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Civilian Militia Effectiveness

This is a discussion on Civilian Militia Effectiveness within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; As many are well aware, the United States is one of the fewer nations that allows their citizens arms. However, ...


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Old March 12th, 2009   #1
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Civilian Militia Effectiveness

As many are well aware, the United States is one of the fewer nations that allows their citizens arms. However, I am wondering how effective would a citizen militia be in combat against an invading force(providing they do not come to open fighting, guerrilla and sabotage tactics would be used).

But, seeing as how everyone can admit that in a prolonged invasion or campaign, un-trained civilians are in the end far from the caliber of trained soldiers; I would like to ask everyone's opinion on how long do you think an armed populace could stave off an invading force of large numbers before the U.S. military would have to fully deploy to counter?

Of course this is completely hypothetical, and seeing as how arms possessed by invaders would be a required, let us hypothesize that the Chinese, using superior numbers, and some manner of stealth, have been able to cross the Pacific and somehow have launched an invasion on the California coast, let us say San Francisco or San Diego, making a missile strike from the U.S. impossible due to civilian casualties.
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Old March 12th, 2009   #2
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Shades of Red Dawn!

To begin with, since California is packed full of flaming liberals (not everyone in California is a flaming liberal mind you) and they've given up their weapons with high cap mags etc, they don't have too many folks equipped to even run with a militia. Besides, if the Chinese want California all they have to do is agree to take Nancy Pelosi as part of the deal and they can have it without firing a shot.

Okay seriously, and this is strictly my "opinion". A militia isn't going to stop an invasion of any kind. There's just no way a casual group of armed citizens are going to be any kind of a match against a trained modern military. They wouldn't even be speed bumps. Acting as partisans they could create all sorts of trouble, much like the insurgents/irregulars/partisans from wars past, but not enough to actually discourage and drive away invaders. Now, if the invader were much like the US or our allies, we'd have a chance at winning a political decission ala North Vietnam versus the US.

Militia's in the US are considered to be enemies of the state, more or less. Admitting to militia activity is a sure fire way to lose or never get a security clearance in the military so it gives you an idea on how our government views them. So "organized" militia's are few and far between, and most of the members never had the balls to serve anyway so I wouldn't expect them to man up when the chips are down.
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Old March 12th, 2009   #3
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The German approach in the later Cold War was that about every mid-sized town would get and maintain a light infantry company, to be staffed by older reservists from the town, and to be equipped from a ready depot equipped with 160 automatic rifles, MGs and grenade and rocket launchers, and to be made road-mobile with civilian vehicles.

I'd give that more of a fighting chance than a militia equipped with sports and hunting rifles, even if the latter would have provided three to five times the manpower in the same area from existing weaponry.
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Old March 12th, 2009   #4
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The German approach in the later Cold War was that about every mid-sized town would get and maintain a light infantry company, to be staffed by older reservists from the town, and to be equipped from a ready depot equipped with 160 automatic rifles, MGs and grenade and rocket launchers, and to be made road-mobile with civilian vehicles.

I'd give that more of a fighting chance than a militia equipped with sports and hunting rifles, even if the latter would have provided three to five times the manpower in the same area from existing weaponry.
So, along this approach then, seeing as how I agree they would be overran if poorly equipped, say we took this approach, maintaining a semi-trained group of individuals, still not the equivalent of a modern soldier, but not exactly a hick with a rifle either. What would their, tentative, effectiveness be on a short timeline? Say a week at shortest, a month at longest
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Old March 13th, 2009   #5
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What type of militias are we talking about? The MVD in Russia maintains armed forces that could be classified as a militia... but they have APCs, and until a little while ago even tanks.
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Old March 13th, 2009   #6
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Hmmm, first I am a little bit surprised about the idea that the US is one of the fewer countries that allows it's citizens arms.

There are enough countries out there which still have conscription.
And such a reserve system is a huge advantage compared to a bunch of armed civilians.

Like Kato said a country with a halfway working reserve and conscript system has the ability to form alot of company sized units with their older males (and in Israels case also females...) give them some light equipment and put them into nearly any village with more than 1000 people as well as into every wood big enough to hide them.
The younger ones go into the reserve formations and operate alongside the regular units.

While such a unit is not going to hold a position very long without any support it considerably slows down the enemy because he has to clear every village, town and forest he comes across. Otherwise his supply lines are going to get harassed by these units. A nice bonus is that it also considerably hampers the chances of the enemy to infiltrate into your backyard and to find a secure landing zone for an air assault.
Just two companies waiting on the ground can be a real pain in the ass for every airborn operation.
And while they may consist of older males at least they have some sort of training, unitary equipment and are organized and attached to the regular chain of command. This makes them so much more effective compared to a civvi with a hunting rifle sniping at some guards.

For sure they can resort to terror attacks and such stuff but this is not going to help alot against a determined enemy while the organized reserve units may give you alot more advantages if your country is threatened by invasion.

A good enemy unit is going to clear a village from some sort of rag tag militia in no time while a reserve company might give them some surprises.
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Old March 13th, 2009   #7
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So, along this approach then, seeing as how I agree they would be overran if poorly equipped, say we took this approach, maintaining a semi-trained group of individuals, still not the equivalent of a modern soldier, but not exactly a hick with a rifle either. What would their, tentative, effectiveness be on a short timeline? Say a week at shortest, a month at longest
Why go half way in training for a citizen army? Especially since I was a conscript and reservist in my past life.

Never underestimate the fighting will of a determined people. Let me remind you of 3 examples, in reverse chronological order:

(i) Vietnamese forces who defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu and the Vietcong (aided by N. Vietnamese forces and eastern block allies) fought until the Americans lost their will to fight;

(ii) Mao's PLA who fought the nationalist KMT forces and the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA); and

(iii) Look at the cost the IJA inflicted on the American forces at the Battle of Iwo Jima, most of which fought to the death even when it was clear they would lose. The IJA decided to surrender because they thought the Americans had more nuclear bombs, after 2 were dropped.

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Old March 13th, 2009   #8
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The OP was questioning the effectiveness of armed American civilians versus an organized army, in his example the Chinese.

Perhaps it's a language/culture barrier, in the US we have the National Guard and the Army Reserve, the US Air Force Reserves and the Air Guard, plus Navy and Marine reserves as well. As you know, most of these part time warriors served active duty before going to the guard/reserves and most of them have deployed for 1+ years to support the GWOT. They are professional warriors, that happen to have full time civilian jobs. I reallize these forces would be considered "militia" in most other countries but here in the US, we do not apply the term "militia" to our guard/reserve forces. In the US today the term militia means a group of civilians that have formed paramilitary units. Most of these individuals have never served in the military and are for the most part, complete whack jobs. They wear BDU's, carry semi-auto military "style" weapons and practice for the end of times ie WW3. The majority of them are unqualified for military service for a variety of reasons hence they feel the need to "play" soldier. It's a sub culture thing, sort of like the air softers that buy all the battle rattle of a real soldier and try to mimic SEALS, SAS, SF etc.

OPSSG bring up some interesting points. The success of the Viet Cong versus the US is directly tied to the US's unwillingness to fight unconventional forces in an unconventional way and the insistance on ROE and for the most part, complying with the Geneva Convention and the Haque Accords etc. Had the US ignored these "rules" like the North Vietnamese did, the war would have been over in very quickly indeed. You can't win a street fight if your going to use the rules of a boxing ring and the other guy isn't.

The Germans were ruthless to partisans, which is why the French partisans laid low until the allies landed. They were pretty effective of minimizing partisan activity to virtually nil because they dealt with these activites in the most harsh and extreme way. Partisans lose support of the population instantly, when the invader/aggressor is willing to round up the first 100 citizens and execute them due to the death of one soldier. This is how I would expect the PLA to handle civilians taking up arms against them.
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Old March 13th, 2009   #9
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Oh. I thought he was talking about forming a rag tag militia out of the masses of americans (or another country) who are not part of the active, reserve or NG forces but own a weapon and send them to harass the enemy in case of an invasion.

If we are talking about these hillbilly militias then I would expect them to last even shorter than a normal civvi.
Their "training" might make them believe that they actually can engage enemy forces in a conventional way. Like running heads on into a slaughterhouse...
And I expect alot of these militia guys not to be that brave when the brown mass hits the rotating thing...
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Old March 13th, 2009   #10
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In the interest of disclosure, I am a Chinese Singaporean (who lives in a multi-ethnic society) that is also UK educated and have a very different perspective from China born Chinese.

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Oh. I thought he was talking about forming a rag tag militia out of the masses of americans (or another country) who are not part of the active, reserve or NG forces but own a weapon and send them to harass the enemy in case of an invasion.
I was thinking like Waylander.

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If we are talking about these hillbilly militias then I would expect them to last even shorter than a normal civvi.
Their "training" might make them believe that they actually can engage enemy forces in a conventional way. Like running heads on into a slaughterhouse...
Against regular army, the hillbilly militias, if any, will be wiped out (if they come into contact). In many ways leadership is key and leadership will determine tactics.

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The Germans were ruthless to partisans, which is why the French partisans laid low until the allies landed. They were pretty effective of minimizing partisan activity to virtually nil because they dealt with these activites in the most harsh and extreme way. Partisans lose support of the population instantly, when the invader/aggressor is willing to round up the first 100 citizens and execute them due to the death of one soldier. This is how I would expect the PLA to handle civilians taking up arms against them.
Further, IMHO, from a cultural point of view, there is less respect for the Geneva Convention in many non-western armies. I expect armed resistance to be met by extermination measures by local commanders.

The IJA came into Singapore and executed approximately 25,000 Chinese civilians in Singapore during WWII. On rare occasions, groups of skulls and bones are still turning up due to earthworks. IJA applied extermination measures to any resistance they encountered all across their conquered territories in Asia. That is why Japan as a country is so lonely, especially when there are Japanese idiots who attempt to revise their WWII historical record.

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Old March 13th, 2009   #11
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What type of militias are we talking about? The MVD in Russia maintains armed forces that could be classified as a militia... but they have APCs, and until a little while ago even tanks.
What happened to the tanks?

@Feanor, is the Border Guard liaised to the MVD?
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Old March 13th, 2009   #12
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Oh. I thought he was talking about forming a rag tag militia out of the masses of americans (or another country) who are not part of the active, reserve or NG forces but own a weapon and send them to harass the enemy in case of an invasion.
If we are talking about these hillbilly militias then I would expect them to last even shorter than a normal civvi.
Their "training" might make them believe that they actually can engage enemy forces in a conventional way. Like running heads on into a slaughterhouse...
And I expect alot of these militia guys not to be that brave when the brown mass hits the rotating thing...
Quite honestly that was my original question, but, when within the first two replies it was established they would be nothing more than speed bumps, and it was brought to my attention that the German's provided a small armory for mid-sized towns, I decided that for purposes of discussion I could possibly ask how much effect a small armory in the hands of untrained civilians would have against an organized invasion
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Old March 13th, 2009   #13
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Basically,

To eliminate confusion as to the make-up, I'm wondering if we could apply the tactics used by the Minutemen(everyday citizens with nothing more than weapons of less than professional build, i.e. no heavy weapons nor standard military equipment) of the revolution to briefly hold off a modern orgazined invading force
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Old March 13th, 2009   #14
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I don't think the Minuteman concept would work today. Back then it worked because the British didn't have any real technical advantage of equipment. They couldn't cut us off from natural resources so their biggest advantage of sea power was negated. Also today's forces have maneuvering elements that didn't exist back then, plus there's the added dimension of aviation.

All that said, alot of Americans over the years prepared (and continue to prepare) for that "big invasion" ala the classic 80's movie Red Dawn. The current state of the worlds military forces makes an invasion of the US a physical impossibility. I think the biggest military threat we have on our soil, is a civil war. That would be an engaging topic!
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Old March 13th, 2009   #15
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All that said, alot of Americans over the years prepared (and continue to prepare) for that "big invasion" ala the classic 80's movie Red Dawn. The current state of the worlds military forces makes an invasion of the US a physical impossibility. I think the biggest military threat we have on our soil, is a civil war. That would be an engaging topic!
I agree, that would be fascinating. Which catagory would a topic like that go under?
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