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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Troops in the Streets

Every now and then an email comes my way warning about the day when the government unleashes the military against its own citizens. This day isn't likely to come because for one thing the current regime is not particularly fond of the military.

The Obama Administration isn't inflicting massive cuts on the military, cutting their health care and pushing veteran officers out the door because it likes the military as an institution. It doesn't. And it won't until it remakes it into a fully politically correct institution dedicated to promoting tolerance and fighting global warming. Progress has been made on that front, the Navy is cutting ships and spending money on Green Energy. The Marines are celebrating gay marriage. Any day now the Air Force will be announcing its first wheelchair pilot. But it's still a poor fit with the culture of the left.

If Obama has to have any kind of military, he prefers the kind where young men with college degrees sit in a room, push buttons and kill people thousands of miles away from remotely controlled aircraft. That kind of military is a closer cultural fit with a campaign that is in love with technocratic solutions and always looking for shortcuts to avoid the dangerous and dirty hard work that has to be done. It's also much less dangerous.

Unleashing the military on a civilian population carries a price. Once you call out the troops to protect your regime, one of two things happen. Either the troops don't do it and your government is done. Or they do it and your regime now lives or dies by the support of the military. Within the last few years the use of the military in Egypt and Iran turned generals into the arbiters of political succession. To the left, the idea of the people they despise deciding who should run the country and how is their biggest nightmare. It is one reason that we still have a democracy.

The more that a country depends on its military, the more likely it is to be run by the military. After the United States kept the Union together through a civil war, the first elected President after Lincoln was General Ulysses S Grant, the man credited by many with winning the war. His successor, Rutherford B. Hayes was a another general and a Civil War hero. As was Hayes' successor, James A. Garfield and his successor, Chester A. Arthur. Democratic draft dodger Grover Cleveland briefly broke the pattern, but then the Republicans were back with Benjamin Harrison. From 1869 to 1893, America was ruled by the Republican victors of the war who had at one time been able to put the title of general in front of their name. And that's in a democracy.

Popular wars have led to generals becoming presidents. The Revolutionary War gave us Washington. The War of 1812 gave us Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor. The Spanish-American War gave us Teddy Roosevelt, though he was only a Colonel. WW2 gave us Eisenhower. The Gulf War nearly gave us Colin Powell. The current war may yet give us Petraeus. But the Civil War gave us the largest amount of generals in the White House because it was an internal conflict.

Israel, another democracy which is heavily dependent on the military, has seated three generals in the Prime Minister's chair since the 1990's and far more who are involved in politics. The leader of the opposition is a general and there are five generals in Netanyahu's cabinet. This is a direct result of the elevation of the importance of the military as an institution. The more important the military is to the welfare of the country, the likelier it is to become a career track to prominent positions in the business world and in politics. And that's in a democracy. Imagine the situation in a dictatorship that depends on the military to stay in power.

The left might flirt with the idea of a people's military, but armies are their own institutions and their function forms their character. Communist attempts to create armies of the people still put guns in the hands of peasants who didn't have much in common with their rulers. After nearly a century of repression when the last dying gasp of the Soviet elite called on the military to protect them from the people, the military for the most part did nothing. It wasn't exactly the first hint that the Red Army might be unreliable. Not when 130,000 soldiers defected to the Vlasovites during WW2.

The Soviet Union did not depend on the Red Army, it did depend on the secret police. And the KGB took over. The KGB nearly seized power after Stalin's death and had to be suppressed by the Red Army. In 1982, power fell to an actual KGB Chairman. Today Russia is run by former KGB officers, including a fellow by the name of Vladimir Putin.

In a human body the part that is used the most is the part that develops. So too in a government. When a government relies on the military or the secret police, then those bodies will eventually become the government. But our governments are not all that dependent on the military. They don't rule through troops in the streets, but through bureaucrats in government offices.

Most people don't do things because they are forced to at the point of a gun, but because they have learned to follow regulations and to accept those regulations as second nature. Military planners may run through scenarios for suppressing a Tea Party uprising, but the people who actually run the country know that all they have to do is issue a bulletin and most people will go along with it.

Our dictatorship doesn't depend on men with guns, but men with pens and pocket protectors. Men who fill out forms all day and who know where our permanent record is. Our rule is under the empire of data. We are less worried about informers and more worried that a form that we filled out wasn't done the right way or was lost along the way. The American headquarters of the KGB isn't in a law enforcement building, it's in the EPA and the IRS and a thousand other bureaucratic institutions.

This is the kind of tyranny that the left understands and loves. A fully unionized and unarmed network of bureaucrats enforcing a constantly changing clothesline of rules whose full scope no one knows or understands. This is the tyranny of the byzantine, the chain of complexity and the power of baffling the citizen into submission with an incomprehensible system.

The system we live under is exactly the kind that bearded graduates debating dialectical materialism would build. A horrible Kafkaesque monster that few rebel against because few understand it or are capable of calculating the personal risks to them from the actions of the system. It does not require troops, only some police officers, and their task is less that of suppressing dissent and more of managing the disastrous social consequences of the system.

If this system were ever forced to resort to armed force to stay in power, it would have to undergo some fundamental changes. And that isn't likely to be in the cards. Bureaucracy is a virus, it depends not so much on who is in power, but on being the ones who run things for whoever is in power. Whether Bush or Obama are looking out of the Oval Office, the men and women who interpret their policies in line with the existing agenda are the ones who actually run the country.

The grand show of the American government with its presidents and senators, its elegant domes and assorted rituals, is a facade for the true power of a shadow government of committee meetings and think tanks who shape an agenda and then inject into organizations and associations of government workers who turn it into institutional policy long before the legislatures, governors and presidents have taken a single step.

This is where the true power lies and it is far more pervasive and potent than most people realize. But it is a power that is wholly dependent on our investment in its infrastructure. As long as the majority of the people want the order of working post offices, schools, health care programs, advisories and law enforcement, then the bureaucracy will wield its power until a strong chief executive backed by a united legislature confronts them. And meanwhile what we face are not troops in the streets, but a few million unionized public employees following policy as determined by think tanks, campaigned for by activists and enacted by courts. This is how we are ruled. This is where the danger lies.

If the people running this thing have to call out the military to enforce its latest round of EPA orders, health care mandates and affirmative action orders, then the system will not change that drastically. At least not outwardly. The number of generals running things however will increase and the kinds of people running things now, the smooth Ivy League grads who have never done anything harder than wait tables over summer break in their lives, will find themselves taking orders.

The revolution of the left will be over, not immediately, not overtly, but gradually the system of indirect power that the left has worked so hard to build will become something else. Behind the scenes the system will no longer have the same priorities. The Soviet Union stopped being Communist long before it fell. Had the generals overthrown Hitler, the Third Reich would have reverted back to a more conventional Prussian military dictatorship, even if the soldiers still marched under Swastikas. An America in which the power of the left is dependent on troops in the streets will mean their own defeat. And they know it.

25 comments:

SoCal Observer said...

Great observation and analysis. The latest info I heard tonight is the military overwhelmingly supports Romney. The firing of a general and an admiral, rumored to be due to their willingness to intervene in Benghazi probably will not win much support either. I suspect that even if the joint chiefs of staff passed on the order to the rest of the military, the actual division and air wing commanders would refuse to attack citizens. When Marcos ordered the army out to quell the protests when he stole the election, they refused to act. The protestors were unarmed and many no doubt were friends and relatives. Reservists are not going to pick up weapons and go back into their own towns and suppress friends and relatives here either.

Some dude said...

.Your argument is false. Mind you, you might be correct that there will be no military abuse against the civilian population, but your argument doesnt support that,

The soviet union also wrecked their military, and yet they had no problem maintaining control over the population in the early years of the revolution using (substandard) paramilitary forces, the culling of the soviet oficer core was so disastrous to the effectiveness of the soviet army, that it was cited as the promary reason why the Finns were able to stalemate the Russians in their war.

An effective military is not necessary to impose a totalitarian regime. If anything, itseasier to do it with one that is composed of corrupt inefficient officers.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

No.

After the initial years, the Soviet Union controlled the population with the secret police rather than the military. The secret police also controlled the military and eventually took over.

The military can be inefficient, it can start out with paramilitary roots, but each time it faces a crisis, it will be transformed by that crisis.

Anonymous said...

I agree that comunist-led states are governed by the secret police, not the military. This hapenned in the Soviet Union and all over Eastern Europe. I know that, because my native nation, Albania, was ruled until 1990 by the secret police. During the 1997 civil unrests, the army "melted" in one week, cause it was turned during communism into an ideological arm of the secret police.When forced to act independently, the army dissolved like snow in the sun. This could happen in the USA also, if the governement wants to control the society through secret police-manners.

Dennis Latham said...

What about the FEMA army and the millions of rounds of ammunition purchased by government organizations like the IRS and FEMA? I believe you are right. Most people will follow along like sheep no matter who is in control. Creature comforts matter more than anything. But disarming the population will be another matter. There are millions of people armed to the teeth who will never surrender their weapons.

sheik yer'mami said...

Sultan sez:

"An America in which the power of the left is dependent on troops in the streets will mean their own defeat. And they know it."

And yet, that's what they want. Oh how they lust for it!

When did the left ever shy away from exerting power through the barrel of the gun?

angrymike said...

Nice, posted.......

Anonymous said...

reply to Cassandra: Well said. Sums the past 60 years up in two short sentences.

lemon lime moon said...

There is martial law in Seaside Heights,NJ.

JPINTX said...

Thanks, I enjoyed this essay, especially the description of our current dictatorship. I don't believe that the government will turn to the military, I don't believe the military would do it. To the extent that we will ever have troops in the street, it is the tax collectors, BATF, etc. Will they be/are they already, our version of KGB? After all, we already have our own nomenklatura.

Twenty to twenty five years ago now (maybe more), I had friends who were visiting China regularly as it was beggining to really grow economically. I asked one of them how on earth their business could possibly grow and thrive under the massive regulatory empire that the communists had created? He said, that is simple, the growth is far removed from Bejing, they just do it, they ignore the regulations and bribe the local bureaucrats to do so as well. By the time their plant and sales come to the attention of the Mandarins, they are so successful that they pay a fine and are forgiven.

So, are we at that point ourselves? When do we get there? Will we see a huge expansion of some kind of underground economy or will the number of sheeple continue to increase? Any clear eyed observer must agree that the boxcars of laws our "representatives" write every year have nothing to do with increasing justice, just with determining who gets what piece of the pie. I'm too old to live to see it, just hope my sons and many others are able to out fox the politicians and their minions. That is our only hope, the political elite will never change their ways. Go moonshiners, of all types!

Anonymous said...

Sultan Knish for President!

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

JPINTX,

we've been there for a while. People go to jail for thousands and tens of thousands, but not for billions or trillions. You can flagrantly break the law so long as you know the right people and have the right press.

Local corruption is often even worse than national corruption. And entire industries are built on that corruption. Companies arrange to write laws for themselves in a legal black market.

cdnbn said...

The American government may not be dependant on the military,
but it sure is dependant on the media!!
In the present climate, I could easily imagine some media darling becoming president.
Or someone using that as their path to become POTUS.

Fat Man said...

It has all been forecast, with the same consummate skill that forecast the storm surge of Sandy. Has the warning been heeded any better?

Alexis De Tocqueville: How Democracy Can Become Tyranny
http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/33294.html

It is not possible to write a better or more exact description of our pickle. Do we have any chance of getting out of it?

Roy Lofquist said...

I am an amateur historian. Anybody pushing seventy gets there by osmosis.

The American people go through periodic awakenings - Revolution, abolition, sufferance, abstinence (briefly) and civil rights being most notable. It's happening again. The Tea Party movement, abetted by modern communications, has grown faster and larger than any before. I have heard The Constitution mentioned in more public fora in the last three years than the previous fifty. Take heart people. I have.

Anonymous said...

What I find so unnerving about Benghazi has been the deep involvement of the CIA. About which actions the president does not need to draw the cloak of executive privilege, when he can stamp it "classified". Top secret. Spook.

From the steady reduction in security at Benghazi all through the summer (while Chris Stevens was nearly shouting at the top of his lungs for more security), to the fateful decision to let the CIA handle the firefight with AAS (using only CIA assets in-country), through to the CIA helping Obama construct (and sell) the video narrative.

Your point about the KGB is well-taken.

Anonymous said...

I should add, the video narrative that was used as an excuse to push US adoption of blasphemy laws. We saw Obama go to the UN to tell the world that future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet Muhammad.

Ouch.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought this column was an attempt to reassure opponents of Obama that their fears about the Left's use of the military for domestic control were mere fantasies. Then I received this: www.tikkun.org/nextgen/obama-must-use-military-to-ensure-a-free-and-fair-election

Anonymous said...

Just a correction. William Henry Harrison was the other President from the War of 1812. Zachary Taylor was a general in the Mexican-American War.

Anonymous said...

The government knows it cannot use the military, so it has, over the last decade, put more and more military equipment and training into the hands of "law enforcement". We read of the results every day, where trigger happy thugs gun down citizens and their dogs, SWAT teams evicting persons from their homes, and generally terrorizing the public, while not "keeping the peace", which would eventually negate their usefulness.

-unclezip

ASG said...

The left would never use the Military against the people of the country because the Military of today is far too educated to fall for that crap. Many years ago the military was primarily uneducated people who had few other choices in life. Today this is far from the case, where eductation is essential even to the lowest ranked privates.

If anything I would be more concerned about the relationship of the Left Wing Leadership and the Police Association Unions such as the FOP or the Patrolmans Association. Through regulation, exceutive orders (both Presidential and Governors) and through the guise of Law and Order, they could accomplish basicly the same thing. And education isn't as important or extensive to be a Police Officer.

ZZMike said...

The campaigner-in chief let the consulate in Benghazi be attacked, turning down pleas for help - from forces that were hours away.

I'm not convinced that the military would not respond to orders to "control the civilian population". We saw the beginnings of that at Kent State. We see more of the same almost every day when we read of policemen who fire on civilians, some naked, some armed with deadly toothpicks.

There may well be many who would resist - and I certainly hope most of those are in the officer corps.

SoCal Observer: good points (I'm another SCO.) And the administration seems to be doing everything it can to make sure the military vote is delayed, or lost, or late, or....

Workingstiff said...

Well said.

What has happened here in the US is the creation of a Polyarchy similar to Hitler's Third Reich. Competing bureaucratic organizations that have multiplied like mushrooms since 9/11.

In Hitler's Germany these bureaucrats were intensely jealous of one another, each seeking prominence over another. This inter-organizational rivalry helps' explain why the Nazi's never figured out where or when of the D-Day invasion, as the competing political and armed forces intelligence organizations would not cooperate, and jealously guarded what bits data they had. Each organization had its own uniform and arms--Indeed, following Hitler's death these bureaucrats would fight to take over the leadership of the Reich, as was the case when Rommel anticipated a civil war between the Wehrmacht and the SS during the plot of assassinate Hitler.

Homeland security, TSA, and similar other recently form “security” agencies have become the Praetorian guard of the Presidency, staffed with appointees loyal to him, not to the Constitution. The CIA is the only entity that stands outside of this Polyarchy, with such unquestioned power to be considered the fourth branch of Government.

VA_Rancher said...

ZZMike,

"There may well be many who would resist - and I certainly hope most of those are in the officer corps."

SGT's run the Army. I suspect you will find the enlisted are FAR more likely to be conservative that the Elite Officer Corps... Just look at Stan the Man McChrystal... LibTard of the first degree. Powell who can't see past skin color, etc... I believe the majority of even the officers are Conservative, but % wise, more liberal than enlisted.

I was a sailor and a SGT...
Thats my $0.02...
Your Mileage may vary.

odinslounge said...

Shades of Angelo Codevilla in this article.

It's a very interesting topic and one that would make a great conversation over a few beers.

Traditionally we see dictators hold on to power in a very obvious and public manner. They all had or have power in their countries with no doubt as to who has it. But they all fall eventually and that very reason plays a part. The secret police may be the key to power, and the more ruthless and committed they are the better it is for the dictator. However eventually the people will push back because they know that the sum of all problems is with the dictator and can be easily identified as coming from him.

America is the leviathan. The President may be the figurehead but the power is so spread around that it is hard to make a effective change just by swapping out one part of a machine that big. The EPA, IRS, DHS, ATF all could find a reason currently on the books today to jail every single American.

The symptoms of what ails America are evident and the causes are somewhat known, but it is figuring out what the cure is that is the hardest part of the problem and the biggest obstacle to any changes being done to the system.

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