"A leading political scientist examines the dramatic rise in violent extremism around the globe and sounds the alarm on the increasing likelihood of a second civil war in the United States. Political violence rips apart several towns in southwest Texas. A far-right militia plots to kidnap the governor of Michigan and try her for treason. An armed mob of Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists storms the U.S. Capitol. Are these isolated incidents? Or is this the start of something bigger? Barbara F. Walter has spent her career studying civil conflict in places like Iraq and Sri Lanka, but now she has become increasingly worried about her own country. Perhaps surprisingly, both autocracies and healthy democracies are largely immune from civil war; it's the countries in the middle ground that are most vulnerable. And this is where more and more countries, including the United States, are finding themselves today. Over the last two decades, the number of active civil wars around the world has almost doubled. Walter reveals the warning signs-where wars tend to start, who initiates them, what triggers them-and why some countries tip over into conflict while others remain stable. Drawing on the latest international research and lessons from over twenty countries, Walter identifies the crucial risk factors, from democratic backsliding to factionalization and the politics of resentment. A civil war today won't look like America in the 1860s, Russia in the 1920s, or Spain in the 1930s. It will begin with sporadic acts of violence and terror, accelerated by social media. It will sneak up on us and leave us wondering how we could have been so blind. In this urgent and insightful book, Walter redefines civil war for a new age, providing the framework we need to confront the danger we now face-and the knowledge to stop it before it's too late"--… (more)
I'm not sure I can accurately summarize the many aspects of what can make a society or a government ripe for civil war so I won't try. I can say that for every example she cites from other civil wars she boils the essence of what happened down so we can see where the similarities are in our own country. That is, if one is open to trying to stop the civil war and not on the side of overthrowing democracy in the country.
I found most of her prescriptive ideas valuable, especially the ones related to the form of government, namely the electoral college (get rid of it, it has outlasted its purpose) and the Senate. A couple of the social media-based ideas are a little more problematic for me. I don't disagree with all of it but would want to see a detailed concept before getting on board with too much banning of speech, though I have no problem banning things that are demonstrably false being promoted as true.
Highly recommended and a good starting point for both understanding and beginning to take steps to thwart the current attempts to overthrow democracy.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
She reviews some of the better known civil wars in recent times including Rwanda, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and so on. The book is clearly building up to a discussion of the United States in recent years and that comes sooner rather than later. This is the part of the book that is weakest — especially a long section of fiction that imagines civil war breaking out in the USA in 2028 under President Kamala Harris (and no, I don’t think Kamala Harris will be US president then either).
The bulk of the book is about the US and it feels rather long-winded. Some of the discussion of the civil wars in other countries feels more cursory. For example, her explanation of why the IRA and the British government came to the negotiating table is superficial and inaccurate.
The main argument about the risk of civil war in the US is, however, a convincing one. This is a chilling book.