A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2)

Summary:  Yesterday we saw that since 1999 Americans have lost confidence in our major institutions — except for the military and police.  today we imagine what the consequences of this might be. At the end are links to the other chapters in this series.

21st Century Democracy

He is a man with a gun. He is a killer, a slayer. Patient and gentle as he is, he is a slayer. Self-effacing, self-forgetting, still he is a killer. … All the other stuff, the love, the democracy, the floundering into lust, is a sort of by-play. The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.
— D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (1923)

We can already see the effects of this shift in our patterns of this.  This article gives some valuable if disturbing evidence:  “Americans Love a Good Killer“, John Grant, posted in the consistently excellent CounterPunch, 11-13 May 2012 — Please go there and read it in full.  Excerpt:

This new US military doctrine based on sophisticated intelligence and secret homicide raids virtually anywhere is growing at a time our military is linking more and more with local, domestic police agencies. This phenomenon has the potential for serious civil liberties abuse. National borders are fading and life is becoming more and more globalized; burgeoning communications technologies ironically make us less socially cohesive. Add economic, religious and political polarization to the mix and the symbiosis between the military and local police becomes quite scary.

The ultimate dark question lurking in all this is: Are death squads within the domestic borders of the United States a possibility? Some will surely see such a question as hysterical — in both senses of the word. But for those who feel it can’t happen here, there’s the lesson of that mythic frog who doesn’t hop out of the pot because the temperature of the water is raised very slowly. For those on the right, there’s also the metaphor of Munich, which says if you appease the initial signs of oppressive force and don’t act against it, you’re certain to be screwed later.

Creeping Militarism Arriving On a Street Near You

21st Century Democracy in motion

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Several recent stories suggest how very deep militarism has seeped into the post-9/11, Drug War-obsessed American culture. The Bush Administration’s decision to invade two countries and engage in counter-insurgency wars for ten years is front and center as part of the problem. War has consequences. In the case of Vietnam, it divided the nation.

The first story is about how returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are employing counter-insurgency tactics on the street in places like Springfield, Massachusetts. The enemy is drug gangs, the domestic suppliers of controlled substances illegally imported from places like South America. “Gang members and drug dealers operate very similarly to insurgents,” Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone told the Times; he was a Green Beret in Iraq.

A second story is summed up in its headline: “U.S. Drug War Inside Honduras Waged Iraq-Style.” To interdict drug shipments from South America headed for the US, the US military has constructed three forward operating bases (or FOBs) in Honduras …

The third story recounts the warm reception fired General Stanley McChrystal is getting at Yale, where he has been hired to lecture on leadership. McChrystal, of course, is a proven master at two things: public relations (he was the one-star briefing officer during the Iraq Invasion) and the management of special operations units. He’s arguably the key person in the successful use of killer teams in Anbar Province — known colloquially as “the Salvadoran option” — which developed into the US military’s current special operations doctrine relying on assassin teams and drones to weaken and destabilize enemy leadership. The bin Laden hit was a highly publicized example of this; most examples are top secret.

General McChrystal is famous for a stark and ascetic lifestyle. When reduced to its crude fundamentals, General McChrystal’s leadership expertise amounts to controlling information from the US public and organizing killers. In the 1960s, a man like McChrystal would have faced protests on a college campus. Today, he’s a rock star. …

Military/Police Symbiosis

… It’s interesting to look at the issue as a hemisphere problem. In Latin America, the overlap between military and police forces has been notoriously problematic, with many instances of human rights abuses. US military trainers are now being deployed to places like Honduras to train the police and the military; and one of the things they preach is the separation of military and police functions. It’s ironic that those very separations are breaking down here in North America. We’re becoming more like Latin America as they become more like us.

“The Salvador option” was the informal name given to General McChrystal’s Special Operations “death squads” in Anbar Province in Iraq. In El Salvador such units were referred to as “paramilitary.” My dictionary defines “para-“ as “distinct from, but analogous to.”

Recently, York County, Pennsylvania, purchased a $296,000 up-armored Lenco Bearcat for its SWAT Team; the funds came from money and belongings seized from drug dealers. This kind of self-aggrandizing spoils system is notorious in police forces across the nation. The more property confiscated, the more sophisticated military equipment and weapons a department can buy. The problem is, if you buy a tank you naturally want to use it. The more military equipment and training you get, the more you will become a paramilitary unit — “distinct from, but analogous to” a military unit. …

About the author

John Grant is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper.

A Vietnam War veteran for 25 years John has been an active member of Veterans For Peace. For 11 years, he was president of the Philadelphia VFP chapter. He has taught documentary photography at Widener and Drexel Universities and for 9 years has taught creative writing to inmates in the Philadelphia Prison.

Other Chapters in this series

  1. A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
  2. A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
  3. More evidence that the military is slowly cutting itself off from civilian control, 15 July 2012

For more information

See the FM Reference Page America’s military, and our national defense strategy.

For more information:

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16 thoughts on “A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2)

  1. One aspect of “War on Terror'” rhetoric that – frankly – freaks me out is the widespread assumption that “the troops” ( whom we must unconditionally “support” ) are “fighting for our freedoms” when quite demonstrably – by any empirical measure j- there is not now – nor has there been since the collapse of the Soviet Union – a single freedom we have that would not be fully as robust should the American military be abolished altogether.

    This is downright weird.

  2. Fascinating articles. Many in the USA are insulated for now; that alone provides cover for the authorities to assemble the tools (And assembling they are). The only thing they fear is mass political action and they have told you (and shown you) that.

    The Croupier announces: Place your Bets….the big Wheel will spin. No one knows when or what but it will stop and then…

    Breton

  3. “In the 1960s, a man like McChrystal would have faced protests on a college campus.”

    And in the 1920s, a man like McChrystal would have been a gangster in Chicago organizing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

  4. “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.”

    Did you read this? 1923? This is not you or your next door neighbor, he speaks about (I hope not anyway). No. It is the assembled march of your Country that he sees. If this quote did not stop you or reach out and grab your throat perhaps it was dismissed as more hyperbole in these days of Global WOT or perhaps more precisely it did not stun you becuase of the GWOT.

    Couple DH with the photo of the Empire’s Storm Trooper then add in links to a regular dose of PM American TV ( with the concurrent Ads)….you don’t allow your soul (for those interested in a thing like “a soul”) to watch TV do you?…..and you would have a summary of the articles that follow.

    Homeland, Fatherland, such madness and such cold horror. You read how Andrew Sullivan is crying real tears because his Father has sanctioned Gay Marriage. All the while the Troopers gather on the ridge. The self absorbed adolescence of this Culture is almost beyond belief except the boys are dressed up in real military garb and are firing live rounds. Have they won your heart and mind?

    Breton

    1. “This is not you or your next door neighbor, he speaks about (I hope not anyway).”

      It is quite obvious that he is exactly speaking of the average American. “Essential American soul”.

      To use the unfortunately necessary NAZI analogy: there is a large body of research showing that most of the people running the NAZI machinery were regular Germans. The NAZI’s had little trouble recruiting people to collect and kill the Jews, for example. It’s vital that we understand this history.

      “But are there not many Fascists in your country?
      “THere are many who do not know they are Fasciss, but will find it out when the time comes.”
      For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway (1940)

    2. I agree. I was making a distinction between YOUR viewership and the average bloke. Offering a bit of an elaboration to include the entire History of the U.S.A., as in, John Smith, the eradication of the Aborignal populations and right up to the 600,000 KIA in the Civil War and moving right along.

      This killer stuff is homegrown. Genuine article, yes sirree. But perhaps some may disagree. And your further elucidation is certainly well-considered. (Great link to “It can’t be happening here” by the way. Thanks)

      Breton

    3. It is quite obvious that he is exactly speaking of the average American. “Essential American soul”.

      To use the unfortunately necessary NAZI analogy: there is a large body of research showing that most of the people running the NAZI machinery were regular Germans. The NAZI’s had little trouble recruiting people to collect and kill the Jews, for example. It’s vital that we understand this history. — Fabius Maximus

      This brings to mind the famous (or should that be infamous?) experiments on obedience to authority carried out by Dr. Stanley Milgram at Yale in the early 1960’s — the research study in which ordinary Americans were led to believe they would be administering a series of increasingly painful electric shocks to another person under the instruction and supervision of an authority figure to punish the other person for failing to answer a learning task correctly (in reality, the supposed recipient of the electric shocks was an experimental confederate who was only pretending to feel the shocks). A whopping 65% of the test subjects giving the “shocks” eventually agreed — granted, often with a moderate degree of reluctance — to administer what they had previously been told was a potentially lethal shock in response to comparatively mild verbal pressure from the authority figure. Dr. Milgram deliberately designed this study in an attempt to explore how willing average Americans were to perform acts that would naturally conflict with their sense of conscience (such as torturing and potentially killing another human merely for the purposes of scientific research similar to the studies carried out at Nazi concentration camps by the likes of Eduard Wirths and Sigmund Rascher).

      Isn’t it comforting to know that you can really only afford to count on around 35% of your neighbors — if that — to do the right thing if the government should ever tell them that rounding you up, hurting you, and killing you is not only permissible but necessary? Mind you, we’re not even talking about the kind of instruction that comes from people in uniforms holding guns — as in “if you don’t kill them, we’ll kill you”. We’re talking about the kind that comes from people in white coats holding clipboards, or people in well-tailored suits holding briefcases.

  5. Norman Mailer contended that totalitarianism was the natural system of government for homo sapiens because we evolved from primates who function by strict dominance hierarchies. I hate to think that’s true, but it might be.

    1. Ahh, the naturalistic fallacy {Wikipedia}: that because something is, that it’s how it ought to be. Though Hume argued convincingly that it’s impossible to bridge the gap between what is and what ought the important thing is that we can realize that we’re animals with pack and dominance instinct, and adapt our behaviors accordingly.

      Just as those who want to be leaders have discovered that people will tend to listen to someone who is wearing a big hat on their head, we must learn to be more skeptical of someone with a big hat. We understand confirmation bias, we understand the overton window, we understand these things intellectually and the best way to push back against them is to say “I know what you’re doing, there, buddy, and I’ve caught you trying to manipulate me – and I don’t like it!”

      That is the first step.

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