On the Possibility of a Military Coup in the United States of America

About the possibilities of a military coup in the United States, historian Andrew Jonas said this;

“Coup d’etat in the United States would be too fantastic to contemplate, not only because few would actually entertain the idea, but also because the bulk of the people are strongly attached to the prevailing political system and would rise in defense of a political leader even though they might not like him. The environment most hospitable to coups d’etat is one in which political apathy prevails as the dominant style.”

The question to ask is whether ‘political apathy’ now ‘prevails as the dominant style’ in the United States of today or not?

With the unending ‘war on terror’ resulting in a heavy tampering of the American Constitution by the current US Administration, and the consequent granting of virtually limitless powers to the President of United States for the duration of the unending war, a real ‘Constitutional Conundrum’ has been created.

Ironically, this self-granting of limitless powers in turn has now manifested itself in an inverse power vacuum being created at the decision making level that is now becoming more and more visible with each passing day. Despite the fact that American nation seems to understand more than any other nation that the armed forces exist to support and defend government, not to be the government, yet faced with an intractable national problem on the one hand, and having an efficient and capable military on the other, it is all too enticing to start viewing the military as a gainful solution or as the ‘ultimate saviors’ <>a la<> certain banana republics where the military does indeed call the shots.

The seeds of the outrage are all there. The war-ravaged economy is in the dumps, American casualties in Iraq are mounting with Iraq itself now in the throes of a civil war, corruption in high places is rampant, the environment is in trouble, the delicate subject of ‘immigration’ has been given a needless prod resulting in massive protests and political scandals are exploding on almost daily basis in Washington. In addition to all this, despite a national and international uproar, the current American leadership seems to be inching inexorably towards yet another war–this time with Iran.

Americans becoming frustrated with democracy and disheartened with the apparent inability of their elected government to negotiate the nation’s confounding impasses, thus, is a natural response. Unable to effect a change themselves, they may now be looking for someone or something that could produce workable solutions. Despite its misuse by the civilian leadership, the one institution of government in which the Americans continue to retain faith is their military.

Ever since Washington’s warnings about the dangers of large military establishments in his farewell address, Americans have generally regarded their armed forces with a careful mix of awe and respect. For over two centuries that admiration was rewarded, and most Americans have come to consider the very idea of a military coup outrageous. To be sure, there always were eccentric conspiracy theorists that saw the Pentagon’s hand in the assassination of President Kennedy, President Nixon’s downfall, and similar events yet not very many Americans would think that a military coup d’etat in America of today is a tangible possibility.

That fact may be slowly, but surely, changing. According to a very recent Guardian report, for example, the US government is increasingly faced with a intensifying split between its civilian and military leadership over the war on Iraq after a fourth retired general called for the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to stand down. This latest was retired Major General Charles Swannack, who led the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. The other three were Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, the former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Major General Paul Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops until 2004 and retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, the former head of US Central Command.

The unparalleled ferocity of the attacks and repeated calls for serving officers to go public with their dissent was starting to cause concern among military analysts. “If this opens up so we have more and more officers speaking up and blaming Rumsfeld and blaming senior civilians, then it is possibly heading towards a fairly dangerous civilian-military crisis,” opined Andrew Bacevich, a military historian at Boston University.

Richard Gabriel fittingly observed in his book ‘To Serve with Honor’ that, “When one discusses dissent, loyalty, and the limits of military obligations, the central problem is that the military represents a threat to civil order not because it will usurp authority, but because it does not speak out on critical policy decisions. The soldier fails to live up to his oath to serve the country if he does not speak out when he sees his civilian or military superiors executing policies he feels to be wrong.” While Gabriel was right when he described military leadership’s responsibilities vis-à-vis the civilian leadership, he may have been off the mark when he dismissed the military’s potential to threaten civil order.

Efforts to carve a role for the military in America’s civilian affairs can be traced to as far back as the Carter administration. According to two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Knut Royce in a July 1983 series in the San Francisco Examiner, a presidential directive had been drafted by a few Carter administration personnel in 1979 “to allow the military to take control of the government for 90 days in the event of an emergency.” A requirement on page one of the directive said, “Keeping the government functioning after a nuclear war is a secret, costly project that detractors claim jeopardizes US traditions and saves a privileged few.” There was a heated debate, Royce noted, within the Carter administration as to just what constituted an “emergency.”

Then again during the Iran-Contra affair it came to light that a few high officials of the US government were planning a possible military/civilian coup. Miami Herald on July 5, 1987 ran the story. The article, by Alfonzo Chardy, revealed Oliver North’s involvement in plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take over federal, state and local functions during an ill-defined national emergency.

With the unending ‘war on terror’ continuing endlessly, the incessant chant of ‘enemies all around’ and the inevitable militarization of the American society, the armed forces have now penetrated many vital aspects of American society. There now is an entire generation of young Americans who have grown up comfortable with the sight of military personnel strutting about their streets and on their campuses. Military uniforms now draw no stares. Furthermore, with the ever increasing importance attached to agencies like Homeland Security and FEMA, the military is now ideally positioned in thousands of communities to support the supposed coup.

Given these treacherous times, there are increasing indications that Americans’ traditional and strong resistance to any military interference into civilian affairs may be waning. The time may not be very far when they start re-thinking the appeal and need of that resistance. Indeed, many may already be comparing the military’s principled competence with the shenanigans and uselessness of their elected officials, and finding the former more capable.

American public’s unease too is now increasing in a direct proportion to the top military brass’s voicing of its opinion. The terms ‘impeachment’, ‘censuring’, ‘removal from power’ etc. have now become a common lexicon not just in the fringe media. Never before has the threat of disorder occasioned by an increasingly isolated Chief Executive so precipitated with each passing day. Needless to say that the inept civilian leadership, on all sides of the American political spectrum, direly necessitates a strong headship in these troubled times.
With the current US administration getting the lowest ever job approval ratings from American public; the country now suffers from a deep pessimism about politicians and government after years of false promises and outright lies. Ruling politicians and their proposals seem rotten and repetitive. With surfacing of reports of vote rigging in the last elections, the American voters now seem to have also given up hope of finding answers through the ballot. Even a cursory glance at the alternative media shows that an increasing number of Americans have come to view the chief function of their government as inventing a security threat and then turning the job over to the military. If that be the case, some may argue, why not remove the corrupt middlemen and entrust the task directly to the military.

The “environment of apathy” Janos characterized as a forerunner to a coup seems to have arrived in America.

America, ladies and gentlemen, has entered a dangerous phase.

Copyrights: Anwaar Hussain