How Rebel Forces Could Win A Red/Blue Civil War

1.  Assumptions


  • In the event of a Red State/Blue State Civil War, Blue States would likely win because: 1) they have vastly more economic resources; 2) they are in the position to be supplied by sea or by Canada or Mexico and 3) could execute a version of Winfield Scott's "Anaconda Plan" by blockading the Red State Ports in the Southeast, on the Great Lakes or on the Gulf and could use control of the Mississippi to divide the Red States.
  • Civil War, of any kind, is unlikely.  The exact nature of any such Civil War is unpredictable due to a currently fluid political and economic situation.
  • The Federal Government, however, is in some kind of a crisis of legitimacy.
  • Because of this crisis and the fact that the Blue State strategy is both apparent and possible to counter, there are limited windows of opportunity for a Red State victory in the event of such a conflict.
  • All modern wars  are Information Operations ("IO")  wars and civil wars are particularly so.

  2.  Strategy


The Blue State center of gravity is control of the current US Navy and Air Force (the Air Force as a function of AirSea Battle doctrine). 


One immediate step to counter this advantage is to sway the loyalties of Navy and Air Force personnel, particularly (but not exclusively) those based or home-ported in Red States. 


Ideally, they would take their assets with them at the beginning of hostilities.  However, if many of these personnel simply deserted or scuttled their equipment, as the French Navy did in Toulon in 1942 rather than turn their fleet over to the Nazis,  that would be a tremendous help as it would make it difficult (if not impossible) to do an effective blockade.


In the same way, serving Army and Marine Corps personnel, especially  those based in Red States also would be a lucrative IO target, getting them to either join the cause, taking their equipment with them or to desert, sabotaging their equipment. 


Finally, causing Army/Air National Guard units and Reserve Units in Red States to remain loyal to their states (and in Red areas of Blue States, to remain loyal to the Red State Cause) would also be a critical task.


It is possible that organizations like The Oath Keepers are intended (consciously or unconsciously) to facilitate such things in the event that the circumstances degenerated to that degree.


Red States would need to coordinate in advance with Canada and Mexico to insure, in the event of a break down of the current dispensation, that goods coming to or from Blue States would be embargoed by those nations and that Red State goods would not be.


Since the current Canadian and Mexican governments appear to be more aligned with the Blue States than the Red, this appears to be an unlikely outcome.  However, on closer examination, a Red State victory would advantage both nations more than a continuation of the status quo ante.


The Red States could promise to align the US-Mexican border pursuant to a plebiscite, likely resulting in a territorial and economic gain for Mexico . . . and a much more enforceable border for the Red States.  In the event of a decisive Red State victory, Canada would likely gain significant and valuable territory in New England and the Mid-Atlantic as well as the Pacific Northwest 


Given the Red States more libertarian orientation it could prove difficult to coordinate war aims, so having some kind of coordinating committee in lace even before the out break of hostilities could prove useful. 


  3.  Operational Considerations


Many of the Blue States have significant Red Areas, such as: Western and Central New York and Pennsylvania: Orange County and the Central Valley in California; and Southern  New Jersey.  Separating this terrain to make the Blue States less viable should be an initial operational goal. 


This would advance the strategic goal of convincing Canada and Mexico that: 1) the Red States can win; and 2) it would be to Canada and Mexico's advantage if this did happen. 


Attempting to use the Navy and Air assets that "come over" to "blockade the blockade" would be a version of what Vercingetorix attempted to do to lift the Roman siege of Alesia, although it should be remembered that that tactic ultimately failed.


  4.  Tactical Considerations


Although modern wars are  strategically (and, likely, operationally) Clausewitzian in nature, the fighting of wars in North American is fundamentally Jominian tactically. 


The rugged, generally cross-compartmented terrain and the well developed Line of Communications (and their alternatives) make consideration of geography and position ("Battlefield Geometry")  critical to war fighting at a tactical level. 


This is especially true where one side has significantly less resources and where American Military Art has focused on the idea of attrition since at least the time of Grant.


Generally, Red State forces should focus on seizing key terrain and forcing Blue State forces to attack them to minimize Red State Casualties and maximize Blue State Casualties, a version of Dupay's  Active Defense Doctrine from the first edition of FM 100-5, a view of combat that grew out of the realization that the US Army would have to fight out-numbered against a numerically superior and lethal foe.


Further, as with every war since the Peninsular War of 200 years or so ago, guerrillas, partisans and other non conventional forces are a key consideration.


For example, due to maintenance issues in the US Army today, both sides will probably be able to capture major end items (such as Tanks, IFVs, Reconnaissance Vehicles and Self-propelled Artillery) which have broken down by the side of the road and partisans would likely take a major part in that.


The effect of gangs in Blue State Cities, such as New York, LA and Chicago is difficult to predict. 


On one hand, the people who make up these organizations are inured to violence and often have strong interpersonal links with people in the highest portions of society through the underground economy (as described in  Sudhir Venkatesh's Floating City).  On the other, these organizations usually work for their own advantage and might be reached.


  5.  Aftermath


The aftermath of any change of government should include mechanisms to compensate people for losses and to reconcile people, as with the Dayton Conference after the Bosnian War and  the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee.


In the event of a Red State/Blue State Civil War, a new Constitutional Convention should be held, probably someplace near the center of the Country, like Independence, Missouri, which would make a more reasonable location for a seat of the Federal Government than Washington, D.C.    




John Minehan Added Jul 5, 2017 - 3:29pm
Enter your comment here...
Jeffrey Kelly Added Jul 5, 2017 - 3:51pm
Really, what we are looking at is a repeat of the original Civil War.  I think the main problem with the scenario above is the vast difference between available weaponry to both sides.  I think "Blue" would remain firmly pro-government while "Red" would act as the Confederacy did....a lot of "will" but lacking military assets.  It's hard to fight tanks and jets with hunting rifles.
Now, I could see some type of guerrila warfare happening but the difference is that Federal control is powerful enough and public sentiment strong enough to make this marginal.  This isn't Vietnam or Iraq.
Thanks, I enjoy this kind of stuff.
George N Romey Added Jul 5, 2017 - 4:05pm
I see more of a cyber war.  Both sides trying to take down the grid of the other.  Take out electricity, water, wifi, transportation controls-you've won the war.
John Minehan Added Jul 5, 2017 - 4:08pm
I largely agree with you, however, a conversation with a friend of mine, whom I helped train more than 30 years ago, made me wonder if it is all that clear.
There are significant readiness issues in today's military that alter the calculus.  There is also a big difference, as I learned directly in 1991, between a "battle hardened" force and a "war weary" one.
There are, as Henry Knox demonstrated in 1775 at Ticonderoga, ways of dealing with disparities in equipment. 
Finally, there is the issue of legitimacy.  I rather wonder how willing a largely Red State force will be willing to fight well (or at all) for Blue State interests.  The existence of things like The Oath Keepers makes me wonder if that weakness isn't already noted.  The Blue State Strategy can be readily perceived and given that it can be easily attacked.    
John Minehan Added Jul 5, 2017 - 4:14pm
"I see more of a cyber war.  Both sides trying to take down the grid of the other.  Take out electricity, water, wifi, transportation controls-you've won the war. I see more of a cyber war. Both sides trying to take down the grid of the other. Take out electricity, water, wifi, transportation controls-you've won the war."
Blue States are far more vulnerable on that score BUT does anyone want to cause too vast harm to resources? 
Donna Added Jul 5, 2017 - 5:06pm
Blue States may seem predictable. But it can be what's not known or seen that would win a war such as the one you speak of,we are aware of Oath Keepers. Not all of them are as trustworthy as seem..Some work both sides. Like the article..)0(
John Minehan Added Jul 5, 2017 - 5:18pm
I'm not a supporter, but it seems prescient. 
I remember people talking about Nacht und Nebel in the 1990s. 
Donna Added Jul 5, 2017 - 5:26pm
John you are in NY correct? Its my home also. Thought i remembered reading you lived here. Mostly blue with some red mixed in..
John Minehan Added Jul 5, 2017 - 5:31pm
I am.  Interesting political structure there.
Bill H. Added Jul 6, 2017 - 11:20am
As unlikely as it seems, the present administration is actually stirring the pot for a scenario such as this.
For the President himself to call Democrats "the enemy", while at the same time praising Putin, he does nothing more than divide the country even more. Even worse that people on both sides allow this to happen, which results in rhetoric as we see above.
I see both parties as obsolete and out of touch. We need a new party that will actually perform for their employers, the people.
Trump is only looking out for himself, and knows he is the star of his latest reality show. His mission is to oppose his "enemies" in any way possible, be it verbally or in his actions. He has no intentions whatsoever in helping to unite the United States, but simply to increase his revenue and ability to change things to his benefit.
Do you want a United or Divided country?
John Minehan Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:04pm
"Sounds to me like you're promoting violent civil unrest. Sounds to me like you're promoting violent civil unrest."
No, I'm handicapping potential (but unlikely) violent civil unrest to let people know the odds.
John Minehan Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:09pm
"Do you want a United or Divided country? Do you want a United or Divided country?"
Right now, my guess is that we will see a norm of "Institutionalized Nullification:" a nominal Union with a norm of state autonomy in most things outside the really core functions of the federal government, like foreign relations and defense. 
I think that reflects a workable governing consensus right now.
Billy Roper Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:13pm
As you know, I've researched and written on this topic extensively. One thing to remember is that the access to food is controlled by red state areas, and many of the armed forces hail from there, as well. But I agree that either intervention by a foreign power, as happened the first time and did not happen the second, or a collapse and vacuum of federal power, would be the most likely scenario for balkanization. 
John Minehan Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:26pm
A friend of mine sent me this in light of the article.
John Minehan Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:44pm
"As you know, I've researched and written on this topic extensively. One thing to remember is that the access to food is controlled by red state areas, and many of the armed forces hail from there, as well. But I agree that either intervention by a foreign power, as happened the first time and did not happen the second, or a collapse and vacuum of federal power, would be the most likely scenario for balkanization."
However, even now, a lot of the food for places like LA, Chicago and even NYC comes from Canada and Mexico more than it comes from "Red State America," just as a function of efficient distribution and relatively low duties.
Since those places (and much of Blue America) have access to ports that really isn't a militarily dispositive factor.
The Armed Forces being a very isolated subculture also cuts both ways.
Much of the recruitment happens in Red area (due to lack of economic opportunities in those areas as much, or more, than any other factor.  However, such people (absent more) are likely to identify more with their Service than their former neighbors.
The existence of things like The Oath Keepers (and, as Donna points out above, the fact that the organization may be a sham) indicates that people are already thinking about where the loyalty of the Military lies. 
 This issue is certainly more complex than when GEN John Abrams, then Chief of Staff, reputedly told Pres. Nixon at the height of Watergate that, "The Army, Mr. President, is on the side of the Constitution." 
Given current events in the Korea peninsula that have at least a palpable chance to go spectacularly wrong, I would add one more factor to your least: a sudden and severe blow to national legitimacy, like losing a carrier battle group (or two) and not being able to prevent the NKPA from nuking Japan and running down to Pusan, with the PRC cleaning up the mess in both places.
While none of that is likely, it is more likely than it was in 1994, during the last crisis.
Dino Manalis Added Jul 6, 2017 - 2:53pm
We're the United States of America!  Not Syria or Libya!
John Minehan Added Jul 6, 2017 - 3:45pm
"We're the United States of America!  Not Syria or Libya! We're the United States of America! Not Syria or Libya!"
. . . a polity formed by a revolution against the Crown and which reformed it's government after a rebellion (Shay's) then had a second rebellion (The Whiskey Rebellion), then had a sitting Vice President attempt to alienate the Louisiana Territory, then had the Nullification Crisis and then a full blown Civil War . . . .  
Donna Added Jul 6, 2017 - 5:05pm
Dino you are correct. Look around you we are a people lost,with no real leadership. Both parties would rather line their own pockets and fight amongst themselves. None have Our interests in mind. This leads to civil unrest. Look to our past. Its already been played out on this soil before.                       Bill H. Agree with all you said.                                        John NY has an interesting demographic. Very versatile, rather old school in some areas but yet extremely progressive in other areas..Some conservative areas also, I think its part of why I like it here. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 7, 2017 - 12:50pm
There is in effect a civil war that has been underway for some time in this country. It is that between the wants and aims of urban regions vs. those of more rural regions. As someone commented above it not all red/blue. A lot of the country is purple.
I seem to recall that this whole red state/blue state dichotomy originated after the 2000 general election. A look at the electoral map by counties across the nation illustrated this divide. Looking at the same map for the 2016 election there are striking similarities. 
The real polarity exists between those of a statist world view and those of the more traditional American philosophy of self reliance. Where these divisions manifest in geography are mostly between the urban vs rural environment.
An interesting piece.
Billy Roper Added Jul 7, 2017 - 2:06pm
Here's an article I wrote this morning, linked to another article I wrote yesterday, about forces pushing for a civil war and balkanization of the U.S.:
John Minehan Added Jul 8, 2017 - 8:36am
This is interesting.
However, while it runs along the lines of an earlier post, I wonder if it would be true of the US because of our Federal structure and the existence of National Guard units with modern equipment and Federal and State responsibilities?
Michael B. Added Jul 8, 2017 - 12:59pm
In both the Oath of Enlistment and the Oath of Office, to me it's pretty clear that the military's primary loyalties are to the Constitution of the U.S.; in other words, the U.S. Government:
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
"I, _____ (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God."
John Minehan Added Jul 8, 2017 - 1:26pm
I hope that is as true as it was when GEN John Abrams was Army Chief of Staff during Watergate . . . .
Michael B. Added Jul 8, 2017 - 1:44pm
I remember being reminded several times that the statement on my military ID card, "Property of U.S. Government", applied to me as well as the card, lol.
One time while I was on CQ duty, some dude staggered in drunk off his ass, but before I could put him on the drunk bunk, he tried to go upstairs, tripped, and smashed his mouth on the edge of a stair. I never found out whether or not he was charged with destruction of government property, lol.
John Minehan Added Jul 8, 2017 - 2:13pm
Well, if it wasn't fatal, probably not . . . . 
Michael B. Added Jul 8, 2017 - 5:10pm
Regarding politics, that's something that still kind of amazes me to this day; back in 1988 during the Presidential election, the Army, despite it being an very right wing, conservative, and Christian institution, went out of its way to get soldiers to vote, but without applying their usual "persuasive" methods to get you to vote for the candidates most favorable to the military. I was expecting treatment along the lines of CFC drives ("If we exceed our goal, you'll get a three-day pass, and if we don't, count on barracks and Class-A uniform inspections for the next few weekends."), but actually they never even remotely attempted to influence anyone's vote, at least not that I saw. I still vividly remember the howls of derision and scorn that Dukakis earned (and deserved) while "riding the tank", lol.
John Minehan Added Jul 8, 2017 - 5:22pm
He looked like most Tankers, though.
Michael B. Added Jul 8, 2017 - 5:38pm
DAT - Dumb Ass Tanker. When they got M1s, they became CDATs - Computerized Dumb Ass Tankers, lol. One time in Graf, a company of M1s (I can't recall from which unit they were) tore through our position, while we were about to live fire, no less. They chewed up many of the land lines, and I could tell by the way their turrets were rotating that our battery would have been smoked in about 30 seconds, if that. Our battery XO managed to pull one over and was yelling at the top of his lungs at the TC, but the TC kind of shrugged and him and the rest of the tanks went on their merry way. DATs 1, Breech Creatures 0, lol.
John Minehan Added Jul 9, 2017 - 4:28pm
Riding an M1 means never having to say you're sorry . . . .
Michael B. Added Jul 9, 2017 - 6:27pm
As Secretary Kissinger said; "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."
John Minehan Added Jul 9, 2017 - 6:37pm
As he was seeing the actress Jill St. John at the time, he appears to be able to point to empirical evidence . . . .
Michael B. Added Jul 9, 2017 - 6:59pm
Wow! Going from Sean Connery to Kissinger...Jill obviously acquired a taste for power in addition to diamonds, lol.
John Minehan Added Jul 11, 2017 - 10:49am
But she wound up with Robert Wagner (??!!).