This is a discussion on Civilian Militia Effectiveness within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Good question, it would seem to me that here in the GD section would be okay. If in doubt just ...
The minute man concept won't work because you don't have access to simular type of weaponry and logistics. You can't buy a RPG or a few decent jet fighters down at the local store. Where as previously, in the early days of the rifle, you could.
Militas do well when they are supported by other nation or nations. Give them tanks, RPG's, aircraft etc then yes, they can make a very significant contribution.
Or as a gorillia force militas have worked well, when they know their limitations and are supported by the local population and outside (international?) backing. They also work well as a starting point to increase the size of an existing force with additional equipment and training.
As a hill billy milita? Not a chance. They would be the dust blown off at the start of a conflict. How can rifles succeed against helicopters and tanks and jet aircraft in a flat out open battle conflict.
But milita come in all shapes and sizes. If you had a very well trained (years, in a well designed program), well armed (small arms, point and click weapons that favour less trained, hidden and mobile forces), well supported milita ($ and people on the ground) it could cause all sorts of problems to an invading force depending on the rules of engagement. Usually these milita become the local warlords the in anarchy of change and you end up having to deal with them on some level.
Is/was the IRA an army or a militia or just a terrorist group?
I think that you all are selling the US away fairly cheaply. I'd surely agree that a horde of civillians without military training armed with double-barreled shotguns and bolt-action .22's would suffer enourmous casualties and would be unable to coordinate attacks or defence effectively. They'd take 10 dead for every 1 enemy wounded/ killed, and would in no way be effective as a fighting force. And adding in enemy arty, airpower, and armor, any civillian resistance is totally doomed to failure.
I'd like to point out that any hypothetical invastion of the USA would be nothing like a random mob of civvies w/ .22's.
Firstly, the enemy would NOT enjoy air superiority. At worst, the enemy would have a contested airspace, which would mean that enemy aircraft are all in SEAD or AtA. I don't think that the enemy would be able to get effective AtG sorties going anytime soon. So Militia concentrations would initially be safe from enemy air attack.
Secondly, the Militia would never be a bunch of moron civillians armed with varmint rifles. For example, I personally have a pair of Mossberg 500's 1 w/ stock and the other pistol grip and a Mauser 98K. Both types of weapons are perfectly capable of killing a man from a distance or close up. I am pretty good with both weapons at the range. How good I am shooting at a man instead of paper remains to be seen.
Third, There are many military vets that aren't involved in the National Guard, meaning that in time of war, there would still be plenty of military-experienced men available for instruction and or service. I'm sure that one of the hundreds of thousands of military vets out there could command or at least instruct an organized partisan unit. Though the elimination process for new militia-civillians would be ruthlessly Darwinian, I'm sure that a few good soldiers would come up from each militia unit to train others if the war of occupation were to become protracted.
Fourth, the weapons brandished by a civillian militia in time of war wouldn't stay only civillian guns for long. One of my friends is NYPD, and they gave him an M-4 to use if the situation warrants it. There are plenty of military-grade rifles in general circulation. Also bear in mind that the British won back the Falklands with semi-auto FN's. The Argies had full-autos, and they lost.
I'm definitely not trying to put forth the idea here that a civillian militia would be comparable to any organized invading military force, but I would like to say that a civillian militia in the continental US would present any possible invader with a whole new set of serious problems to counter.
Any such civilian movement lacks coordination on a military level. They'd at most operate at a platoon-sized level, more likely far less. While they might hide well, that means that in a confrontation with a military formation, they're pretty much sitting ducks for incoming fire. They can't even perform a tactical retreat without losing unit cohesion.
Even the firepower on a one-for-one basis is not even remotely comparable. Say you have a well-armed group, 10-15 men with shotguns (your Mossberg), a few bolt-action rifles (your K98), and a couple paramilitary semi-autos (that M4). A comparably-sized military formation can counter your range with penetrating suppressive automatic fire, can blow your defensive cover to bits with GLs and RLs, and doesn't care much about the shotgun because they can just toss a couple hand grenades in a situation where a shotgun would be applicable.
On the bigger level? Take out any sizable formation with mortars, artillery and tanks, and from there on it becomes a counter-sniper exercise and house-to-house clearing.
There are other factors - logistics, medical, recon. A military force can soak up casualties, a civilian force is essentially screwed until it builds itself up to a military level (recently seen a documentary where they showed Vietcong MASH hospitals, rather interesting). An individual civilian force might have recon of its domain, but it can easily be flanked and found on the larger picture with modern means.
Time and again, they have been proven near impossible to eradicate by military means alone. Kill one militia fighter, 5 of his friends and relatives sign up etc...
In fact, it has been written that proliferation of small arms for civilian militias in the 20th century have completely changed the rules of warfare. Any unpopular invader is sure to face long and determined civilian resistance making occupation a difficult business.
Add to that the proliferation today of communications devices like phones and internet.
Avoiding to fight the way your enemy expects you to fight is a sound military tactic and one which good militias have practiced with great results.
A civilian militia seldom face down a regular army unit unless the odds are overwhelmingly in their favour. But that's no meansure of its effectiveness (or not). A civilian militia is best for harassing role by tying down a great number of enemy troops. Intel gathering. And also subversion of the population - which usually regular army units fail to do well. Militias are also invaluable as guides as they have good local knowledge.
They don't "win" military victories in the classic sense. But that's not what they should set out to do. When the VC made the mistake of Tet Offensive, they were nearly wiped out.
Fourth, the weapons brandished by a civillian militia in time of war wouldn't stay only civillian guns for long. One of my friends is NYPD, and they gave him an M-4 to use if the situation warrants it.
The only widespread use of shotguns in recent insurgency would be the Maoist peasants of Nepal. (And they won!!!)
Anyway, forget .22 and shotguns: all famous insurgencies were armed with military grade weapons from the Vietnam War 40 years ago till now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
History and current events have shown that a (invading) military force cannot absorb casualties like a determined (defending) civilian militia can.
I don't mean absorb as in fighting morale.
I mean soak it up as in they can have soldiers wounded and return them to the front line within weeks or months whereas a civilian force will have definitive problems soaking up any wounded. A wounded civilian fighter will be either captured or dead within days, there will not be any Medevac, or a MASH waiting for him behind the front lines. In modern combat, that's an important statistic - as over 90% of all casualties will be wounded, not instant death.
I still think a critical component of this discussion centers on how the invading force handles dealing with irregular forces. The VC were so effective in VN because they did not even remotely adhere to any rules of warfare, nor did they show any regard for casualties/POW's. They routinely executed entire villages if they appeared to by sympathetic to ARVN or US troops. They were able to wage a campaign of terror against their own countrymen making them reluctant, to cooperate with ARVN or even US troops. Same goes for Iraq/Afghanistan. Captured US troops can look forward to having their heads sawn off on TV, captured insurgents will be jailed, and even have the chance at a trial. Heck, some of them have been released and recaptured or killed fighting again.
Tanks aren't that unusual, especially if the unit is considered for wartime combatant roles. The German Border Guard used to have Saladins with 76mm guns, the French Gendarmerie has ERC90 and VBC90 with 90mm guns.
Using the VC and Taliban as examples of militia resisting superior, professional forces it seems the militia have a number of clear advantages:
1. They can soak up large casualties (and they need to!) as new recruits are plentiful.
2. They have no ROE - and can be as ruthless as they wish.
3. They can hide in the civilian population if required.
4. They have no vulnerable 'soft spots'. No (or minimal) supply lines, forward operating bases, airstrips.
Of course, these advantages can be viewed as disadvantages - casualties are bad, being ruthless can sour your support, hiding in the populace can make the populace a target, and no supply lines also means you are hungry and short of ammo.
But the point remains - until a Militia hits a 'tipping point' with regards to training and equipment, it will remain resistant to the tactics and weapons that have evolved to fight a larger, more static foe.
A militia may not stop an invasion outright, but it can make the occupation a nightmare.
Location: Under your bed. No seriously, take a look.
Except that they do have supply lines. Afghan insurgents get lots of supplies from Pakistan, just like the VC got supplies from North Vietnam, and ultimately the USSR. I think one of the reasons that the Iraqi insurgency was relatively unsuccessful (other then not having a real base) was that it did not have major outside suppliers. Though Iran certainly tried.