Rebellion impossible in modern US?

This post was inspired by the thread about Could the Government Take Our Gun Rights Away?. One of the points often raised in support of gun rights is the idea that the Founders wanted an armed citizenry to be able to counter a tyrannical government.

Now leaving aside whether the Whiskey Rebellion (not to even mention the Civil War) deep-sixed the idea that disgruntled citizens had a right to resort to armed defiance of the federal government, there’s still the question “could the masses successfully rebel against the government today?”

Maybe in the late 18th century, when wars were fought and won mainly by large numbers of infantrymen, it was possible to envision a popular militia resisting a would-be dictator in Washington. But modern mechanized warfare gives an enormous edge to a strong central government. Could even several million rebels armed with only shotguns, deer rifles and handguns seriously threaten a professional army armed with tanks and helicopter gunships, and equipped with modern high-tech equipment like night vision goggles, satellite imagery and laser sights?

For that matter, with virtually all our citizens dependent upon the institutions of society to feed, cloth and house them, wouldn’t rebellion be suicidal? When the government could impound bank accounts with the click of a mouse, how would these rebels survive?

If anyone did try to form a rebel army, it would be reduced to hiding out in the Rockies subsisting on squirrel stew, while trying to elude the infrared sensing patrol aircraft constantly overflying them.

A few caveats: You might say that the VietCong and the Mujahedeen(sp?) held their own against tough odds. But I believe that both were special cases. If the United States had been politically willing to simply invade and conquer North Vietnam, the VietCong would have been annihlated in six months. And Afghanistan is custom made for insurgent warfare- mountainous terrain, and a population of largely self-sufficient nomads.

I believe that while you could still have terrorists operating an underground resistance, and you could have situations where the government might be politically defeated, I don’t see how a milita could hope to win an opening shooting war.


In a straight up fight, no. But if a large group has the balls to rebel then they’re probably going to have the balls to use every dirty trick in the book and invent a few new ones to boot.

It would also be unlikely to find many areas that were completely loyal or rebel. More then likely you’d have cities and rural areas with loyalist and rebels mixed together. So you can’t just go around carpet bombing your own folks. So that makes things like tanks and air power of limited use.

So that means some poor schmuck with a rifle is going to have to walk around. He’s vulnerable, his support vehicles are vulnerable, and through terrorist tactics his base is vulnerable.


Well first the government would have to find out who was a rebel. It isn’t like they’d advertise the fact. And even then rebels have a pesky way of figuring out how to stay supplied. They might even get help from citizens who don’t wish to take an active role in the rebellion.

That would depend on their goals and the current state of the US. Maybe they could win maybe they’d just get crushed. Personally I’m not all that interested in finding out.


The Galactic Empire thought that rebellion was impossible, too. And look what happened – Corellia, Alderaan, and several Outer Rim Systems not only rebelled, they formed a full-blown rebel Alliance. A campaign to wipe out the Jedi, two Death Stars, and a galaxy-spanning fleet of Star Destroyers, all combined, weren’t enough to stop the rebels.

And now, here we are, with the New Republic firmly in place and the Empire’s few remaining adherents pushed back into the Core Systems.

Your elegant and thoughtful approach to the Great Debates is a breath of fresh air. Your grasp of ancient Galactic history has served to enlighten all of us. Truly we can learn much from events that happened long long ago in a galaxy far far away. I shall now go to my video machine and check out the historical documents for more information which may be applicable.


Think of it this way… several million rebels, hiding among several hundred million who AREN’T rebels. The insurgents would have a good amount of anonymity on their side. As MGibson already stated, tanks and gunships and weapons of mass destruction aren’t very useful if you can’t use them without destroying your own infrastructure.

In addition, those who pilot said tanks and gunships can’t stay in their vehicles forever… in fact, the vast majority of their time is spent outside the vehicle. They’re hardly invulnerable.

This is probably the ultra-mega-worst-case scenario… y’know, the kind of stuff that we saw in the Terminator movies :smiley:

If things did get that bad, where any potential rebels were the vast, vast minority and cast out from society, then no, that sort of group wouldn’t be realistically capable of overthrowing their government.

Well, Guerrilla Warfare is mentioned not as a means of portraying the image of a few small groups hiding out in the wilderness, but to portray the image of MANY small groups hiding amongst everyday people in every city across the nation.

Bah. We must learn from the mistakes of our predecessors, even those that lived a long time ago. Go here to see a list of how to avoid such mistakes.

Non-trivial examples, no?

Think China, think Soviet Union. There were absolutely good reasons for the United States not invading North Vietnam, and the war would not have been over in six months. Rather, it would have morphed into super-power + regional power vs super power conflict. The Chinese, if for nationalistic reasons only would have quickly moved to aid the Vietnamese, despite their rather intense mutual dislike and rivalry. (Note, China and Viet-Nam fought at least one small border war in the late 1970s.) Six months, annihilated? No way.


Think significant outside assistance: American and other aid, including key items like portable SAMs like the stinger to help neutralize Red Army air support. Soviet losses escalated significantly with the introduction of this kind of aid.

The point on political defeat is all that is needed if the government needs political support and is hurt by outside opinion.

Of course, in the scenarios proposed by other posters they entirely leave out the use secret police etc. Looking at Algeria since 1990, I would hazard the guess that a modern government with good agitprop, revenues to fund security mechanisms and a willingness to use secret police in manners as ruthless as the proposed rebels can turn the tables and hold its own.

All in all, despite the obsessiveness of the 2nd Amendment folks, its Freedom of Speech which is the best defense nowadays, not some ridiculous hunting rifles. If there was some kind of ‘rebellion’ in the United States against an oppressive government, success would depend on getting your view point out, and probably getting units of the National Guard and military to go over to your side (this in a scenario where there is no outside support.) Else the rebels are likely to be doomed to being fringe terrorist movements created instability in hard to reach rural areas. Look at the conditions in many 3rd World nations. Precisely this scenario. A healthy political culture is the key to defense of libery, not public weapons possession, which many of these unstable countries have no lack of at all.

NOTE: I’m agnostic on 2nd Amendment per se (meaning gun control), however the defense of liberty argument does not strike me as well-founded in real terms. Symbolic political terms is another matter of course.

That’s pretty funny! :slight_smile:

I have never been in the military but I would speculate that since the military is comprised of american citizens, and if the american citizens were rebelious to the government. Then there would be soldiers rebellious to the government, ie Timothy McVey. In America it is your duty to rebell against a government that no longer serves the people.

IMHO, a traditional armed rebellion wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance. A techno-terrorist group OTOH might be able to do some real damage. But to actually overthrow the existing government? Probably not. That would take popular support of an extent that I don’t think could be mustered, at least not under present circumstances.

Two million rebels with automatic weapons, which are legal with the correct license, unlimited ammunition, hiding in the sewers around Washington, DC…

Lots of 4 wheel drive vehicles, altered by people the likes of Mr. T with welded metal covering the front…

Ten kamikaze pilots, probably rich people with single prop airplanes, carrying a ton of fuel…

12 minutes into the State of Union address with both houses of Congress, the President and The Vice President present…

The Secretary of State is securely off the premises and the leader of this rebellion…

The Secretary of State denounces this action and sees all the flaws in our system, like the 2nd amendment, and places an emergency law making body which subsequently rewrites the entire government of the United States after the strategic assassinations of the Justices of the Supreme Court…

Wouldn’t that work?

OR, the majority simply vote out the Republican and Democratic Parties and systematically rewrite the federal government through their newly elected representatives.

The beauty of our Constitution is that it can be rewritten without violence. Thus, IMO a rebellion would be by a numerical minority which would be opposed not only by tanks and airships, but by the other gun-totin’ civilians who they are hiding behind. No?

I think the best idea is to not allow a situation where a tyrannical government can come into power in the first place :smiley: Y’know, preventive medicine?

send a million people with some sort of gun to the whitehouse. The fact being that our presidents are worthless militarily will make them surrender:)

tracer and SPOOFE Bo Diddly
I don’t see how anyone can post seriously here after those two posts. :slight_smile:

An interesting point, in most rebellions, such as the Civil War or the American Revolution, people who were part of the tyrannical government’s army often participated in the rebellion. I imagine if there were serious reason to rebell, at least some of the folks in the US armed services would join the fight.

There goes your weapons gap.

I forget which one it was, but at the end of one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, all it took was one deranged Japanese pilot of a 747. He deliberately crashed it into the Capital during a joint session. Vice-President Jack Ryan, being elsewhere, became President.

The next novel detailed the new America, run according to Tom Clancy’s interpretation of the Constitution.

Was he VP? I kinda thought he was waaaay down the list and that pilot killed the whole top of the list.

An armed rebellion would, of course, be out of the question. But what about resorting to good ol’ civil disobedience? Fer instance…

Every swingin’ American citizen waits until April 15th to file their income tax returns as a protest to an unfair and poorly administered form of taxation. Inundated with returns and unable to process them in time, the federal government is forced to issue returns along with additional monies in the form of “late fees”, as written into the tax code. Will it happen? Hell no. Far too many Americans look forward to April 15th so that they can file their returns and get their grubby hands on the refund they’ve got coming to 'em. If you ask, many of them will insist that they don’t pay any taxes, since they get a return.


A sufficient number of American citizens (registered voters all, natch) begin demanding that the federal government turn over more powers to the individual states as the framers of the constitution intended. Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers that in times of peace only %5 of power should be turned over to the federal government, the remainder would go to the individual states.
Will it happen? Hell no. Far too many people are dependent on the federal government for everything from jobs to health benefits to food and shelter. They’re not about to give up their position at the teat while the milk is so sweet, and best of all FREE.

Christ, there are losts of things that we the people could do to wrestle control away from the socialist idiots that currently control the government. I believe that the majority of those who choose to serve as congressmen or senators are well meaning, idealistic, and basiclly good folks. Problem isn’t the people, but the system. We can, and probrbly should, demand changes, but we need solid, dedicated leadership and that, IMHO, is what we are lacking.
No George Washingtons. No Alexander Hamiltons. No Thomas Jeffersons. No Mel Gibsons…

The thing to keep in mind is that a rebellion is not a military movement, it is a political movement that uses miliatary means.

We already have “rebels” in our country…there are many Tim McVeigh style militia cells running around the countryside with squirrel rifles and stockpiled dynamite. But can they accomplish their goals? No, because 99% of America is against them.

But what if the political situation was different? If the government becomes sufficiently tyrannical then we not only have more rebels/terrorists/militia we have sympathizers. Even a tyrannical government can only go so far…look at Serbia, Russia, etc. Past a certain point and military units and security forces start to defect. Once your secret police start sympathizing with the Rebels, your dictatorship has serious problems.

So the answer is that it depends on the political situation. If the american people are outraged at the government, rebellion becomes easily possible. If they are supporters of the dictatorship, or political control is too strong, rebellion is impossible.

What are the goals of the rebels? If you just want to kill the president, you can do that easily with a couple of suicide planes (although there are stinger-armed soldiers stationed at the white house). And How far will the dictatorship go? Even if the US goes totalitarian, the new dictator will still have to pay lip service to democracy, will still have to keep the loyality of the military, etc.

The question cannot be answered unless we are given the political situation that causes the rebellion.

Well, they don’t seem concerned with building a new system up so much as tearing the current one down. This explains why… to use your example… McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City Federal building. Sure, it’s a supericial target of Big Gov’ment, but from a “rebellion” point of view, what did it accomplish? Nothing. In fact, it hurt his cause far more than it hindered it.

The nature of rebellion is that it shouldn’t be resorted to unless it’s necessary. I imagine that all except the most extreme people would agree that it’s NOT necessary… not at the moment, anyway.

Bah. Me and these late hours. That should be something along the lines of “hurt his cause more than it helped”.

Proofread more, SPOOFE’ems, proofread more…