Click here for the David Codrea JPFO publishing of the 1995's Guns and Ammo article that popularized the event.
And who better to tell the story of why the battle was important than Mike in his own words.
A Restatement of First Principles. Part Two: The armed citizenry as the credible deterrent to federal government
A couple of days ago, I began this series with A Restatement of First Principles. Part One: What is the purpose of the armed citizenry? I wrote:
In practical terms, the armed citizenry is supposed to:1. Provide security in life, liberty and property to each citizen in his home from depredation by common criminals;2. Provide security in life, liberty and property to the community by assisting, when necessary, duly constituted authority in maintaining civil order; and3. Provide security in life, liberty and property to the states and nation by being the credible countervailing power to would-be tyrannical government.These three functions are provided for in the concept of a "well-regulated militia," -- which at the time meant well disciplined, well led, well trained, well armed, with weapons of common caliber -- bands of citizen soldiers operating in the common defense of life, liberty and property.
As I wrote then, Tasks One and Two are, even today, largely uncontroversial and even unpolitical (except in the minds of the most demanding hoplophobes, see, for a current example, Law professor dismisses reason for Second Amendment as 'historical trivia'). Task Three, on the other hand, is entirely political, for this was the principal purpose of the Founders in codifying it in the the Second Amendment.
As the quotes cited in Part One from various men of the Founders' generation show, they were suspicious of a standing army and even a "select" militia and counted on the general militia of all able-bodied citizens to restrain the standing army if it was directed for some tyrannical purpose by an American would-be dictator. It is important to remember that these suspicious Founders fully expected a future American Caesar to be elected by a majority of the citizens, using the tools of the demagogue, and representing the "tyranny of the mob." The Founders were as critical of unrestrained democracy as they were Caesarism or monarchy. This is why they crafted a constitutional republic of competing branches and ordered liberty.
The armed citizenry was key to the maintenance of their ideal. And though their concept was, according to the military and political realities of their time, sophisticated, its premise was simple: as long as the people had the means to kill a tyrant, the would-be tyrant would be restrained by that fear even if the rest of the system of checks and balances had failed in allowing his rise. (Ben Franklin's comment at the time of the Constitutional Convention arguments is instructive: "It is good that we have provided for impeachment for the alternative is assassination.")
The Founders also understood the common militia as a countervailing power to local tyranny, and would have celebrated the 1946 Battle of Athens as a perfect example of what they expected from the citizenry. Note that the Battle of Athens was made necessary by the prior complete failure of a corrupt local system to protect the people. The Founders expected that the political process would be exhausted, as indeed they had done, before the people exercised their right to defensive use of arms. The Founders were, first and foremost, cognizant of the moral components of both politics and war.
But we stand now in the opening decades of the 21st Century, following that most ghastly violent 20th, where dictators ruled, genocides flourished and simple resistance by even an armed populace against the ever more powerful tools of the modern state has become more and more difficult, at least as the Founders imagined it given the realities of the late 18th Century.
Does this negate their idea? Certainly not. Nor does it, actually, change their requirement for trained, equipped citizen soldiers -- "well regulated militias" -- familiar with light infantry arms and ready to maintain order as required by Tasks One and Two above. Indeed, the citizen soldier of today must be as ready to muster and maneuver according to need as the Minute Men of old. And they must be as familiar with the entire range of weaponry required by the 21st Century soldier, including the laptop, as was Capt. Parker's company with the Brown Bess or5 Morgan's Rifle Corps with the Kentucky rifle, the knife and the tomahawk.
What has changed is the character of successful modern warfare and how that applies to the credible deterrence of tyranny, and that means applying lessons as old as Sun Tzu but called today by the moniker of Fourth Generation Warfare to the uniquely American realities today. From Wikipedia:
Fourth generation warfare is normally characterized by a violent non-state actor (VNSA) fighting a state. This fighting can be physically done, such as by modern examples Hezbollah or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In this realm the VNSA uses all three levels of fourth generation warfare. These are the physical (actual combat; it is considered the least important), mental (the will to fight, belief in victory, etc.) and moral (the most important, this includes cultural norms, etc.) levels.A 4GW enemy has the following characteristics: lacks hierarchal authority, lack of formal structure, (has) patience and flexibility, (Has the) ability to keep a low profile when needed, and small size. A 4GW adversary might use the tactics of an insurgent, terrorist, or guerrilla in order to wage war against a nation's infastructure. Fourth generation warfare takes place on all fronts: economical, political, the media, military, and civilian.Resistance can also be below the physical level of violence. This is via non-violent means, such as Gandhi’s opposition to the British Empire or Martin Luther King’s marches. Both desired their factions to deescalate the conflict while the state escalates against them, the objective being to target the opponent on the moral and mental levels rather than the physical level. The state is then seen as a bully and loses support.Another characteristic of fourth generation warfare is that as with third generation warfare, the VNSA’s forces are decentralized. With fourth generation warfare there may even be no single organisation and that smaller groups organize into impromptu alliances to target a bigger threat (that being the state armed forces or another faction). As a result these alliances are weak and if the state’s military leadership is smart enough they can split their enemy and cause them to fight amongst themselves.
Further, says Wikipedia, Fourth generation warfare goals are:
Now, in the Founder's context, substitute "armed citizenry" for Violent Non-State Actor and delete any use of terror tactics, especially targeted against innocents. Governments think they can afford "collateral damage," the armed citizenry cannot. It is not just our survival that counts, but all of the people, even those who disagree with us but who are not combatants. But survival merely ensures you stay in the fight. It is the second goal that is primary:
2. To convince the enemy’s political decision makers that their goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit.
Read that again. I would like to make just one change. My version would read thusly:
2. To convince the enemy’s political decision makers that their goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived PERSONALbenefit.
Deterrence before any fight rests on this. Winning the fight after the tyrant begins his campaign of violence against the people cannot happen without it. The tyrant and his political decision makers must understand that they will pay a PERSONAL price for their depredations. If they fail to recognize before the fact then they must, like the Bugger Queens in Ender's Game, be taught by people who recognize that "the enemy's gate is down," and that whatever happens beforehand, the end will be when someone in the resistance comes straight for them, and not waste their efforts on the minions.
The metaphor only goes so far, of course, for we are talking about humans, not bugs. But if our tyrant-wannabes understand the credible threat of the cost up front, they will not go there, unless invited to do so by a belief that we are unready to meet them.
For their part, the Founders must be shaking their heads in dismay at our failure to use political means to restrain this unconstitutional imperial federal government as well as the disuse into which the militia system they gave us has fallen.
Only we can do anything about that, and time is short.