Is America headed for a new kind of Civil War?

“A day after the brawling and racist brutality and deaths in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe asked, ‘How did we get to this place?'” contributing writer Robin Wright writes in The New Yorker. “The more relevant question after Charlottesville—and other deadly episodes in Ferguson, Charleston, Dallas, St. Paul, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria—is where the United States is headed.

“How fragile is the Union, our republic, and a country that has long been considered the world’s most stable democracy? The dangers are now bigger than the collective episodes of violence. ‘The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century,’ the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February. The organization documents more than nine hundred active (and growing) hate groups in the United States.”

“America’s stability is increasingly an undercurrent in political discourse. Earlier this year, I began a conversation with Keith Mines about America’s turmoil. Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home.

“It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.

“’We keep saying, ‘It can’t happen here,’ but then, holy smokes, it can,’ Mines told me after we talked, on Sunday, about Charlottesville. The pattern of civil strife has evolved worldwide over the past sixty years. Today, few civil wars involve pitched battles from trenches along neat geographic front lines. Many are low-intensity conflicts with episodic violence in constantly moving locales.

“Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it. On Saturday, McAuliffe put the National Guard on alert and declared a state of emergency.

“Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.

“President Trump ‘modeled violence as a way to advance politically and validated bullying during and after the campaign,’ Mines wrote in Foreign Policy. ‘Judging from recent events the left is now fully on board with this,’ he continued, citing anarchists in anti-globalization riots as one of several flashpoints. ‘It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something and everyone has a gun.’”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

4 thoughts on “Is America headed for a new kind of Civil War?”

  1. All democracies are fragile. Democracy is a process that ensures the people get the government they deserve. I’ll answer the question about civil war, but first I want to share the following.

    In his novel, The Iron Heel (1907), Jack London basically said that the rich and the church create and control the message. London concluded that the onus for democracy was on the people to be vigilant in questioning and challenging said message.

    London’s novel is considered the first dystopian novel and it was an inspiration for Orwell’s 1984. The Iron Heel was a banned book. London was demonized as a “socialist.” My father loved London and he owned that book. He grew up in Santa Rosa near London’s estate. My father served in WWII in the European Theater and later as a civilian on Mare Island. In his late years, as his caregiver, I learned that he gave The Iron Heel to my cousin so as to hide it from anyone who might discover that he had that book and accuse him under McCarthy.

    I remember when Krushiev of Russia said that Americans need not fear the USSR because they will do themselves in. In the course of my life I’ve asked myself what he meant. Europeans, Krushiev being one of course, are more learned than Americans and I’ve come to understand in the last 40 years just what he meant. Americans have allowed the rich and the church to convince them that they do not desire and cannot make the commitment necessary to keep a democracy. Americans have allowed themselves to be crushed under the iron heel. The heel on the shoe of the rich and the church. How have they done that?

    The answer is simple. Lack of interest in the democratic process. When more than 60% of eligible voters are not engaged in any way they send a powerful majority message that they prefer to live under the oppression of a minority. I do believe our founding fathers described that as tyranny of the minority. When the rich and the church control the message and get the control of the military, what in the world shall we expect?

    We fought a civil war to preserve the union. This next civil war is only a proxy for the few who will emerge in a dictatorship. Yes, democracy requires work. It requires a diligence of questions against the message and a constant commitment to doing what is best for all, not the few.

  2. Well thought out, Wanda. I’ll I can think of is “scary thoughts.” It pains me greatly to think that my family might have to live through such a period.

  3. Our children and grandchildren do not have to live through another dark age… the only thing that can defeat big money in today’s world… is big people. People are getting out in the streets in numbers for the first time since Viet Nam. We shut that war down and there is no reason we can’t shut this one (the war on democracy) down as well. But it will take courage and perseverance. It starts with local elections. Ask candidates what they think about climate change, fossil fuels, immigration, health care, etc. Their answers will tell you which side of the coin they lean toward. If their views don’t agree with yours, don’t vote for them. Ask your friends not to vote for them and tell your friend why. The billionaire’s dark money flows all the way down to the counties.

    See Al Gore’s interview at NetRoots on YouTube.

    1. I think the real problem is people have no pragmatism, or common sense.. On one hand we had Stein voters (Putin’s second favorite puppet) who represented enough voters to defeat Trump and who stated that Hillary is no different then Trump…how’s that working out for you, you useless clowns. Then, but much worse, you have the morons who stayed home, with their thumbs up their a***s and didn’t vote, to make their “principled statement”. PRAGMATISM, COMMON SENSE (apparently not too common)… completely lacking from the progressive side of the spectrum. “If I can’t have my candidate, I’ll take my ball and go home.” The right has complete and mindless followers. We clearly have the government we so richly deserve. God help us.

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