This oft attributed but unsubstantiated quote attributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Japanese Imperial Navy, WWII) goes thus, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.”
Cleveland.com posted the following recently,
Gun proliferation possible under Second Amendment wouldn’t deter foreign foe, but could bolster civilian insurgency, experts say
There’s a subscription wall to the whole text of that article, but let’s tackle the assertion and the retraction in the article title.
Assertion: Gun proliferation possible under Second Amendment wouldn’t deter foreign foe
In short, I agree, it wouldn’t deter a foreign foe.
We see deterrence fail when it should succeed all the time. Everything from speed limit violations, to gas station robberies, to invading sovereign nations, deterrence isn’t a sure thing by any means. Deterrence requires the deterring party and the party or parties being deterred to be on the same risk analysis math sheet.
A well armed America is a known quantity, we’ve had a patently absurd (by worldwide standards) ratio of civilian armament in our nation for a very long time. We are the only nation with a better than 1:1 ratio of arms per capita, Every single living and breathing person.
Addressing the military age male, female, and selected otherwise population that would be compelled to serve and support repelling an invading force, we have several guns for literally everyone in that demographic. We might have a proper fighting rifle for everyone in that category, or we’re getting close. We would fairly easily be able to support the percentage of the population actively fighting, instead of 20,000 AKs handed out in Kyiv it would just be ammo being distributed to everyone with the 20,000,000 AR’s. Far logistically easier to take inventories of ammo orders than rifles and ammo and delays in individual/small unit drills. It’s the minuteman theory still. Everyone shows up with a common enough rifle, in this case just about anything in 5.56 NATO or 7.62 NATO would be fine. Even 5.45×39, 7.62×39, or .300BLK could probably be supported at some level, so long as lines of logistics and local pooling were established. AR’s and rifles in 5.56 would be king though… of rifles, HME and standoff explosives would be the real heroes against the invaders, ask us how we know?
If any nation, considering all of that, decided to give it a go anyway then our vast small arms inventories did not deter them. The local militia/insurgent resistance has in some way, shape, or form been calculated into their ops plan militarily, just like the vast and variable terrain and large, dispersed population. They thought about it and decided to send it anyway. We are seeing in Ukraine right now where pre-war calculations of results can be in error.
Let’s scale the logistics
The whole nation of Ukraine is the largest standalone European nation, since Russia stretches the breadth of Asia too, and is only 86.7% of the area of Texas.
Texas is only 7.07% of the United States total space, about 8.5% if you just include the contiguous 48 states. Now, conquering or subduing a population and/or achieving military goals doesn’t require total control of the landmass, but you do have to project troops through the landmass in order to take and hold vital territory, and must do so before the enemy force (us) can implement some sort of supported countermeasure. We also literally built the highway system to support the aforementioned countermeasures.
Just as people here fail to understand just how close Europe is to itself, its old and densely packed, those of foreign origin conversely don’t understand how big the USA is. Big and dispersed, we live very spread out by comparison to other high population nations. The two chief candidates who could ever reasonably mount this invasive attack, China and Russia, are not as dispersed and would have difficulty coming to terms with the terrain.
We have space to maneuver, lots of it. Even if we were forced to absorb a troop incursion of some depth, we can. Ground forces have some absurd mileage they have to take and any moderate population center they skip is a direct threat to their logistics behind the main advance.
The United States could functionally move its capital and defense control west to one of many major cities, or one of the prepared defensive sites, and the invader would have to penetrate to attack it again, and again, and again. Conversely, depending upon the axis of attack, they have to penetrate the whole depth of our country or an allied nation and then get to the command and control center. The United States is also one of the best at operating in a decentralized command environment where smaller ‘units’ of command and control could operate independently and in support. Local bases, law enforcement, and governance would organize the militias, like we’ve seen in Ukraine, and fighting would continue to occur along the whole vulnerable axis of whatever incursion.
In an invasion, were an enemy to be incredibly successful in damaging federal level command and control, you could reasonably see state and regional command and control continue to operate aggressively against the enemy.
So no, anyone who invades anyway clearly wasn’t deterred by this… buuuut,
Retraction: But could bolster civilian insurgency
That is entirely one of the critical foundational points of the 2nd Amendment. It is both deterrent and response.
If it doesn’t prevent invasion, it places extreme pressure on the invading force by raising a hilariously absurdly large force of light infantry in very short order. The terrain is vast, the population is ludicrously well armed, and you would still be facing the best armed and equipped professional force in the world.
Imagine the sheer nerve, or stupidity, of trying to take on the best armed, trained, and funded force on the planet. Who constantly leads developments in warfighting tech, who are constantly practicing joint maneuver warfare on the very terrain you are trying to take, whose military is dispersed both nationally and internationally, whose individual carrier battle group’s combat power outstrip most nation’s ability to project power in total, and whose single most limiting factor in their response has been the morality and strategy of limiting escalation.
Imagine giving that force the permission to go completely weapons free with everything short of a nuke, knowing that they’ll park a submarine or two just to clock your nation back to the stone age since nukes would still be on the table at any time. That force will undoubtedly, even while fighting you on the home front, retain a massive military capability to open a front in your backyard too, and they will unleash the largest inventory of precision guided munitions in the world to do it.
The US launched AGM-114 Hellfires at dudes on scooters, and you just gave them weapons free on your entire uniformed military force? Damn.
Oh, then roll in the rest of NATO who will gladly start shooting you in support of the United States’ Operation: ‘You Done Fucked Up Now’. So enjoy Germany, the UK, France, Canada, Poland, and the rest of the gang all gladly going equally weapons free, unless you somehow successfully factored handling all of those forces into your calculation too. Considering what Russia is struggling with in Ukraine, I doubt anyone can handle that many fires on that many fronts. Russia has significantly damaged their ability to project power in the modernized world.
The reality is nobody can realistically project military might against the United States directly, that won’t always stop someone from trying but they cannot succeed.
The question is how badly they fail.
“But, Keith! We got kicked out of Afghanistan and the Taliban took right back over.”
Yep, and the Afghan and Iraq wars were both marked by political exercises in restraint and limited escalation. In neither case did we just crush the folks we were there to crush and leave, which was well within our power. We made tons of mistakes in both conflicts, but they were usually political ones that negatively impacted the military and not military mistakes in the prosecution of the actual warfighting.
If the proverbial nation pushes beyond the ‘it would be worse to escalate’ line the US consistently and faithfully observes they get annihilated. The US doesn’t care about the cost or what it is going to take to build back after at that point, military victory takes the priority. The modern US Military has been used around the concept of measured response, that in no way means the US Military is incapable of prosecuting total war.
That line is why we’re just giving Ukraine ammo to shoot at Russia and not actively obliterating their warfighting capability. Russia could and perhaps would ‘Spoil Sport‘ and trigger a MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) response, even if we kept it non-nuclear. Were even a small percentage of weapons to land on targets (or anywhere) the results would suck much worse than the conventional combat casualties thus far.
The American Insurgency Would be Legion
Let’s put this into perspective.
We. Do. This. For. Fun.
There is no other nation on the face of this earth that has any idea, any remotely accurate concept that they can convey to their leadership, of how much Americans like to shoot. We love to shoot. There are entire weird subsets of the internet dedicated to, in some cases very seriously, planning for this to happen.
The recreational, competitive, and veteran communities, even the milsim airsoft/paintball crowd are far more easy bake militia than most of the world enjoys. Do you think gamers couldn’t figure out most of the remote weapon systems we’re developing and have deployed, run drones or remote missile systems and the like? Do you think your inner city criminal elements aren’t a ready made, and equipped, underground or that they won’t fight for their homes too? Invasion changes perspectives. There are a lot of people who you might think wouldn’t step up who would, and will, when reality comes crashing in and the shield of the developed world’s niceties vanished. It happened in Ukraine. It would happen here.
Look at how we can riot when a single cop does something wrong. You think we can’t turn that on, and up to 11, if a foreign nation was landing troops? Imagine every city, state, and small town in the US motivated to get someone the hell out of our house.
We have two decades of recent insurgency warfare experience. We have 20+ Million AR-15’s alone. If even 5% of those folks are worth more than a fart in the wind when it comes to operating as light infantry, that’s 2+ Million extra organizable small unit troops. Many will come self equipped to a very acceptable level, easing logistics. That doesn’t even consider the 5% of the population at large that may take up arms and also be usable. Consider also that roughly 1% of the population is serving professionally in the armed forces (active, reserve, or guard) and another 2 to 4% are still military serving age veterans. The US has an immense core of on-call talent that would vulcanize from whatever their first-world modernized responsibilities are into warfighting.
We have a deep veteran and shooter skill pool that could throw together efficient militias, like efforts we are seeing in Ukraine, to support the mobility and missions of the Armed Forces. The Green Berets would be helping places like LA, Houston, and Chicago turn into death traps for any conventional forces invading.
So, say we get about 5% of the total population organized as militia and supporting elements (which I personally believe is low). 4.5+ million Americans in the fight and supporting it in addition to the uniformed forces. So totaling somewhere about 8-12 million people resisting an invading force at the forward points. Which nation has a conventional armed force, mostly of conscripts, able to take and hold against that? Consider the average hastily trained militia man or woman under the capable small unit leaders seeded around the US will perform at or above the conscripts, have the motivation to defend their home, and have a solid domestic logistics situation that would be incredibly hard to severely damage. When all of our transportation network goes wartime and semi’s are running food, fuel, and ammo pretty much exclusively?
How do I know this? How do I know the foreigners cannot comprehend the magnitude of this task, even if it doesn’t deter them from it?
I deal with overseas firearm companies on the regular. The people who are in the absolute best position to know and understand the demand and attitudes in the US, because they directly supply it, and I find they constantly underestimate it.
That demand blows their minds. You can take someone out of CZ, or Beretta, or IWI and take them to any run of the mill, small town, or mom and pop gun store and their reaction is likely to be, “This must be the Cabela’s or BassPro I have heard so much about…” and our response is “Nah, this is just one of for that serve a couple small towns.”
One of the most common friction points between US and overseas compartments of firearm companies is that the foreign component cannot properly fathom the demands of the market.
The world doesn’t know how much we like shooting. This fundamentally doesn’t land in their minds. The world doesn’t comprehend how the blend of GunCulture2.0 and the attitudes of Gen X, Y, and Z trend towards armed independent and resistant actions, in enough of the population, to make us the insurgency nightmare of all insurgency nightmares. More resources, over more space, over more people, supporting the best equipped conventional military in the world.
It. Would. SUCK. To invade the US. It could be nothing but a nightmare.
I don’t care if we just got rocketed by Iran and we haven’t really responded. I don’t care that our Commander in Chief is a barely upright imbecile who makes us look weak. Nobody with a prayer of a clue towards finding of the actual clue wants to land here to fuck around and find out.
No, the overt armedness of America won’t prevent an invasion anymore than the overt armedness of a police officer prevents someone from taking on that police officer or trying to get their gun.
But it is in the risk/reward calculation.
Someone would have to project an absurdly heavy military force into the US and be willing to get chewed up and annihilated in the process to even have a chance of achieving some type military gain in our space. The only gain available is the shoving match conflicts like Crimea and Taiwan where the bet is, or will be, that major forces won’t go to the mat for someone on the preiferary. That is Putin’s gamble in Ukraine and it will be China’s in Taiwan. This concept is that the United States, or any select larger world power, will not expend more blood for a smaller nation than that smaller nation would or has to spend and that we do not require it not to change hands. The power change may be inconvenient, but if it is stomachable we are less likely to commit substantial military combat power.
Compare that to 9/11 response conflicts, when the US got attacked directly and we stomped two countries. The casualty count will go up against a more modernized force but nobody on the planet can take the shots we can land. Their option is what the Taliban did, basically annoy us until we got bored and went home then topple the completely ineffectual regime that won’t stand up for itself.
So the Cleveland.com headline assertion is technically correct, which they would assure us is the best kind of correct, but functionally incorrect in that it misunderstands the purpose of the 2nd Amendment.
The 2nd Amendment isn’t just a deterrent. It is a response.