If the upshot of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East is that despotic governments and the security forces that support them are overthrown by armed citizens, should an armed populace become the new status quo? Suppose a new government proclaimed “It shall be a duty of citizenship that every able-bodied man undergo military training”. Would this result in a Switzerland or a Somalia? Does the example in Libya show that this is futile- that as long as a tyranny has armor and aircraft on it’s side, infantry alone can’t hope to prevail?
The problem with commenting on whether gun ownership and compulsory military training is good for all countries is that all countries are different.
I’m inclined to say that for countries with a strong civil society (where people can organize, petition the government, have recourse to the ballot box, or where the government is generally receptive to the will of the people), the chance of revolt is nil, so the effects of gun ownership should probably be analyzed on its pros and cons on matters NOT related to people’s rights to self-determination.
For countries where there is a weak civil society (free speech is limited, the government is repressive, there’s no peaceful way to change government policies), high rates of arms ownership coincide with the country being a basket case. Look at the very long periods of strife in places like Somalia, Sierra Leone, Congo, and so on.
The success of a country ultimately has to do with factors of how well it is governed, not how easy it is to start a civil war.
Does the mass of the populace in those countries actually possess arms? Or is it a case of heavily armed government troops, a heavily armed but numerically small insurgency, and a vast mass of unarmed civilians caught in the middle? It’s a little like describing a crime-ridden city as having a high rate of arms ownership when in fact few people there other than police and career criminals have guns.
Most of the population owning guns didn’t help in Iraq, against Saddam or us. Saddam didn’t care about his people owning guns because he knew it didn’t matter. It wasn’t even enough in Libya; note that they’ve needed external help. It’s the weakness of the government that makes revolution possible, not guns. A strong, stable government will easily crush a bunch of rebels with guns since it has bigger guns and even more importantly organization on its side.
Lumpy: You’re missing the point. The ultimate outcome of being a good country is based on the responsiveness of the government, not how many people are armed.
what if a country starts out with strong civil society and responsive government and then many decades later gradually degenerates to minimal civil society and a government that is well on track to classifying half the population as security risks? At which point in the drawn out process from point A to point B do you propose to switch from your “we trust the government” to “armed populace” model? And will you be allowed to make the switch under the very government whose behavior may warrant it?
One example doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. However, ask yourself this: Would the rebels be better or worse off if they had no privately owned guns at all with which to rebel in the first place?
Of course the guns help them. Even against armor, it makes them keep their heads down.
Points taken Ravenman. However, the theory proposed by the founders of the American Revolution was that a society where people can organize, petition the government, have recourse to the ballot box, or where the government is generally receptive to the will of the people, was much more likely to occur when an armed populace meant that the people would have “ballots or bullets”, one or the other. IOW, it would be either anarchy or democracy, with a despotic rule in the name of “order” not an option.
Thing is, that turns out not to be true as the example of Iraq under Saddam and under us shows.
Frankly, after seeing Egypt, I am now in favor of a mandatory civil and/or military service period. The often-repeated phrase was ‘the army and the people are one’, and I like that in an armed forces.
I’m not sure about Saddam but under the US Iraq definitely got the “anarchy” option.
ETA: another factor isn’t just the people having guns but the government not haviny many. The Founders wanted the populace armed in part so the country could rely on calling up armed citizens and not need a huge standing army.
But that won’t work either; again with the example of Iraq, the populace having lots of guns didn’t keep us from conquering them. It doesn’t matter what the founders intended, their ideas don’t work.
Can you give an example of a country that has made such a change? Other than external factors like, say, being invaded by a more powerful neighbor, I’m struggling to think of a time when a modern government has degenerated in such a way.
Kind of the same question. If the Founders’ theory on this is to be valued, then there probably should be at least a few examples in the last two centuries of a populace being shut out of fair elections, and taking up arms to restore a modern democratic system. Other than through external events like war, can you think of some examples of where this has happened?
More of a micro-example but there was the so-called “Battle of Athens” (1946, not the Civil War battle), in which armed citizens arrested a corrupt sheriff who was illegally preventing people from voting. My point wasn’t that an armed populace has to go through cycles of periodically restoring democracy; it was that arguably it serves as a powerful deterrent to outright power grabs, preventing it from coming to that pass in the first place.
Der Trihs, regardless of whether Iraq was democractic or not or had an armed populace or not, no one is saying a country can’t be invaded and conquered by overwhelming force. I would be interested in hearing more about the contention that even under Saddam a majority of the populace had access to weapons.
My whole point in raising this debate (which in one form or another has been debated before) is that while due to plentiful counter-examples or ambiguous examples you can’t plausbily say “armed populace automatically equals peace and freedom”, it seems equally implausbile to say that there is no correllation whatsoever. The reason the Founders went on about standing armies and armed populaces is that they were trying to establish a democratic republic and in the whole of history up to that point they had two examples to go by: democratic Athens and republican Rome, both of which were noted for having established citizen armies.
Ah, firearms are the thing that keeps tyrants away.
Like my my magic rock that keeps tigers away. I have a rock, and I don’t see any tigers around here, right?
If there were clear instances of civil societies in non-armed countries being threatened by collapse, while civil societies in well-armed countries prospering, then there might be a point here. But I’m not seeing much empirical evidence to support your view.
If anything, the historical record over the last two centuries seems to indicate that once a country has a modern government and an established civil society, the odds are extremely good that there will be no need for civil war; but poorly run countries tend to run a higher risk of violent upheaval. How well armed the populace is seems to be irrelevant in either case.
It may be because the majority of Iraqis were against Saddam Hussein.
And against us, as it happens.
:rolleyes: So them being against Saddam Hussein kept them from overthrowing him? Nor did they ever support our conquest of them; I don’t know what the polls say now but certainly in the past the majority of the Iraqi population has reasonably enough supported the killing of foreign troops. We ruined their country and killed many tens of thousands of them; regardless of your fantasies about America civilizing the heathens, we have been their enemies from the beginning.
As you have noted, guns can do little against T-72s and MIGs. Plus even if they disliked Hussein they may have lacked the will to rebel or were willing to tolerate him.
All that does is underline my point and undermine yours. If they couldn’t beat Saddam with their guns they certainly couldn’t beat us.