Sunday, August 19, 2018

Not Now, Not Ever: An American Coup

If it were not for the tyranny of low expectations, I would not believe that some folks in my twitter feed are pushing back against the idea that the US military should stay out of politics.  Folks reacting to my post about not cheering so loudly for McRaven's blast against Trump or Kori Schake's are arguing that the oath of a military officer is to fight against all enemies--foreign and domestic.  And that scares the crap out of me.  I concur that the system is not working--that the Congress is not challenging the President when he abuses his power.  But I disagree about any idea that the military has a say in this.

But the oath???  I am not an historian, but I am pretty sure the "and domestic" part of the oath did not have in mind taking down the President, but instead is focused on things like Shays' Rebellion and, yes, the Civil War.  I don't think that the inclusion of "and domestic" was aimed at replacing the President of the United States.  Yes, we sail in uncharted waters these days, but getting the military involved is a bad, bad idea.  Why?
  1. The factor most associated with coups d'etat is previous coups.  That is, once norms against such stuff are weakened and once it is seen as thinkable and even acceptable to have the military seize power, they might come back again and again.
  2. When militaries get into power, they get corrupted by it.  They will come in, saying it is just to protect democracy from the corrupt and the inept, but then making political decisions such as who gets what will taint the military.  They might just see "the national interest" requiring more military spending, less oversight, whatever.
  3. You think things are divided now?  Just wait until some officer orders his or her troops to do something in the political sphere, such as shoot at protestors or confront other military units that see things differently? No good can come from that.  
I could go on, but the spectre of endless coups, of a corrupted military, and of civil war should be a sufficient deterrent, right?

What recourse is there when Trump abuses power?  The obvious ones: vote and protest and pressure Representatives and Senators to do their damn job. Boycott media outlets and their corporate sponsors if they are supporting Trump and his abuse of power.  Asking the military to do something here is kind of like asking someone else to do one's own job.  Getting Congress to act, challenging the President--that is the job of citizens and the media, not the armed forces.

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