American Decline

Why the U.S. Military Isn’t Ready for Civil War

By Stephen Marche Foreign Policy

A significant portion of Americans seek the destruction of political authority. What if they succeed?

The unimaginable has become reality in the United States. Buffoonish mobs desecrating the U.S. Capitol building, tanks parading down the streets of Washington, running battles between protesters and militias, armed rebels attempting to kidnap sitting governors, uncertainty about the peaceful transition of power—if you read about them in another country, you would think a civil war had already begun. The basic truth is the United States might be on the brink of such a war today. Americans must now take the proposition seriously, not just as a political warning but as a probable military scenario—and a potential catastrophe.

The United States, of course, is not just any country—it is the world’s most enduring democracy and largest economy. But ever fewer Americans believe its size and power are going to save it anymore. In the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s election, Thomas E. Ricks for Foreign Policy asked a group of national security experts to assess the chances of a civil war over the next 10 to 15 years. The consensus stood at 35 percent. A 2019 poll from Georgetown University asked registered voters how close to the “edge of a civil war” the country was, on a scale from 0 to 100. The mean of their answers was 67.23, so almost exactly two-thirds of the way.

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