The other ‘slow motion coup’

I’ve been using the phrase “slow-motion coup” to describe the slow take-over of our political process by billionaires and their Big Money friends. (The “billionaire’s coup” has gone international, by the way; Karl Rove has been consulting in Sweden.)

But Digby points us to another “Creeping Coup” — this one in the military. She examines an article in Politics Daily that starts with this:

The military officer corps is rumbling with dissatisfaction and dissent, and there are suggestions from some that if officers disagree with policy decisions by Congress and the White House, they should vigorously resist.

Officers have a moral responsibility, some argue, to sway a policy debate by going public with their objections or leaking information to the media, and even to sabotage policy decisions by deliberate foot-dragging.

This could spell trouble ahead as Washington grapples with at least two highly contentious issues: changing the policy on gays and lesbians in the military, and extricating U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In both cases, senior officers already have disagreed sharply and publicly with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama, and in some cases officers have leaked documents to bolster their case.

I believe this began in the 90s, when Clinton “was faced with the clearest insubordination from his senior officers one of whom (Colin Powell by name) was conspicuous” (Christopher Hitchens).

It’s since gotten worse. We’ve had tales of evangelicals taking over the Air Force Academy (ah, Colorado; some day I’ll write about how the mountain states got to be “that way”). And as Digby points out (my emphasis):

This coincides with our new fetish for everything military, including the president of the United States announcing over and over again that he would “listen to the commanders on the ground” which likely gave more than a few of them the idea that they were the ones in charge. When you add that to the canonizing of the The Man Called Petraeus during the Bush years, this seems like a logical outcome. (I would also add that more than a few of them may be part of the religious “crusade” that some of the evangelical military brass are involved with.)

This is perfectly coincident with all of our recent fetishes — cops with Tasers, soldiers with shoot-first in their eyes, politician with whips, all the strong Daddies that frightened tough-guy conservative voters (in and out of the Republican party) worship and adore. Seems like a problem to me. Good catch, Digby.

I’ll make a larger point as well, one that points to world-historical arcs. This nation (going back to its pre-Revolutionary roots) has had a major internal crisis roughly every seventy years — the Constitution discussion, the Civil War, the Great Depression. We’re about due.

Each of those earlier times has seen the emergence of a “great man” — Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt — who has led us truly forward. (I’m deliberately referring to Carlyle’s “great man” theory of history. I don’t think “dialectic” helps much in a crisis.)

It feels like we’re at another of those world-historical moments. And if the past is anything to judge by, we’re going to need another great man, another real Lincoln. It won’t take a Hitler to sink us, just another non-entity, a General McClellan, let’s say. Someone who thinks he means well, but fails to lead.

Let’s keep that in mind as 2012 approaches. The easiest solution would be that the current office-holder find his Inner Lincoln. But whether he does or not, we do need a solution, and for my Carlylian money, that’s a person, not a process — or an ad campaign.

That person may need to start by standing up to the army.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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