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They need not use force to take over

16 July 2012

Summary:   This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post More evidence that the military is slowly cutting itself off from civilian control about the public’s high esteem of the military — and the military’s low esteem of the civilian government. It does not imply tanks in the street.  The opposite seems more likely.  Force is used in the absence of real power, and the military has both hard and soft power. Such as their dominance of the news media and skill at information operations.

To set the mood for today’s post, here’s “Silent Running” by Mike and the Mechanics (1985). And remember — my forecasts about the decline of the Republic have consistently proven wrong. Proven too optimistic (see #1 on the Smackdowns page)

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Many responses to yesterday’s post see a military take-over of the government — allied with our wealthy elites — as a tanks in the street scenario.  While the US military has great power (we spend 10x more than Mexico as a % GDP, not even including domestic intel & security services), its greatest powers are its soft powers.

These are ineffective against an engaged citizenry, jealous of its liberty — such as the Americans described in the Federalist Papers, and the many Americans who read and discussed those letters (average Americans, merchants and farmers). But these soft powers can be decisive against a passive and foolish people, people just content to just get along.

What are those soft powers?

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“All political problems can be solved by the correct application of power. … It is the application of the power, not its amount, that matters.”
— Karellen, leader of the Overlords, in Arthur C. Clarke’s masterwork Childhood’s End (1953)

(1) The American public’s near reverence of the military, described yesterday.  We have forgotten what our forefathers knew: to appreciate the service of the men and women who serve in the military does not mean reverence of the military as an institution.

(2)  The military’s near-total dominance over the US news media. Glenn Greenwald, among many others, has amply proven this. Such as today’s article showing how “Where the Pentagon goes, CNN follows, like an impossibly loyal dog”. The veil hiding this was torn with the revelations — quickly covered up — in 2008 that the news media relied on consultants in effect controlled by DoD (details here).

Conducting information operations on us is one of our military’s core competencies — and perhaps their greatest power.

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!, 2 September 2009
  2. 4GW at work in a community near you , 19 October 2007 — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  3. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  4. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  5. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep, 2 December 2008
  6. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009
  7. How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
  8. Another example of war advocates working their rice bowls, 24 December 2009
  9. Think-tanks bribe journalists to promote our wars, 24 December 2009
  10. Iran will have the bomb in 5 years (again), 20 January 2010
  11. Every day brings new advocacy for war. That’s our America., 1 November 2010
  12. The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!, 17 October 2011
  13. Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons, generating waves of fear in America for 20 years, 9 November 2011
  14. Using covert operations to discredit your enemies, 27 November 2011

“Silent Running” by Mike and the Mechanics (1985)

Take the children and yourself
And hide out in the cellar
By now the fighting will be close at hand
Don’t believe the church and state
And everything they tell you
Believe in me, I’m with the high command

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

There’s a gun and ammunition
Just inside the doorway
Use it only in emergency
Better you should pray to God
The Father and the Spirit
Will guide you and protect from up here

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

Swear allegiance to the flag
Whatever flag they offer
Never hint at what you really feel
Teach the children quietly
For some day sons and daughters
Will rise up and fight while we stood still

Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?
Can you hear me, can you hear me running?
Can you hear me running, can you hear me calling you?

Can you hear me running (can you hear me calling you?)
(Can you hear me) hear me calling you?
(Can you hear me running) hear me running babe?
(Can you hear me running) hear me running?
Calling you, calling you

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. John Stanton permalink
    16 July 2012 3:29 pm

    What happens when the military of a country becomes more “progressive and vocal” than the civil sector? Recognizing religious and lifestyle practices once considered alternative as “normal”. The Pentagon’s research on the Gay Lesbian issue was extraordinarily excellent. The implementation plan for that effort put to shame diversity plans at corporations, colleges and the diversity community itself. Opening more roles for women in combat is on the way.

    All of this is a-ok by me which makes me wonder about how the military would rule the USA. Combatant Commanders are more powerful than US senators and ambassadors…

    Here are some lyrics from Steppenwolf’s “Monster” that seem appropriate for the post-911 USA

    Once the religious, the hunted and weary
    Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
    Came to this country to build a new vision
    Far from the reaches of Kingdom and pope

    Like good Christians some would burn the witches
    Later some got slaves to gather riches

    But still from near and far to seek America
    They came by thousands, to court the wild
    But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
    To be their spirit and guiding light

    And once the ties with the crown had been broken
    Westward in saddle and wagon it went
    And till the railroad linked ocean to ocean
    Many the lives which had come to an end

    While we bullied, stole and bought a homeland
    We began the slaughter of the red man

    But still from near and far to seek America
    They came by thousands to court the wild
    But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
    To be their spirit and guiding light

    The Blue and Grey they stomped it
    They kicked it just like a dog
    And when the war was over
    They stuffed it just like a hog

    And though the past has its share of injustice
    Kind was the spirit in many a way
    But its protectors and friends have been sleeping
    Now it’s a monster and will not obey

    The spirit was freedom and justice
    And its keepers seemed generous and kind
    Its leaders were supposed to serve the country
    But now they won’t pay it no mind
    Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
    Now their vote is a meaningless joke
    They babble about law and order
    But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told

    Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose
    It’s got our heads into the noose
    And it just sits there watchin’

    The cities have turned into jungles
    And corruption is stranglin’ the land
    The police force is watching the people
    And the people just can’t understand
    We don’t know how to mind our own business
    ‘Cause the whole world’s got to be just like us
    Now we are fighting a war over there
    No matter who’s the winner we can’t pay the cost

    ‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
    It’s got our heads into the noose
    And it just sits there watchin’

    America, where are you now
    Don’t you care about your sons and daughters
    Don’t you know we need you now
    We can’t fight alone against the monster

    Like

    • 16 July 2012 4:46 pm

      “What happens when the military of a country becomes more “progressive and vocal” than the civil sector?”

      That’s an interesting thought, but how likely is it? When was the US military every more “progressive” than US civilian society? Integration after WWII merely reflected US society outside the South, and lagged the 1960s civil rights revolution by a decade or more (can a reader point to research on this topic?)

      The standards of treatment for women in the military lags that of civilian society by decades, ditto for gays & such. To cite just two of hundreds of examples:

      (1) Officiers and NCOs at the 1991 Tailhook Assn. symposium behaved in a manner that would have resulted in immediate dismissal if done at an event of most large corporations. The initial DoD response reflected the views of the man who led the NIS investigation, Real Admiral Duvall Williams, who said: “a lot of female Navy pilots are goo dancers, topless dancers, or hookers.” Widespead outrage sparked an IG investigation, which revealed the WIlliams’ investigation to be a cover up, resulting in his resignation in September 1992.

      (2) Captain Owen Honors was relieved of command of the USS Enterprise in January 2011 for making and showing raunchy videos over several years. This was a controversial action among military circles; in any major corporation he would have been fired immediately for such a thing — the only surprise being at his stupidity.

      Perhaps there is DoD research advocating radical steps, but nothing in modern US military history suggests the liklihood of actual DoD policies in advance of those commonplace in the civilian world.

      Like

    • 16 July 2012 9:14 pm

      I don’t know Fabius. I don’t have any research, but if you want to trade anecdotes, there’s Boyd in Vegas (Coram, 91-93). Then there’s the matter of pay inequality. A four-star general makes about 9 times as much as an E-2 (an E-1 is a recruit). Military pay tables can be downloaded from the DoD Pay Tables, but note the pay limits for higher ranks. As I recall, the average Fortune 500 CEO makes somewhat more.

      We’ve had government-provided healthcare since forever, and we still offer a defined-benefit pension plan. And despite the occasional Col Blimp, we put an enormous stress on the education and physical fitness of our members.

      As your examples show, the military is far from perfect, and we could both cite many examples of DoD failing to live up to its claims of meritocracy — a hazard of institutions composed of human beings — but it’s not absurd to argue that it is the most progressive of our large organizations.

      Like

    • 17 July 2012 2:03 am

      That’s a great point, that pay inequality is lower in the military than in civilian life. But…

      (1) That’s probably a long-term structural feature of military life, going back to the 19 century.

      (2) Pay differentials are not the only form of compensation. The military pays its elites with nice living quarter, servants, and power. Esp the latter, the power to order people to go even unto death.

      I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.
      — The Centurion in Matthew 8:13

      I don’t believe these are signs that the military is progressive in any usual sense of the term. Just that some aspects of it are and long have been different.

      Like

  2. Duncan Kinder permalink
    16 July 2012 3:33 pm

    It is human nature to desire to control one’s own destiny.

    For many Americans, the military seems to offer the last chance for such control.

    But the last 10 years belie this belief – which is growing increasingly exaggerated, emotional, and delusional.

    But this is the exaggerated posturing of someone in denial; of someone who subconsciously realizes his days are numbered.

    Like

    • 16 July 2012 4:48 pm

      Great comment. “Why” is truly the most difficult question, and you give a likely explanation.

      Thanks!

      Like

  3. Unna permalink
    16 July 2012 5:43 pm

    A childhood memory: Although my father, a marine in WWII, was very proud of his service, I don’t recall his ever “identifying” as a marine, at least in the way it’s said people do today. All four of my uncles were combat veterans, although none drew their “identity” from such service. Their service was something they had done. Their identity was as “family men” and as men who grew up in a certain community. The military was something you did “if you had to go” but not otherwise. These were essentially civilians whose lives as civilians were unwelcomely interrupted, but of course, they did their duty.

    Present era experience. Driving back from a vacation in Canada to Vermont, where we lived at the time, we crossed the US border in Northern Maine – truly the middle of nowhere – without incident and drove another 20 miles or so where we were stopped at a military roadblock. A uniformed man approached the car to make his enquiries. Behind him 30 feet away were 3 tall very well built conspicuously armed uniformed men standing at ridged parade rest. Very eery visuals in the twilight. We drove on. “What was that all about?” First thought: military display behavior for the benefit of American civilians. Second thought: This is a country that may not have a good future.

    During the era of the Roman Republic the idolized person in society (and by Roman politicians) was the small farmer patriot. Later, after the advent of the Empire, it became “The Roman Soldier.”

    Theory: Cultural-Governmental forms follow function. What does the American state actually function as? What does it do abroad? What does it attempt to accomplish at home, and for whom? What the American state apparatus attempts may naturally serve to shape and change its cultural and governmental forms into the America we see emerging today.

    The “ideal” American is now no longer the small farmer or tradesman or skilled factory worker. It’s the soldier. Question: Why should anyone be surprised by this?

    Like

  4. 16 July 2012 7:24 pm

    >>>And remember — my forecasts about the decline of the Republic have consistently proven wrong. Proven too optimistic<<<

    Yes and no. Your forecast of a military dictatorship and the end of the republic is not wrong, nor the manner in which it will be accomplished. Your just too soon in its accomplishment.

    My view is that the US is tracking the Roman historical experience between the 3rd Punic War (146 BC) and the rise of the generals (Sulla/Marius) around 100 BC. I equate the end of the Cold War to the last Punic war.

    It seems to me the 1st & 2nd world wars and the Cold War equate with the 3 Punic wars. The destruction of Rome's citizen/farmers equates with the destruction of the US middle classes. Military service during the early years of the Late Republic devolved from the citizen/soldier ethic into the professionalization of the legions, a process well advanced in the US military. Class warfare between plebeians and the patricians is perfectly echoed in the 1% vs 99%, the Populares (Demo's) vs the Optimates (Repub's) and Main Street (masses) vs Wall Street (plutocrats).

    Rome was perpetually engaged in suppressing rebellions in the western Mediterranean provinces it gained after the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars. The US has been globally engaged in overseas adventures, counter insurgency campaigns & wars since its rise as a global power and Hegmon.

    One difference I do see is that the coming military autocracy will be strictly an institutional affair evolving from the US executive branch, while the Roman was at first personal in nature, latter becoming centered within the Imperial Household after the founding of the empire under Augustus. A true fait accompli if ever there was one.

    Roman violence was mostly focused and targeted against Patricians and wealthy classes by occasional purges and mass liquidations following the civil wars and foiled putsches. Caesars attempt at benevolence towards elites was ill advised and fatal. I believe a similar fate awaits our brainless elites who are begging for what they ought not.

    Rome's citizens were concentrated in the cites after they lost their farms. The modern trend is for super cities. American citizens like the plebs can still vote (a fact that mysteriously escapes the notice of our elites) and in their impoverishment and hated for elites they always rally to the Man of democracy. While military power rested in the Legions, political power was in the mobs. A fact emperors forget to their great peril, at least in the western experience.

    I believe the perception the US is a bonafide empire proselytized by the left is mistaken. The deceased General Odom's view that the US is a Quasi/Empire, or what Oswald Spengler would say is "a thing in the becoming" is the more correct analysis of America. I believe misperception leads to the wrong tactics in combating the imperialization of the state and destruction of the republic. It may even hasten it.

    Exactly where we are in this 50 year or so time frame I don't know, but I believe we are living through the beginning stages of the end of our late republican period. I believe those who think America is finished or in decline will be grievously disappointed. Rome went through horrific societal upheaval, economic ruination, eternal war in the provinces, 3 servile insurrections and several civil wars and the list of woe goes on. We on the other hand are having a far easier time of it to date.

    Like

    • Unna permalink
      16 July 2012 9:59 pm

      @ahhijawarfjk:

      Just a few comments. Violence in Rome was a two way street. The reform Gracchi brothers were murdered by senatorial forces. Sulla persecuted popular supporters. Elites, both populares and senatorial leveled proscriptions on one another’s wealth and lives out of anger, revenge, and greed all the way through this era and beyond.

      Also, drawing Spenglerian parallels too closely is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I like Spengler as a suggestive “heuristic” but beyond that, we’re on our own. For example, how can you be sure that America still has a constitutional republic as its defacto form of government? The Roman republic slipped away finally under Augustus with most Romans still believing they lived in the same Republic as their ancestors. Local politicians were elected in hotly contested personality driven campaigns where great issues were never discussed. America could be well into the principate.

      Also, who’s to say America will last so long just because Rome did? What would happen if Texas decided to leave the Union? Who might follow? Would America fight a civil war II with nukes? The USSR passed on that.

      The future is open to many possibilities, each one having a certain probability – like predicting the future position of an electron. The status and interaction of human choice in this mix is an issue people have debated for too long to remember. My belief is that human choice is a present force affecting future possibilities. Like Yogi Bera said, making predictions is very difficult, especially about the future. Of course, I am one of his worst offenders and would have been thrown off the team. But predict we must, because our predictions affect our choices in the present. And choices, in these matters can be, shall we say, “existential” ones.

      Like

    • Unna permalink
      17 July 2012 3:09 am

      @ahhijawarfjk:

      “The destruction of Rome’s citizen/farmers equates with the destruction of the US middle classes.”

      The destruction of those citizen farmers was the thing that began to pull the whole thing apart – at least in my opinion. It started the process that eventually led to dictatorship. Those citizen farmers and their landless decendents filled up the city and became “the Roman Mob”. I hate it when people these days rail about the “dole” and welfare having destroyed the Roman spirit, which I don’t doubt. But they have no idea what led to the creation of the mob to begin with.

      Like

  5. 17 July 2012 11:19 am

    Terrific Post. Silent running….Great song from a seemingly strange time far, far in the past.

    The Vermont Border scene, so apropos. (I was bird hunting recently in MT near and across the US/CA Border way off the the pavement and out of nowhere a DHS Agent speeds across the Prairie. “We know you have penetrated the Border; “they” sent me (with Sat, GPS and text msg!).”

    Duncan’s comment probably describes the vast majority of safe and secure Ones who hope this all passes. The idea that soldiering was the natural responsibility of a citizen vs. The Adoration we now see is again a long lost perspective. If you have not lived long enough, you would never know of that common perspective.

    “This” could all go along a long time perhaps, but the tensions building in the US could crystalize quite quickly. The under classes (yes, Class) must have enough left on the Table to remain calm.

    The garote around Iran? There is one forming around the US, too?

    This Blog ….simply fascinating in it’s reach!

    “Can you hear me running……calling you?”

    Breton

    Like

  6. Leo Halpin permalink
    19 July 2012 2:07 am

    Unfortunately, we face many of these same truths, exacerbated our “new” professional military :

    “Once, it was different. When we went to the district commandant to enlist, we were a class of 20 young men …(with) no definitive plans for our future … We were still crammed full of vague ideas which gave to life, and to war as well, an ideal – almost romantic character. We were trained for 10 weeks …and in this time more profoundly influenced than by 10 years of schooling. We learned that a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer. Astonished, then embittered, and finally indifferent, we recognized that what matters is not the mind but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill. With our young awakened eyes, we saw that the classical conception of (a free man) …here resolved itself into a renunciation of personality such as one would not ask of the meanest servants -.

    “Behind us lay rainy weeks – grey sky, grey fluid earth, grey dying. The rain soaks through our overcoats and clothing – we remain wet the entire time we are in the line. We can never get dry. Those with high boots tie sand bags around the top so the mud does not pour in …the rifles are caked, the uniforms caked, everything is fluid and dissolved, the earth one dripping, soaked, oily mass, in which lie yellow pools with red viral streams of blood into which the dead, the wounded and survivors slowly sink.

    “For us (18-year-old’s) …they should have been mediators and guides to the world. …Although we often made fun of them. …in our hearts we trusted them. We associated authority with greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But, the first death we witnessed shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted then theirs. While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that, there were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards – they’re very free with those expressions.”

    — Erich Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

    Like

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