I have been watching Bill Maher recently on HBO. Now I really like the guy, and find his New Rules segments really funny, though I realize many people do not like him. And like most entertainers, he has no idea of what real world military operations are like. Don’t get me wrong by reading too much into this little rant. I really do not want to see a revolution or insurrection in the United States. That would really ruin my plans for the future. However, saying that the revolution would not have a chance because it would be staged against a government that controls the most awesome military on Earth. And the words Drones and Nuclear Weapons are mentioned a lot in all of these rants about the hopelessness of any kind of insurrection. First of all, the numbers would be with the revolutionaries, as long as the reasons to revolt are clear enough. I really believe that if the government was foolish enough to try and take all firearms away from Americans there would be a fight. I don’t believe this would occur over background checks, or banning high capacity magazines. The last one is kind of stupid as well. There are a lot of high capacity magazines out there, and only a grab would get rid of most of them, precipitating the very revolt the government doesn’t want. Now, just how many gun owners are there? Another point of contention. I have heard estimates that there are over thirty million deer hunters out there, most of them possessing bolt action high velocity weapons with scopes. In other words, Sniper Rifles. I firmly believe that in any kind of long range fight these hunters hold the advantage over regular infantry. I have also seen figures that over twenty million AR-15s, the semiauto version of the M16, are in the hands of US gun owners. No, they are not full automatic assault rifles, but the advantages of the full auto have been overstated. They are great when you are spraying a bunch of grouped targets at close range (the Spray and Pray method of engagement). At medium to long ranges the AR15 is just as effective. So now we have fifty million servicable infantry weapons in the hands of the public. Probably a lot more than that, but just for argument’s sake, let’s say fifty. And if half of those weapons are used in an insurrection, that’s twenty-five million weapons. Now I know that at the peak of the cold war we had three million regulars in uniform, most of them in noncombatant support roles, and maybe two million in the reserves, with a higher percentage of trained combatants. So even at their best the military was heavily outnumbered, and that is if all of them lock step and just do what they’re told, never a sure thing with citizen soldiers. Same with the police. Maybe the FBI and Homeland Security will just do as they’re told, but I doubt the police and sheriff’s of the country will just go and take the guns away from all of their friends and neighbors. The opinions I have heard and read seem to indicate that many of them are strong Second Amendment people. So the numbers game favors the people.
But the military has drones, you say. Like drones are some magical weapon that defeats all opponents. Actually manned aircraft, in my opinion, are more effective, able to drop large weights of weapons on a target and switch targets at will. Still not a match for the enormous fleets of bombers we deployed in WW2. Drone are very effective at making surgical strikes, like taking out the so called bad guys. So let’s say you have a meeting taking place at a restaraunt that you want to take out, knowing that they will see ground forces coming. So you fly your drone over, see what looks like the targets (to the drone operator looking through the vehicle’s camera) and you hit the target. If it isn’t your target you’ve just caused a bit of colateral damage (to be talked about in a future post on how to piss the civilian population off). Even if it is your target, say Dr. Smith, the leader of the resistence in Houston, is it really to be expected that killing him will cause the movement to come unravelled? Not really. Smith’s second in command may be an idiot, and will soon be forced from command by the irregulars he leads. Or he could be a genius, in which case the drone strike has caused more problems than it has solved. But even in the best case, if Houston had twenty thousand rebels, you have at most killed off one tenth of one percent of their manpower. So if you do a drone strike a day in Houston you may kill a couple of percent of the rebels, unlikely, since they are probably going to come up with ways where you won’t find their meeting places. Aircraft could do a better job on taking out more of the rebels, even without carpet bombing the city and killing a good percentage of the population. Again, you only have so many aircraft, even if it numbers in the thousands, and there are sure to be some pilots who balk at dropping bombs in their hometown, or any American city for that matter. Or, if the objective is just to kill a lot of people, use that greatest of all historical killers, artillery, something the rebels are sure to have a dearth of. But being rebels they will never conveniently congregate for you to mow them down. And now we come to the weakness of these weapons. All weapons, no matter how strong, have a weakness. With Drones, Aircraft and Artillery the weakness is in the supply system and in deploying them where they can be taken out by ground attack. Aircraft need fuel and spare parts, which must be transported to their base, and therefor can be interdicted. Aircraft also need runways, which must be protected, unless they are VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing). That brings up another problem. Troublemakers must be kept off those runways and away from the hangers. In peacetime airbases are protected by manned gates and a few roving patrols. If you think that will suffice during a rebellion you are sadly mistaken. Protecting an airbase requires fortified positions all around the perimeter of the base. And being a perimeter it is vulnerable to a concentrated attack on any one point. Not to mention the waste of manpower that could be used for infantry patrols to fight the rebels elsewhere. Drones and VTOLs, not to mention artillery, don’t need such a large area to deploy, but still require a large perimeter to protect them, otherwise the operators will come under fire from all those scoped deer rifles. So the perimeter is expanded and reinforced by the troops who can’t be used for other duties. So in a rebellion, where the enemy is dispersed and only comes together at the time and place of their choosing, these are not super weapons. Useful, yes. But not war winning in and of themselves.
So the government has nukes, chemicals, even biological weapons, and surely they could be used to crush a rebellion. Only if the government was willing to burn down the country it rules. The rebels will never gather in sufficient numbers to warrant the use of a nuke, and dropping one on a city will probably result in a revolt by the military. The weapon might not even be deployed, and entire divisions are likely to come over to the rebel side to fight against a government that they see as insane. The same with chemical and biological weapons. Too many innocents would be killed, and from my time in the Army and National Guard, that would not be tolerated. And good luck to you on getting the police to go along with the wholesale destruction of the people they are sworn to protect. The government using these weapons on its own citizenry suddenly becomes the enemy domestic that all take an oath to oppose.
I had orginally planned to do only a one post rant on this topic, but the more I think about it the more the response has expanded. The one thing most non-military people don’t seem to realize is that there is no such thing as a supreme weapon that is equally suitable for all occasions. Battleships were great, with their superior fiorepower, but also made huge targts for aircraft. The King Tiger was a match for anything in WW2, but its own size made it impossible to deploy in areas that didn’t have major highway bridges, and it suffered from many mechanical failures as well. A great book to read to learn how to think about these things is Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace by Edward Luttwak, in which he gives many examples of how weapons that seem unstoppable or wise fail in the strategic situation in which they are deployed.
In the next post on this topic I will talk about how collateral damage and strategies intended to cow populations actual backfire, as shown in many historical precidents.