As Georgia prepares to battle for our rightful access to more water, it seems Tennessee is preparing to defend itself. Apparently, the state’s leaders have even enlisted Andrew Exum, a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and native Tennessean who blogs about “small wars and insurgencies” at Abu Muqawama, to design its strategy.
Exum begins by outlining what he believes to be our natural line of attack, and his plan for defending against it:
The first course of action in the face of Georgian aggression is a static defense. The main avenue of approach for any Georgian invasion force would be I-75. About a mile past the state line, the highway splits into I-24 heading west into Chattanooga and I-75 northbound heading toward Knoxville.
There’s a bend in the highway where all northbound cars must slow down as they turn west toward Chattanooga. It’s a natural place to construct an L-shaped ambush. I’d place .50-caliber machine guns on the north side of the split, in the vicinity of the old Eastgate Mall, aimed down I-75. Mortar positions would dig in north of Brainerd Road (or somewhere in the Sir Goony’s Family Fun Center and putt-putt course up the road). I would establish a skirmish line along Ringgold Road, with my main line of defense along I-24 and I-75, and a secondary line of defense along Brainerd Road and Lee Highway.
Two problems immediately come to mind, though. Even if Georgia is only able to mobilize half the residents of Atlanta, that’s still a lot of SUVs to stop. We can’t count on all of them to stop at the Cracker Barrel in Dalton and lose interest. That means we’ll soon run low on ammunition and be forced to retreat to Hixson. The other problem is that the University of Tennessee’s performance against the University of Georgia last year — in which Tennessee’s defense tackled like a bunch of Pop Warner 8-year-olds — doesn’t fill one with a lot of confidence about our state’s ability to stop much of anything coming out of Georgia.
Let me stop Exum right there. As any of my fellow Northwest Georgians would attest, there will never — NEVER — be any sort of hostilities between us that threaten the hallowed site of Sir Goony’s. NONE. Too many of us have fond memories of sinking the occasional hole-in-one on the 18th green (winning a free round in the process) and practically learning to drive on its go-kart track to countenance any damage to its perfectly timed windmills.
Alas, with his reference to football, it seems Exum has hinted at our true strategy in a way that suggests he’s wise to our plans. Certainly, any attempt to take and hold Tennessee would begin with the flattening of Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. This would not only divert precious Volunteer State resources north to a place nobody here really wants anyway. It would also provide just the kind of shock and awe needed to bring into submission the East Tennesseans who, as Exum notes, could be rather difficult to govern otherwise:
In his book “War at Every Door: Partisan Politics and Guerrilla Violence in East Tennessee, 1861-1869,” historian Noel Fisher describes the way in which both Confederate and Union occupying armies struggled to comprehend the byzantine politics and grudges of East Tennessee and assert anything like political authority over such a lawless race of mountain people. I can almost pity the young Georgian men and women who would be asked to occupy as violent and confusing a place as southeast Tennessee. Alone at night, fearing yet another guerrilla attack and unsure of who they could trust among such an alien race, they would curse the greed of the Atlanta exurbs and the resource war that had been forced upon them. A prolonged occupation and insurgency stands a greater chance of transforming the internal politics of Georgia than transforming the immutable cultural truths of Tennessee.
The wars of the 9/11 era have demonstrated the perils of fighting heavily armed religious fundamentalists on their own soil. We Tennessee Presbyterians are a little like the Taliban — only certainly better armed and probably less tolerant of the Roman Catholic Church.
Anyone interested in what lies ahead for us in this War of Southern Aggression should read Exum’s entire piece. And take note of its exquisite timing.
– By Kyle Wingfield