Thursday, March 01, 2018

#NeverAgain Means Constantly Packing Enough Firepower To Bring Down a Tank

Some of you have no doubt seen Rep. Don Young (R-AK)'s suggestion that the Holocaust wouldn't have happened had the Jews been armed.

On twitter, responding to a similar claim, I observed that the Warsaw Uprising (where some Jews did have guns), belies the notion that Jews simply having guns would have meaningfully obstructed the Nazi genocidal machine. To which the reply was -- well, clearly they didn't have enough guns. Which, given that the NRA's response to any gun violence is "there should have been more good guys with guns in the room", isn't that surprising.

Now, in a sense it is right to say that the reason the Warsaw Uprising failed is that the Jews didn't have enough firepower -- that is, enough firepower to singlehandedly defeat a modern state's war apparatus. But I think we should hone in on the precise claim being made here. When the NRA says "we need an armed populace to defend ourselves from potentially genocidal government", it can't be talking about a couple people with handguns in their house or even some AR-15s. The only way this logic works is if they think every social group in America should have at its disposal enough advanced weaponry to take out a tank battalion along with its air support.

That power is, should, and must be vested in states -- which means there is no alternative response to the risk of (domestic) state violence and oppression other than inculcating that state with liberal and rule-of-law values so that it can both have the capacity to defend itself against external threats while not using those capacities to oppress others. This is a far more plausible lesson to draw from the Holocaust compared to a world where we handout Stingers and Hellfire Missiles as Bar Mitzvah presents.


PG said...

Going to see if I can do my little bit to undermine another successful legal career with this comment:

Adherents to the "defense against tyranny" theory mention rebels in Chechnya and Chiapas, and the native populations of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Somalia as having forced out modern armies of the United States and Soviet Union.

A war in a foreign land is one thing; a revolution in one’s own land is another. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. governments were reluctant to “lose” Vietnam and Afghanistan, but the loss did not directly threaten the governments’ very existence. In the improbable circumstance of war between the gun-owning citizenry and the U.S. military, I would be surprised if our government constrained itself to ground combat, instead of launching SCUD missiles at the most problematic regions of the country.

A government that has abandoned its sense of decency so far as to make war on its own citizens – even before that, to create a situation in which violence is the only way for citizens to regain control over their rulers — is unlikely to worry about the P.R. problems caused by using every weapon in its arsenal to crush the unrest.

The army that fought the American revolutionaries was not composed entirely of colonists loyal to Britain. A large number of British soldiers were not even British, but German mercenaries. That military contrasts with the present U.S. Armed Forces, which are composed almost entirely of citizens and residents of the United States. The British army in the American Revolution, for the most part, was not fighting neighbors; if the USAF fought their fellow Americans today, they would be.

As with so many political disagreements, the debate over a need for an armed citizenry in the U.S. may come down to differing calculations of probabilities. I find it extremely improbable, almost to the point of absurdity, that our citizen military — made up of our own relatives, friends and neighbors — would fire its weapons on a majority uprising against a tyrannical government. Yet this is the situation that is implied by a necessity for the Second Amendment to protect Americans from an internally-generated tyranny.

It’s also why I don’t find Timbuktu a very instructive example for the citizens of any developed country. The town was not being tyrannized over by the state; it was taken over by rebels against the state. The state being Mali, its security apparatus was incompetent to remove the rebels, and so Timbuktu was left to the rebels’ depredations until the French showed up.

The rebels, in turn, were so pathetic that they could be routed quickly by the French military, which may not get much respect but does have the modern conveniences of tanks and an air force that the rebels lacked. In that sense, the easy defeat of the rebels — at least temporarily — is illustrative of how *little* even people armed to the teeth with guns can do against any 21st century military.

I don’t think the problem for most of Africa is a lack of arms, but instead an excess of them in the hands of people who aren’t *sufficiently* under a state’s control.

Your Correspondent said...

I think that if Europe's Jews had more guns and better organization they could have made the Holocaust too expensive. So Hitler would have been weakened or killed earlier. If the 6 million Jews would have killed 6 million Nazis, or even 1 million, history would be different and probably better. The Jews of Europe wouldn't have needed to defeat Nazism to justify the guns, just to damage the Nazis.

Of course, this would have required that the Jews understood the plan for the Holocaust better than they really did.