"You Say You Want a Revolution"
I think a civil war is unlikely.
Societies, like ours, with older people, are less inclined towards civil war. As Robert Bolt has Price Feisal say in Lawrence of Arabia (1962):
There's nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains. Old men's work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
Put another way, the Romans during their Civil Wars at the end of their Republic and the English at the time of their Civil War, were all like "I could not love thee half so much loved I not honor more," while societies with more older people (like ours) are more in the mindset of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff, "Honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honor prick me off when I come on? How then? Can honor set to a leg? no. Or an arm? no. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then?"
Still, the polarization of our society puts me in mind of this from the 1993 film Gettysburg:
And the same for your adversaries: Meade, Hooker, Hancock, and - shall I say - Lincoln! The same God, same language, same culture and history, same songs, stories, legends, myths - different dreams. Different dreams. So very sad.
So, it is worth having a discussion of this issue, hopefully, an informed one.
One note: I will use "civil war" to refer to a potential civil war and "Civil War" to refer to the actual events of 1861-'65.
The common view is that any civil war would be Red States versus Blue States with a precipitating event being something like the impeachment of Donald Trump.
However, which states are "Red" and which are "Blue" is a moving target.
The collapse of the "Blue Wall" in the upper Midwest/Old Northwest in 2016 was a momentous event. However, it is a trend that has been apparent for some time, since that region largely stopped electing governors in the mold of Jennifer Granholm and started electing more in the mold of Mitch Daniels. The usually perceptive political columnist Salena Zito misread this trend in 2008 for McCain and in 2012 for Romney, while correctly predicting it for Donald Trump in 2016.
While it was momentous, it may be transitory.
It was not irrational (although, in practice, it proved to be a disastrous misallocation of resources) for HRC to have attempted to flip Arizona into her column in the waning days of the 2016 election. With its increasingly Hispanic population and rising tech-sector, while not realized yet, "Blue Texas" is far from a pipe dream.
Further, as Red States tend to be Federal tax money consumers and Blue States tend to be Federal tax money producers, it is not altogether clear all Red States would join any Jacquerie/Peasants' Revolt, as it would be against their interests. At minimum, there would be many states that will have only nominal allegiance to one side or the other, as the Border States (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) did with the Union during the Civil War.
It is not impossible that some states (or large regions of some states) might decide that a civil war was the last straw and decide to attempt to join Canada or Mexico, which might reasonably be seen as being more stable or having more potential.
Comparative Economic and Logistical Advantages
Considering the Blue State/Red State meme, what would the comparative economic and logistical advantages of the parties?
Obviously, the great presumptive advantage of the Red States would be their internal lines of communications. They are (to the degree this bloc exists at all in this context) contiguous. They have access to ports on the Gulf Coast and in the Atlantic Southeast.
They have the bulk of the agricultural and manufacturing capacity.
They produce the bulk of the nations' military personnel and there is a strong martial tradition. The population is also relatively homogeneous.
These states are poorer than the Blue States for the most part. They tend to be Federal Tax consumers rather than Federal Tax producers. The opioid addiction population is centered in the Red States and the population is relatively less educated.
While these states have the bulk of the agriculture and manufacturing, these resources are generally controlled by large commercial concerns (for example, Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland) that are unlikely to have much sympathy for any force disrupting their operations.
Blue States control the bulk of the nation's wealth and produce the nation's most valuable exports: services and intellectual property, which are also fairly hard to interdict, as compared to manufactured goods or agricultural products.
Blue States tend to have the majority of the better educated people
Most large cities have a large urban proletariat or underclass that may not be fully loyal to the current dispensation and who may prove to be restive or a burden in times of trial.
On the other hand, there is more of an overlap of interests in large cities between the privileged and that urban proletariat than is commonly believed, as demonstrated by Venkatesh's Floating City. Additionally, gangs have arisen as a stabilizing factor in neo-liberal societies, as demonstrated by Glenny's McMafia.
Large cities are not self-sufficient in food (or, for that matter, manufactured goods). On the other hand, most of the major cities in the Blue States are contagious to either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean or Canada or Mexico.
Although most military personnel come from the Red States, one of the most storied units in OIF was TF WOLFHOUND, the 1-69 IN BN (NYARNG), raised in New York City and Long Island. Additionally, gangs may supply able and trainable combatants.
The fact that Federalism has declined considerably since the Civil War, implies that fewer career officers would return to their states, as men like Lee, Joseph Johnson and Longstreet did. Few people today consider their state their "nation" as Lee did, for example.
For these reasons, if any civil war followed the Red State/Blue State paradigm, I would say the comparative economic and logistical advantage is with the Blue States.
What would the Grand Strategy of Such a Red State/Blue State Civil War be?
As with the Civil War, the Red States, like the Confederacy, would have specific terrain oriented objectives, in that case, Washington, DC, the enemy capital, and in this case, major population and economic centers, like the Acela Corridor, Chicago, LA and San Francisco.
Also, like the Civil War, the Blue States, like the Union, would need to execute a variant of Scott's "Anaconda Plan" to succeed, using diplomacy with Canada and Mexico to prevent Red State manufactured and agricultural goods from going through their ports and using the Navy to blockade Red State ports in the South East and on the Gulf Coast.
Thus the loyalty of the US Navy would be a strategic center of gravity. Others would include:
- the loyalty and proficiency of Army and Air National Guard forces in all states and control of their arms, equipment and logistics;
- the loyalty of agricultural and manufacturing concerns in the Red States;
- the USG (presumptively acting as a proxy for the Blue States) being able to influence Canada and Mexico to prevent Red State "blockade running" through their ports;
- .the USG's being able to convince Japan, the PRC and the EU to embargo Red State goods; and
- the USG being able to prevent other parties(for example, Putin's Russia or Iran or even IS or AQ) from intervening on behalf of the Red States to settle scores or shape the US political situation to their advantage).
All of these things, except the last, seem to be within the grasp of the Blue States and to provide an advantage to the Blue States. Therefore, all of these things are vulnerable to an effective attack by the Red States. Any combatant's greatest strengths provide a significant advantage to an opponent who can take them away or neutralize them.
As with Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, it would be an advantage for the Red States to develop an effective Navy. However, that would probably be impossible with the resources and time available, so they could acquire a comparable advantage by convincing the US Navy either not to take a side or to convince enough Naval personnel to desert or perform acts of sabotage sufficient to neutralize any attempt at blockade early on.
Much of what has been written about this topic has assumed something like either the American Civil War or the English Civil War, with both sides fielding organized forces, more or less from the beginning. In that event, if the US Army and the US Marine Corps remain loyal to the USG (again thinking of that as a proxy for the Blue States), The Blue States will win quickly and decisively, as with the 1991 Gulf War or as in OIF I in 2003.
On the other hand, if this began as a Phase I insurgency, and developed from there, denying the USG effective control of regions and making separate peace with industrial concerns in that region, it might have a chance for success. Phase I insurgencies have been conducted in the US recently, ranging from Gordon Kahl's tax revolt to The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord, which controlled territory in Arkansas in the mid-1980s . . . until they were put down with comparative ease by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team ("HRT") in 1985. What has changed since then is that many more Americans have been exposed to Revolutionary Warfare by virtue of their having served in the Global War on Terrorism ("GWOT").
People like John Robb and William H. Lind have been concerned for over a decade that the GWOT could "follow s home." Further, as proponents of the "4G War" concept, they believe that "2G" Militaries (like ours) cannot prevail in 4G Wars.
A Phase I insurgency/4G War strategy could reduce USG control of less valuable areas and might allow Red State governors to force a "norm of Nullification" on the USG rather than a formal change of government or secession. However, since I suspect that the people who would act would have a mentality like that of the leadership of The Covenant, the Sword and the Army of the Lord, I doubt that will happen.