... a rigorous yet readable analysis of the prospects for a second American civil war ... the civil-conflict equivalent of How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt — a much-needed warning that uses cross-national research to examine the United States. Given how prescient Levitsky and Ziblatt were, and how expert Walters is (she is a leading scholar of civil wars), it is a warning to heed ... I’ve been skeptical of the notion that the United States is on the verge of another civil war. Walter has made me reconsider ... This is a book that everyone in power should read immediately ... Besides delivering an up-to-date view of civil wars, Walter provides a state-of-the-art accounting of why they begin ... Walter has answers, lots of them.
The power of Walter’s model is that she does not need to reference the United States. One plots our nation automatically as one reads. (The United States currently has a polity score of +5, within the anocracy zone for the first time since 1800.) ... Walter’s otherwise harrowing book stumbles when describing how greater violence might erupt, focusing on fringe groups over likelier flash points. According to recent polling, only one-third of Republicans say they’ll trust the results of an election their candidate loses. With a strongman-in-exile who’s already got one violent insurrection under his belt actively stoking those dynamics, Walter’s concentration on extremists like the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division feels like a distraction ... a sobering vision of where we may be headed, and for that reason they should be required reading for anyone invested in preserving our 246-year experiment in self-government.
Only a fanciful vignette about two-thirds of the way through—envisioning a morning of chaos in November 2028, with bombs going off across the country as California wildfires rage—made me think that Walter was 'fear-mongering,' or at least pandering to our most literal-minded instincts. Then again, if things are as dire as she says, forcing us to see what a collapse might look like may arguably be the responsible thing to do ... Walter’s earnest advice about what to do comes across as well-meaning but insufficient—though I’m not sure how much of it is her fault, considering that the situation she has laid out looks too inflamed to be soothed by a few pointers in a book.