The American Military Coup of 2012
December 6, 2003 12:34 PM   Subscribe

The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 was written in 1992 for the US Army War College's military journal Parameters, and describes how the US has fallen victim to a military coup. The article was intended as "a literary device intended to dramatize my concern over certain contemporary developments affecting the armed forces, and is emphatically not a prediction." But following a recent article by military affairs analyst William Arkin on how American armed forces are assuming major new domestic policing and surveillance roles, some worry that mission creep is making Dunlap's scenario more feasible.
posted by homunculus (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Before anyone cries "chicken little," Arkin explicilty says we're not headed towards martial law and Isenberg has his tongue in his cheek, but they do feel that these are important developments to be aware of, and rightly so, IMO.
posted by homunculus at 12:39 PM on December 6, 2003

The post should probably note that registration is required for the third link.
posted by Dasein at 12:52 PM on December 6, 2003

A wet dream for both the far right and far left.
posted by stbalbach at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2003

I dunno if I can take another coup d'etat.
posted by RavinDave at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2003

So, if this coup isn't going to happen, then why is this an important development again? I mean, an argument of the form 'this is interesting because that might happen, only I admit that that won't really happen.' is pretty unconvincing. As it is, this seems like the absolute lamest of Newsfilter posts with some apocalyptic dressing to cover the level of lameness and Newsfilter-ness of the post.

OTOH, I guess that one of the usual suspects will get to make a 'Coup of 2000' snark, so it's not a total loss.
posted by boaz at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2003

Woohoo, look at me, I can predict the future present.
posted by boaz at 1:36 PM on December 6, 2003

An accurate political census would go a long way into determining the feasability of our paranoia.

How many "far-right" people are there? Of those, how many are the militia types? Of those, how many are Timothy McVeighs?

How many "far-left" people are there? Of those, how many are anarchists and communists? Of those, who is actively planning revolution?

The answer to both questions is: very few, even fewer, barely negligible. Do you have any idea how many people, and how much organization, you need to carry out a coup? We aren't exactly the Repblic of Georgia.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:40 PM on December 6, 2003

Is it just me, or does it look like the-powers-that-be are trying to replace the CIA and FBI with the DIA and CIFA?
posted by Ptrin at 1:43 PM on December 6, 2003

Ostrich Award for boaz.
The whole concept of hauling out and dusting off an 11-year-old scenario to do some serious analysis whether it's playing out (and coming to a part-of-it is and part-of-it ain't conclusion) seems to me a more-than-worthy use of the Web and of MetaFilter. Good post, homonculous.
I did get a chuckle out of Ravin Dave fulfilling boaz' prediction ten seconds before he posted...

On preview: PrinceVal, I don't see the potential 'coup' threat fom either extreme. I was concerned at the Cultural Divide between America's Armed Forces and their civilian leaders during the Clinton years, and if Bush is assuming absolute loyalty from the troops while hurting them in truly practical ways, that could turn out to be his administration's most dangerous miscalculation... It's a real issue, a real (if not yet likely) possibility and, I repeat, a good post.
posted by wendell at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2003

I mean, an argument of the form 'this is interesting because that might happen, only I admit that that won't really happen.' is pretty unconvincing.

I wasn't trying to make that arguement. Arkin's piece is news, it's true, and it's interesting if you're interested in how the military interacts with civilian law enforcement, which some of us here are. Dunlap's piece, on the other hand, was an old thought experiment, and makes for entertaining reading as such even today. I think they're both worth posting, and Isenberg's article ties them together well by reevaluating Dunlap's piece in light of Arkin's.
posted by homunculus at 2:04 PM on December 6, 2003

and if Bush is assuming absolute loyalty from the troops while hurting them in truly practical ways

Speaking of which: Denial of Purple Heart medals raises questions about casualty count

and, I repeat, a good post.

Thanks, wendell.
posted by homunculus at 3:27 PM on December 6, 2003

Very well then homunculus, I will refrain from commenting further until that erudite discussion of military interaction with civilian law enforcement emerges ... or until the sun has expanded to engulf the earth, whichever comes first.

Oh, and RavinDave: If there was a coup in 2000, then it's only natural to assume that Ralph 'Bush's Towel Boy' Nader was in on it. Congratulations, sucker.
posted by boaz at 4:27 PM on December 6, 2003

From the laTimes article:
But in August, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld expanded CIFA's mission, charging it with maintaining "a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of Defense."

Is it just me or does it seem likely that this will include vocal members of the anti-war movement, especially given the expanding definition of terrorism? Suddenly the military is allowed to take 'anti-terrorist' action against those who very strongly oppose a particular foreign or domestic use of our military forces. Don't blink when they take your neighbor, though - it was a pre-emptive strike to keep him from damaging military equipment at an upcoming protest, you see.

While the given scenario may sound paranoid, it shows that these new domestic policies can be combined in some pretty dreadful ways. And given the stepped up response to 'domestic terrorism,' don't doubt that they will be.

Doubt such things are possible? Look at, for example, the Judi Bari bombing case. Back in 1990, a bomb was planted in the car of enviromental activist Judi Bari, which seriously injured her once it exploded. The FBI quickly took the opportunity to arrest Bari, saying it was her own bomb which had misfired, and then framed the case as a terrorism issue in order to criminalize Earth First! and other organizations Bari was involved with. So we have a federal agency putting a terrorist spin on a domestic activism case, 13 years before the PATRIOT Act came about. (The bomb is theorized to have been planted by someone in the timber industry - it was clearly rigged to go off once the car started moving.)

Granted, there aren't anti-war organizations using methods like those of Earth First! or the ELF. But if and when such organizations do come into existence, it isn't hard to imagine pre-emptive military force being used against them, and possibly being extended to environmental groups on the basis of that precedent.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2003

One note: the paper cites increased public apathy towards politics as a primary facilitator of the coup. If anything, the increased militarization and privacy issues of the last two years have made for a more politically active populace.
posted by kfury at 7:22 PM on December 6, 2003

I dunno. On the one hand, I can imagine a military coup happening in the U.S. -- Americans are not, on a basic psychological level, really any different than people in other countries where such things happen. However, I am more concerned about the ascension of an authoritarian civilian leader who uses the military to do his bidding than I am a latter-day Caesar declaring himself dictator.

This is because I see no reason to believe that "Americans [will become] exasperated with democracy" and embrace a military regime. Sure, I can see a totalitarian police state slide into place under the radar in the name of "protecting the homeland." But it seems to me that at least the pretense of "democracy" and "rights" would have to be maintained by such a government in order for it to succeed. A outright coup, I think, would simply fail.
posted by moonbiter at 2:11 AM on December 7, 2003

Freedom is doubleplus good, right Moonbiter?
posted by billsaysthis at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2003

Yeah, well, I don't think anything overtly Orwellian will go over either. The thing I envision would be a kind of draconian corporate feudalism, with a small percentage of really rich folks calling the shots. Most of these people would have inherited their wealth, or at least enough to give them a huge advantage in making their own wealth. Meanwhile the rest of the citizenry relegated to service-industry jobs to support these elite's lifestyle.

Kind of like it is now, but many, many times worse, with a lot less social mobility, a lot larger gap between rich and poor, and a much increased restriction on the rights of the "peasantry" to assemble, say what they think, or do what they want.
posted by moonbiter at 2:00 PM on December 7, 2003

Oh yeah, and the citizens will get to vote -- thus the appearance of democracy -- but our choices of candidates will be limited by those who have the money. Again, kind of like it is now, but many times worse.
posted by moonbiter at 2:08 PM on December 7, 2003

moonbiter, Caeser was given his powers.
posted by clavdivs at 3:20 PM on December 7, 2003

Or to rephrase clavdivs - What rights won't a populace, sufficiently afraid, sign away?
posted by troutfishing at 9:35 PM on December 7, 2003

that is rhetorical yes?
posted by clavdivs at 8:04 AM on December 8, 2003

clavdivs - more or less. But I do think that moonbiter's "draconian corporate feudalism" looks, at the moment, like an apt prediction - whether from a sudden Caesar moment or by degrees.
posted by troutfishing at 11:22 AM on December 8, 2003

like de Medici neo-feudalism or oligarchic corporatism. That would be equating the Senatorial class or the corporate feudalism (means of production?) with an empire, grant you before divine Julius, the 'empire' was vast but not by the time Ocatavian came along and watered the roots of expansion modeled by Caesar. Also, the civil war that was the beginnings of the empire where taking a toll far greater then the loss of legions and tribute. When Rome was threatened, they gave Caesar great power, more power then few have had in Rome. But Caesar also grabbed for power and tried to keep allot of the power when it was not needed.

oh, by degrees, well then.
posted by clavdivs at 1:24 PM on December 8, 2003

moonbiter, Caeser was given his powers

Well, if by "given" you mean "took by military force", then I'll agree with you. Sure, the Senate certainly gave him the opportunity (in the form of several legions) to grab power. However it took an ambitious and brilliant person like Julius to run with it like he did. And even then he had to fight a civil war to bring it to fruition.

Still, I think your general sentiment is correct. If the nation went down the path where the regular citizenry wasn't represented in government, then I would find the resemblance to the patrician-dominated oligarchy of the Roman Senate quite eerie.

What rights won't a populace, sufficiently afraid, sign away?

That's the trillion-dollar question. Which is why the populace needs to be educated about the perils of serfdom.
posted by moonbiter at 2:40 PM on December 8, 2003

Maybe they need to all watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail - to learn how proper, real socialist serfs stand up to the repression of kings.

moonbiter - sorry. you're right, sort of, but I couldn't resist.
posted by troutfishing at 4:40 PM on December 8, 2003

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