The 2016 election was divisive and tumultuous. Sixty-three days ago, the American people (roughly half of them, anyway) voted an inflammatory, uninformed, careless, politically inexperienced egotist into the most important office in global politics. One week from now, that man takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That day could potentially be the beginning of a precarious situation for the American people, given that numerous demographics feel not only unrepresented but altogether beleaguered by our President Elect.
A modern American civil war would be decidedly unfortunate for all parties involved (and most parties not involved) and this piece is not meant to abet or condone a civil war, but more to explore what a modern American Civil War would look like and how it would affect international politics.
The Preceding Weeks
There are currently roughly fifty documented, planned protests and demonstrations for January 20th and 21st, not only in Washington D.C., but in major cities all over the nation. It’s fair to expect more spontaneous demonstrations to crop up that weekend, as well as responsive demonstrations by the other side of the spectrum. Tensions have been high essentially since the election day demonstrations that erupted, and it would be cogent to assume a similar display on and around Inauguration Day.
Senate Republicans are already taking steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act— a move that has been staunchly resisted by Democrats across the board. The regrettable truth is that the Republican majority allows for such a repeal to pass within the very near future.
An ACA repeal would strip this spring’s millions of expected college graduates between the ages of 22 and 26 of the health insurance that the ACA guarantees them under their parents’ plans. Unfortunately for these budding adults, an ACA repeal would also almost ensure that employers would drop healthcare plans that they’d no longer be penalized for curbing. This leaves nearly twenty-six million young Americans high and dry; young Americans who are vocal, motivated and eager to see change.
Forcing a legislation shift as drastic as this with no Democratic competition would be devastating and antagonizing to an already embittered demographic. With more millennials now involved in politics than ever, there would be protests both organized and not.
If the new administration holds true to all of its threats (and promises), it won’t take long for peaceful demonstration to cultivate into all out civil disorder. The difference between the strife of the 19th century and the strife of today is that there is no line– real or imagined– separating “us” and “them.”
We live in an integrated world. Civil war no longer means a territorial dispute, and nobody could attempt to secede without serious protest from half of the population of any given state. The civil war in Syria is a prime example of what a modern civil war looks like, given a revolt and a governmental power struggle.
Given the current domestic political climate, growing discord among marginalized demographics, and the recent militarization of our police force– a full blown civil war would emerge with great momentum and force.
The first, most charged manifestations would likely be from factions like Black Lives Matter and the newly emboldened white nationalists. Rioting would take place in large cities across the country, but likely would be concentrated along the East Coast. Tensions would build due to the rioting, causing smaller skirmishes and violent crimes in the heartland and across the South.
From there, the conflict would augment as the authorities attempt to maintain control of the growing situation. A militarized police force would react harshly to such widespread violence, in turn shifting the focus partially to the police– a situation already unfolding in recent months.
In a clash between American nationalists, liberals and the government the resounding effects would be near impossible to predict or measure. The only definitive outcome is a weakened America, which is unmistakably bad news for greater world affairs.
Civil war in the United States would hardly go unnoticed, as unrest is already forecast by much of the international community.
At first, the U.S. would halfheartedly maintain its European installations, though the force would be sparse. The host nations would surely have their suspicions, creating a visible threat to their stability and stoking nationalist tensions. There would be an almost immediate uptick in racially and religiously motivated violence, as well as economic decline.
At this point, Russia would enter Europe in a bid to expand its sphere of influence. There would be a swift destabilization of Europe as Russia attempts to install friendly governments throughout the Balkans– a move which will help to weaken the EU and reestablish Russia as a leading world power.
China would almost immediately know about any American conflict, and would take the opportunity to pressure Taiwan into reunification. The Chinese government would be slower to act than Russia, but would monitor the situation and seek control of resource rich islands throughout Southeast Asia– a campaign which only Japan could defend against. We could also see Chinese interference in the American conflict in an attempt to profit off of arms deals.
India and Pakistan would turn into a proxy Russia V China conflict, resulting in a series of border skirmishes that would slowly escalate. The United States would obviously largely pull out of the Middle East, causing the situation there to continue amplifying. Uncontrolled conflict in the Middle East would precipitate an even greater refugee population, and in turn stir the nationalism weakening Europe to Russian influence.
The odds of a modern American civil war are mediocre at best. I don’t foresee a full scale conflict in the coming months, but I don’t see absolute peace either. The likely result will be constant demonstrations and skirmishes between organizations and authorities– because the unrest is undeniable at this point.
America indisputably made a mistake this past fall. This isn’t a matter of Republican versus Democrat– this is a matter of right versus wrong; knowledge versus ignorance; humility versus pride; nationalism versus diplomacy.
Advisers: James Cooley, Cody Hunley