A Look at the American Troubles

This weekend I started researching the Irish Troubles for a section of my upcoming book on Low Intensity Conflict/Civil War 2.

It’s important to keep an open mind and consider all possibilities, weigh the evidence, and then decide what’s more likely and less likely to happen. That’s exactly what I do in the book, which is an updated analysis based on a 2019 video series on the topic.

The Irish Troubles is one of six models I’ve identified that could have (loosely) an American equivalent.

Of course, I’m not talking about Catholics versus Protestants, but a sectarian conflict featuring sporadic armed political violence where the government’s primary mission is peacekeeping followed by counterterrorism.

The Irish Troubles resulted in over 50,000 casualties and 3,500 deaths over a 30-year span (1969-1998). Armed violence was widespread across Northern Ireland, but this map illustrating the deaths of civilians and British Security Forces gives us a good glimpse of where casualty-producing attacks occurred.

One of my key assumptions for this model remains that armed political volence would be geographically limited. I wouldn’t expect much from, say, central Nebraska or northern Alabama, for instance, just like many areas of Northern Ireland had very few instances of armed violence over a 30-year span. I expect most places to remain… well, pretty quiet as far as fighting is concerned. (Criminality is another matter!)

In a previous post, I provided four requirements for a conflict to become a civil war. Briefly, they are:

  • domestic military action (i.e., not just police)
  • government involvement as a belligerent (i.e., not just a war between citizens)
  • capable fighting on both sides of the conflict (i.e., not genocide)
  • at least 1,000 combat-related deaths in a 12-month period (i.e., sustained fighting)

I bring this up because at no 12-month period during the 30-years of conflict in Northern Ireland did combat-related deaths reach 1,000. In fact, it’s no where close. At the height, 479 deaths were recorded during the 1972 calendar year.

Although the Irish did have a civil war from 1922-1923, the Irish Troubles were definitely not a civil war. Instead, it’s what many refer to as Low Intensity Conflict.

(This is another reason why I dislike the term “civil war” — you can have a casualty-producing armed domestic conflict without it rising to the intensity of a conventional civil war. That’s exactly where I think this country is headed.)

Let’s take a look at the yearly death totals for civilians, Irish Republicans, Ulster Loyalists, and British security forces from 1969 to 1998.

A few things… First, civilian deaths are roughly equal to deaths of all belligerents. High civilian casualties are the norm for domestic conflicts, going all the way back to at least the 1500s. As French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1532-1592) observed, “In truth a forraine warre is nothing so dangerous a disease as a civill.”

Second, while the 1970s were by far the most violent, war-related deaths continued to stack up over the following decades. The total death toll of 3,483 works out to an average of 116 deaths per year, or roughly one death every three days. For 30 years. Low intensity conflicts, especially insurgencies and guerrilla wars, are often protracted. Nothing happening in the United States today signals that our own domestic conflict would be short lived.

Third, I’m still compiling the numbers of fighters as a percentage of the overall populace. The end result will show that a small percentage was actively engaged in the fighting at any given time. As we see in most low intensity conflicts, a small percentage actually takes part in the fighting, followed by maybe 5-15% of the total population involved in active support at some level, and everyone else is just trying to live their lives. I suspect that the American Troubles would be similar.

The real problem for most Americans will be the economic, financial, and monetary destruction that results from armed conflict. While you’d think that high unemployment would enable the mobilization of millions of military-aged males, the disruption to transportation, shipping, and production likely means that many Americans will be focused on week to week survival, as opposed to actively fighting.

The greater the operational tempo and mass of fighters, the greater logistics you need. This likely means that the number of fighters remains relatively small compared to the efforts required to support them. Again, less than 5%, maybe even less than 1%, is likely to be engaged at any time. (That’s still a lot of people.)

On that note, the United States population today is some 200 times larger than Northern Ireland was from 1969-1998. So could we see 200 times the death toll? Certainly.

In conclusion, these are some initial considerations based on one model of conflict. I’m not in the business of making predictions, only outlining what’s more likely and less likely to occur. Much of this conflict hinges on things still years away; namely 2024 elections and what happens with the federal government. I’ll provide my final conclusions in the book, which is expected to be out in December 2021.

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Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper / Mike Shelby

Author: Samuel Culper

10 thoughts on “A Look at the American Troubles

  1. Good analysis. I did a similar exercise when I wrote The Kingdom of Saudi Australia. I was looking at N.I. as a context for religious conflict in Australian cities, with Islamic fighters declaring a Caliphate and seceding from the Commonwealth. My conclusions were similar to yours, adjusted for population. Most people won’t be shooting at armed raiders trying to loot their preps. Instead, a relatively few people with nothing to lose will make life more difficult for everyone one else.
    Another good example is Lebanon in the 1980s. Lots of different ideologies and shifting alliances with a massive civillian toll.

  2. “the disruption to transportation, shipping, and production likely means that many Americans will be focused on week to week survival, as opposed to actively fighting.”

    This is clearly the intent of the economic destruction which is being deliberately done as we speak

  3. Your data seems pertinent regarding this type of low intensity conflict, and you could very well be spot on. However, the forces behind the left’s movement have more in common with communists take overs than with what we saw in Northern Ireland. I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but I feel the possibilities are much bleaker. Marxist’s vilify their opposition by dehumanization. This often leads to genocide. Perhaps, our future conflicts will have more in common with the what occurred under the Khmer Rouge, or Che Guevara’s exploits. Those seeking total control over the general population have the advantage of financing, technical surveillance, communications, and armaments. They justify their actions by a moral high ground for the “greater good” using the pandemic or climate change as a rallying cry. Add to that the useful idiots who have been brainwashed and are willing to fight to give up their’s and our rights. I hope our future is more like what happened in Northern Ireland, I truly do, because I feel a more likely scenario could be more like Cambodia in the mid seventies.

    1. Agree with you view 100% The language being used by this administration to describe those who will not participate in their “science” experiment are prelude leading to genocide. Remember the ultimate goal is depopulation in any manner of the masses of plebes. CARLIN WAS RIGHT! It is a big club and you and i are not in it.

  4. Ethnic gangs outnumber the LEO in the US by 2:1, numbering about 1.5 million. In addition the Hispanic gangs have cartel backing. All gangs are armed, violent, and independently financed. Have you considered how they will exploit the opportunities a “low intensity” political conflict will create, or how this will escalate the violence? What about ethnic cleansing in their AO? What about the 1-2% of the US military who are gang members, per FBI estimates?

    I think if political clashes go kinetic and you average the activity over the US it might be low intensity, but many areas will quickly be full on war zones. And it is quite possible that much of the US will be at much higher levels of conflict because the access to weapons is orders of magnitude higher in the US than anywhere else in the world.

  5. Also remember the IRA inflicted many casualties in England proper. Maybe consider the American version would be infiltrating foreign (DC, MD, VA) areas and inflicting casualties well out of the comfort zone.

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