Guns Are Needed To Defend Against Tyrannical Governments
I should also note that if it is possible to have a firearm registration and still be able to defend against tyranny, I would be most welcome to this prospect.
One of the basic assumptions necessary for this argument is that most people can agree with is that liberty is better than tyrannical rule. For the purposes of this argument, I will assume this is true.
Definitions of Potential Tyrannical Threats:
External Threat: Governments invading the United States, conquering, and ruling tyrannically. These governments outside tyrannical governments could include tyrannical or democratic governments (a democratic country may rule tyrannically over conquered territory).
Internal Threat: The ruling democratic government currently in power becomes tyrannical.
Citizen Threat: The citizens of a democratic government revolt and overthrow the current government and replace it with a tyrannical one.
The first argument against the defense against tyranny argument (DAT for short) is that there is absolutely no possibility the US citizens armed with small arms could prevent a government takeover if they went toe to toe with the US military. The reason this argument fails are because:
1. It is unlikely that the entire US military would side with the potential despot. This faction in the military, supported with the sheer numbers of a civilian militia, could potentially defeat the tyrannical forces. No doubt some citizens would support the tyrannical regime, but in my experience most gun owners are extremely patriotic, therefore numbers will still most likely be on the side of the democratic forces.
2. A citizen militia does not need to be able to match and defeat the tyrannical forces, all they need to do is make it too costly. Over time a citizen militia using guerilla tactics may be able to weaken the tyrannical regime enough to where it will fall apart and defeat itself by internal power struggles or from outside threats, which will (hopefully) eventually lead to a democratic power re-emerging. If the tyrannical government bombs its citizens to near extinction (which may be necessary to defeat the citizen militia), this also could lead to its defeat since it would need the labor of its citizens to support a large standing army, and if too many citizens are killed this would not be possible.
Next, let's evaluate the tyrannical likelihood of facing each of the tyrannical threats.
Warfare is a part of human nature, and to assume that we will always remain at peace is a false prospect. At some point we are all but garaunteed to engage in war and potentially be invaded, especially once we develop countermeasure to nuclear strikes. Granted the US military is extremely powerful, but NO military force is invincible. If enough countries ganged up on the US, our military would fail. In this case you most certainly want your citizens to be as heavily armed as possible, although weapons such as explosives and RPG's could be given away during the invasion and are not necessary for private ownership.
This is meant to cover Pol-Pot's regime in Cambodia and the rise of Hitler. If a country is democratic but its citizens are not being sufficiently cared for (basically the democratic country is failing economically), I predict tyranny will arise. If you are starving or your family is starving, and a potential dictator comes along and says "I will treat you and your family well and I will respect your wishes, all you have to do is give up your civil rights and follow my commands," people will choose tyranny over liberty. This is especially reflective in Germany, where German citizens (not the Jewish ones) were much better off under Hitler's rule than they were during the democratic government preceding Hitler.
If a citizen threat became imminent, I would argue that it would not matter whether or not its citizens were armed to the teeth. If enough people are desperate, they would willingly accept the ruling tyrannical government without (at least very much) civil strife.
This is the most popular tyrannical threat thrown out, and I believe there is more merit here than people give credit.
Democratic governments do not randomly become tyrannical, but actually they start becoming more tyrannical during wars and conflicts. In WW2, the Japanese were rounded up into internment camps and forcibly removed from their homes because it was considered "necessary." After 9/11, Bush passed the Patriot Act which permitted the government to legally tap phones without warrants and several other privacy and civil rights violations. This was considered "necessary" to deal with possible terrorist threats.
It is during wartime that civil rights and liberties become most threatened, and the more desperate the war the more civil rights will be taken away. It also just so happens that, during wartime, a government would not be able afford a citizen revolt and may ultimately be deterred from becoming utterly tryannical, therefore there would exist a limit to the number of liberties taken away, and ultimately a tryannical government would not become tyrannical because its citizens were armed.
I would like to thank ufcryan for this interesting topic.
Rule of the Debate can be seen in comment section.
We assume a reasonably smart tyrannical government (RSTG). By reasonably smart, it will do everything practical at its capacity to defend its existence.
Armed citizens is not an effective defense against internal threat.
RSTG will likely retain overwhelming strike capability, both strategically and tactically.
Assuming direct confrontation, similar to what happened in the Civil War, the RSTG will be willing to use its strike capability against the rebels.
Just because one possesses the same weapon does not means one possesses the same fighting capability of said weapon, due to the over reliance on technology and infrastructure of the modern army. The global satellite system will likely remains in government's control, so is the fuel and ammunition supply. All normal radio communication will likely be cut off or heavily monitored. RF jamming technology will likely be used by the tyrant. Guided missiles, the main armament of any modern war machine from warships to warplanes to tanks, are essentially useless without guidance system. That is not to mention an army of drones, which will likely remains in the hand of the RSTG.
Fuel and ammunition supply is crucial in supporting any kind of modern army, which will likely remain in the hand of the RSTG. Fuel needs fuel dumps and refineries, ammunition need factories and storage facilities. They can be imported, but a RSTG will likely blockade the rebels. Warplane needs airfield and/or carrier, the latter is unlikely to be in the hand of the rebels. Any airfield, fuel dump, refinery, factory, ammo dump, will likely end up being bombed or cruise missled into oblivion. A likely scenario is RSTG's air supremacy will first destroy any strategic targets and airfields belong to the rebels, then decimate all ground forces, and finally drones will proceed with seek and destroy missions for extended periods.
After all, it was strategic warfare that won the Civil War, and both World Wars.
Due to both reason, any direct confrontation between the rebels and the government will likely end with disastrous result for the former, even if the rebels posses a large number of war machines defected from the RSTG.
Guerrilla tactic takes decades to be effective. Guerrilla tactic requires tremendous scarify, one western civilization may not be accustomed to. Economic hardship is nothing compared to the hardship endured by guerrilla soldiers - bullets are the least of your concern; diseases, lack of drugs, food, and the trauma of the war is the real terror. A tyrant, with no concern for citizens, may employ terror, murder and execution tactics against civilians and family members of rebels - similar to Gestapo under Hitler. Can US partisans, never in their life faced against overwhelming odds, dulled by necessities of life, endure the hardship of a guerrilla soldier?
Takes Vietnam War for example, the only side ever won against the US. The Vietnam War took 20 years to conclude, around 18 of which is against the US coalition, in the form of guerrilla warfare. That is to compare with the Civil War, which took less than five years. Civilian casualty amount to 400,000 to 1,100,000, counting only the North Vietnam side. The North Vietnam may have never won the war without the huge support of both China and the Soviet, not only in war machines but also in food, clothing, fuels and ammunitions.
Finally, drones changes everything. It can hover for days to look for potential targets, and cheap enough to be fielded en mass. With it, the greatest advantage of guerrilla warfare is gone - its ability to hide from view and only strike when the target is unaware and weak.
US soldier will not fire on another US soldier or civilian:
It appears that people consistently underestimate the length a person will go to obey command from authority figures.
To quote the experiment, made famous by the paper "The Perils of Obedience":
"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."
The only viable option against a tyrannous US government is terrorism - as so convincingly demonstrated by most of our current enemies. But are US patriots willing to go to such length to protect their freedom?
It is far better to have an organized militia, compulsory or voluntarily, with necessary chain of command during an invasion as backup for the regular army than arming private citizen with heavy weapon:
Example: Jagdtigers was one of the most advance tank destroyer in WW2. The 9.8 in think frontal armor is simply impregnable. However, due to poor training, the tank commander lost his nerve and retreated, exposed his weaker side armor, and eventually got destroyed. Superior weaponry is useless when the crew is not trained enough to use it effectively.
Citizen threat - or a popular tyrant - Adolf Hitler is a prime example.
There is a different between a tyrannical government and an unpopular government - the two are not necessary correlated. Adolf Hitler was immensely popular in Nazi Germany. In fact, Nazism encouraged gun ownership of citizens - Jews are no longer considered citizens. The 1938 German Weapons Act relaxed many provisions of the 1928 gun control law, such as lower legal age, extend weapon permit duration, extend the list of groups exempted from weapon permit requirement, etc. The people discriminated by the new gun law were an extremely small fraction of Nazi Germany's population.
The Myth of Nazi Gun Control, http://www.guncite.com... - a pro gun source.
In a popular tyrannical government, as pro have said, cannot be countered by armed citizen.
On the tendency of a government turning into tyrant:
During an external invasion, there is a legitimate reason to suspend (a portion of) civil rights, at least from the point of view of the defender, since a defeat means a total and indefinite suspension of all rights.
When faced with insufficient man power, a draft may be required. Draft law, however, is extremely unpopular in the US. Living cost may also skyrocket. High tax may be required. In such cases, draft resistance, riots, protests, strikes may erupts. Without a mean to control the population in such case may lead to a collapse of supply infrastructure to support the war efforts, or an internal collapse. Internal conflict would put a disproportionate burden on the capability of a state to face external threat. Armed citizens would put additional difficulties in maintaining public order and stability, which is already strained in times of war. Extraordinary circumstances requires extraordinary measures.
This is why such exception was so clearly codified into the US constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 2.
ufcryan forfeited this round.
Extend all my previous arguments.
I think right now is a good time to mention that the Internal and External threats may not be mutually exclusive. If an external army invaded the US, if the war became more and more desperate then the US may revert back to tyranny to better combat the external threat and potentially suffer for it later. Therefore I think it's safe to assume that for any (justified) war the US partakes in, we want to have as many advantages as possible. The more advantages we have, the less desperate the war (should) become. The less desperate the war, the less liberties should be taken away.
If the US were invaded, there most certainly would be small pockets of resistance operating on their own, but I'm inclined to believe that most US citizens would work in conjunction with our primary Army in semi-organized retaliation. The main military is also likely to train civilians and distribute additional armaments to help combat the outside military, such as explosives and RPG's. A rough example of this could include the US sponsorship of the Israeli military to help fight anti-American terrorists (whether or not this is necessary or moral is a subject for another debate).
NOTE: For any readers glancing over this, sources may not as be as relevant as in other debates since this debate is completely hypothetical. Most of these ideas will just be logical presuppositions and best-guesses based on history.
For the sake of simplicity, let's assume we are solely dealing with an internal threat (like most proponents of this argument presume). Therefore our US government has suddenly decided to become tyrannical. In order to do this in the first place, the potential tyrant must have the support of the majority of our professional armies.
Rough Size of US Military: Roughly 2.5 Million
Size of US Police Force: Roughly 110,000
Gun Owners: Roughly 75 Million
Not all gun owners would revolt, and not the entire military would fire on its own citizens. If I'm not mistaken, our military force is mainly deployed overseas and there are around 4 support units for every fighting unit (airplane fueling, food distribution, ammo manufacturer, etc.) Many of the gun owners also include military and law enforcement. However let's assume just for simplicity that the entire US military and Police force would combat against all the US gun owners. If we say 75 million gun owners vs. 3 million professional police/military soldiers, then the US military would have to kill 25 citizens for every soldier to break even. Is this possible? Probably... However the citizens do not need to be able to defeat the US military, they only need to make it too costly. If the fight is too costly, then the tyrannical government should fall apart from internal strife.
Out of Time for additional responses.
I would like to thank my opponent for making an argument despite a time constraint.
I agree with my opponent argument that a popular tyrant cannot be countered with armed citizens.
On External Threat:
Assumption: The external threat is great enough that the regular army is insufficient to combat such threat.
If there is a weapon shortage: such weapon must be distributed to the most able hand - an organized and trained militia corps is far better than armed citizens - the difference in training alone is enough to justify the usage of a militia corp.
If there is a man power shortage: the extra weapon can be distributed to citizen at the moment of emergency. Heavy weaponry like RPG and explosive require special handling and storage, and mishandling of any such weaponry will have disastrous consequences.
In all cases, an organized and disciplined militia corps made of all able body males and voluntary females, with necessary weapon training, under the chain of command and with sufficient support in term of fuel, ammunition, weapon, medicine, food, shelter and clothing, is far more effective than pocket private citizen resistance without training, without support, and cannot be effectively controlled.
Citizen resistance is usually the last resort, only used when the chain of command and supply route was completely broken, the territory was overrun and occupied, and the regular army was defeated or retreated (such as occupied France in WW2 for example). Citizen resistance usually can only harass the enemy at great cost and for limited duration - due to being cut off from supply and command. Citizen resistance cannot succeed on its own, and can only support external forces to liberate the region.
On Internal Threat:
A quick correction:
Total US armed force as of Jan 31, 2013
Active personnel: 1,429,995 
Reserve personnel: 850,880 
Stationing as of Dec 2009:
CONUS : 941,629 
US Territories: 1,137,568 
Oversea: 284,100 
Thus, around 3/4 of US active personnel station on US territories.
On external support against the tyrant:
The military and economic strength of the US is so great that if it suddenly decided to become tyrannical, no other country would dare to intervened or provide support for the rebel. The rebel would quickly be branded "domestic terrorists", and internationally condemned. No one would question the US because its record as long time champion of human rights. But the true reason is no country can find the incentive to support the rebels to justify the cost associated.
The sole purpose of a tyrannical government is its existence - a RSTG will do everything it can to defend it. No cost can be deemed too costly in such cases - the government of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian Civil War is one such example. That is to the contrary to a foreign occupation - if the occupation is too costly, the occupier may withdraw to conserve its strength.
Further, the US government, if ever decided to become tyrannical, possess enormous resources both in term of military and economic, far more than any private citizen. And in the age that most people's possession is in his bank account, it can quickly confiscate all possession of the rebels to support its own war effort to suppress the rebellion . Any rebellion would quickly find itself at a disadvantage against a truly tyrannous US Government.
On how would a tyrannical US responds to a rebellion:
In the previous round I had argued that a direct confrontation would end with disastrous result for the rebel. Casualty may not be too severe, however moral is likely completely broken, since moral of an unorganized rebel mob can be broken much easier than organized military. All US historical rebellions responded in a similar way after a direct confrontation with regular US army. Shay's rebellion collapsed after four Shayite was killed out of a 4000+ force by cannon fire. Dorr Rebellion collapsed before any confrontation between the rebel and the militia. Whiskey Rebellion collapsed when the army marched into Pennsylvania. Needless to say, whenever there was a direct confrontation between armed citizen and regular army, moral of the armed mob can be destroyed rather quickly depending on the effectiveness of the display of force. Then, a broken mob can be rounded up easily by the tyrant.
I would like to dedicate a small section to a small US military manual on suppressing a mock up domestic rebellion scenario. It is a nice read.
External Threat Response
If there is such a military threat that a citizen militia is needed to combat it, an armed populace, even if disorganized, could only assist our main military in combating the External Threat. An organized militia would most certainly be more effective, but a disorganized resistance can still drain an invading armies resources and give the regular army a greater chance to succeed in the long run.
As for training to use special equipment such as RPG's and explosives, and unregulated population could learn pretty quickly how to (somewhat) safely handle them. Unless I'm mistaken, most terrorists in the middle east have learned how to operate RPG's and make IED's without too much training. This would suggest that the training required is minimal, and although they're not the safest or most effective with these weapons they can still harass US troops with them.
There is also the remote possibility that given enough time and the right circumstances an unorganized citizen militia may overthrow the invading army and (hopefully) re-establish a Democratic Government. This possibility is extremely remote, but not necessarily impossible.
There's a couple of things to consider here. The leader of a RSTG is obviously after power, and would want as much of it as he or she can get without risking its loss. When I refer to the cost of obtaining power, I'm not referring to the cost of human life lost. I'm referring to the risk they they may lose their position of power.
If the US government suddenly became tyrannical then in order to do so it would most certainly need a militant campaign to rule over its citizens. If the armed populace can cost the RSTG enough resources either economically or militarily, then there is a chance that it might fall apart itself from internal fighting (other potential leaders seeking power). Whether or not Democracy would arise from this scenario is uncertain, but it has a greater chance of re-emerging when a tyrannical government is plagued by internal strife rather than if the tyrannical ruler had unchallenged power.
Internal Threats relation to External Threats
One mistake I'm curious if we're making is if we're accepting that Internal Threats and External Threats are mutually exclusive. I'm actually more inclined to believe that Internal Threats become a bigger and bigger problem when External Threats become more serious. This is how the US government was able to justify the Patriot Act after 9/11 or the Japanese Interment Camps during WW2.
Both the Interment Camps and the Patriot Act arose during a perceived external threat, so it may be that we only have to worry about internal threats when external threats become more dire.
First I would like to summarize our discussion, mainly unaddressed arguments, for the sake of clarity and to facilitate my opponent's reply. New argument will be marked with (new) tag.
Combating against popular tyrant:
Both agreed that armed citizen is not a deterrent to a popular tyrant.
Combating against internal tyrant:
Contention no 1: US citizens, supported by defected military faction, may defeat the tyrannical force (Round 1)
In a direct confrontation, armed with strike capacity, both tactically and strategically, and with far superior logistic, a reasonably smart tyrannical government (RSTG) will quickly crush the rebel. (Round 1). Further, in all historical confrontations between US military and US rebels, the rebellions usually fallen apart rather quickly, in some cases without any actual combat, due to morale collapse. (Round 3). Sheer number does not means much if logistic can be strategically crippled by the RSTG - food, medicine and clothing supply will be restricted, arm and ammunition supply will be destroyed, HQ will be raided, external support will be blockaded... It would be only a matter of time before the rebellion collapse under its own weight, both in term of morale and material, at no significant cost to the RSTG (new). In fact, no direct confrontation is needed to combat the rebels: an efficient strategy the RSTG can adopt was outlined in my response in Round 1.
Contention no 2: "A citizen militia using guerilla tactics may be able to weaken the tyrannical regime"
Guerrilla tactic, takes decades to be effective, and requires tremendous sacrifices - one that US partisans never faced. (Round 1) Drone forever changed the ability for one to wage a guerrilla war (Round 1). Further, the US government has decades of practice with counter-insurgency, both from the Vietnam War and the wars against terrorism, and can be argued to be the best in the world when it comes to combat insurgence, while most US citizens, military personnel included, have no experience on guerrilla tactics (new).
Contention no 3: "A citizen militia does not need to be able to match and defeat the tyrannical forces, all they need to do is make it too costly"
The sole purpose of a tyrannical government is its existence - a RSTG will do everything it can to defend it (Round 3). The only alternative to crushing the rebellion is to surrender its authority, which all RSTG will never accept. The tyrant simply has no choice other than to confront the rebels and fight to the bitter end. This is fundamentally different with the Civil War - one side simply wished to be left alone, while the goal of a rebellion is to overthrow the tyrant (new). Thus no cost can be too costly - human or otherwise.
Contention no 4: "If the armed populace can cost the RSTG enough resources either economically or militarily, then there is a chance that it might fall apart itself from internal fighting"
The first job of any tyrant - indeed the first sign of any reasonably smart tyrant, and how they likely came to power in the first place, is the complete and systematic elimination of other domestic factions and dissents by any means necessary, including political assassinations. Furthermore, combating external forces (the rebels) will actually reinforce the loyalty of the tyrant's deputies, similar to the way 9/11 unified the country (new). Only when the RSTG is actually losing ground and the threat of being overthrown is imminent, which is unlikely in the case of the US, then internal fighting may significantly impact a RSTG. Thus, historically, AFAIK, no RSTG has collapsed due to internal fighting while combating rebels. If my opponent can refer to one such example, it would be most welcomed.
Combating against external tyrant:
Contention no 5: "a tryannical [sic] government would not become tyrannical because its citizens were armed", thus a net positive effect.
Armed citizen during external invasion (and before the defeat of the defending army) may do more harm than good. Deeply unpopular measures such as high tax and draft law, which may be unpreventable, required and justified during conflicts, especially against an external invasion, may lead to riots, protests and even rebellion. A legit government's capability to wage war against external force will be crippled if citizen were armed during conflict, thus may resort to even more extreme and heavy handed solution, thus a net negative effect, and may do more harm than good (round 1).
Contention no 6: Armed citizen is effective in combating invading army.
An organized militia - compulsory or voluntarily, with necessary chain of command, and provided with coordinated and efficient logistic, is far more capable at dealing with invading army than unorganized armed private citizens (Round 1). Thus given the choice, one should always goes for an organized militia instead of arming private citizens, unless as the last resort. Even in such case, arms is not the most in demand: ammunition and medicine usually face far more serious shortage. Invading army, unlike a RSTG, has no interest in keeping armed civilians, who would qualify for enemy combatant, alive, they can simply be bombed off the face of the earth similarly to the drone tactics of the US (new).
And, finally, to address my opponent's new arguments:
Contention no 7: Terrorist learned to use RPG without too much training (new)
Contrary to popular belief, militant Islamic in recent conflicts involving the US are quite well trained - most are veterans from the Afghan-Soviet conflict as insurgents, which were, ironically, trained by the CIA.
The CIA training method proved to be an enduring success, and was used in the design of recent terrorist training camps, which "usually takes the form of basic physical fitness training, progression to weapons training, training in armed assault techniques and bomb making".
On a lighter note, I would like to indulge the reader to a video of a Taliban who stepped on his own IED and detonate it. This prove that, handling IED is usually a dangerous business.
Contention no 8: "There is also the remote possibility that [...] an unorganized citizen militia may overthrow the invading army"
If my opponent can lay out a plausible scenario or strategy that an unorganized citizen militia may overthrow an invading army that defeated the US military in the first place, I will *gladly* concede this point (new).
Contention no 9: US government will turn into a tyrant when faced with external invasion
If the defender is winning, there is no reason for a government to turn into a tyrannical government while combating external force. One can easily see the reason why by reading job approval of FDR (~ 70-80%) and Truman (~87%) during and immediately after WW2, and that of Bush right after 9/11 (~ 90%). Due to the extreme patriotic nature of the US population, combating external invading forces is extremely popular in the US. When a government has an approval rating of ~80% with draft law in effect, marginal tax rate at ~90%, then there is no reason to turn into a tyrant - about everything the government do has broad and feverish support anyway.
If the defender is losing, then even turning into a tyrant will means a defeat anyway. And since a defeated government will no longer exist, the question is moot.
When I originally started this debate, it was not to win but it was to see if there was any merit to the defense against tyranny argument. Whether or not the US government is or will become tyrannical is still an open debate.
From this discussion, given the arms and level of training of the average American citizen, it does not appear that US citizens would be remotely capable of fending off the American military unless they were supported by factions of our professional military. In order to become capable, citizens would need access to, at the very least, RPG's, explosives, and sophisticated military training.
Since US citizens cannot currently combat the professional military, I've already lost this debate. Whether or not citizens having guns would be beneficial or even detrimental I'm now uncertain of, although we cannot prove or disprove this claim until the time comes.
Given my inability to prove that guns would be beneficial in fighting tyranny and the fact that citizens currently cannot fight tyrannical governments, I forfeit this debate.
Thank you hereiam2005 for this enlightening debate, and I look forward to any discussions with you in the future.
P.S. I can still argue that the private ownership of guns is more beneficial from a social standpoint, and if anyone wishes to debate this with me send me the challenge.
I would like to extend my gratitude to my opponent for this enjoyable and refreshing experience - gun tends to be a red hot and personal issue, and making this debate such a fruitful discussion was no small feat. I cannot express this enough; every single time I tried to reason with someone on other forum ended up in shouting matches, needless to say that I was completely outclassed.
I do sincerely hope that my opponent stay on DDO, and I too look forward to any discussion with ufcryan in the future, especially when both of us have gained valuable debating experiences.
And last but not least, I am glad that this debate finally confirmed my belief that one can make friend, not enemy, after a debate.
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