In an anti-gun debate (I was pro-gun, which is relevant), I used the example of an hypothetical ex-democracy which allowed guns (like the US) and then turned authoritarian with theological brainwashing (let's say Christian Nazis, religion is irrelevant). The Jews, which form a substantial part of the population are now in the center of a genocide. A resistance is now made by the Jewish population, which now has near 100 percent gun ownership due to past laws (thus this will not happen with the gun laws).

To beat the army, the shear number of active fighting rebels is obviously enough, even though the rebels' guns are relatively primitive. The artillery could also be destroyed using home-made bombs. Land based air-force could be rendered useless as the rebels capture airbases.

Now, I start losing the debate with two major loopholes in my argument:

  1. If the country has aircraft carriers, there is more or less nothing the rebels could do to prevent the nazis from pounding their homes. (Otherwise, the navy would not be of much concern)

  2. The government has nuclear weapons that could instantly kill all the rebel settlements.

Now, because the Government uses extensive brainwashing, the people in the army would not help the rebels or have a conscience (to a large extent, like in the case of Germany or modern day communist countries).

Can you provide hypothetical solutions to these two problems? Are there historical evidences (of rebels against nuclear armed government, or rebels destroying aircraft carriers)? A win is defined as a case in which the rebels manage to reach at least a stalemate and could recommence living in peace.

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    $\begingroup$ Didn't like half the states rebel once against the imperial government in Washington? And on that occasion didn't more than half of the army side with the rebels? And didn't the rebels still lose, although they had infantry and cavalry and artillery? And, honestly, I really don't see what good would aircraft carriers do against some rebels in Minnesota. Aircraft carriers are for impressing goat herding tribes in faraway primitive countries; they are useless both against a home-grown rebellion and against any kind of modern army. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 27 '18 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ So essentially you are asking us to deliberately fantasise a fictional scenario that comes out the way you want it to, in order justify your opinion that the 2nd amendment is awesome? Now suppose someone did exactly the same, but in opposition to the 2nd amendment... would you then say "Oh... well that is all relevant and important in this debate"? Of course you would not. Fictional scenarios will always come out right to the person that creates them. They have no value in a debate. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Mar 27 '18 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ And as AlexP pointed out... the 2nd amendment was put into force in 1791. That did not help the south in their attempts at rebelling against the Washington government, not even 100 years later. And they did not only have handguns. So I am sorry, but the notion that handguns are the awesomest there is to guarantee liberty became that old and flawed pretty much as soon as the ink had dried. I would say the staggering lack of foresight and imagination of the 2nd amendment is eclipsed only by the 18th. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Mar 27 '18 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ For all i know, no army has ever won an asymmetric war against guerillas. This is particularly true for the US, see viet nam, afghanistan, et.al.. The only way would be to carpet-nuke them. But nuking your own country is generally considered a bad idea. $\endgroup$ – Burki Mar 27 '18 at 6:58
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    $\begingroup$ Why are you assuming that the army would pose the greatest threat to the rebels? In your scenario, the average citizen is brainwashed and armed. Anyone who's not 100% pro government would be shot by their neighbors long before a rebellion could form. And even if the few survivors banded together - what would they do? Shoot random citizens? $\endgroup$ – nikie Mar 27 '18 at 7:09

We can ignore the gun law part of the argument, and focus on how rebels can fight an asymmetric war. Modern militarizes have made great advancements in fighting asymmetric wars (for better or for worse), but they're still a challenge.

To succeed at asymmetric warfare one must understand that one is The Other to one's enemies. You are the thing that needs to be eradicated because it is not The Self. We have invented many weapons that are very effective at attacking The Other. Indeed it is the thing which distinguishes a combat knife from a suregon's scalpel.

The masters at asymmetric warfare are those who can nullify these weapons by being too close to The Self. If using a weapon would do more harm than good, by the metrics of the soldiers using the weapon, they will not use it. If your rebels are surrounded by orphanages and child hospitals, you can be quite confident that they will not nuke that site.

An asymmetric warfare master does not try to win the fight straight on. What they do is try to sap the will to fight, until their opponents prefer a peaceful solution. You are correct that a group of rebels will most likely never successfully take down a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, but they don't have to. What they have to do is convince the rulers that its better to not use the carrier. And there's dozens of ways to do it. For most modern nation, it's the civilians that you go after. Civilians lose a taste for war far faster than those who enter the military. When the civilians cry out for a peaceful solution, it is hard to ignore.

And always remember the cardinal rule of warfare. Do not take risks in order to win; merely ensure that you never lose, and wait for the other guy to make a mistake.


A modern military force will curb-stomp any militia no matter how good their infantry weapons are, a modern military does not fight fair, they'll use drones to spot (and attack) the rebels, the rebels might shoot the drones down with surface to air missile launchers (assuming they have those) but that won't stop the incoming artillery shells.

That's not including any air force or navy assets and the ground forces haven't even left their base, at worst they lost some ammunition and equally expendable scout drones, I cannot emphasize this enough they do not fight fair!

  • Rebels in a building? Blow up the building.
  • Rebels in a mountain range? Gas the valleys and scour the peaks with drones.
  • Rebels in a bunker? Hit them with a bunker-buster.
  • Rebels in a forest? Use cluster bombs, napalm and agent orange.
  • Rebels actually pose a credible threat? Nuke them.
  • $\begingroup$ Your suggestions work only if the rebels are in another country, if you need to destroy to such extend your own country to figh the rebels, the rebels already won (and they will increase in number as more civilian will join after you blow up/gas/nuke them) $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Mar 27 '18 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Gianluca As the question was posed, the scenario is an ongoing genocide against the rebels. With popular support, at least passive support. $\endgroup$ – Guran Mar 27 '18 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Guran as the question is posed, the rebel are "a substantial part of the population" and the popular passive support exist until you don't mess with the people, if you nuke them I don't think they still support you. The only option is that the people actively support you, then maybe they bear some collateral damage since they share with you the objective. $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Mar 27 '18 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Cognisant The idea is to destroy the air-force so that the government could not destroy the rebel strongholds like in the aforementioned means. Because in the home-country, the rebels can take over the airbases as mentioned in the argument. $\endgroup$ – Kavi Vaidya Mar 27 '18 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ @KaviVaidya An airbase isn't something you can attack with small arms and a few trucks, a single attack helicopter can deal with such a threat easily and airbases are built in remote areas, they're not something you can sneak up on. $\endgroup$ – Cognisant Mar 28 '18 at 0:57

Your and your opponents' problem is that you imagine the figth happening the same way as classic (symmetric) wars, out on a battlefield or each sides with their own separate territory with a frontline inbetween. But that's not what is happening in such cases, or at least when the rebels know what's good for them.

The way to fight such a war from the rebels' side is to not square up directly with the government's forces. You don't go out onto battlefields, or even just separate geographical areas. You are staying/hiding/living among and intermixed wiht the general population that the government rules over. They can't nuke/bomb/shell you because that would cause the government itself damage through: - large number of non-rebel casualties, primarily resulting in more people becoming rebels or even a more wide scale uprising among the general population on wich the state relies to support itself and if the scale of destruction is large eough, then the loss of a critical proportion/all of the population resulting in immediate collapse -damage to non-human assets, think infrastructure, valuable resources, etc. -direct damage to the members of the government themselves (them becoming collateral damage). remember: the rebels are around them, mixed in the general surrounding population.

Example: the u.s. turned into an totalitarian, opressive state. there's a rebel movement. the government found out, that there is a relatively concentrated mass off rebels in a neighborhood of inner city new york. do you think that they could just go bomb/nuke/shell it?

The way they would have to deal with such an insurgency type war is to get boots on the ground and go up close and personal. and that's where firearms owned by the rebels come in: it allows them to repel the immediate attack, escape, and spread out into and hide among the general population again. These "up close and personal" fights happen with firearms. Airforce, navy, artillery and such won't help you. In an urban environment not even small, relatively precise drones are good enough.

And the same conditions and environment of being mixed in with the general population not only makes regular firearms a viable, effective self defence measure, but also and effective weapon of offence, allowing assasinations of key paople, sabotage of key infrastructure and equipment and in general, a more equal field in destroying enemy government forces.

And that's just when we are talking about a very small number of rebels. The larger the portion of the general population that opposes the government, the bigger the fight they can put up. And after a certain point, they can just overhelm the governmental forces with sheer numbers. Imagine that you are the dictator. You have a loyal army with nukes, bombers, aircraft carriers. If the populatio is unarmed, you can send in your soldiers and force the people to obey. Now, if said population is armed, even if only with firearms, your soldiers can't just go in and make them obey, because the people can shoot your soldiers. And yes, technically you could then just annihilate your population with nukes, bombs, etc., but in reality you can't. You need the population for your existence. You can't have a dictatorship without people to opress and exploit. After all, these people are the ones who make your food, electricity, build and keep up the infrastrcture, and generate the wealth you do this entire dictatorship-stuff for. You need them for your existence. Your army needs them for their existence. Without the population, you don't exist. And while you can't destroy them, they sure as hell can destroy you. There will be thousands of them for every soldier you have, maybe tens of thousands.

That's why the right and ability to own firearms for the general population is an effective defence against the emergence of a tyrannical government.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding joecro! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Mar 27 '18 at 10:24

A couple of problems here...

First, an irregular force armed with civilian firearms would not stand up well to an organized, well equipped military. Even in countries like the US, there are restrictions on the type of weapons that can be owned. No explosive projectiles, meaning no RPG's, mortars, or artillery. Nor can civilians stockpile ammunition on the scale of a modern military... too expensive.

Second, since this is an insurgency, no nation is likely to use nuclear weapons within its own borders. Massive destruction of everything, and lots of radiation left over. No nation is likely to use atomic weapons at all for any reason, the consequences are too severe to consider. About all nukes are good for today is maintaining a balance of terror.

What the population could do is start an insurgency, similar to what happened in Vietnam with the US, and Afghanistan with the Soviets. Wear them down. Of course, the US and Soviets had the option to just leave and go home, which both did. Since your scenario is the current government of that nation, they have nowhere to go, and aren't likely to walk away from their own country.

It may be possible for your insurgents to get support from abroad, or capture military weapons, or both. Captured artillery shells can be turned into IED's, and drug smugglers could turn to smuggling arms... if the price was right.

However... if most of the citizens are against an authoritarian government, then a good deal of the current military will also be, as the military is drawn from the citizens. The most likely path of success for the rebels is to turn the military against the authoritarians, so that they don't get a military conflict they can't possibly win. That is what happened in Iran in 1978... enough of the military abandoned the existing regime and threw in with Khomeini. In that case, the first to do so were the most highly educated... their air force.

A population armed with civilian weapons is unlikely to succeed on that basis alone.

  • $\begingroup$ It's worth pointing out that in Vietnam, the rebels had the backing of two major powers (USSR and China), and their opponents (the US) could not invade their base areas for political reasons. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Dodds Mar 27 '18 at 7:06

Whelp, you’ve got four questions in there so I’ll try to answer them in order.

Are there historical evidences (of rebels against nuclear armed government

Yes, South Africa is an example. There, poorly armed rebels overthrew what most historians agree was a nuclear-armed state at the time.

or rebels destroying aircraft carriers)?

I don’t think so. Aircraft carriers are tricky things to get close to, even with more advanced technology. (Terrorists have successfully hit smaller ships, like destroyers, though.) However, this could also be because most of the countries that have aircraft carriers are also stable enough to avoid civil war that produces rebel fighters in the first place.

If the country has aircraft carriers, there is more or less nothing the rebels could do to prevent the nazis from pounding their homes. (Otherwise, the navy would not be of much concern)

Aircraft carriers are limited in the same way other ships are. They can only hit stuff close to the coast. Sure, their airplanes have a pretty long reach, but it’s quite difficult for to conduct a detailed military campaign at that distance from the command center. So your nice, rhetorical second-amendment protagonists are also probably going to be hiding out in middle America. This war would basically be a drone war, like Afghanistan.

The government has nuclear weapons that could instantly kill all the rebel settlements.

Keep in mind nuclear weapons (like aircraft carriers) don’t necessary need to be captured or neutralized by the rebels for them to win. The thing is, big weapons require big targets. For your future government’s nuclear weapons to do them any good, the rebels would have to all be concentrated in a few small parts of the country (like a few cities). This generally isn’t the case when it comes to insurrections. You don’t want to send a nuke to kill one rebel at a time.


No way

So, in the blue corner we have a minority, albeit a substantial one. Very well armed by civilian standards, but still restricted by current us gun laws. To be generous, we can equate each rebels firepower to an infantryman.

The rebels are naturally highly motivated, given that they are in a fight-or-die situation.

In the red corner we have the majority population. They outnumber the rebels. They can outspend the rebels, given that they control state and federal institutions. They massively outgun the rebels. When the rebels send a bullet, the government can return an artillery shell.

And in your scenario, the regulars are brain washed and led to believe that THEY are fighting the good fight. Meaning they also are motivated. They most likely believe that the rebels are a real threat to them, to their homes, loved ones and way of life.

Now, if the scenario had been a democracy (or even a dictator) at war overseas fighting local guerilla, yes the rebels would stand a fighting chance. (Historical examples are plenty). Such a guerilla does not need to beat the invader outright, they just need to deny them victory. Sooner or later the cost of war will add up, and the invader will lose interest.

But in a civil war situation? Without massive outside help? Nope. The only difference your guns will make is that more of your minority group will slaughtered with guns in their hands instead of unarmed, but a slaughter it will be.

  • $\begingroup$ You are overlooking some obvious examples, the American Revolutionary war, to start with. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Mar 27 '18 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ It’s a simplification, sure, but the American revolution is hardly similar to the OPs example. Granted I’m no expert on the matter, but suppressing a freedom movement (with outside support) across the Atlantic is not like suppressing a minority on your own turf. $\endgroup$ – Guran Mar 27 '18 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ The success of the American Revolutionary War depended on the capital and main population base of the British being in no way threatened by an armed uprising so they weren't facing an existential threat, and that the rebellious colonists had the support of foreign nations such as France who were using them as proxies to tweak the British. (1/2) $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Mar 27 '18 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ (2/2) For example, the Battle of Yorktown: Cornwallis was isolated because DeGrasse defeated the Royal Navy, which he was able to do because the Spanish agreed to cover French shipping, allowing him to bring his full fleet, which included a large quantity of silver to fund the Continental Army. At the actual land battle, French regulars under Rochambeau were in roughly equal numbers to Colonial regulars, at about 8,000 apiece. Without that French naval victory, Cornwallis isn't isolated, and could hold out indefinitely. Without the French troops, he's not outnumbered by a significant amount. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Mar 27 '18 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison thanks for expanding my hand waving:) $\endgroup$ – Guran Mar 28 '18 at 5:02

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