Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #562 Miscellaneous Articles and Updates

Recorded July 23, 2006

Lis­ten: MP3  Side 1  Side 2


Intro­duc­tion: Begin­ning with dis­cus­sion of the pos­si­bil­ity of a mil­i­tary coup in the United States, the pro­gram fea­tures a panel dis­cus­sion of experts invited to dis­cuss the topic in an arti­cle in Harper’s. In this arti­cle, the pan­elists explore a num­ber of ways in which mil­i­tary influ­ence in soci­ety has been, and is, expanding—thus afford­ing the mil­i­tary an avenue for affect­ing polit­i­cal mat­ters that is less dras­tic than a coup. They ana­lyze the pos­si­bil­ity that a ter­ror­ist inci­dent fea­tur­ing the use of a weapon of mass destruc­tion might result in an assump­tion of power by the mil­i­tary. Sig­nif­i­cantly, they dis­cuss a “creep­ing coup” that stems, in most of their opin­ion, from the cold war and, above all, the Bush administration’s unceas­ing empha­sis on war. The broad­cast also explores the leas­ing of state high­ways to for­eign companies—a hall­mark of this country’s eco­nomic dis­tress. Con­clud­ing with dis­cus­sion of an attempt on the life of Harry Tru­man by Puerto Rican nation­al­ists, the broad­cast notes that the would-be assas­sins were mem­bers of a fas­cist group.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Dis­cus­sion of the demo­graph­ics of mil­i­tary recruit­ment and their influ­ence on the civilian/military bal­ance; a recount­ing of past con­flicts between the civil­ian and mil­i­tary sec­tors of soci­ety; analy­sis of the pro­found con­flict between the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and the mil­i­tary; analy­sis of Puerto Rican fas­cists’ his­tor­i­cal alliance with the Falange, based in Franco’s Spain and allied with Nazi Germany.

1. The pro­gram begins with intro­duc­tion of the pan­elists in the dis­cus­sion: “Eter­nal vig­i­lance being the price of lib­erty, Americans—who spent decades war-gaming a Soviet inva­sion and have taken more recently to day­dream­ing about “tick­ing bomb” scenarios—should cast at least an occa­sional thought toward the only truly exis­ten­tial threat that Amer­i­can democ­racy might face today. We now live in a unipo­lar world, after all, in which con­quest of the United States by an out­side power is nearly incon­ceiv­able. Even the best-equipped ter­ror­ists, for their part, could dis­patch at most a city or two; and armed rev­o­lu­tion is a futile prospect, so fear­somely is our home­land secured by police and mil­i­tary forces. To sub­due Amer­ica entirely, the only route remain­ing would be to seize the machin­ery of state itself, to steer it toward malign ends—to carry out, that is, a coup d’état. Given that the linch­pin of any coup d’état is the par­tic­i­pa­tion, or at least the sup­port, of a nation’s mil­i­tary offi­cers, Harper’s Mag­a­zine assem­bled a panel of experts to dis­cuss the state of our own military—its cul­ture, its rela­tion­ship with the wider soci­ety, and the stead­fast­ness of its loy­alty to the ideals of democ­racy and to the United States Con­sti­tu­tion. The fol­low­ing forum is based on a dis­cus­sion that took place in Jan­u­ary at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Arling­ton, Vir­ginia. Bill Wasik served as mod­er­a­tor.”
(“Amer­i­can Coup d’Etat”; Harper’s Mag­a­zine; April/2006; pp. 43–44.)

2. “ANDREW J. BACEVICH is a pro­fes­sor of inter­na­tional rela­tions at Boston Uni­ver­sity and the author, most recently, of The New Amer­i­can Mil­i­tarism. He served as an offi­cer in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1992.

“BRIG. GEN. CHARLES J. DUNLAP JR. is a staff judge advo­cate at Lan­g­ley Air Force Base in Vir­ginia. In 1992 he pub­lished an essay enti­tled “The Ori­gins of the Amer­i­can Mil­i­tary Coup of 2012.” [His arti­cle forms the prin­ci­pal ele­ment in FTR#74.] (His views here are per­sonal and do not reflect those of the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense.)

“RICHARD H. KOHN is the chair of the cur­ricu­lum in Peace, War, and Defense at the Uni­ver­sity of North Car­olina at Chapel Hill and edi­tor of the book The United States Mil­i­tary Under the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States, 1789?1989, among others.

“EDWARD N. LUTTWAK is a senior adviser at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tional Stud­ies and the author of many books, includ­ing Coup D’Etat: A Prac­ti­cal Handbook.

“BILL WASIK is a senior edi­tor of Harper’s Mag­a­zine.” (Ibid.; p. 44.)

3. Begin­ning with the fun­da­men­tal focal point of dis­cus­sion, the pan­elists are in agree­ment that an overt mil­i­tary coup in the United States would not be pos­si­ble. In this con­text, it is impor­tant to note that, as Mr. Emory notes in the pro­gram, the pan­elists do not take account of events such as the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy, a suc­cess­ful coup. When the media are con­trolled, and in this coun­try they are and have been for some time, any­thing is pos­si­ble. Note also that the pan­elists do not dis­cuss the coup attempt of 1934. [For more about the coup attempt of 1934, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 448, 475, 481, 602.] “BILL WASIK: Let us begin with the most straight­for­ward approach. Would it be pos­si­ble for a rene­gade group of mil­i­tary offi­cers, or the offi­cer corps as a whole, to sim­ply plot and carry out a coup d’état in the United States? EDWARD LUTTWAK: If some­body asked me to plan such a coup, I wouldn’t take on the assign­ment. CHARLES DUNLAP: I wouldn’t either. [Laughs] LUTTWAK: I’ve done it for other coun­tries. But it just wouldn’t work here. You could go down the list and take over these head­quar­ters, that head­quar­ters, the White House, the Defense Depart­ment, the tele­vi­sion, the radio, and so on. You could arrest all the lead­ers, detain or kill off their fam­i­lies. And you would have accom­plished noth­ing. ANDREW BACEVICH: That’s right. What are you going to seize that, hav­ing seized it, gives you con­trol of the coun­try?” (Idem.)

4. “LUTTWAK: You would sit in the office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense, and the first place where you wouldn’t be obeyed would be inside your office. If they did fol­low orders inside the office, then peo­ple in the rest of the Pen­ta­gon wouldn’t. If every­body in the Pen­ta­gon fol­lowed orders, peo­ple out in the mil­i­tary bases wouldn’t. If they did, as well, Amer­i­can cit­i­zens would still not accept your legit­i­macy. RICHARD KOHN: It’s a prob­lem of pub­lic opin­ion. All of the organs of opin­ion in this coun­try would rise up with one voice: the courts, the media, busi­ness lead­ers, edu­ca­tion lead­ers, the clergy. LUTTWAK: You could shut down the media—KOHN: You can’t shut it down. It’s too dis­persed. LUTTWAK: No, you could shut down the media, but even if you did shut down the media, you still wouldn’t be able to rule. Because, remem­ber, in order to actu­ally rule, you have to have accep­tance. Think of Sad­dam Hus­sein: he was not a very, you know, pop­u­lar leader, but he did have to be obeyed at the very min­i­mum by his secu­rity forces, his Repub­li­can Guards. So there is a min­i­mum group that one needs in order to con­trol any coun­try. But in this coun­try, you could never con­trol such a min­i­mum group.” (Idem.)

5. “KOHN: I’ve raised this point before with mil­i­tary audi­ences: Do you really think you can con­trol New York City with­out the coop­er­a­tion of 40,000 New York police offi­cers? And what about Idaho, with all those mili­tia groups? Do you think you can con­trol Idaho? I’m not even going to talk about Texas. BACEVICH: And this comes back to the fed­eral sys­tem. As Edward pointed out, even if you seized Wash­ing­ton, Amer­i­cans are will­ing to acknowl­edge that Wash­ing­ton is the seat of polit­i­cal author­ity only to a lim­ited extent. The coup plot­ters could sit in the Capi­tol, but up in Boston we’re going to ask, ‘What’s this got to do with us?’” (Idem.)

6. “DUNLAP: It’s also impos­si­ble given the cul­ture of the mil­i­tary. The notion of a cabal of U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cers col­lud­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment is almost unthink­able. Civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary is too deeply ingrained in the armed forces. BACEVICH: The pro­fes­sional ethic within the mil­i­tary is firmly com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ple that they don’t rule. WASIK: So we can agree, then, that the blunt approach won’t work. Was there ever a time in our his­tory when the United States was in dan­ger of an out­right mil­i­tary takeover?” (Idem.)

7. The pan­elists dis­cuss a num­ber of inci­dents of sub­or­di­na­tion within the mil­i­tary, rang­ing from the imme­di­ate after­math of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion until the period just after the Amer­i­can Civil War. “KOHN: The clos­est, I would say, was a fac­tion in the mil­i­tary at New­burgh, New York, in March of 1783. The army felt like it was about to be aban­doned in the oncom­ing peace; offi­cers were con­cerned about their rein­te­gra­tion into Amer­i­can soci­ety, that they wouldn’t get the pay that had been promised them. They got caught up in a very com­plex plot, in which they were used by a fac­tion in the Con­gress that was try­ing to change the Arti­cles of Con­fed­er­a­tion to give the cen­tral gov­ern­ment the power to tax. Nation­al­ist lead­ers in Con­gress basi­cally pro­voked a coup attempt and then double-crossed the offi­cers that they induced to do it by tip­ping off George Wash­ing­ton. All this led to a famous meet­ing of the offi­cers when it was pro­posed that they see to their own inter­ests, and either march on the Con­gress or, if the war con­tin­ued, retire to the West and aban­don the coun­try. Wash­ing­ton faced down the con­spir­a­tors in an emo­tional moment at New­burgh on March 15, 1783.” (Ibid.; p. 45)

8. “DUNLAP: He was read­ing a let­ter from a con­gress­man, as I recall, and then at one point he said, ‘Gen­tle­men, you will per­mit me to put on my spec­ta­cles. For I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the ser­vice of my coun­try.’ KOHN: And this caused a kind of emo­tional break at the meet­ing, accord­ing to the peo­ple who were there. DUNLAP: Because they real­ized how much he had sac­ri­ficed. And it humil­i­ated them. LUTTWAK: So the point here is to make sure your army has excel­lent retire­ment ben­e­fits. This was an indus­trial action. It was about get­ting paid. KOHN: The pay rep­re­sented a lot more than just the money, though. There was deep polit­i­cal intrigue involved, and per­sonal ani­mos­ity. LUTTWAK: In other words, the repub­lic was in great dan­ger in 1783. Which doesn’t cause imme­di­ate alarm these days in the streets of Man­hat­tan.” (Idem.)

9. Intro­duc­ing a cen­tral ele­ment of analy­sis, the pan­elists explore the fact that the mil­i­tary has learned to per­form in the polit­i­cal arena. “BACEVICH: But this does bring up another cru­cial rea­son there could never be a mil­i­tary coup in the United States: the mil­i­tary has learned to play pol­i­tics. It doesn’t need to have a coup in order to get what it wants most of the time. Espe­cially since World War II, the ser­vices have become very skill­ful at exploit­ing the media and at manip­u­lat­ing the Congress—particularly on the defense bud­get, which is esti­mated now to be equal to that of the entire rest of the world com­bined. DUNLAP: I agree, though I wouldn’t char­ac­ter­ize it neg­a­tively. The mil­i­tary works within the sys­tem to achieve its needs. LUTTWAK: A few years back, the pres­i­dent of Argentina told the country’s air force that its bud­get for the next year would be $80 mil­lion. Now, Argentina has a fairly large air force; $80 mil­lion was enough for one base, basi­cally. But the air force had no recourse, no back chan­nels to Con­gress, no talk shows to go on. That could never hap­pen in the United States. BACEVICH: Right. Our mil­i­tary doesn’t need to over­throw the gov­ern­ment, because it has learned how to play pol­i­tics in order to achieve its inter­ests. (Idem.)

10. The pan­elists do note the pos­si­bil­ity that an attack with weapons of mass destruc­tion might trig­ger a series of events that could lead to an assump­tion of extra con­sti­tu­tional author­ity by the mil­i­tary. The pos­si­bil­ity that ele­ments that might seek power could pre­cip­i­tate such a set of cir­cum­stances is one to be care­fully con­sid­ered. “WASIK: Are there any unfore­seen cir­cum­stances in which a coup might become pos­si­ble in the United States? KOHN: One could con­ceive of sit­u­a­tions in which the mil­i­tary would be invited to exer­cise extra­con­sti­tu­tional author­ity. Imag­ine rolling bio­log­i­cal attacks, with the need to quar­an­tine whole cities or regions. A mil­i­tary takeover might arise, indeed, from a politi­cian want­ing to sim­ply retain order in the coun­try. It might be sup­ported by the Amer­i­can people—and Con­gress and the courts might go along. LUTTWAK: Such a sce­nario would prob­a­bly play out through a multi-stage trans­for­ma­tion. After all, take any group of nice peo­ple on a trip; if five bad things hap­pen to them in a row, they will end up as can­ni­bals. How many adverse events are needed before a polit­i­cal sys­tem, arguably the most firmly rooted con­sti­tu­tional sys­tem in the his­tory of the world, becomes uprooted? How many Sep­tem­ber 11ths, on what scale? How much panic, what kind of lead­er­ship? All of us can say that it is fool­ish to talk of a coup in the United States, but any of us could design a sce­nario by which a coup becomes pos­si­ble. DUNLAP: If there were a mas­sive attack by a nuclear weapon, or by some other weapon of mass destruc­tion, the imme­di­ate cri­sis might require the use of the armed forces. But obvi­ously there are plans for those sce­nar­ios, and if they’re exe­cuted, then con­trol would be main­tained under the Con­sti­tu­tion.” (Ibid.; pp. 45–46.)

11. Among the sce­nar­ios envi­sioned by the pan­elists would be a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis pre­cip­i­tated by a fun­da­men­tal dis­agree­ment by the duly appointed branches of civil­ian gov­ern­ment. “BACEVICH: But these are sce­nar­ios in which the mil­i­tary would be invited to over­step its role. KOHN: Yes. I can­not con­ceive that in such a sit­u­a­tion the mil­i­tary would aggran­dize its posi­tion on its own. WASIK: So a weapon of mass destruc­tion might cause the mil­i­tary to assume greater power. What about a purely polit­i­cal cri­sis? Could the mil­i­tary step in if, say, the Con­sti­tu­tion were unclear on a course of action? DUNLAP: One inter­est­ing sce­nario would be a cri­sis between the branches of gov­ern­ment that are expected to con­trol the mil­i­tary. I.E., if the armed forces were caught between the orders of the pres­i­dent, the Con­gress, or even the courts, and there were no con­sti­tu­tional path to resolve the dis­agree­ment.” (Ibid.; p. 46.)

12. “KOHN: Wouldn’t the armed forces sim­ply freeze? They’d be par­a­lyzed. LUTTWAK: It’s a very inter­est­ing line of inquiry. Let’s say a pres­i­dent, exer­cis­ing his proper and legit­i­mate pres­i­den­tial author­ity, ini­ti­ates a mil­i­tary action. Then Con­gress wakes up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this pres­i­dent is berserk; he’s start­ing a war, and we’re against it.’ But in the mean­time, the mil­i­tary force has already been put in a very com­pro­mised sit­u­a­tion. If things were mov­ing very fast, the mil­i­tary might well take an uncon­sti­tu­tional action. KOHN: Some­thing sim­i­lar actu­ally hap­pened dur­ing Recon­struc­tion: there were con­flict­ing orders from the Con­gress and the pres­i­dent. LUTTWAK: What were the details? KOHN: It was 1867, when Grant was the com­mand­ing gen­eral. BACEVICH: The pres­i­dent, Andrew John­son, was in favor of a rapid rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and min­i­mal polit­i­cal change. The Con­gress, under the con­trol of rad­i­cal Repub­li­cans, wanted to impose change on the South, and also thereby con­sol­i­date Repub­li­can con­trol of the region. This dis­pute came to a head when Con­gress passed laws that essen­tially stripped John­son of his con­trol over the army: as far as Recon­struc­tion was con­cerned, Grant and Edwin Stan­ton, who was sec­re­tary of war, were to take their march­ing orders from Con­gress. When John­son fired Stan­ton, Grant found him­self both the com­mand­ing gen­eral of the army and the act­ing sec­re­tary of war. But he struck an obe­di­ent, apo­lit­i­cal pose, and he con­tin­ued to do the bid­ding of Con­gress.” (Idem.)

13. The pan­elists note that con­flict­ing orders between branches of the gov­ern­ment, as well as a pres­i­den­tial man­date to under­take the impos­si­ble might be required to bring about a mil­i­tary coup. “LUTTWAK: What about a sit­u­a­tion in which the mil­i­tary was ordered to start a war that it did not believe could be won? Imag­ine that Pres­i­dent Bush orders the Amer­i­can armed forces to effect a land­ing in Fujian province and march up to Bei­jing. The army would say, ‘Of course, Mr. Pres­i­dent, we’re will­ing to obey orders. But we have to have a uni­ver­sal mil­i­tary con­scrip­tion, we have to bring our forces up to four mil­lion and a half.’ And imag­ine that Bush refuses. BACEVICH: The mil­i­tary would leak it to the Wash­ing­ton Post, and the war would never hap­pen. It’s the Bosnia case: when Pres­i­dent Clin­ton wanted to inter­vene in Bosnia, Gen­eral Barry McCaf­frey tes­ti­fied to Con­gress and gave a wildly inflated pro­jec­tion of the num­ber of occu­pa­tion troops that would be required. By over­stat­ing the cost of the oper­a­tion, the gen­er­als changed the polit­i­cal dynamic and Clin­ton found his hands tied, at least for a period of time.” (Idem.)

14. The pan­elists also note that the mil­i­tary is seen by the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion as a great “prob­lem solver.” Will the pub­lic “demand” that the mil­i­tary get involved in soci­ety in ways that are unprece­dented? “WASIK: Let’s get back, though, to the sub­ject of crises, whether real or con­trived. It seems as though the Amer­i­can pub­lic wants to see the mil­i­tary step in dur­ing these sit­u­a­tions. A poll taken just after Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina found that 69 per­cent of peo­ple wanted to see the mil­i­tary serve as the pri­mary respon­der to nat­ural dis­as­ters. DUNLAP: Peo­ple don’t fully appre­ci­ate what the mil­i­tary is. By design it is author­i­tar­ian, social­is­tic, unde­mo­c­ra­tic. Those qual­i­ties help the armed forces to serve their very unique pur­pose in our soci­ety: namely, exter­nal defense against for­eign ene­mies. In the mil­i­tary we look to destroy threats, not appre­hend them for pro­cess­ing through a sys­tem that pre­sumes them inno­cent until proven guilty. And I should add that if you do try to imprint sol­diers with the restraint that a police force needs, then you dis­ad­van­tage them against the ruth­less adver­saries that real war involves. WASIK: Then why do so many Amer­i­cans say they want to see the mil­i­tary get involved in law enforce­ment, ‘peace­keep­ing,’ etc.? DUNLAP: Amer­i­cans today have an incred­i­ble trust in the mil­i­tary. In poll after poll they have much more con­fi­dence in the armed forces than they do in other insti­tu­tions. The most recent poll, just this past spring, had trust in the mil­i­tary at 74 per­cent, while Con­gress was at 22 per­cent and the pres­i­dency was at 44 per­cent. In other words, the armed forces are much more trusted than the civil­ian insti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to con­trol them.” (Ibid.; pp. 46–47.)

15. One of the most impor­tant parts of the dis­cus­sion con­cerns the belief on the parts of the pan­elists that “mil­i­ta­rized civil­ians” could cre­ate a “creep­ing coup” by insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing national secu­rity and a cul­ture of con­flict. The pan­elists feel that events such as the cold war and 9/11 have gen­er­ated an impe­tus toward this sit­u­a­tion. As will be seen below, the pan­elists feel that the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush has accel­er­ated this trend. “BACEVICH: The ques­tion that arises is whether, in fact, we’re not already expe­ri­enc­ing what is in essence a creep­ing coup d’état. But it’s not peo­ple in uni­form who are seiz­ing power. It’s mil­i­ta­rized civil­ians, who con­ceive of the world as such a dan­ger­ous place that mil­i­tary power has to pre­dom­i­nate, that con­sti­tu­tional con­straints on the mil­i­tary need to be loos­ened. The ide­ol­ogy of national secu­rity has become ever more woven into our pol­i­tics. It has been espe­cially appar­ent since 9/11, but more broadly it’s been going on since the begin­ning of the Cold War. KOHN: The Con­sti­tu­tion is being warped. BACEVICH: Here we don’t need to con­jure up hypo­thet­i­cal sce­nar­ios of the pres­i­dent deploy­ing troops, etc. We have a pres­i­dent who cre­ated a pro­gram that directs the National Secu­rity Agency, which is part of the mil­i­tary, to engage in domes­tic eaves­drop­ping. LUTTWAK: I don’t know if this would be called a coup. KOHN: Because it’s so incre­men­tal? LUTTWAK: It’s more like an ero­sion. The pres­i­dent is usurp­ing addi­tional pow­ers. Although what’s inter­est­ing is that the president’s usurpa­tion of this par­tic­u­lar power was entirely unnec­es­sary. The For­eign Intel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act court, which approves terrorism-related requests for wire­taps, can be sum­moned over the tele­phone in a mat­ter of min­utes. In its entire his­tory, it has said no to a request for sur­veil­lance only a hand­ful of times, and those were cases where there was a mis­take in the request. Really, even a small-town sher­iff can get any inter­cep­tion he wants, so long as after the fact he can show a judge that there was rea­son­able cause.” (Ibid.; p. 47.)

16. “BACEVICH: Bush’s move was unnec­es­sary if the object of the exer­cise was to engage in sur­veil­lance. It was very use­ful indeed if the object is to expand exec­u­tive power. KOHN: Which is exactly what has been the agenda since the begin­ning of this admin­is­tra­tion. LUTTWAK: Now you’re attribut­ing motives. BACEVICH: Yes, I am! If you read John Yoo, he sug­gests that one con­scious aim of the project was to elim­i­nate con­straints on the chief exec­u­tive when it comes to mat­ters of national secu­rity. DUNLAP: I will say that even if it was a com­pletely legal project, there is a ques­tion of how appro­pri­ate it is for the armed forces to be involved in that kind of activ­ity. Since, as I noted before, the Amer­i­can peo­ple have much less con­fi­dence in those insti­tu­tions of civil­ian con­trol than they do in the armed forces, we need to be very care­ful about what we ask the mil­i­tary to do, even assum­ing it’s legal.” (Idem.)

17. The pan­elists con­tinue to dis­cuss a “creep­ing coup” under­way, that stems from actions that Pres­i­dent Bush has ini­ti­ated. “WASIK: If we are talk­ing about a ‘creep­ing coup’ that is already under way, in what direc­tion is it creep­ing? BACEVICH: The creep­ing coup deflects atten­tion away from domes­tic pri­or­i­ties and toward national-security mat­ters, so that is where all our resources get deployed. ‘Lead­er­ship’ today is what is demon­strated in the national-security realm. The cur­rent pres­i­dency is inter­est­ing in that regard. What has Bush accom­plished apart from pos­tur­ing in the role of com­man­der in chief? He declares wars, he pros­e­cutes wars, he insists we must con­tinue to pros­e­cute wars. KOHN: By fram­ing the ter­ror­ist threat itself as a war, we tend to look upon our national secu­rity from a much more mil­i­tary per­spec­tive. BACEVICH: We don’t get Social Secu­rity reform, we don’t get immi­gra­tion reform. The role of the pres­i­dent increas­ingly comes to be defined by his mil­i­tary func­tion. KOHN: And so our for­eign pol­icy becomes mil­i­ta­rized. We neglect our diplo­macy, de-emphasize allies.” (Idem.)

18. In addi­tion, the pan­elists see the civil­ian sector’s high regard for the mil­i­tary actu­ally accen­tu­at­ing the military’s role in soci­ety. “DUNLAP: Well, with­out com­ment­ing on this par­tic­u­lar subject—KOHN: You shouldn’t. [Laughs] DUNLAP: —is this not some­thing that is decided at the bal­lot box? I mean, aren’t these the kinds of issues that the Amer­i­can peo­ple decide when they elect a pres­i­dent? KOHN: But you imply by that state­ment, Char­lie, that the bal­lot box exists as a kind of pris­tine, uncon­tex­tu­al­ized Athen­ian gath­er­ing at the square to vote. In fact, the bal­lot box in this coun­try is the prod­uct of how things are framed by the polit­i­cal par­ties, by the polit­i­cal lead­ers. Also, very few of our con­gres­sional dis­tricts now are really con­tested, after ger­ry­man­der­ing. Very few of our Sen­ate seats are real con­tests. LUTTWAK: It becomes about per­son­al­i­ties: you ask an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen to choose between Laura Bush and Teresa Heinz Kerry, and they choose Laura Bush. But it doesn’t mean that they favor the mis­use of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary to try and change the polit­i­cal cul­ture of Afghanistan. This is madness—and it is bipar­ti­san mad­ness. BACEVICH: That’s a key point. LUTTWAK: Bipar­ti­san mad­ness. This is not even mil­i­tarism. Mil­i­tarism had to do with emi­nent pro­fes­sors of Greek des­per­ate to become reserve offi­cers so they could be invited to the mil­i­tary ball. That’s mil­i­tarism. This is an intox­i­ca­tion about what the actual capa­bil­i­ties of any mil­i­tary force could be.” (Ibid.; pp. 47–48.)

19. Again, the pan­elists feel that the military’s capa­bil­ity for using polit­i­cal influ­ence to real­ize its goals is sig­nif­i­cant. “DUNLAP: This intox­i­ca­tion with the military’s capa­bil­i­ties cer­tainly isn’t com­ing from the uni­formed mil­i­tary offi­cers. BACEVICH: Except inso­far as they are involved in the play­ing of pol­i­tics, in con­stantly press­ing for more resources. Mean­while, we’ve under­funded the State Depart­ment for twenty-five years. LUTTWAK: I once was privy to a peace nego­ti­a­tion con­ducted in the cor­ri­dors of the State Depart­ment. The State Depart­ment lit­er­ally had no funds to give lunch to the par­tic­i­pants, a fact that both sides com­plained bit­terly about. DUNLAP: Well, I don’t think it’s any­thing new that the State Depart­ment is under­funded. The State Depart­ment has no bases in any state, so it does not have a con­stituency. But in terms of the expen­di­ture of resources in the Depart­ment of Defense, that is very much con­trolled by civil­ians and not mil­i­tary com­man­ders. LUTTWAK: But it is still the mil­i­tary that has the resources. BACEVICH: And so over time—because this has hap­pened over time—you cre­ate a bias for mil­i­tary action. Which agency of gov­ern­ment has the capac­ity to act? Well, the Depart­ment of Defense does. And that bias gets con­tin­u­ally rein­forced, and helps to cre­ate a cir­cum­stance in which any pres­i­dent who wants to appear effec­tive, and there­fore to win reelec­tion, sees that the oppor­tu­nity to do so is by act­ing in the mil­i­tary sphere.” (Ibid.; p. 48.)

20. An over­looked fac­tor is the all-volunteer military’s demo­graphic bias, and how that affects the military’s influ­ence in soci­ety. “WASIK: I want to address the ques­tion of par­ti­san­ship in the mil­i­tary. Inso­far as there is a ‘cul­ture war’ in Amer­ica, every­one seems to agree that the armed forces fight on the Repub­li­can side. And this is borne out in polls: self-described Repub­li­cans out­num­ber Democ­rats in the mil­i­tary by more than four to one, and only 7 per­cent of sol­diers describe them­selves as ‘lib­eral.’ KOHN: It has become part of the infor­mal cul­ture of the mil­i­tary to be Repub­li­can. You see this at the mil­i­tary acad­e­mies. They pick it up in the cul­ture, in the train­ing estab­lish­ments. DUNLAP: The mil­i­tary is an inher­ently con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tion, and this is true of all mil­i­taries around the world. Also the demo­graph­ics have changed: peo­ple in the South who were Demo­c­ra­tic twenty years ago have become Repub­li­can today. BACEVICH: Yes, all mil­i­taries are con­ser­v­a­tive. But since 1980 our mil­i­tary has become con­ser­v­a­tive in a more explic­itly ide­o­log­i­cal sense. And that alle­giance has been returned in spades by the con­ser­v­a­tive side in the cul­ture war, which sees sol­diers as vir­tu­ous rep­re­sen­ta­tives of how the coun­try ought to be.” (Idem.)

21. “KOHN: And mean­while there is a streak of anti-militarism on the left. BACEVICH: It’s not that peo­ple on the left dis­dain the mil­i­tary but rather that they are just agnos­tic about it. They don’t iden­tify with sol­diers or sol­dier­ing. LUTTWAK: And their chil­dren have less of a propen­sity to serve in the mil­i­tary. Par­ents who describe them­selves as lib­eral are less likely to make pos­i­tive noises to their chil­dren about the armed forces. DUNLAP: Which brings up a cru­cial point. Let’s accept as a fact that the U.S. mil­i­tary has become more overtly ide­o­log­i­cal since 1980. What has hap­pened since 1980? Roughly, that was the begin­ning of the all-volunteer force. What we are see­ing right now is the result of twenty-five years of an all-volunteer force, in which peo­ple have self-selected into the orga­ni­za­tion. BACEVICH: But the mil­i­tary is also recruited. And it doesn’t seem to me that the mil­i­tary has much inter­est in whether or not the force is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Amer­i­can soci­ety.” (Idem.)

22. Because of the demo­graph­ics of mil­i­tary recruit­ment, the mil­i­tary is more con­ser­v­a­tive than soci­ety as a whole, some­thing the pan­elists feel is cre­at­ing a grow­ing dis­par­ity between the civil­ian and mil­i­tary seg­ments of our coun­try. “KOHN: I don’t think that’s true. BACEVICH: Where do you think recruit­ing com­mand is focused right now? It’s focused on those evan­gel­i­cals, it’s on the rural South. We are rein­forc­ing the lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness in the mil­i­tary because of the con­cen­trated recruit­ing efforts among groups pre­dis­posed to serve. DUNLAP: They are so focused on get­ting qual­i­fied peo­ple. The mil­i­tary is going to the Supreme Court so that it can recruit on cam­puses where cur­rently we’re not able to. KOHN: That’s just law schools. DUNLAP: But it has impli­ca­tions across the armed forces. BACEVICH: The recruiters go for the rich turf, which is where the evan­gel­i­cals are. You have to work a hell of a lot harder to recruit peo­ple from New­ton and Welles­ley, Mass­a­chu­setts. KOHN: Or any­where in the well-to-do or even middle-class sub­urbs. BACEVICH: In an eco­nomic sense, the ser­vices are behav­ing quite ratio­nally. But in doing so they per­pet­u­ate the fact that we have a mil­i­tary that in no way ‘looks like’ Amer­i­can soci­ety.” (Ibid.; p. 49.)

23. “DUNLAP: The other part of the prob­lem is the behav­ior of the politi­cians. They real­ize the affec­tion that Amer­i­can peo­ple have for peo­ple in uni­form. BACEVICH: And so they land on air­craft car­ri­ers to prance around in the flight suit of a fighter jock. Both par­ties now see the mil­i­tary vote as being a part of pol­i­tics, as a con­stituency. It’s a con­stituency that the Repub­li­cans think they own and intend to con­tinue to own. It’s a con­stituency that the Democ­rats want to pry away. KOHN: And par­ti­san­ship in the mil­i­tary over­all, i.e., the per­cent­age of the mil­i­tary that iden­ti­fies with a party as opposed to being ‘inde­pen­dent’ or non-affiliated, is much greater over­all. Not only are mil­i­tary offi­cers more par­ti­san than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion; they’re more par­ti­san than, say, busi­ness lead­ers and other elite groups. I’ve tracked the num­bers of retired four-star gen­er­als and admi­rals endors­ing a can­di­date in pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, and it’s vastly up in the last two elec­tions. BACEVICH: Remem­ber at the Demo­c­ra­tic National Con­ven­tion, where Gen­eral Clau­dia Kennedy intro­duced Gen­eral John Sha­likashvili to address the del­e­gates? Why were they up there? There was only one rea­son: to try to match the parade of retired senior offi­cers that the Repub­li­cans have long been trot­ting out on polit­i­cal occa­sions. KOHN: But is that to get mil­i­tary votes? Or just to con­nect with the Amer­i­can peo­ple on national secu­rity and patri­o­tism? BACEVICH: It’s both. In 2000, the Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee put ads in the Army Times and other ser­vice mag­a­zines attack­ing the Clinton/Gore record. To me that was, quite frankly, con­temptible. WASIK: It seems as if the two are related: if it’s reported that you have the sup­port of the military—as was the case before the 2004 elec­tion, when news­pa­pers noted that Kerry had less than 20 per­cent sup­port within the military—then you get a halo effect among the rest of the vot­ers. Does the par­ti­san­ship of our mil­i­tary present a dan­ger to the nation? KOHN: One of the great pil­lars in our his­tory that has pre­vented mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in pol­i­tics has been the military’s non­par­ti­san atti­tude. That’s why Gen­eral George Marshall’s gen­er­a­tion of offi­cers essen­tially declined to vote at all, as did gen­er­a­tions before them. In fact, for the first time in over a cen­tury we now have an offi­cer corps that does iden­tify over­whelm­ingly with one polit­i­cal party. And that is cor­ro­sive.” (Idem.)

24. Dur­ing the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion, the military/civilian rift pro­duced sev­eral instances of con­flict between the two parts of soci­ety. “KOHN: Con­sider this glar­ing exam­ple of polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tion by the mil­i­tary: After every other Amer­i­can war before the Cold War, the coun­try demo­bi­lized its wartime mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment. Even dur­ing the Cold War, when we kept a large stand­ing mil­i­tary, we expanded and con­tracted it for shoot­ing wars. But in 1990 and 1991, the military—through Gen­eral Colin Pow­ell, who was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time—intervened and effec­tively pre­vented a demo­bi­liza­tion. BACEVICH: More accu­rately, I’d say that he pre­vented any dis­cus­sion of a demo­bi­liza­tion. KOHN: That’s right. DUNLAP: We did have a reduc­tion in the size of the mil­i­tary. There were cuts of around 9 per­cent, in both dol­lars and man­power. KOHN: But it was noth­ing com­pared to the end of great Amer­i­can wars prior to that. BACEVICH: Pow­ell is explicit on this in his mem­oirs. ‘I was deter­mined to have the Joint Chiefs drive the mil­i­tary strat­egy train,’ he wrote. He was not going to have ‘mil­i­tary reor­ga­ni­za­tion schemes shoved down our throat.’ KOHN: This was not a coup, but it was very clearly a cir­cum­ven­tion of civil­ian polit­i­cal author­ity. BACEVICH: Let us also con­sider the clas­sic case of gays in the mil­i­tary. Bill Clin­ton ran for the pres­i­dency say­ing he would issue an exec­u­tive order that did for gays what Harry Tru­man did for African Amer­i­cans. He wins the elec­tion. When he tries to do pre­cisely what he said he would do, it trig­gers a firestorm of oppo­si­tion in the mil­i­tary. This was not the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff merely say­ing, in pri­vate, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent, I would like to give you my pro­fes­sional opin­ion.’ KOHN: It was the most open revolt the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary as a whole has ever engaged in. LUTTWAK: Ever? KOHN: Open revolt, yes.” (Ibid.; pp. 49–50.)

25. Falling well out­side of the accepted guide­lines of civilian-military dia­logue was the vir­u­lent crit­i­cism of the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion over its deci­sion to allow gays to serve openly in the mil­i­tary. “BACEVICH: Now, Clinton’s actions were ill-advised, to put it mildly. But what we got was some­thing like rebel­lion. Two Marines pub­lished an op-ed in the Wash­ing­ton Post, warn­ing the Joint Chiefs that if they failed to stop this pol­icy from being imple­mented, they were likely to lose the loy­alty of junior offi­cers. I mean, holy smokes. DUNLAP: Which brings up the issue: How trans­par­ent should the uni­formed side of the armed forces be about their opin­ions? I will tell you, it is very dif­fi­cult for serv­ing offi­cers to fig­ure out exactly where the line is. There are points where they feel that their mil­i­tary val­ues require them to speak out. KOHN: I’m not sym­pa­thetic. As pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary offi­cers, they are called upon to make far more dif­fi­cult deci­sions in far more ambigu­ous and dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. The civil-military rela­tion­ship is one of the most impor­tant parts of their pro­fes­sion, and if they are not edu­cated and pre­pared enough to make the proper judg­ments, then they don’t belong in high-ranking posi­tions.” (Ibid.; p. 50.)

26. The pan­elists fur­ther high­light the con­tentious debate between the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and the mil­i­tary over the issue of gays serv­ing in the mil­i­tary. “LUTTWAK: It seems as though we should take into account the views of the armed forces in regard to mil­i­tary ques­tions and noth­ing more. The mil­i­tary is like a sur­geon. If you go to a hospital—even if you own the hospital—you will defer to the sur­geon if he tells you that you need your appen­dix out rather than your leg cut off. But if the sur­geon starts talk­ing about reli­gion or pol­i­tics or homo­sex­u­al­ity, you wouldn’t defer to him at all. KOHN: But with gays in the mil­i­tary, the offi­cers framed it in mil­i­tary terms. They said that revok­ing the ban would destroy the good order and dis­ci­pline of the armed forces. LUTTWAK: In the show­ers. KOHN: Exactly. In ret­ro­spect, it was a fool­ish argument—but that was how they framed it, in mil­i­tary terms. LUTTWAK: So how should it have been done dif­fer­ently? Pres­i­dent Clin­ton comes in and wants to allow homo­sex­u­als to serve in the mil­i­tary. Do sol­diers have the right to express them­selves on this? KOHN: Not pub­licly. DUNLAP: By law, you can con­tact your con­gress­man. LUTTWAK: Right. DUNLAP: That may be the answer. The answer may be you can just do it on an indi­vid­ual basis. KOHN: On a pri­vate basis.” (Idem.)

27. More about pub­lic dis­agree­ments between civil­ian and mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment offi­cials: “LUTTWAK: But let’s con­sider a more recent exam­ple. One day Gen­eral Eric Shin­seki, chief of staff of the U.S. Army, hap­pened to be tes­ti­fy­ing on Capi­tol Hill. Some­body asked him about a pos­si­ble inva­sion of Iraq, and Gen­eral Shinseki—reflecting what, as I under­stand it, was the view of any­one who had ever looked at that coun­try and counted its population—said that it would take sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand troops to con­trol Iraq. Where­upon Shin­seki was pub­licly con­tra­dicted by his civil­ian supe­ri­ors, who ridiculed his pro­fes­sional opin­ion. DUNLAP: Right. Dick, do you con­sider that to have been appro­pri­ate feed­back for him? KOHN: No, Shin­seki behaved appro­pri­ately. In con­tra­dict­ing and dis­parag­ing him, the civil­ians sig­naled to the mil­i­tary that they did not want can­dor even when it is required, which is in front of Con­gress. DUNLAP: There are two other inter­est­ing exam­ples with Gen­eral Pace, our cur­rent chair­man. One was when he dif­fered with Defense Sec­re­tary Rums­feld about what a mil­i­tary per­son should do if he or she is present when there’s an abuse dur­ing an inter­ro­ga­tion process. Pace insisted that the mil­i­tary had the oblig­a­tion to intervene—which I think is the right answer. KOHN: But after­ward he fudged it and claimed that there was no dis­agree­ment with the sec­re­tary. DUNLAP: Be that as it may, I think it was the right answer. The sec­ond and, I think, more dif­fi­cult sce­nario was when Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jack Murtha said that he wouldn’t join the armed forces today, nor would he expect oth­ers to do so. Gen­eral Pace pub­licly crit­i­cized Murtha’s remarks. Here was another instance in which the senior rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the uni­formed mil­i­tary spoke out in what was arguably a polit­i­cal con­text against civil­ian lead­er­ship. But in this case again, I thought it was appro­pri­ate.” (Idem.)

28. The pan­elists con­clude by not­ing that the polit­i­cal influ­ence of the mil­i­tary gives it con­sid­er­able con­trol over the course of civic events in this coun­try. “WASIK: So it seems clear that whether we like it or not, the mil­i­tary has learned how to use the polit­i­cal sys­tem to pro­tect its inter­ests and also to uphold what it sees as its val­ues. Think­ing over the long term, are there any dan­gers inher­ent in this? KOHN: Well, at this point the mil­i­tary has a long tra­di­tion of get­ting what it wants. If we ever attempted to truly demobilize—i.e., if the mil­i­tary were sud­denly, rad­i­cally cut back—it could lead if not to a coup then to very severe civil-military ten­sion. BACEVICH: Because the polit­i­cal game would no longer be prej­u­diced in the military’s favor. KOHN: That’s right. BACEVICH: But there is a more sub­tle dan­ger too. The civil­ian lead­er­ship knows that in deal­ing with the mil­i­tary, they are deal­ing with an insti­tu­tion whose behav­ior is not purely defined by adher­ence to the mil­i­tary pro­fes­sional ethic, dis­in­ter­ested ser­vice, civil­ian sub­or­di­na­tion. Instead, the politi­cians know that they’re deal­ing with an insti­tu­tion that to some degree has its own agenda. And if you’re deal­ing with some­body who has his own agenda, well, you can bar­gain, you can trade. That cre­ates a small opening—again, not to a coup but to the mil­i­tary mak­ing deals with politi­cians whose pur­poses may not be con­sis­tent with the Con­sti­tu­tion.” (Idem.)

29. An indi­ca­tion of the eco­nomic dis­tress afflict­ing this coun­try is the fact that a num­ber of states are leas­ing road­ways to for­eign com­pa­nies in an attempt to gen­er­ate rev­enue. One pos­si­bil­ity for a dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law might be the social chaos that would fol­low an eco­nomic col­lapse in the United States. “Its offi­cial state motto is ‘the cross­roads of Amer­ica.’ Yet Indi­ana is about to turn over its entire toll road for the next 75 years to two for­eign com­pa­nies, mak­ing it more expen­sive to drive. The deci­sion to hand the Indi­ana Toll Road to an Aus­tralian and Span­ish team for $3.8 bil­lion at the end of this month has blown up into one of the biggest brawls here in a gen­er­a­tion. It has unset­tled the state’s pol­i­tics in the months before the Novem­ber elec­tions, pit­ting a gov­er­nor who was Pres­i­dent Bush’s first bud­get direc­tor against the peo­ple of north­ern Indi­ana, which the high­way passes through. The deci­sion also places Indi­ana at the lead­ing edge of a nascent trend in which states and local gov­ern­ments are explor­ing the idea of pri­va­tiz­ing parts of the United States’ prized inter­state high­way sys­tem. The idea goes beyond projects, such as North­ern Virginia’s Dulles Green­way, in which states have turned to pri­vate com­pa­nies to build or widen toll roads. Now, they are con­sid­er­ing sell­ing or leas­ing some of the best-known and most-traveled routes across Amer­ica. . . .”
(“Strapped States Try New Route, Lease Toll Roads to For­eign Firms” by Amy Gold­stein; Wash­ing­ton Post; 6/14, 2006; P. A01.)

30. The broad­cast con­cludes with a book review of a vol­ume about an attempt by Puerto Rican nation­al­ists on the life of Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man. Although the inci­dent has been bleached of its polit­i­cal over­tones over the years, it is sig­nif­i­cant that doc­tri­naire fas­cists per­formed the attempted assassination—which might well have suc­ceeded. One should note that in this time period, the GOP and ele­ments of the intel­li­gence com­mu­nity were actively import­ing fas­cist vet­er­ans of World War II in order to incor­po­rate them into the Repub­li­can Party. This was specif­i­cally in an attempt to neu­tral­ize the polit­i­cal influ­ence of Pres­i­dent Tru­man. (For more about this oper­a­tion, which resulted in the for­ma­tion of a per­ma­nent Nazi/fascist branch of the GOP, see—among other programs—FTR#465.) “Forty-two years later, Amer­i­cans remain trans­fixed by the assas­si­na­tion of John F. Kennedy, an event that has spawned a cot­tage indus­try of arti­cles, books, movies and film doc­u­men­taries. Killers who rob a nation of a pop­u­lar pres­i­dent leave names remem­bered in infamy. Their suc­cess gen­er­ates a thou­sand expla­na­tions. Fail­ure, on the other hand, is an orphan. In Amer­i­can Gun­fight, Stephen Hunter, a nov­el­ist and film critic, and John Bain­bridge, Jr., an attor­ney and legal jour­nal­ist, exam­ine the nearly for­got­ten attempt of two Puerto Rican National Party adher­ents, Grise­lio Tor­resola and Oscar Col­lazo, to kill Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man in Novem­ber 1950. Tru­man was tem­porar­ily liv­ing in Blair House at the time. Tor­resola and Col­lazo, guns blaz­ing, attempted to storm the res­i­dence but never made it inside. The episode occurred two days after the National Party had attempted to assas­si­nate Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Munoz Marin and seize con­trol of Puerto Rico. In some way, Tor­resola and Col­lazo imag­ined, Truman’s death would fur­ther the cause of Puerto Rican inde­pen­dence. . . .”
(‘Ter­ror­ists in Wash­ing­ton’ by Stephen Hunter and John Bain­bridge Jr.; Wall Street Jour­nal; 11/8/2005; p. D8.)

31. The would-be assas­sins were mem­bers of a Puerto Rican fas­cist party. It is worth not­ing that Puerto Rico was among those areas in the Spanish-speaking world that were focal points of fas­cist activism of the Falange, based in Spain and backed by the Nazis. Is it pos­si­ble that the assas­sins were act­ing as part of a wider fas­cist milieu, per­haps directed by the Under­ground Reich? (Read about the Falange  “. . . The National Party was a fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion with lit­tle pop­u­lar sup­port, led by a would-be Mus­solini, sup­ported by a black-shirted mili­tia. In Amer­i­can Gun­fight, its oper­a­tives are given human iden­ti­ties; by con­trast, Gov. Munoz Marin, a widely esteemed lib­eral whose pro­grams improved the lives of Puerto Ricans, is given lit­tle sub­stance. . . .” (Idem.)


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