July 29, 2022 Editor

Should Canada Brace for a Second US Civil War?

A leading political scientist suggests America may be on the brink of insurgency. Here’s what’s at stake.

Crawford Kilian 26 Jul 2022 TheTyee.ca

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

image above: heresathing.com

WN: The final line of the article highlighted below is disturbing:

And as we slid from democracy to anocracy, the scene could be set for a Canadian civil war.

Please see too: MSNBC: RACHEL MADDOW, Christian nationalism’s racist past precludes revival except among GOP’s Trumpiest, July 25, 2022. Of it we read:

Rachel Maddow looks at the racist, antisemitic roots of “Christian nationalism” as advocated by American politician Gerald L.K. Smith in the 1950s, and the renewed embrace of the tenets of that disgraced movement by supporters of Donald Trump like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor Doug Mastriano.

We say our prayers . . .


‘Rapid regime change almost always precedes instability, and civil wars are more likely to break out in the first two years after reform is attempted,’ writes Barbara F. Walter in her new book.

How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, Barbara F. Walter, Crown (2022)

Civil war speculation began with Donald Trump’s presidency, but didn’t really get going until the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Since then, many researchers have been trying to find out if a second civil war is more than a subject for anxious pundits.

Some of those researchers have published on medRxiv, a preprint website normally dedicated to very recent research into COVID-19 and other diseases. But the other day it published a new study into another kind of health issue: the likelihood of Americans using violence against one another to achieve political goals.

The researchers at the University of California’s Davis campus found that over 40 per cent of those interviewed believed “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy.” The same percentage agreed that “in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants.”

About three-quarters of the 8,620 interviewees said violence is sometimes justified to achieve political objectives; of those, 12 per cent were willing to commit political violence “to threaten or intimidate a person.” Four per cent said they were willing to kill.

As alarming as it is, the UC Davis study only confirms what Barbara F. Walter argues in her new book: far from being exceptional, the U.S. is very much like other countries that suddenly topple into civil war.

Democracies growing fewer

If democratization can cause civil wars, so can autocratization. Walter cites the V-Dem Institute, a Stockholm think tank, which in its latest report says: “Liberal democracies peaked in 2012 with 42 countries and are now down to the lowest levels in over 25 years — 34 nations home to only 13 per cent of the world population.” The report finds Canada well down the list of liberal democracies — but finds the U.S. even lower, with “substantial autocratization” in the past 10 years.

Ethnic factionalism, Walter says, is another major driver, responsible for 75 per cent of the civil wars fought since the end of the Cold War. The key issue is whether ethnic or religious groups hold power or share it. Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito involved ethnic power-sharing (and a repressive state). As the country edged toward democracy after Tito’s death; Serbs, Croats and other ethnic factions began to grab as much power as they could. The result was a savage conflict that shocked the world.

Civil war is still more likely if a faction grows into a “superfaction” with the same ethnicity or race, the same religion and class, and the same geographical location. The faction is likely mostly rural or mostly urban. This is full-blown identity politics, and members of a superfaction have nowhere else to go unless they can leave the country.

Entrepreneurs of ethnicity and violence

Essential to factionalism are the leaders Walter call “ethnic entrepreneurs,” who persuade their followers that some “outside” group threatens them. If the followers begin to arm themselves in self-defence, the outsiders feel forced to do the same. Then the “violence entrepreneurs” step in, including the “outbidders” — groups that go to an extreme of violence to control their faction and intimidate enemies and allies alike.

Surprisingly, income inequality doesn’t start civil wars.

“People may tolerate years of poverty, unemployment and discrimination,” Walter writes. “They may accept shoddy schools, poor hospitals and neglected infrastructure. But there is one thing they will not tolerate: losing status in a place they believe is theirs. In the 21st century, the most dangerous factions are once-dominant groups facing decline.”

Hard to prevent a civil war

“The best way to neutralize a budding insurgency is to reform a degraded government: bolster the rule of law, give all citizens equal access to the vote and improve the quality of government services,” Walter argues.

That would be a challenge in a country like the U.S., where people are taught to believe that government is the problem.

Walter thinks grassroots reform at the local level would enable Americans “to shore up our democracy, stay out of the anocracy zone and rein in social media, which will help rein in factionalism. This will give us a chance to avoid a second civil war.”

At this point, however, grassroots organizations are mostly on the far right, dedicated to taking over school boards, forcing public health officials to resign and banning books.

But who, actually, would launch the Second American Civil War? Both left and right feel degraded: Make America Great Again clearly implies it isn’t at present, while Democrats invoke all the laws and institutions degraded after Trump became president. Walter offers us a scenario in which a number of state legislatures are simultaneously bombed, with a right-wing militia group the likely perpetrator.

Whom should Canada support?

First of all, should we support a Republican government facing a left-wing resistance? Or Democrats fighting right-wing militias? Should we screen American refugees on political grounds? If so, which are acceptable? And what about the estimated 640,000 or more Canadian citizens living in the U.S.? How will we make room for them if they decide to return?

Please click on: Should Canada Brace for a Second US Civil War?


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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.