Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW

Summary:  This essay sketches out what might be our most reliable defense against fourth generation warfare (4GW) — a militia.  Militia have deep roots in western history, and many of these advantages can work for America today.  Militia also are problematic for several reasons.  These issues must be considered when designing their recruitment, training, and organization.  This is a slightly revised version of an essay published in September 2005.


  1. Why militia?
  2. Strategic Implications
  3. The right tool for the right war
  4. History of the Militia
  5. An American militia for the 21st Century
  6. Role of an American Militia
  7. Who controls the Militia?What can Militia do for America?
  8. What can Militia do for America?
  9. Politics of Militia
  10. Militia as a Dangerous Innovation
  11. Militia as nucleus for vigilantes
  12. Private Military Companies (aka mercenaries, in a new form for the age of 4GW)
  13. Decline of the State
  14. Conclusions
  15. For more information

As a follow-up see Lawrence Korb of CAP and CDI advocates a militia, 4 June 2008.

(1)  Why militia?

The home court advantage is powerful in 4GW.  Since Mao brought 4GW to maturity, local forces waging 4GW often defeat better organized, trained and equipped foreign forces.  Another way to say this:  in 4GW defense is the strongest mode of warfare, as it has often been in the past.  COIN expert David Killcullen implicitly recognised this in the first article of his famous and widely cited “Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency“, Military Review, May – June 2006.

Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture.  Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader and ancient grievance.  Your task is to become the world expert on your district.

The superiority of defense is not a new aspect of war, as seen in these quotes from Clausewitz’s On War.

As we shall show, defense is a stronger form of fighting than attack. … I am convinced that the superiority of the defensive (if rightly understood) is very great, far greater than appears at first sight.  {Book 1, Chapter 1}

That the defender by inferiority of force and other circumstances may be tied down to that degree we do not dispute. But there is no doubt that this, which should be only the consequence of a necessity, has often been assumed to be the consequence of that part which every defender has to play. Thus in a truly absurd way it has become an axiom that defensive battles should really be confined to warding off attacks and not directed to the destruction of the enemy. We hold this to be one of the most harmful errors, a real confusion between the form and the thing itself, and we maintain unreservedly that in the form of war which we call defense, the victory is not only more probable but may also attain the same magnitude and efficacy as in the attack, and that this may be the case not only in the total result of all the engagements which constitute a campaign, but also in any particular battle, if the necessary degree of force and energy is not wanting.   {Book 6 “Defense”, Chapter 9 “Defensive Battle}

Clausewitz based this conclusion firmly on western history.  Since the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 few invaders have achieved profitable victories in Europe; all of the most prominent aggressors have lost.

Of course military tactics and strategy have changed since he wrote those words.  The concepts of defense and offense have merged so that in maneuver warfare they have lost all but superficial utility.  But they gain a new life in 4GW, which takes place in social space as previous generations of war move through physical space.  The result was first described in my January 2007 article “Why We Lose“, but better expressed by Chet Richards in his new book If We Can Keep It.  4GW insurgencies come in two kinds:

I.  Classical insurgency: a revolution, in other words, in which a sizable fraction of the population opposes what they consider to be an illegitimate or oppressive government, as the American colonies did in 1776-1781. The goal of the insurgent groups may be either to take control of the central government or to achieve independence for a portion of the population.

II.  War of national liberation: in which a sizable fraction of the people in a country throws out an occupying foreign power, as Vietnam did to us in 1965-1975.

Governments can often defeat internal insurgencies (type one).  Governments that require foreign intervention to survive tend to be illegitimate or become so as a result of the foreign support — and lose (type two).  That harsh tendency limits our options.  We can support allies with aid and advisers, but combat troops usually prove ineffective.

The primary battleground about which we should worry is the domestic one.  Today that means foreign terrorism, perhaps by recent immigrants.  In the future we might face powerful non-state organizations using violence to gain either economic power (“criminals”, non-trinitarian conflict) or political objectives (terrorists and insurgents waging 4GW).

(2)  Strategic Implications

What does this mean for us?  Who can best defend America on our own turf?  A vast Washington-based bureaucracy?  There is another option, the opposite path, sketched out in the predecessor of this article (originally published September 2005) and William Lind’s articles about a “Strategic Defense Initiative” (November 2004) and his articles about militias (“On War” numbers 128, 129, and 131, in August 2005).

If the home court advantage is decisive in 4GW then we can survive and prosper relying on an effective and resilient defense.  This could have two components.

  1. Prevent attacks where possible:  extensive foreign and domestic intelligence, strong cooperation with other nations, effective policing at home.
  2. When attacks occur, mitigating their impact and conducting second strikes on the perpetrators without restraint.

Game theory suggests that “tit for tat” is one of the most effective tactics.  As we saw after 9/11, world opinion strongly supported America — giving us wide scope for reprisals.

A defensive war denies foreign 4GW foes both an aggressor and the home court advantage.  When attacking us, they bear the high costs and frequent mistakes typical of overseas adventures.  This works well with recommendation by many experts — Lind, Chet Richards, and Martin van Creveld among them — to de-escalate. Treat users of terrorism as criminals wherever possible, in the sense of avoiding use of soldiers unless necessary. Avoid engaging them massively and directly – unless they attack first.

(3)  The right tool for the right war

Lind’s reports from the Modern Warfare Symposium (“On War” numbers 128, 129, ) describe a tool with which we can win a defensive war. We need large numbers of “Fast” Responders at home, in every community.  We need militias. Locals, trained and equipped to fight, able to sometimes prevent and always respond to the almost limitless ability of 4GW foes to strike at America.

Definition of Militia:  (Origin: Latin for military service)
(1) A part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency.
(2) The whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.
—   From the Merriam-Webster dictionary

We need #1 now. The second becomes our “Plan B”, if engulfed in violent and widespread 4GW. The etymology of militia evokes its origin in the days of primordial war, when every able-bodied man fought for the tribe or city.

(4)  History of the Militia

Militias have their origins deep in western history, back to the 7th Century Anglo-Saxon fyrd– with military service obligatory for every able-bodied freeman. Membership in the fyrd constituted one of the three “Common Burdens” owned to the King by landowners in 8th century England (plus repair of fortifications and bridges).

The Assize of Arms by Henry II of England (1181)

(1)  Whoever holds a knight’s fee must have a hauberk and helmet and shield and lance, and all knights should have as many hauberks and helmets and shields and lances as they have knights’ fees within their lordship.

(2)  Whichever free laymen who have chattels or rent of 16 marks should have a hauberk and helmet and shield and lance; whichever free layman has chattels or rent of 10 marks must have a light hauberk [aubergel], an iron cap and a lance.

(3)  Likewise all burgesses and the whole body of free men must have a gambeson [wambais], an iron cap and a lance.

(4)  To that end everyone must swear an oath before the Feast of St Hilary [Jan 13] that they will have these arms and will carry them faithfully for our lord king Henry, son of the Empress Matilda, and that he will be armed according to this order in allegiance to our lord king and his realm. ….

(10)  Also let justices cause to be said in every county through which they travel, if any does not have arms in accordance with this order, the king shall take his life and limbs and not only his land and chattels. …

Especially note the fourth section. Militias have an inherently problematic loyalty to the central Government. Unfortunately, having them swear an oath might not guarantee loyalty and obedience in today’s secular culture.

Militias were the only defense for Britain’s North America colonies. After the Revolution militia formed the basis of America’s voluntary mobilization system, providing the majority of men until after the Spanish-American War (along with the structurally similar National Guard). For example, in the late 1850s American had approximately 75 thousand uniformed and self-financed militia. Drawn from a population of under 30 million, that’s equivalent to approximately 750 thousand today.  Other than the occasional war, our 19th Century militia served in much the same way as our National Guard, providing added force in national disasters and civil disturbances.

The history of militia in post-medieval Britain and later America has two themes. First, growing central control. Second, militias were seen as a “constitutional force” to guarantee liberty, as a counter-balance against the State’s standing army.

(5)  An American militia for the 21st Century

What is our militia today? From US Code, TITLE 10 – ARMED FORCES; Subtitle A – General Military Law; PART I – ORGANIZATION AND GENERAL MILITARY POWERS; CHAPTER 13 – THE MILITIA (source here)

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are –

  1. the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
  2. the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

What are militias in this vision?

  1. Armed forces, loyal to the State, with some degree of training and central control.
  2. Volunteers authorized to bear and use arms at the direction of the State.
  3. Operating with some degree of self-organization and local control.
  4. Drawn from and operating in a small area, able to mobilize quickly when and as needed.
  5. An intermediate force between the existing National Guard and police.  Two dozen States already have militia, but most lack a meaningful role

Strengths of militia

  1. They can defend the United States by mobilizing in its defense the strong social cohesion of our local communities.
  2. Defending their home communities, militia might display exceptional resilience under horrific circumstances, like that of the elderly and boys defending Berlin from the Russians in the closing days of WWII – who fought as determinedly as the Wehrmacht’s professionals at Stalingrad, elites troops in the annals of world history.
  3. Self-organizing to some degree, although not self-supported or self-training — much like the local battalions that allowed the rapid buildup of both sides during the Civil War.
  4. Trusted by and familiar with their community, hence able to spot strangers, gather and process local information.
  5. They can be trusted by the community, with greater ability than strangers to use force when and to the degree necessary. That is, they might have the ability to use appropriate force while retaining public confidence.
  6. They are a low cost alternative to a massive, full-time, unionized, professional force.
  7. They are a hybrid or intermediate form between regular Army and local police.

Weaknesses of militia

  1. They are ineffective against conventional military, although effective vs. 4GW forces and for disaster relief.
  2. Local organization and control inevitably creates wide variation in unit quality.
  3. Standardization might prove difficult to achieve in key aspects, such as recruitment, doctrine, equipment, and training. Especially if militia are financed by local governments or their own members.
  4. Focus and seriousness often prove difficult to maintain in militia, as most unit will see little or no action.  Nineteenth Century militia often degenerated into social clubs.

(6)  Role of an American Militia

What will they do during an emergency?  We already have local police, state police, National Guard, Federal law enforcement agencies (such as the FBI and ATF), State and Federal disaster response organizations (e.g. FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency), and even the Reserve and Regular military. Plus a host of international and non-governmental agencies.  Their fast-repsonse manpower could play a vital role (eg, in a Katrina-like disaster).

But  does it help to add another organization to this mix during a disaster?  Militias need not have their own command and control hierarchy. They could be limited to providing manpower to work under the direction of professionals.  Providing skilled bodies under the control of others is a reasonable role for militia, but not glamorous. It might prove difficult to raise a volunteer militia who operate strictly as an adjunct to Police or National Guard.

(7)  Who controls the Militia?

An equally difficult question: who controls the militia? In additional to the professionals, we have many layers of political authority who might consider themselves fit for the job. Mayors, County Supervisors, Governors, Cabinet Secretaries, the President – each with their accompanying advisers/critics in the Legislature.  Lind suggests that Congress administratively control the militia, and that local sheriffs operationally control it.

The first is not only explicitly unconstitutional; it’s probably also unworkable. Congress is a committee, and could not – by design – successfully run a lemonade stand.  Congressional control would mean creating a powerful new small group in Congress to command this military force, in opposition to the proper Executive authority.  This creates a strong centrifugal force at the center of the US polity.

The second violates deep American traditions of both law and politics. Should we create local generalissimos? Will local executives (e.g. mayors, governors) allow such potentially powerful tools to slip out of their control (more on this below)?

(8)  What can Militia do for America?

This debate goes back to the Revolution. Since George Washington, American army officers have believed that militia not directly under their control could not be relied upon in combat. But the “Cold War” National Guard, equipped and trained for combat, proved unprepared to deal with the urban riots of the 1960s.  Given their limited training, militias can probably only prepare for a narrow range of tasks. A clear vision, without romanticizing their role, seems essential when designing their mission, training, and organization.

A militia consists of armed citizens. Restraint when using force is a discipline resulting from training and experience, both probably in short supply among militia.  The development of SWAT teams throughout America offers a cautionary example. SWAT teams are better trained than any likely militia. Yet the large number of lawsuits alleging (and often proving) excessive force suggests severe limitations to the use of deadly force by Government agents, both in terms of financial liability and public tolerance.  Considering the State’s exposure to litigation from use of poorly trained militia, perhaps they should deploy with arms only under martial law.

A 4GW-capable militia probably needs less combat training and more in “softer” fields such as intelligence, riot-control, and military policing. Perhaps a militia will work best as a police-military hybrid or intermediary force.

(9)  Politics of Militia

Militia units have been and could become important social and political groups, supporting goals unrelated to their stated purpose. Their leadership positions could become steppingstones for local politicians, or adornments for résumés of prominent citizens. Local militias could become powerful political tools if organized upon ethnic, creed, or ideology lines.

To the extent they have any paid support staff, militia become opportunities for patronage — as do any large local operations, such as civic convention centers. Their budgets would become rewards in the local and national government contractor sweepstakes.  Nor will militia exist outside of existing social structure. Like every other entity, we can expect militia to attract well-meaning social engineers – an opportunity to train the New American Men and Women – and become enmeshed in America’s racial-ethnic-gender battles.  Effectiveness might become secondary to Political Correctness. In strictly military terms, the ability to recruit and train – even unit cohesion – might suffer trade-offs vs. political and social constraints, such as requirements for ethnic diversity and the role of women … at least until trumpets sound and blood flows. Then we’ll learn the limits of local militias’ ability to adapt and function under severe stress.

We might see the cruel logic of evolution in action. In an age of active 4GW, perhaps communities with good militias survive while other communities suffer.

(10)  Militia as a Dangerous Innovation

As with any powerful tool, militias offer new and serious dangers to the State. Under stress militias’ loyalty to the polity (central authority) might diverge if they place the interests of their home communities first.  If under local control, militias might act in their traditional role as a counterweight to the central Government and its standing army. That sounds good, but they might act as a centrifugal force, putting armed troops in the hands of those not loyal to the State. Look at Iraq, perhaps another example in the long list of States fragmented by growth of militia.

Militia under tight central control gain in effectiveness but perhaps move us closer to a police state.  We face this dilemma in every aspect of their operation. If we train them to watch for potentially dangerous activities and people – acting as eyes for the State – we gain powerful tools but at fearful cost.

It’s easy to see why western Governments have de-emphasized militias during the past century.  However the time may come when nukes, DEW stations, and even oceans no longer defend America from foreign enemies.  In a globalized world, 4GW forces cannot be fenced out — and probably not destroyed on their home terrain.

(11)  Militia as nucleus for vigilantes

Armed forces of the State – military and police, both regular and reserve — are rigorously indoctrinated against “inappropriate” activities and loyalties. Governments also keep them under tight supervision and control.  This seems more difficult to achieve with an armed militia. What that might mean in the context of American society?

A strong militia, like the best of the 19th Century, with quality volunteers and competent elected leaders, could be effective – but become  controled by its leaders and membership, independent of elected officials.  There are few precedents in American history for rebellion, but there is a long tradition of local citizen-run law enforcement. These kind of social activists are called vigilantes.

The danger of vigilantism exists because we face threats that our national elites do not choose to recognize, let alone engage. Not for the first time. During the 19th century America’s leaders ignored the need for law and order on our large frontier, forcing people to act on their own. Canada learned from our sorry example, extending the reach of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other governing institutions as the frontier grew.

To mention just one of today’s so far unrecognized threats, note the flow of criminals, terrorists, and what we might call “undesirables” across our open borders. This occurs at considerable cost, mostly unreported in the national media, to those living on the border

Also, major events — not limited to a terrorist attack — might spark local forces to act to defend their community in the absence of or in defiance of instructions from the lawful higher authorities. The strong internal cohesion and ties to the local community that make militia effective can easily lead them into vigilantism.

(12)  Private Military Companies (aka mercenaries, in a new form for the age of 4GW)

Let’s digress for a moment to consider the wider context in which militias might flourish. The historian Michael Roberts observed that military revolutions throughout history coincided with the rise and sometimes dominance of mercenaries.  After 500 years of Great Nations efforts to control or eliminate mercenaries, the modern rise of mercs perhaps began with the creation of private firms, such as Executive Outcomes in 1989, from veterans of the South Africa Special Forces after the regime change there.

In the Iraq War US has greatly accelerated the formation and income of mercenaries – or, as many prefer to be called, Private Military Corporations. The dangers of this have already become apparent.  Our finest troops now have an alternative market in which to sell their skills, one paying far more than America. It will likely move beyond our control, as markets usually do. We have created a conflict between our soldiers’ patriotism and their families’ needs, a challenge whose dimensions cannot yet be seen – only imagined.  At the very least, we’re now bidding against ourselves in Iraq.

Worse, many years have passed since building patriotism was an important goal in most American schools, or a vital force in the overwhelming majority of American homes. Let’s not kid ourselves that patriotism arises autonomously, magically in every soldiers’ hearts.  Once the Iraq War ends, what do they do? Re-enlist for a fraction of the current pay, or find another employer? Once a soldier kills for a dollar, unconnected to a national army, an invisible but real line has been crossed.  Inevitably many of our finest will eventually be working outside of our control; some will work directly against us

Furthermore, knowledge moves with people. Hundreds of years of State-developed of tactics and training will become available to our 4GW enemies, those with the wit to take advantage of this opportunity. Only small numbers need “defect” for this to occur. Much of our most advanced military technology is also available to all. That is, everyone with the necessary money.

That some American mercs will serve our enemies is a near certainty. El Cid, hero of the Reconquista (d. 1099), worked as a mercenary for both Christian and Muslim rulers, although apparently never against Castilian interests. Mohammed II hired Christians, such as Urban of Hungary, to forge and operate the great cannon that broke the triple walls of Constantinople in 1453. Countless other examples can be cited throughout history.  For more on this see “The new condottieri and US policy: The Privatization of Conflict and its implications“, Eugene B. Smith, Parameters, Winter 2002.

Militia can become the nucleus of mercenary forces, (and vice-versa).  They provide training without the intensive indoctrination of conventional military forces.  Their local focus and local leaders allow development of allegiance to something other than the central state.

(13)  Decline of the State

Both the rise of mercenary units from our own armies and the creation of militia are potentially steps toward the decline of the State, as seen by Martin van Creveld.  They represent two aspects of the same centrifugal forces. Armies form the core of the modern state, some of whose elite soldiers now spin off to operate on their own. The armed but unorganized citizenry might coalesce to form militias in order to provide for the common defense, previously a core function of the State.  Here we see the possible end of the State’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force, end of the era established in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia.

(14)  Conclusions

The rise of mercenaries and militias both foreshadow, in their own ways, the dominance of 4GW.  Both are dramatic evolutions in military affairs, and also represent a shift of power from the center to the periphery of our society.  Both potentially valuable to America. Both potentially dangerous to America.  How we adapt to these developments determine not just how militia (and mercenaries) serve America, but what American becomes in the future.

(15)  For more information

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts about fourth generation warfare:

I have developed a simple typology to show the relationship of the many works on modern warfare, to show the relationships among the various theories about modern warfare.  This has evolved into a first cut at a solution to 4GW.  These are the first steps in a long series.

  1. A solution to 4GW — the introduction
  2. How to get the study of 4GW in gear
  3. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
  4. Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
  5. Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
  6. 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
  7. 4GW: A solution of the second kind
  8. 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Don Vandergriff is one of the very few today implementing solutions of the third kind.

14 thoughts on “Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW”

  1. Good paper, but I question the the direct use of militias in the US.

    Every person goes into every situation carrying the spiritual and cultural baggage of their people. To outfit the US with a militia would require an enormous cultural shift. If culture shifts to quickly it tends to make a large and disenfranchised group. This is the seed of civil war. For the US to adopt a full blown militia system will, I think, require a situation so terrible that civil war is more attractive that status quo, or slow shift beginning with k-12 education and immigration law to shape the future citizens into the kind of citizens desired. In short if we desire a militia, civil war, or a 30 to 50 year time frame.
    Fabius Maximus replies: We can only guess at these things, but I doubt that arming and training citizens will lead to civil war. This suggests a fear like that traditionally held by partricians about the rabble, that arming them will lead to war and chaos (not that this applies to your comment, but it is a common view — both today and throughout history). I trust our citizens.

    In fact, that’s too weak an expression. I think we, collectively, are our best defense of the Consitution, our political regime and society, against “all enemies foreign and domestic.”

  2. The capabilities of a militia needs to be looked at in an operational context imho.

    The militia would most likely not be on its own. Conventional forces could support it at hot spots. This gives the militia the supreme missions of skirmishing, interdiction, reconnaissance and denial of area control. Such missions would have a huge diversionary effect on the opponent. It would also reduce the need for a large conventional army.

    Militias are almost useless to protect against looting by conventional forces or destructive missions, though. A country might be uncontrollable to foreign forces, but the foreign forces could easily destroy the country’s economy.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. It is important to consider the likely uses of militia. What are the odds of invasion by conventional forces? More likley applications are after disasters, natural or deliberate, and providing intelligence.

    Militia, in this analysis, largely fast responders — supplementing the first reponders — police, fire, paramedics — providing support until national guard or active duty military forces can arrive. Their training can focus more on disaster relief than military ops, which combined with their local knowledge, potentially makes them as or even more effective than conventional military forces.

  3. Not to mention that in the 1990s, the U.S. was considered one of the world’s highest terrorist risks precisely because of the large number of citizen’s militias operating in rural areas (this was after the Oklahoma City bombing). Now, obviously, the picture has shifted somewhat and the Black Helicopters Are Turning Our Cattle Inside-Out crowd has faded a bit more into the background, but the idea is not new.

    I seem to recall several waves of citizens militias rebelling against the federal government during the opening decades of our nation’s founding. Just think of what something like the Whiskey Rebellion represented, and how that same grassroots dynamic carried over into the Civil War. Militias have an old history in our country.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s not confuse the debate. This post discusses militia in a specific way. If I call your dog “militia” that does mean that your dog becomes a government-run organization of armed citizens.

    The 1990’s hysteria over “militia’s” is an example of the long-standing fear by patricians and bourgeoise that the rabble will rise up and destroy society.

  4. Duncan Kinder

    Actually, an already existing local civil defense force is the volunteer fire department.

    In many of the blue collar mill towns that have received so much attention recently ( relating to Hillary Clinton’s Pennsylvania campaign ) VFD’s are an important social organization in the local community. Belonging to them is sort of a club – not unlike impulse that cause people to join the Rotary, the Elks, or join the very minor league baseball teams that flourish in those parts. You acquire a certain status in the community by participating in the VFD; and it has a certain esprit de corps.

    Besides putting out house fires, many VFD’s are trained to deal with HAZMAT and similar problems. As such, they would have the basics to deal with the sort of infrastructure attacks that John Robb writes about. They would not be well equipped to deal with Drug Lords or street gangs.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Building new organizational forms is extremely difficult. Much easier to reowrk or revitalize existing or historical forms. As you note, there are many forms of “militia” type organizations in America: volunteer fire departments, Sheriff’s reserve/posse, Private Sector Terrorism Response Group, search and rescue groups (using copters, planes, horses, boats, horses).

    Project White Horse is an attempt to take these efforts to a higher level. Building a militia would be a next step beyond that.

  5. Denmark has long been practising the use of a militia: Wikipedia entry on the Danish Home Guard.

    A constant issue of debate is if we are getting our monies worth. The regular army has from time to time lobbied for the disbandment of the Home Guard when met with demands of budget reductions. Claiming the Home Guard are not worth their salt, and not without some valid grounds for critic.

    Could a US militia resist the Pentagon if money came tight?

    1. The Home Guard Model that is being used in Scandinavian countries would be something that the US military can look at. Not only is it cost effective, it would draw in people with specialize skills that the US Military can draw upon. The Home Guard model can fit nicely with the Reserve and National Guard system I would divide it up into the three roles, Combat, Combat Support and Combat service support. The Direct combat and combat support would stay in the National Guard and reserve area. Where the Combat service support would go to the Home Guard such as medical, supply, engineering, communications, Military police (rear echelon) and Transportation.

      The countries that are using the home guard model that the US Military can look at are;
      The Danish Home Guard
      The Norwegian Home Guard
      The Swedish Home Guard

      One thing with the Home Guard that these countries have, is that all their training is standardized and draw from a single funding source.

  6. William RAISER

    A thought provoking article, as usual. I think you’ve tapped into a more fundamental concept, only alluded to in the article. The world today, with the state as a good example, organizes hierarchically with strong central control. Militias represent an alternative, bottom-up, form of organization. In the modern context, 4GW, this form of organization is arguably the most effective. It’s also, in my opinion, most in keeping with our democratic principles.

    I suspect one can learn much from the experience of Switzerland in this regard, with their citizen military.

    Such a localized, bottom-up, organizational form can operate effectively in a wide range of contexts. We are, perhaps, on the frontier of a new global organizational paradigm (although I don’t much like that word as it’s used too widely and too loosely).

  7. Duncan Kinder

    Could a US militia resist the Pentagon if money came tight?

    The Pentagon could certainly have their federal funding cut – which would mean they would have to rely upon state and local funding, now wouldn’t it?

  8. Duncan Kinder

    Project White Horse is an attempt to take these efforts to a higher level. Building a militia would be a next step beyond that.

    My brief glance at this website reminds me of a post I recently made on JOhn Robb’s blog about Guinea-Bissau, a small African nation currently being overrun by drug lords. The Washington Post has an article describing the situation. The problem which arises is how can such a country deal with this problem; and Guinea-Bissau provides us with a present, non-hypothetical statement of the problem.

    A literary analogy would be the end of The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo and company return to a Shire that has been overtaken by Starkey/Saruman.

    In short, what do we do when Aradia might be raped?

    Another way of looking at this, however, might be Naiomi Klein’s Shock Capitalism, which I have not read but have heard much about. Much of the discussion swirling about her book suggests that an immune system’s building up antibodies would be a good model for responses to shocks, which is a useful idea whether one agrees with Klein’s politics or not.

  9. An African state can protect itself against marauders like this:
    – consolidate rural settlements into compact villages with surrounding wall and wire barriers, one two-way radio or mobile phone each for communication and cheap small arms for defence,
    – a coordination centre that tracks enemy movement based on radioed reports,
    – few hunting parties on technicals with good infantry combat training and equipment hunt down marauder groups.

    The hunting party could be from the foreign legion if it’s a former French colony.

    The militia alone won’t suffice for lack of concentration, mobility and training. But the militia would create a significant defence and make marauding much more dangerous and difficult.
    Fabius Maximus replies: A defense must be configured against likely threats. As with your comment above about invasion by conventional forces, I think “marauders” (as seen in Africa) are an unlikely threat for America over any reasonable planning horizon.

    The most likely uses, as I said above, are intelligence-gathering about threats and post-disaster (natural or otherwise) work. Maintaining order in the 72 hours after a disaster can be difficult. Note how quickly riots have spread in US urban areas in the late 1960’s — or after the Rodney King trial.

    As we saw after the fall of Baghdad, massive damage can be done unless order is restored quickly.

  10. Fabius,

    You might find this short essay calling for a “Home Guard” interesting: “Home Guard“, Lawrence Korb, Democracy (Spring 2008) — free registration required.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes, very much so. Thank you for the tip!


    a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

    (b) The classes of the militia are –
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

    It would be a serious catastrophe indeed that would lead a State Governor to call out the Unorganized Militia. I believe only a Governor or the President could do that. Having called them to muster, most would be of little use except as forced labor. Most potential rioters would be subject to Militia service and their failure to report to muster is a good excuse to round them up before they get started. Militia service is not voluntary. It is supposed to be an obligation of citizenship, but nobody is taught that in Civics class anymore so resistance would be widespread unless the catastrophe was so great even the jail house lawyers shut up and did their duty.

    Resilient communities will have municipal and county governments encouraging citizens to train and serve as unpaid volunteer fire fighters, medics, search and rescue, Citizens On Patrol/Neighborhood Watch, communications and all other emergency services.

    Counties could augment their forces of order by recruiting auxiliary deputies and Sheriff’s posses, coordinating with shooting clubs, paint ballers, air softers, Explorer Scouts and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. To be useful in emergencies these disparate organizations would have to be brought together under the aegis of some legitimate government or NGO and train together to support First Responders and all the other emergency services.

    Something similiar to the Boer Commando System might be a way to “organize” unorganized volunteers to train for emergency employment.

  12. New York and about two dozen other states have official militias, In New York it is called “The New York Guard” (Not to be confused with the New York Army National Guard, Additionally there is a New York Naval Milita. Both of these groups are under the direct conrol of the Governor and are organizationally located within the New York State Department of Military & Naval Affairs and as such report to the State’s Adjudant General. More specifc info about the the NYG and its mission can be found on their website: the New York Guard.

    Most of the members are veterans of the Regular Army and the National Guard. I joined the NYG in late September of 2001 following the WTC disaster and was on State Active Duty (SAD) at Camp Smith. it was indeed a sad experience. we were not given anything substantive to do in defense of our State do since we had no military equipment of any sort such as vehicles, radios and certainly no weapons not even to protect Camp Smith itself. We were told that if an emergency arose we were to call 911.

    As you can imagine all of this was very frustrating but regardless we “soldiered on.” NYS simply did not have any real role for us and I believe that part of this had to do with the antipathy of the regular National Guard who did not even see the NYG as a junior partner — not that I can really blame them because we really had no training in disaster response as a unit and we were burdened with a surfit of rank — many Chiefs but hardly any Indians.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for this information. It was new to me!

  13. The term ‘ mauraders ‘ strikes me as brilliant . A good description of what happened in London last summer .
    I would have thought if the current economic realignment continues , especially in nations where there is financial inequality , poor support for the homeless, large numbers of unemployed etc…. marauders would become a common problem . Far more likely than terrorists .
    Another interesting possiblity might be the Chinese sending in the bailiffs , liberating some gold perhaps , or fine art .

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