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Saturday, May 12, 20071179013200

Federalism, Counterinsurgency, Christianity, and the Klan

Barnett ponders Brave New War...

One thing Robb's book made me realize: Core states tend to be bottom-heavy (more government below and thinner on top--e.g., the U.S. police structure), whereas Gap states tend to be top-heavy (and capital-centric to boot). The former structure disincentives the insurgent (the locals have vibrant local government), the latter is far more vulnerable to their penetration and supplanting.

Federalism (states rights, whatever you call ti)is an example of political defense-in-depth. By making it possible for insurgencies to win local vicotires, it discourages them from attacking the entire system. Further, the fact that the insurgents might actually win forces the local political elite to actually care about defeating them. Otherwise, regional governors will think that "I will leave, then this place will be someone else's problem."

Two fate of variations of Christianity, early Christianity as preached by Jesus and Paul and the Ku Klux Klan as devised by Nathan Bedford Forrest, show this well. The Christians were attacked by a centralized system where no limited victory was possible. However, their local opponents were only lukewarm in their opposition. This attitude went back to the Crucifixion, with both Governor Pilate and King Herod generally unconcerned about Jesus's fate. The centralized nature of the Roman state meant that Christians would be persecuted until they took over the whole country. So they were persecuted for a long time. And then they took over the whole country.


The United States government, however, abandoned its war against the Klan after about a decade. While militarily defeated, the political wing of the Ku Klux Klan (in the form of local Democratic Parties) soon gained power across the South and were able to implement their policies. Then the violence against the State stopped. This was unfortuante for the victims involved. However, while the centralized Roman persecution of Christians meant that time was on the side of the insurgents (just wait long enough and some mircale will happen), the decentralized American system meant that time was against the insurgents (the nothern states merely waited until they were politically powerful to reinvade with minimal bloodshed).

symbol of early christianity


Read the rest of Tom's thoughts on his blog.


I think you're overstating the KKK's role in the end of reconstruction by several orders of magnitude .

Posted by: Steve French | Sunday, May 13, 2007

Steve, how so?

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, May 13, 2007

It presumes that the Klan was a military threat to the union troops, and merited a lot of attention from the Union.

Posted by: Steve French | Monday, May 14, 2007

The Klan was organized by Confederate army general staff, killed thousands to tens of thousands of Americans, actively and successfully sought to change elections, murdered a Congressman, and required the greatest peacetime expansion of federal police power to that time (two Force bills, a suspension of habeus corpus, etc.).

The Klan was not a military force or a military threat in that it was not designed to defeat Union soldiers in a decive battle. Rather, it was paramilitary force designed to wear down the Union's will to continue fighting. The Klan was a paramilitary threat, which is why the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was passed to provide the legal mechanisms to fight it.

The Klan itself was military dispersed, though the victory would be hollow (as was the later British "victory" over the Boers and the American "victory" over the Viet Cong). While militarily successful, the occuping Union lost the will to fight. Enforcement of Union laws largely ended after 1876, and would not resume until President Eisenhower.

The American federalism system allowed the Southern loyalists to win a measure of independence, "home rule," if you will. However, this partial victory put time on the side of the economically more connected side -- the Union -- and to the mostly bloodless reassertion of federal authority in the 1950s and 1960s.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Monday, May 14, 2007

My suspicion is that GG applies to the case of the Klan more directly than that.

Here's what I remember from US history class (warning, my memory is several years fuzzy, so add appropriate grains of salt). There was actually two or three Klans.

The first one, founded by Forrest, was eventually dismantled by the federal government, partly with the help of Forrest himself; he started it to continue the war, not to terrorize unarmed blacks. Unfortunately, this dismantling didn't happen before many of the their methods diffused through the Southern populace. In our terms, the Klan went open source.

In the early 20th century, a salesman who's name I forget revived the Klan as a commercial enterprise-- a fraternal organisation with him at the top. He built it, added a bunch of mystical mumbo-jumbo (the Dragon/Wizard stuff) for flavor, and sold it nation-wide with anti-foreigner and anti-semitic rhetoric added to appeal to the wider audience. In doing so, though, he wound up spreading the methodology of the older Klan outside the South. The second Klan, being a legal organisation, was eventually brought down by the government through legal means, but the methods are still out there, being used by other White Supremacist groups including remnant Klan groups.

As Al Qaeda evolved from a single organization into a brand of techniques available to the hateful, so the Klan evolved. And while the government occasionally fights the current Klan groups, when one of them is dumb enough to pick a fight with them, most of the opposition is through de-centralized means: local law enforcement, community activists and counterprotesters, journalists and others. As I understand, de-centralized means (albeit of a different variety) are Robb's prescription for dealing with the new Al Qaeda.

My apologies in advance for any facts I just got wrong; this was mainly a brain-dump to get this viewpoint on the table.

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