“…a network of rifle clubs…”

One of the many books I’ve been going to get to for years has been Michael Howard’s older (1972) book The Continental Commitment: The Dilemma of British Defense Policy in the Era of the Two World Wars. I finally got it and it is very good so far. History books which are based on a lecture series are often very good, since the author is compelled to keep things simple, to assume his audience already knows the basic outline of things, to deal with themes rather than minutiae. Howard discusses the British response to an invasion scare in 1899, during which the popular press was saying that a European power (France or Germany) could, if it wanted, successfully invade Britain. The official response was interesting.

In May, the Prime Minister himself, the usually phlegmatic Lord Salisbury, warning that all the developing powers of offence on the Continent might ‘be united in one great wave to dash upon our shores,’ called for the establishment of a network of rifle clubs throughout the country.

Note that Salisbury was seriously talking about creating a better-armed citizenry as a first line of defense against an army of regular invaders. As the British were soon to find out in South Africa, the Boers, a citizen-army armed with then-modern rifles, could shoot the improperly led and trained regular British army to pieces. At least at first. So this wasn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Note the difference between those days and these. A foreign threat to Britain led to calls for citizens to take an active hand in national defense. In our day, we expect “Homeland Security” to be provided on a government-only basis. I wonder what would the response have been if President Bush had gone on TV and said this:

In this war, the front lines are everywhere and each one of us, each citizen, is personally responsible for the security of America. Terrorists can and will strike without warning. As we saw on the September 11, the only effective defense we are likely to have is the spontaneous and aggressive action of American citizens acting in the fleeting time available to stop terrorist attacks. Homeland Security cannot be the responsibility of government alone. All Americans must be alert, and prepared to act without waiting for the official authorities to arrive, to prevent or disrupt terrorist attacks. And they must not only be mentally alert, and ready to act as needed, but adequately armed. Therefore, tonight I am calling for a national concealed-carry law, so that all Americans everywhere can have the means needed to combat terrorism if needed, access to deadly force. And to make sure that the American people have the basic skills needed to safely and responsibly possess and employ deadly force, I am calling for the establishment of a network of pistol clubs throughout the country … .

It could never happen. Free people 100 years ago were not surprised to be asked to act in their own defense and in defense of their country if needed. They were not surprised to be asked to learn how to use firearms for that purpose. Now these very notions are inconceivable to most people. The civic spirit and common sense of the population has decayed. We should do what we can to turn this around. Both civic spirit and common sense will be needed to prevail in the current, ongoing war against Islamic terrorism.

  1. I think the notion of armed civil- and self-defense would be well received by many, maybe most, Americans if our political leaders made a forthright case for it. They won’t, but that’s because our leaders are inadequate, not because the case can’t be made.

    The main opposition to the wide-scale carrying of weapons by ordinary people is likely to come from politicians and police bureaucrats, not from other citizens.

    BTW, why does it have to be concealed? That’s so Sept 10.

  2. God bless you Lex, but we all know that personal responsibility has been crushed by litigation in this country. I’d like to read a study about how much violent crimes and thefts actually happen throughout the country. It “feels” like here in portland and the suburbs that the police really don’t have a lot of real criminals to pursue. My question is, do we really need that many police?? As long as Americans are obsessed with the false sense of security here, the answer will be yes and more…

  3. Well, we do still have an astronomically high murder rate. I think in certain cities even more cops would probably be a boon.

  4. I take your point Lex. I have nothing against concealed carry since I believe most citizens are honest and law abiding and only a small minority are violent criminals. I like the thought that the law abiding majority are well armed, as opposed to only a violent minority being well armed.

    But that takes us only a tiny distance on the way to combatting terrorism. If they can’t depend on guns to terrorize a populace, the perps will simply change tactics – to explosives for instance. Being well armed does nothing for you while sitting on a train if the guy two seats back is carrying a briefcase full of C4 and ball bearings. You’re still dead, just well armed and dead.

    How did we win the war against the communists? By opposing their every attempt at expansion, rolling them back by supporting those who fought against them with both guns and money and – with our allies – denying them access to technology and money. It took four decades to achieve victory. I suspect it’s going to take at least that long to win against the jihadis. We’re in for a long, bloody fight.

    1. We’ve got to keep the defeat of islamo-fascism as the centerpoint of our foreign policy.
    2. We’ve got to coordinate a common policy to fight them with all interested parties: the Europeans, the Russians, the Asians.
    3. Within the Middle East, we need to condition our financial support of regimes in place on their willingness to fight the jihadis. This would include Egypt and Jordan.
    4. We’ve got to deny the jihadis cash. The Saudis are the worst offenders.
    5. Isolate Iran more completely. Deny them cash by removing their ability to sell oil. Consider airstrikes against their nuclear facilities and terrorist traing camps.
    6. Stick with the Iraqis. Do whatever is necessary to defeat the terrorists. Iraq is battlefield number one right now. We can’t lose there.
    7. We’ve got to monitor mosques in the West as if they were islamist HQ’s, which they sometimes are. Arrest and imprison those imams and moslems who call for or support jihad. It’s sedition. Make it a life-in-prison penalty.
    8. Begin recruiting heavily among Arab-Americans for intel operations.
    9. Build a new generation of heavy bombers. We’re going to need them. Target price: $250 million/copy. Very doable. Right down Boeing’s alley.
    10. Begin developing the admin and technology to inspect and track every ship and boat in the world, much as we do with aircraft.

  5. Sylvain, I agree. As to crime, there may well be places where we need more cops.

    Michael, I agree that this idea, which is not even really a proposal, would have a very minor impact on terrorism, if any. The point that I was more interested in was that Lord Salisbury took as a given that a major component, if not the primary one, of public safety even from a foreign threat was an active citizenry. The people in those days did not have a state which was very powerful by modern standards, and they did not expect the state to do much for them. The idea that the president would point at the TV camera and say, “you, the citizens of America, are the only ones who can defend America. The government will do what it can, but you are the front line”, is impossible to imagine. But it is actually true.

  6. We need cops to track people down, and enforce our legal code. Since everyone should realize that they are the front line, then why do people believe that police will stop them from being mugged, robbed, raped, killed! I just want people to understand that, because the more that do, the safer we will all be. Criminals are afriad of armed citizens killing them.

    As to the train senario? I’d rather have the opportunity to defend against such an incident, as opposed to victim disarmorment…

    Michael H, I’m more worried about the ememy within. Marines can kill terrorists all day long, but when we have PC permiated everywhere, hits morale bigtime. I believe that is a large problem with the army. Kids join the nat’l guard to get college money and “discipline,” as opposed to killing bodies all day and night. Transnational Progressivism is really damaging our soicety, and I believe that will be even harder than combating islamo-fascism.

  7. I’m more worried about the ememy within…

    Andy, you’re quite right. What worries me is that so many of the enemies within control newpapers. And they’re using them to maximum effect.

  8. Yes, let’s not quibble about details. Attitude is more important than technology or specific plans.

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