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The Next Civil War

The Next Civil War Summary

The Next Civil War Dispatches from the American Future: No matter your political leaning, most of us can sense that America is barreling toward catastrophe—of one kind or another. Relevant and revelatory, The Next Civil War plainly breaks down the looming threats to America and is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of its people, its land, and its government.

In this deeply researched work of speculative nonfiction that reads like Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized crossed with David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, a celebrated journalist takes a fiercely divided America and imagines five chilling scenarios that lead to its collapse, based on in-depth interviews with experts of all kinds.

On a small two-lane bridge in a rural county that loathes the federal government, the US Army uses lethal force to end a standoff with hard-right anti-government patriots. Inside an ordinary diner, a disaffected young man with a handgun takes aim at the American president stepping in for an impromptu photo-op, and a bullet splits the hyper-partisan country into violently opposed mourners and revelers. In New York City, a Category 2 hurricane plunges entire neighborhoods underwater and creates millions of refugees overnight—a blow that comes on the heels of a financial crash and years of catastrophic droughts— and tips America over the edge into ruin.

These nightmarish scenarios are just three of the five possibilities most likely to spark devastating chaos in the United States that are brought to life in The Next Civil War, a chilling and deeply researched work of speculative nonfiction. Drawing upon sophisticated predictive models and nearly two hundred interviews with experts—civil war scholars, military leaders, law enforcement officials, secret service agents, agricultural specialists, environmentalists, war historians, and political scientists—journalist Stephen Marche predicts the terrifying future collapse that so many of us do not want to see unfolding in front of our eyes.

Marche has spoken with soldiers and counterinsurgency experts about what it would take to control the population of the United States, and the battle plans for the next civil war have already been drawn up. Not by novelists, but by colonels.

About the Author

Stephen Marche is a novelist and culture writer who has written for The AtlanticThe New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe New YorkerEsquire, and many other outlets. His books include three novels, The Hunger of the WolfRaymond, and Hannah, and Shining at the Bottom of the Sea, as well as The Unmade Bed and How Shakespeare Changed Everything. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.

The Next Civil War Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

An Introduction to the Immediate Future of the United States

The United States is coming to an end. The question is how. Every government, every business, every person alive will be affected by the answer.

The unimaginable has become every day in America. Buffoonish mobs desecrating the US Capitol building, tear gas and tanks on the streets of Washington, DC, running battles between protestors and militias, armed rebels attempting to kidnap sitting governors, uncertainty about the peaceful transition of power—reading about them in another country, you would think a civil war had already begun.

The United States is descending into the kind of sectarian conflict usually found in poor countries with histories of violence, not the world’s most enduring democracy and largest economy. The fall has been sudden. A decade ago, American stability and global supremacy were a given. The memory of September 11 led to regular mass demonstrations of national unity. The United States was synonymous with the glory of democracy. No longer. Solidarity has dissolved. The American system has become a case study of paralysis. Political violence is on the rise.

The next civil war in America won’t look like a civil war in a smaller country. The United States is fragile but enormous. Its military might remains unparalleled. Its economy determines the health of the global economy. If the American Republic falls, democracy as the leading political system in the world falls. If democracy falls, the peace and security of the global order falls. No one will escape the consequences.

The Likelihood of a Civil War

Retired US Army Colonel Peter Mansoor, professor of military history at The Ohio State University, is a veteran of the Iraq war who now studies the insurgencies of the past. He doesn’t have any difficulty picturing a contemporary American equivalent to civil wars elsewhere. “It would not be like the first civil war, with armies maneuvering on the battlefield,” he says. “I think it would very much be a free-for-all, neighbor on neighbor, based on beliefs and skin colors and religion. And it would be horrific.

In a poll taken in the aftermath of Trump’s election, 31 percent of American voters predicted a second civil war would occur within five years. In Foreign Policy, a panel of national security experts assessed the chances of a civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. The answers ranged from 5 percent to 95 percent. The consensus stood at 35 percent. In the eyes of the expert class and ordinary Americans alike, the odds of a civil war in the near future are about the same as drawing ten or higher from a pack of cards.

That estimation was only “over the next ten to fifteen years” though. The pressure is mounting, and the forces fraying American unity—the hyper-partisan politics, the environmental degradation, the widening inequality—are growing. A 2019 poll from Georgetown University asked Americans how close to “the edge of a civil war” their country was, on a scale from 0 to 100. The aggregate of their answers was 67.23, so almost exactly two-thirds of the way.

The technical definition of a civil war, according to the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, is a thousand combatant deaths within a year. The definition of civil strife starts at twenty-five deaths within a year. In the United States in 2019, domestic anti-government extremists killed forty-two people; in 2018 they killed fifty-three people; in 2017, thirty-seven; in 2016, seventy-two; and in 2015, seventy. By this definition, America is already in a state of civil strife, on the threshold of civil war.

The United States as a Complex, Cascading System

There is never a single cause to any civil war. A huge number of factors contribute to the slide of a peaceful prosperous society into violence. The interaction is turbulent, which is why stable scenarios seem to descend into chaos out of nowhere. The complex cascading nature of the system explains why the unimaginable keeps happening.

The unimaginable does not mean the unpredictable. The collapse will arrive sooner and more suddenly than anybody expects, but it won’t come as a surprise. America is cracking apart at a moment when the ability to see the cracks spreading has attained unprecedented clarity. NASA recently reported that its climate change modeling has been accurate to within one-twentieth of a degree. The detailed precision of the models as much as the quality of the prediction is extraordinary.

When—not if—a Category 1, 2, or 3 hurricane hits New York, the model makers know, to the street, which parts of the city will be rendered uninhabitable. The electoral models of political partisanship have become more effective than their creators can acknowledge: one group of political scientists refused to believe their own program when it told them that Trump would be elected. Such a forecast seemed too outlandish. The contours of economic inequality have never been so thoroughly drawn, their consequences on democracy never so fully understood. Scholars of civil war, used to analyzing conflicts abroad, now see their established patterns replicating themselves identically in the world’s richest country, home to the most powerful military in human history.

History books on the subjects of civil wars usually open with chapters about the lead-up to conflict. In the case of the United States, that chapter could be written today. Economic and environmental instability worsens every year. The fruits of the country accrue only to those at the very top. The government, whose legitimacy is never established to the satisfaction of all parties, cannot be relied on. Faith in institutions of all kinds is declining. National purpose is withering. National solidarity is eroding. The government increasingly cannot, even when given clear mandates, respond to its people’s will.

Political gamesmanship overrides any and all other governmental concerns. Of the last four presidents, two have faced extensive impeachment proceedings. Two elections of the past four have seen the popular winner defeated by an arcane system inherited from the eighteenth century. The judiciary is dogmatic and hardening to the point where the law barely holds meaning outside of the political context of the courts’ application. Mass murders are nightly news. Ordinary Americans refuse to listen to authorities, even on questions as important to their survival as public health.

America has lived for 160 years with a half-settled myth of unity. All such myths are fragile. Even the most long-established national identities, the most ancient fusions of peoples and creeds, can dissolve with shocking speed. Before sectarian hatred consumed Iraq, before 2006, the country had a relatively high Shi‘a-Sunni intermarriage rate. The supposedly permanent and intractable religious rift was a relic from antiquity. Then it wasn’t.

Wherever government fails, whenever the peaceful transition of power breaks down, restoring an orderly democracy takes nothing short of a miracle. America won’t be any different. When Democrats feel that they cannot find representation, when Republicans feel that they cannot find representation, the government becomes just another resource to control. Outrage feeds all-consuming cycles of revenge. People retreat into tribes. Once the stability of power goes, it’s easy to come up with excuses to murder your neighbors.

The Inciting Incidents

The dispatches that follow are based on the best available models with established predictive capacities. They are more than educated guesses. But the inciting incidents are another matter. They are works of consciously thorough imagination.

Complex, cascading systems are abstract. They don’t show human costs. In each of the dispatches that follow, I have imagined an inciting incident to show the human cost. My inspiration was The Effects of Nuclear War, a 1979 product of the Office of Technology Assessment, acting on a request from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and arguably the most influential piece of fiction in history.

The Effects of Nuclear War grew into the miniseries The Day After. The Day After converted “abstract measures of strategic power” into comprehensible terms, imagining the fallout from a nuclear war based on the best available science. Ronald Reagan, in his diaries, cited The Day After as the main inspiration behind the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Today’s crisis requires prediction because so many people do not want to see what is unfolding in front of their eyes. At the same time, the future is inherently unpredictable. Nobody could have known that an employee at Cup Foods in Minneapolis would report a counterfeit $20 bill and that when the police arrived to investigate the incident an officer named Derek Chauvin would drag a Black man named George Floyd out of a car and, in the process of restraining him, kneel on his neck for seven minutes and forty-six seconds, ignoring more than twenty pleas to allow him to breathe. Nobody could have predicted that plainclothes officers would mistakenly enter the home of Breonna Taylor and kill her.

Still less could anyone know that these particular incidents of police brutality, rather than the literally thousands of others, would spark massive protests across the United States. But anyone paying attention could easily have known that the militarization of America’s police forces has been underway for decades, that the police in the United States shoot their own citizens at rates that vary between three and thirty times more than the police in other countries, that large swaths of the Black population do not regard the police as legitimate stewards of justice, and that protest movements against police brutality had been gaining momentum since the Obama administration.

Breonna Taylor was one of the forty-eight Black women shot by police in the United States since 2015. Her name, the particular circumstances of her death—these facts were unpredictable. But not the event itself and not its aftermath. It is entirely predictable now that another incident of police brutality will occur and just as predictable that there will be riots in its wake

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1982123214, 1982123214
Posted onJanuary 4, 2022
Page Count256 pages
AuthorStephen Marche

The Next Civil War By Stephen Marche PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

The Next Civil War Dispatches from the American Future: No matter your political leaning, most of us can sense that America is barreling toward catastrophe—of one kind or another. Relevant and revelatory, The Next Civil War plainly breaks down the looming threats to America and is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of its people, its land, and its government.


Author: Stephen Marche

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