May 28, 2024

Editor’s Introductory Note: The following is a translation of a May 24, 2023 article in France’s oldest newspaper, Le Figaro. One of the newspaper’s American staffers interviewed me by telephone, in February, during his fact-finding tour of the region.

Here is a link to that original piece, in French: Aux États-Unis, la «Redoute américaine», un rêve de forteresse conservatrice. (In the United States, the “American Redoubt”, a dream of a conservative fortress.) Most of the article was “réservé aux abonné”  — reserved for subscribers.The Le Figaro reporter, Adrien Jaulmes, kindly sent me the English version of the article. The reporter included this note in his e-mail to me:

“The trip was extraordinary. (Of course it involved quite a lot of driving; we Europeans are always baffled by the size of your country). Northern Idaho was probably the most stunning, such a beautiful place, but Eastern Oregon was also quite interesting. Therein, I understood better what you were saying about the importance of water, and also about how deep is the geographical difference between east and west of the Cascades.”

Most American mainstream media journalists are prone to write anti-conservative hatchet pieces. But this article was quite straightforward and unbiased. – JWR

The English version of the Le Figaro article follows:

Northern Idaho and several northwestern states have become the destination of a political in-migration movement in recent years. Blending survivalism, Christianity and conservatism, the mountain stronghold of the American Redoubt has gained momentum since the Covid pandemic.

Jim Rawles keeps the location of his ranch a secret. Somewhere in northern Idaho, the writer and former U.S. officer has built a retreat where he and his family are preparing for what he calls “the end of the world as we know it.” “I moved to the area in 1991 from California, where I had previously lived,” he says by phone. There were simply too many people and government power had become too intrusive.”

Three decades later, Rawles has made a name for himself. Now a best-selling author of political-fiction novels and a disaster survival guide, he named the imaginary country that encompasses the mountainous areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, plus parts of Oregon and Washington, “American Redoubt,” a term for a military fortification. Sparsely populated, far from the coast and major cities, but fertile and with many lakes and rivers, this part of the continent is, according to Rawles, the best refuge in case of disaster, natural or social. “I coined the term around 2011,” he says, recommending in a manifesto to move to the region. It’s not a political movement, more of a philosophy. It’s not a secession either: rather, we advocate partition.”

Inserted like a wedge between Montana and Washington state, bordering the Canadian province of British Columbia, northern Idaho is a region of lakes and mountains, valleys and forests covered during the winter with deep snow. The area is full of French names, Coeur d’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, given by the Coureurs des bois and trappers from Canada. Towns are scarce, usually small communities isolated in the snow where the gas station also serves as a grocery and hardware store. Most people live in isolated farms with painted barns.

“If you look at a map of population density, you’ll see a big white spot in the northwestern United States: that’s the American Redoubt,” says Rawles. On average, there are fewer than five people per square mile, and many more deer than people. The county I live in is the size of the state of Delaware but has only 15,000 people and not a single stoplight.” “Living here is a breath of fresh air, physically and mentally. There are obviously constraints, long commutes to run errands and not many government services. But people take care of themselves and their neighbors. If a tree falls in the road we don’t call the county, we just get out our chainsaws and cut it.”

The American Redoubt movement belongs to the survivalist movement, popular in the United States, whose members are also nicknamed “Preppers” (short for “prepared”). Rawles is the author of a survival manual that has become a classic of the genre. His blog, SurvivalBlog, for “prepared individuals living in uncertain times”, has over 120,000 regular visitors. Rawles details his thoughts, experiences and techniques for preparing to live as self-sufficiently as possible, with a lot of practicality and a bit of dry humor.

To the survivalist philosophy, he adds a political dimension. Rawles explained as early as 2009 in his textbook the hypothesis of a coronavirus epidemic that would lead to social unrest and a collapse of the state. “I’ve never trusted the government and the Covid experience confirmed my doubts,” he says. In any real crisis, people are on their own. This is what I call the ‘YOYO’ moment, an acronym that stands for ‘you’re on your own’.”

But Rawles is not a wacky hermit or a misanthrope preparing in his den for the end of the world. His approach is eminently practical. For him, survival cannot be individual and requires cooperation. “It’s the classic dilemma,” he explains, “you can’t survive alone, and must be able to rely on others. But you can’t trust just anyone either. So safety means moving to a sparsely populated area with people you can trust. People who are a little old-fashioned, with traditional values, and who live off the land are often the ones you can count on in a pinch.”

“In the region, most people chop their own firewood, grow a garden and often raise chickens, sheep and cows. Their traditional, pre-internet skills give them a better chance of survival than those glued to their smartphones, who will likely have a minor nervous breakdown when their devices stop working.”

The Covid pandemic, the containment policies imposed in Democrat-governed states, the tensions of the 2020 election year, marked by an electric campaign, and the riots that have accompanied anti-racist protests in major U.S. cities have accelerated the movement. There are no statistics on the number of these political migrants who have come to North Idaho, but there are enough of them to have spawned specialized real estate agencies.

“I don’t offer services to people on the left,” says Chris Walsh, principal of Coeur d’Alene-based Revolutionary Realtor. “I stopped because my other clients, who are conservative, didn’t want to see these people coming in who set regulations everywhere they go. I don’t usually have to ask liberals their political views: they express them themselves. The first question they ask is whether there are a lot of guns in the area,” he says. “Of course, everyone has guns around here! And that’s why there’s almost no crime.” Chris Walsh states on his website that he “does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, origin, age, gender… However, I reserve the right… to refuse service to anyone based on political ideology.”

Chris Walsh is more than a realtor. He helps newcomers to the American Redoubt not only find land and property, but also settle into the new environment. “My clients are people who come looking for a more independent life,” he says. They come from all over the United States, but the majority are Californians fleeing crime and stifling regulations. I warn them about the difficulties of becoming totally independent overnight. You learn from your experience, little by little. A Detroit native himself, Walsh tells them about his own. He lives nearly self-sufficiently on a farm equipped with solar panels. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, know-how and effort. Those who try to do everything at once are the first to fail. After two or three years, they give up and move on.” “Some people are surprised at how free we are in this area, that you don’t need a permit to cut down a tree on your property.”

In an increasingly polarized America, where the political divide between Republicans and Democrats is widening as states pass increasingly divergent legislation, the American Redoubt movement has helped increase conservative influence in Idaho, which has been a solidly Republican state for several years now. Online radio stations and websites have sprung up, such as Redoubt News and the Radio Free Redoubt podcast, “the new home for God-fearing, freedom-loving patriots in the Western United States.” Don Bradshaw, the founder of Redoubt News, served in the Idaho Congress. The local Kootenai County Republican Party chapter has many supporters of the movement and is very influential in local elections.

On February 12, the guest of honor at the party’s annual dinner was Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia’s congresswoman and one of the muses of the MAGA movement, the Trumpist radicals. A few days later, she posted a message on Twitter encouraging political separatism. “We need a national divorce. We need to separate the red (Republican) states from the blue (Democrats) and shrink the federal government. That’s what everyone I talk to says. Whether it’s the woke, deviant, and repugnant culture issues being inflicted on us, or the anti-American and treasonous policies of the Democrats, we are done.”

Jim Rawles does not consider his movement a political organization. “The American Redoubt is not a party,” he says. We don’t have meetings; I’ve never even met most of the people who claim to be in the movement. But, logically, people want to maintain a conservative government and support like-minded candidates. And the movement is self-sustaining: as conservatives flee California, it becomes more and more progressive, while states like Idaho, Montana, nd Wyoming become more and more conservative. People are sorting themselves out, and I think that will lead at some point to some pretty profound political changes. The more conservative states will demand more autonomy from the federal government, because the federal government is unfortunately dominated by the big coastal cities.”

The movement advocates for cultural homogeneity and for “conservative Christians and Jews” who share traditional values. Rawles is against any form of racism. “Fortunately, there are no racists or anti-Semites in the American Redoubt [movement],” he says. I wouldn’t want to see the name sullied by racism or intolerance. There are Blacks, Asians and Native Americans in the movement. What unites us is the love of freedom and individualism, regardless of the color of one’s skin.”

[Copyright 2023, by Le Figaro. Any re-posting outside of SurvivalBlog is not allowed without permission by Le Figaro. Any quotations of any length must also be authorized by Le Figaro.]