EDITORIAL
Going to the Roots of the Problem: Part 2 of 4
By Edwin Vieira - February 25, 2010

In light of the self-evident dangers it poses to Americans' constitutional liberties, a nationwide network of police agencies centrally controlled from Washington, D.C., is bad enough. For if such a network is not itself a "national police state", it certainly provides the instrumental basis for one. Unfortunately, the deep thinkers in the "homeland-security" business are working feverishly to insinuate into their scheme not simply all civilian law-enforcement agencies throughout America, but also the regular Armed Forces. As a practical matter, this is arguably sensible (from their point of view), inasmuch as hyperinflation, depression, or hyperinflation coupled with depression will surely set off eruptions of mass violence beyond the capabilities of most if not all State and local police departments to put down, particularly in urban areas.

Anyone even randomly surfing the Internet these days will stumble upon overwhelming evidence of the antagonism and rancor already rising at a fever pitch among common Americans against the self-serving, self-perpetuating political and economic leaders whom they quite rightly believe to have sold them and their country down the river Styx. One can easily imagine how intense and irreconcilable this anger will become-and in what eruptions of mass violence it will manifest itself-in the course of a catastrophic collapse of the economy throughout the United States.

Thus, the political leadership in Washington, D.C., and the economic string-pullers in New York City know that they stand on shaky ground today, and anticipate that their footing will become even less secure tomorrow. Moreover, they understand that when they can no longer depend upon the good will of the people, they must be able to suppress collective manifestations of the people's ill will. To crush dissent of the intensity to be expected during a nationwide economic collapse will require vast numbers of "boots on the ground" – which explains the ever-mounting emphasis by officials in "homeland-security" agencies on involvement of the Armed Forces in domestic "peacekeeping".

Concerned Americans should pay serious attention, therefore, to a study prepared by Nathan Freier for the Strategic Studies Institute of the United States Army War College in November of 2008, entitled Known Unknowns: Unconventional "Strategic Shocks" in Defense Strategy Development. Under the heading "Violent, Strategic Dislocation Inside the United States" appears the following passage:

Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security. * * * [U]nforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency * * * are all paths to disruptive domestic shock.* * * DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance.

A whole host of long-standing defense conventions would be severely tested. Under these conditions and at their most violent extreme, civilian authorities, on advice of the defense establishment, would need to rapidly determine the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States. Further still, the whole concept of conflict termination and/or transition to the primacy of civilian security institutions would be uncharted ground. [5]

These statements and their implications are disquieting. For example:

"Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security."

But is not setting "priorities" with respect to "basic domestic order and human security" the prerogative and duty of the civilian political structure, and not of "the defense establishment"? If "the defense establishment" itself were "reorient[ing] priorities", then would not "the defense establishment" be effectively in charge?

"DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility."

But are not the "broad resources" of the Department of Defense already "at the disposal of civil authorities", under any and all circumstances? Does not the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 delegate to Congress the exclusive and plenary authority "[t]o make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces"? And, that being so, how could the Department of Defense enjoy legal autonomy and discretion in this matter, such that it could be "forced" only "by circumstances", and not be ordered to act by Congress and required to obey, irrespective of what the "circumstances" might be? Or do some people in "the defense establishment" envision their "broad resources" as ultimately subject only to their own independent command and control?

"[U]nforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency * * * are all paths to disruptive domestic shock."

But are any of these potential calamities really "unforeseen" at the present time? Certainly they are not unforeseeable, in light of the inherent instability and fragility of America's monetary and banking systems, and the questionable competence of and patent mismanagement by the people who all too often have been and remain in charge of them. In fact, is the sequence posited here not only perfectly foreseeable, but also actually foreseen and even expected in the not-so-distant future: namely, "economic collapse", followed by "loss of functioning political and legal order", followed by "purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency" that will serve as a pretext for domestic deployment of the Armed Forces?

"DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."

But if the Department of Defense were truly "an essential enabling hub", then "the continuity of political authority" would be sustained primarily, if not solely, by military force. Under the Constitution, however, military force can never be any, let alone the "essential", source of "political authority". The only institutions of an even quasi-military nature to which the Constitution explicitly assigns the authority and the responsibility "to execute the Laws of the Union" and "suppress Insurrections" are "the Militia of the several States", which are separate from and independent of the regular Armed Forces.

Moreover, what sort of catastrophe could cause "a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict" so grave as to threaten "the continuity of political authority"? Plainly, it would not be merely an economic collapse. Rather, it would have to entail an economic collapse coupled with actions by the political authorities that would have alienated to the point of rebellion tens and tens of millions of Americans in many States or even nationwide. In that case, though, would "the continuity of [a] political authority" capable of such blunders and of such oppression arguably be desirable or even defensible?

"Under these conditions and at their most violent extreme, civilian authorities, on advice of the defense establishment, would need to rapidly determine the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States."

But if under such exigent circumstances "civilian authorities" were acting "on advice of the defense establishment", who would be likely to call the shots? Indeed, if conditions were "at their most violent extreme", would not the "civilian authorities" be compelled by their own inexperience, insecurity, and possibly incompetence simply to defer to "the defense establishment", particularly if the latter insisted that "the continuity of political authority" depended upon such deference?

Moreover, what could be more imprudent than to allow "the defense establishment", in the midst of a crisis, to advise "civilian authorities" as to "the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States"? For obvious reasons of conflict of interest as well as legal incompetence, those who are called upon to execute "military force" should never be consulted as to what supposedly constitutes "the legitimate use" of such force. They should be told, not asked, what constitutes such "legitimate use". Besides, has not the Constitution, particularly in the Bill of Rights, already set out for both civilian officials and the Armed Forces "the parameters defining the legitimate use of military force inside the United States" – or should the Constitution simply be disregarded?

"[T]he whole concept of conflict termination and/or transition to the primacy of civilian security institutions would be uncharted ground."

But were this "whole concept" "uncharted ground", what guarantee would exist that a return to civilian control over "security institutions" would ever occur – particularly if it would occur only upon the "advice of the defense establishment"? Besides, does not the Constitution establish the absolute "primacy" of civilian control over all "security institutions", including every component of "the defense establishment", at all times? And, that being so, on what legal ground could such primacy ever be overridden by, and direction of "security institutions" ever turned over to, "the defense establishment"?

Within the confines of this particular strategic study, these thorny questions are unanswered. But, if one consults History's textbook, they are not unanswerable.

As Richard Weaver once observed,"ideas have consequences" – and, one might add, egregiously bad ideas almost always engender disastrous, even if perhaps unintended, consequences. The lesson that History teaches, but that the deep thinkers in the "homeland-security" apparatus in Washington, D.C., apparently have not absorbed, is that once politicians (in any country) have turned to the Armed Forces to put a lid on domestic dissent arising out of failed economic and social policies, the Armed Forces quickly conclude that they are able and even entitled to become political powers in their own right, on their own initiative, and on their own terms. After all, why should the Armed Forces not exercise control over the policies and other decisions civilian officials make concerning the deployment of the Armed Forces, particularly when those officials' incompetence or corruption has brought about the domestic disturbances the Armed Forces' members are expected to risk their lives to quell? And then why should the Armed Forces themselves not promulgate, or at least oversee, policies on all economic and social matters in the first place? Could they fail any more miserably than have the civilian officials? And then why should the Armed Forces not select, or at least exercise a veto over the selection of, the civilian leadership, so as to forefend future blunders by imbeciles who have insinuated themselves into top positions?

Once they had been called in as domestic "peacekeepers", the Armed Forces would be uniquely positioned to take over politically, because they could quite correctly point to the civilian leadership as the efficient cause of the chaos, thereby delegitimizing and even demonizing that leadership – both in its present embodiment in certain individuals, and in principle altogether. Indeed, essentially all of the old leadership groups, institutions, and structures, whether in the sphere of national politics or in the upper echelons of the economy, could easily be convicted in the court of public opinion with neither trial nor appeal, because once the country had come under some variety of "martial law" the only "official" position permitted to be aired would be the one that had passed the Armed Forces' censorship. And with that mass of propaganda as a base, real convictions before "military tribunals" of the most despised among the old leadership groups could easily follow.

Real convictions before "military tribunals" might even need to follow, in order to convince an enraged populace that the Armed Forces seriously intended to stamp out and punish civilian political corruption and incompetence once and for all. (So, before the bright lights in Washington, D.C., finalize their plans to deploy the Armed Forces for the purposes of domestic "peacekeeping" in the midst of the social and economic chaos for which they themselves are primarily responsible, they should recall that the sword of "martial law" in the hands of others in desperate circumstances can cut in more than one direction.)

Click here for part: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Footnotes:

5 – Pages 32-33

This four-part editorial was previously posted on News With Views.

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