The Woodpile Report today has a lengthier opinion piece than usual. Remus has some opinions on prepper enclaves, food, famine, and civil war. In the past week there has been a surge of violent protests and rioting in both Europe and South and Central America. Will any of them turn into a civil war in those countries? There were already problems with food distribution in the Ecuadorian civil unrest. Is the recent capitulation of the Mexican government to the Sinaloa cartel after said cartel took control of and terrorized the city of Culiacan a sign of the failure of that state? And of course many people have expressed fears of a civil war here in the USA. Who knows what will come or when.
Posters from World Wars I and II
The US has historically used food as part of carrot-and-stick diplomacy, or said differently, bribes. During the Second World War, Great Britain and the Soviet Union relied crucially on American food, assuring a measure of their dependency in power negotiations. Germany, and particularly Japan, were nearly US territories after the war, both would have starved without prompt delivery of American food in quantity.
Wars are generally about food. Ancient Rome imported its food and fought epic wars to develop new sources and keep the ones it had. Medieval fiefdoms were agricultural enterprises, raiding their neighbors was common. The westward expansion of America in the nineteenth century was about food and the means to move it, as was Japan’s expanding empire in the early twentieth century. Germany explicitly cited food production to justify its aggression in the east. Their rants about fighting Bolshevism was pep rally stuff, Nazism itself was excessively patriotic Marxism.
History and cold calculation suggest food would be a weapon in a Civil War II, one of many, but of prime importance long term. Civil wars have long gestations, go kinetic suddenly and get complicated in a hurry. We have no firm knowledge what would set it off, who would be actively involved or how it would end. But the outlines are repeated well enough to guide our preparations.
The ruling class already treats middle America as this century’s Untermensch. Nothing is off the table in a civil war. Seizing the nation’s food would be an obvious move. Expect them to deploy troops to secure big ag and the necessary transportation facilities, destroy anyone who got in their way and terrorize potential troublemakers. But there’s a limit to even the deep state’s resources. Prudent survivalists in the far hills wouldn’t warrant their attention, they’d be more likely to trade shots with desperados than find themselves in a firefight with regular forces.
Food is the indispensable survival prep. At minimum this means a secure long-term stash of high calorie food sufficient to outlast the initial violence and privation without relying on resupply. Call it a year, maybe two.
Preppers are kidding themselves about large, elaborate enclaves. Such communities with their gardens, livestock, solar powered utilities, weapons, comms, storehouses, workshops, tools and supplies would be fatally attractive. Training with light infantry tactics and weapons is understandable, but repelling serial attacks by gangs and other armed opportunists would include attrition, i.e., the worker bees would win battles but eventually too few would remain to run the place. And when it became unviable, so would they.
Such redoubts have their place when the meltdown eases, but in the initial phases, less is more.
Well placed and practiced survivalists could get by on a onesey-twosey basis. Two may survive where one wouldn’t. Three or four may be better, assuming an adequate reserve of food and supplies. With more than four the liabilities are likely to outweigh the advantages. It assumes the deepest of deep larders, extensive supplies and harmonious wisdom in all things. Unless each make an irreplaceable contribution of critical value it’s probably too big a footprint for this phase. Loosely allying with similar small groups for mutual benefit may be the better choice. Five or more is a crowd, a danger to itself.
Famine is a given in contemporary civil war. Those embedded in interior cities have no chance, so, next item. The ruling class would continue to work against middle America’s existence. As said above, they’d confiscate local stores of food on a continuing basis, seize major food producing areas intact and grab the needed transportation facilities. Make no mistake, their hirelings would be granted license for absolute ruthlessness. Free fire zones and minefields are not off the table. Skilled labor, if otherwise unwilling, would be arrested and compelled to work.
Feeding their base would guarantee the loyalty of supporters, inflict mass death on the deplorables by ‘no cost’ neglect and keep armed confrontation largely confined to flyover country. But note, as said here before, this is a precarious solution. The coastal megacities are fed from the outside by vulnerable arteries passing through what would be hostile territory. In the end, feeding them would stutter and fail. Even now they’re cauldrons of seething hatred, barely repressed, often organized. With real scarcity and hardship they’d fall on each other and tear the place apart.
Privation, disease, hunger, murderous chaos and high intensity combat would likely peak in the second year. This is the knothole which would separate the survivalists from dabblers and hopeful idealists. In the years that follow, when the maelstrom had largely exhausted itself and the situation clarified, those who made good use of their resources could be largely self supporting, coalescing into tribes, forming families with neighbors and partying like it was 1319.
Be a survivor. The who and what of a civil war would matter only occasionally. Food would matter every hour of every week. Stack food high, wide and deep where it’s secure from looters and confiscation. Backup your stash with an “iron rations” fallback stash. Stack seeds, garden tools, fishing and hunting gear to be prepared for self-resupply opportunities. Calories are life.
Remus added an update to the above:
The phrase “deep larder” means very long term storage food. Decades, not years. One example is whole wheat, in Mylar bags, with oxygen and moisture absorbers, sealed in airtight five gallon buckets. Freeze dried food is a deep larder’s high end. Also long lasting is dehydrated food vacuum packed in Mason jars or Foodsaver-style plastic pouches.
Your shelves of commercially canned and home canned food are intermediate storage foods—a few years. The food in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer is short term food. Some a few months, some a few weeks.
In the military, “iron rations” is ready-to-eat food to sustain troops away from a field kitchen. They’re currently called MREs, formerly known as C Rations and K Rations. Iron rations are a temporary expedient—a few days. MREs are not intended for long term storage. For the survivalist, iron rations is an emergency cache of food accessible when the main stash isn’t. Bugout backpacks are typically stocked with iron rations, either ready-to-eat or quickly prepared.
“Supplies” means ammunition, medicine and medical items, water filters, batteries, repair kits and spare parts, shoes and boots, clothing for all seasons and the like. Supplies are casualty items, in time they’re either used up or worn out. “Equipment” is different from supplies. A canteen is equipment, water is supplies. Good quality equipment with routine maintenance, hand tools for example, will outlast the user.
A partisan may use survivalist techniques, but a survivalist is a combatant when self defense is the only alternative. Militants would have you believe you’re so extra special you’ll be stalked by DC’s death squads while tending your secret potato patch. Unless you’re out sabotaging bridges or ambushing convoys they aren’t going to hunt you down with drones or trackers. They’ll have better uses for their time and resources than chasing you around in the hills. It’s the desperados you’ll have to worry about.
Prudence and a sense of proportion will see the survivalist through. He’s of no interest to the warring parties if he stays away from them and their stuff. And if he blunders into them, he’ll escape rather than shoot it out. Chances are they’ll make a big show of running him off and let it go at that. In their mind they’ve done their duty, why turn it into a confrontation? If they pursue him, then it’s decision time.