was aware of most of his arguments apart from the notion of Retroculture.
Since I’ve seen a lot of foolish and absurd ideas in my lifetime go from mere talk to being encoded in laws enforced by the state, I actually don’t find any of his political extrapolations unbelievable. But Lind undercuts the general seriousness of the book by giving some absurd names to the foes of the Northern Confederation. On the other hand, America does have terrible mayors with the mockable names London Breed and Keisha Lance Bottom, so Lind’s satirical names may not be that absurd.
I also had a problem with the climax of the war with Azania which relies on, to me, an unbelievable change of mind by one character. I fully realize that Lind did it to emphasize the superiority of western individualism over Asian views on that matter. It also illustrates the Christian notion of forgiveness and that no soul is truly lost while they still live. I just don’t find, in life or literature, such changes of heart probable or reliable.
Additional Thoughts (with Spoilers)
Part of the interest for this sort of novel or post-apocalypse fiction is the perverse interest in what happens to areas you’ve lived in or are familiar with.
I’m afraid my native Dakotas don’t fare well. They are easily taken out of the fight with a
coup de main in the capital with some airborne forces, followed by show trials of secessionist leaders and their public executions.
However, actually peaceably occupying those areas turns out to be much harder.
As for Minnesota, the Party of Will gains power in Wisconsin because the state, like the rest of the Midwest, is chaotic and gets
the local Germans and Scandinavians riled. Northern peoples haven’t much tolerance of disorder, and when they get mad, which they don’t do easily, they don’t just sound off. They kill.
Wisconsin’s “Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and feminists fled” to Minnesota.
Minnesota . . . disintegrated into the usual chaos of ethnic urban gangs, shoot-on-sight rural militias and wandering, bizarre cultic tribes. No central authority arose that could make anything work. On the whole, of the two states, Minnesota had the worst of it. Order, even from a defective source, is better than anarchy.
In Minneapolis, Christian clergymen are crucified. St. Paul is renamed Saul.
Finally, to get a sense of how much American politics have changed since this book was written, Lind’s reference to Donald Trump is
Kraft’s words brought to mind something my friend who worked for a Senator had said to me. He said the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party was the difference between Madonna and Donald Trump.
Lind now seems a Trump supporter.
Finally, Lind has some amusing things to say on the cultural differences between the Confederacy’s military culture, based on the Cavalier culture from which settlers to the South came, and the military culture of the Northeast, an area settled by Puritans.