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This is the type of posts that, at first glance, looks like it would belong in the Wednesday’s world building section but since it has a touchy political element to it, I put it here.
And what is that “element”? Guns.
It didn’t take long for the more radical elements of the Gun Culture to “fire” back by saying that guns are the one thing that stands between the big bad wolf of government and themselves. As I mentioned before (see link above) if you rely on your guns to protect your freedoms, that means you lost all of them. But for the sake of argument lets say that it came down to a shooting war, what exactly is the anatomy of a revolution/insurrection?
Caveat: These apply to armed insurrections/guerrilla campaigns. Mass protests movements work differently and, ironically enough, far faster and more successful, at least in recent months/years.
1. The Embryonic Stage
Most armed rebellions start with a small group of like minded individuals who decide to take action. Most groups don’t survive this phase because talking is much cheaper than the action, be it an armed confrontation, attack or bombing of some sort. One of more members may balk at the particulars of the action and either infighting ensues or somebody blabs. The action may also fail and backfire on the group. This is also the time when local police enforcement and federal agencies take notice and may infiltrate or get payed informants in the group. Even if that doesn’t happen, distrust between the members can destroy the founding cell, often in violent ways.
2. Maintaining Momentum
Ask any soldier, firefights eat ammo like hungry hippos eat white pellets. If the insurgency survives the first phase, it then has to secure sanctuaries to train/recruit new fighters and more ammunition/weapons (AKs won’t cut it for very long against tanks). This requires a steady supply of income to acquire and set up. Most would be insurgents turn to raiding government storehouses (this might be part of the opening “action” of Phase 1) or turning to criminal activities like robbing banks or drug trafficking. At this stage many insurgents simply transform into criminal organizations more interested in making money that changing the world. In fact, many such organizations include in their backgrounds claims of failed uprisings. It injects a bit of romanticism into the history of groups that are nothing more than murdering thieving thugs. If that doesn’t happen.
3. Winning Hearts and Minds
People abhor chaos. They merely want to live their lives in relative peace. Nobody wants to rock the boat, which is exactly what the insurgents are doing. Expect the local population to be hostile to the insurgents efforts simply because they represent a disruption in their daily lives. The insurgents must move the population from Hostile->Neutral->Friendly. This is done by convincing the locals that you are the lesser of two evils. Many insurgents turn to terror tactics which tend to backfire. Neutrality is a plus for the insurgents in that while they may no actively support the rebels, they won’t cooperate with the authorities either. A friendly population provides shelter, intelligence and recruits for the insurgency but only if they can prove (and do so continually) they are the lesser of two evils.
4. Breaking the Stalemate
And by stalemate I mean, a bloody one. By this time the insurgents secured operational areas and upgraded from hunting rifles to something bigger punch. This is full on civil war where in all likelihood the central government has abandoned all pretenses of policing the problem away and moved into full on suppression campaign. Local support may keep the insurgents afloat but the disparity in firepower means the insurgents must trade lives for time. This is also the time when if they haven’t secure outside support, a.k.a. foreign governments, they need to do so now. Political pressure from the outside plus a steady supply of better armaments should, in the long run, break the stalemate. This is also the time when peace initiatives come into vogue. The insurgents must carefully balance their political goals, propaganda and military objectives to keep the fighting going while weakening the enemy. If they seem to eager to fight, they might lose support (internal/external), but if they cave in to quickly, it may give the government time to regroup.
5. You Broke It….
The government is collapsing, the rebels are making a push for the capital, government soldiers defect or give up in larger numbers and the population cheers their liberators. Like Moses, the surviving insurgent leaders look upon the Promise Land and draw their long knives to make sure the others don’t get to walk on it. Greed, distrust and betrayal bubble up with the promise of upcoming power. If somehow the insurgents can form a new government, they will have to fight the rivals within it, dissident factions from the old regime and their own worst instincts. How many nations have failed after a revolution? Too many to count.
BTW, in the 200+ year history of the United States, no rebellion from its own citizens against the U.S. government has succeeded. Some have won memorable victories, but none have succeeded. And no, don’t expect a romantic mass uprising because some idiot decided to have a shootout with the cops or the feds. All those idiots are dead.
So, good luck with that.