The memoir that follows takes us on a “darkly imagined excursion into the future.”
In it, an unknown brigadier general, identity sanitized through encryption, recounts “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2037,” a series of trends that caused the evitable to become inevitable. Our brigadier general traces the start to the years after 2012, with a severe erosion of the nonpartisan ethic within the officer corps, which led to open political party affiliation, and finally a planned incursion into America’s political process to restore domestic civilian control and roll back a foreign military invasion.
This coup is fiction, a respectful twenty-fifth anniversary re-boot of Charles Dunlap’s 1992 essay. Like that work, this essay is a “literary device intended to dramatize my concern over certain contemporary developments facing the armed forces and is emphatically not a prediction.” One book employing such future-fiction-as-history described its value as a way to better understand and avert an undesirable future. Another has written that one of fiction’s great abilities is to help us examine some potential consequences of trends already in motion. Today’s US Army chief of staff has said fiction is “something that we pay close attention to” for its value in understanding the future. It is in the spirit of avoiding such a disturbing and dangerous calamity that this essay is presented to the reader.
This time, when the invasion came, Paul Revere never left the barn. We didn’t see it coming. Everything went black just before the PLA hit in early March. They used the threat of small, powerful nukes, smuggled into Seattle, San Francisco, and Anchorage, to hold off our missile salvos trained on the fast-moving inbound Chinese armada. The stratagem paid off; they were on the edge of the Great Salt Lake in weeks. They’re now in talks with Mormon leadership, which the Chinese minister of foreign affairs obligingly announced would be over in time for Easter Sunday, April 5. Even after the Temple Square bombing, in a week, there’ll be a newer, redder flag flying over SLC.
California surrendered early; the state’s independence-minded secessionists gave in too. Silicon Valley, long accustomed to compromise with the Chinese, was willing to negotiate for concessions to keep commerce flowing. They’re now a sort of “special economic zone,” not that everyone got the memo: some Cal National Guard units, reinforced by Nevadans, are fighting in the still-snowy Sierra Nevada range (other than occasionally downing a Chinese bird, though, they haven’t done much). Resistance is organizing in Seattle and Portland; both are occupied, semi-peacefully, and we’ve just established reliable communications to loyalists there. We’re not optimistic.
That they struck in early spring means all that’s slowed their progress so far is an unusually heavy snowpack (not that deep snow and extra powder matters with all the ski resorts shut down). But the snow’s thawing; steep mountain passes open every week. Large supply convoys will be easier to move soon.
NORTHCOM is now an operational, frontline headquarters. We had to move back into Cheyenne Mountain, where lack of sleep and fresh air have us all strung out. There’s only a couple hundred of us in here, cutting our own hair and doing double duty running the fifteen-building mini-city under the mountain, in addition to running the war on the western front. We’re augmented by small, mobile strategist/special forces teams providing auxiliary command and control. Our guards are Army remnants from Fort Carson, along with three Air Force security force guys running a fleet of sensor drones for roving patrols. The Army and Air Force guys bicker a lot. You’d think they’d hate the PLA more than each other. I’m not so sure.
Even the Canadians from NORAD are on a hair trigger because their prime minister changes his mind, daily, about pulling out. We haven’t fought a home game like this since the Civil War. While we focused on the Russians in Poland and the pandemic on Oahu, the Chinese cut a deal with the Mexicans that provided the opening. None of this is what I expected when I took over the plans shop a year ago.
And we did it to ourselves. We let this happen. That’s all I can think about as I sit here, hammering out these notes on a Sunday—March 29, 2037—this reflection on how we as a professional military got here and how I got into this bunker, waiting for the NORTHCOM commander and the chief of what’s left of the National Guard to walk through that steel door. They were inbound from the big support base near Saint Louis when we got a burst transmission they were delayed an hour and would go dark on comms the rest of the way in. A few minutes ago, I walked over to the concrete war room, which was filled with stale air and nervous questions. My public reason for the meeting is a high-level top-secret briefing, which I could do in my sleep. So I might as well use the extra time to think about why I’m really here: to convince these two generals to help end this runaway pseudo-military government to give the country back to a genuine, civilian-led government.
Am I the next Benedict Arnold? Why’d I listen to the Washington Society deep-staters (a name, I’m told, was inspired by Gen. George Washington’s commitment to nonpartisanship and dedication to civilian rule)? They’re right, but some are flat-out nuts.
Why does it have to be me that has to convince two senior military officers, actively commanding in the field, with martial law, that it’s time to shed this military rule and give the government back to the people? Is there no one else to convince them? And are these two generals our only hope?
In short, yes. They’re it; they’ve been joined at the hip for weeks now (so much so that my staff has nicknamed them the “8 Stars”), working with the states, assessing what’s salvageable and defensible and what’s not. The flashpoint came early on, when California’s governor ordered the state’s National Guard to stand down and the state’s military leader (the two-star adjutant general) refused, in line with orders from the president. Their governor then promoted a new head of the state’s National Guard, who promptly surrendered.
Those were just the opening moves, before the president’s orders got darker. That was when we knew this wasn’t going to be anything like a simple, one-on-one, Reds-versus-Red-White-and-Blue kind of fight. With the loss of five states already, we’re now forty-five parts against one PLA (make that forty-four when Utah goes). That has a few advantages and many more disadvantages. It also means the whole country now looks to the 8 Stars, our two-headed command with full authority and responsibility in this war to make America whole again. Everyone trusts them. Which makes them the twin keys to shut down this mess.
Will they listen? Will I be arrested, or just shot? Will I see my family again?
I feel like the guy in that old movie, about to be hanged, who watches his own highlight reel just before the platform drops and the noose does its job. Oh well. Keep moving forward. Get this one-star minority report in the record, before the 8 Stars walk into the room. No turning back then.
Whatever happens to this record, whether the encryption holds or not, this has to get out. I want people to understand why I did what I’m about to do. Especially when this crisis passes, they’ll need to know how we got into this situation and what got me into this room. They need to know how important it is—once America recovers and the military is reformed and rebuilt—to hold onto a nonpartisan military, and what it means to let this pillar of our profession (and democracy) fall. Because that’s the real reason I’m in this room. We’re not sheepdogs anymore; we’ve become the wolves.
If you’re reading this, hopefully you’re someone I’ve entrusted with this message. Please share it with my family. Last I heard, they were on their way to Minnesota. They’ve got to know why.
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My earliest memories in uniform are about what it meant to pull on the camo, about the civilian I’d (half) left behind and my new role in society. Everyone looked at me differently. They kept thanking me for my service. I wanted to know what it meant to be a soldier.
It was early 2011; I remember sitting outside my tactical officer’s door at West Point, waiting to get punished for a rock-filled pillow fight we had in the barracks (not my finest moment). While sitting in the bulky government chair, I noticed American flag colors on a military journal’s torn-up cover (which I later learned was from the Army War College). It included this good but crazy fictitious story, written in 1992, about a “military coup” in 2012. Obviously, that’s what’s caught my mind now, as I write, and it’s where I took the title from. I remember it because that was my West Point graduation year and it seemed so ridiculous to think a coup was possible then. Would the vice president show up to hand out diplomas if we were going to go all coup on him?
The coup author worried about a “massive diversion of military forces to civilian uses” and was really concerned about not sticking to a pretty limited standard for military missions that revolved entirely around warfighting. The author just didn’t pay attention to our history, or recognize all the other things the military had done beyond the battlefield, like the Berlin Airlift, responses to disease outbreaks and earthquakes, or the Space Race. The military’s never been a narrow instrument.
But while the author seemed to miss the fact that the military has always done a lot of varied things, what he did get right was that if a coup did come, it would ultimately be caused by the “politicization of the military.” Over time, I watched this happen. In the end, the author was generally right about what would happen, just not when. He was two and a half decades too early.
What we’re seeing today all started around 2016. You could see some political activity in the officer corps before then, but it spiked during the presidential election year, when I was a captain. Dad always called the super-long presidential campaigns back then “the silly season,” and this one was pretty memorable.
To me, it seemed like every office I went into, on several bases and in several headquarters, was crammed with officers and military civilians standing in the digital glow of partisan cable news. They’d say stuff back to the screen, letting out the most obnoxious things like, “I wish she’d drink arsenic,” or “he’s a crook” (there was much, much worse, but I’ll leave it at that). You couldn’t avoid this stuff. It really divided our soldiers.
And the exact same thing was happening in the rest of America. Those days, Americans weren’t trusting each other as much as before. There was this tow truck driver in North Carolina who refused to pick up a stranded member of a different political party. And some police threatened to pull protection from football games in San Francisco over a player’s protest. The football thing snowballed and was really big for a while.
A former player in the NFL and Army special forces guy wrote that Americans “seem like we just hate each other.” A columnist opined that the “anger business is now one of America’s growth industries” which he noted was amplified by social media. A former secretary of defense said we were headed “toward the mutual assured destruction of our political system.” Even condolences to fallen soldiers, sacred in other times, were heavily politicized and deepened the divide. We were so split it seemed like we were on our way to another civil war, so much so that a retired army officer even wrote about what that might look like.
When I went to Captain’s Career Course in 2017, there was one instructor that touched on nonpartisanship during class. It was very brief, but the numbers in the presentation were shocking for how deeply the tribal, partisan sentiment had infected the military—it wasn’t hard for me to recall, just now, and dig it out of the old cloud-based stuff.
An Army officer with a PhD from Stanford found significant “increasing partisanship” in the military over time. In 1976, 55 percent of military officers were either independent or did not affiliate with a party; by 2009, that figure was only 16 percent. Back then everyone had their own cars and I still remember seeing more and more officers willing to put political bumper stickers on them.
While the military’s partisan infection worsened, the bigger problem was this growing partisanship paired up with the always-broadcasting, press-conference-of-one megaphone that social media gave military officers. Together, these were what really took a sledgehammer to the profession’s nonpartisan barriers. Smartphones enabled the constant airing and sharing of political opinions, and it happened a lot.
Another officer, a Georgetown PhD, surveyed US military officers and West Point cadets to study political activity on social media. Almost half of respondents’ said both active and retired military friends often talked politics on social media. Roughly 40 percent indicated their military friends encouraged others to act on political issues or followed political figures on social media platforms. And over one-third of respondents reported that their active military acquaintances used or shared “insulting, rude, or disdainful comments on social media directed against elected leaders, including the president.” This was digital gasoline to a partisan flame, and it made for a mix that was toxic to the officer corps.
Even the Army Times, a newspaper that could be picked up with booze at the Class Six (back when you could buy that stuff, and gas for cars, on military bases) got in on the partisan action. They asked active duty military members (officers and enlisted) “how favorable or unfavorable” their views were of the then-sitting commander in chief. So even the print media stirred the pot by inciting soldiers to publicly declare their partisan opinions.
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And while we in the active part of the profession were changing, the retired senior officers had already changed for the worse. Ever since retired Adm. William Crowe endorsed then-candidate Bill Clinton (one-upping a former Marine Corps commandant, retired Gen. P.X. Kelley, who had just publicly attacked another candidate in the same campaign), more and more retired senior officers involved themselves in presidential politics. Hundreds of them made partisan endorsements in the 2012 presidential cycle, and the dueling campaigns in 2016 released lists totaling nearly two hundred.
It wasn’t just the numbers. Both campaigns in 2016 featured full-throated partisan endorsements from retired generals at each party convention: retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen with the Democrats, and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn with the Republicans.
Flynn especially violated the nonpartisan values of the profession of arms—values held by long-standing tradition, codified, put into policy, and reinforced repeatedly through military voter education programs. He used Twitter to broadcast fringe ideas and was criticized by other retired officers that called his actions “unhinged” and “demented.” He even stood before a political convention and led chants to send his candidate’s opponent to jail. Flynn went well beyond the partisan activity of any retired general officer in a very long time.
But the problem was less Flynn himself, and more about what came next out of the partisan Pandora’s box he broke open.
When Flynn opened the floodgates in 2016, out came others, like this active duty Army major that wrote a strange essay, “Killing the Gods of the City” in 2017. I remember my uncle passing it around on Facebook; curious at why he’d have anything to do with another military officer, I read it.
That’s when I saw why it was my uncle’s kind of essay. The ideas were way out there, which wasn’t really the problem. The problem was that this active duty army officer decided to share such clearly political writing with the entire world. Of course, he carefully couched it in metaphorical language to stay just within what the policy restrictions would allow. But while he satisfied the lawyers, nobody could doubt he deliberately violated the spirit of the nonpartisan ethic. He contemptuously called members of Congress “complete frauds.” Moreover, he was giddy at the prospect of “burning DC to the ground,” something a foreign enemy had actually done, and it was bizarrely inappropriate to read an American Army officer write so excitedly about razing his own country’s capital (even euphemistically).
This is what happened when Flynn’s partisan flood broke open the dam. More and younger officers, active duty, National Guard, reserve, and retired, took the plunge into politics. Too many sought to gain personal advantage at the expense of the military profession.
Social media infected and divided and politicized the military faster than the military profession was able to respond. The norms that were strong enough to quash widespread, overt partisanship in the Industrial Age were not up to the task in the Information Age. The old ways of policing the profession were no longer enough.
There were no serious efforts to fix this problem, only hand-wringing. Many could see there had to be more that could and should have been done. We needed “clear and enforceable measures,” or maybe something like formal professional censure to hold onto the nonpartisan norm. Because a profession that fails to self-enforce standards isn’t a profession.
Without any safeguards or countermeasures, the effect was, predictably, more politicization within the military.
The year 2016 was also the dawn of political microtargeting. One campaign manager took a journalist through “data-driven crafting of some 20 different appeals to 20 kinds of voters, based on their locations and lifestyles.” Another noted how campaigns would “look at public data sets that list each registered voter’s name, address, party registration and election participation history” to “make predictions about specific voting behavior.” If this sounds innocuous, or even routine, consider the dark side: the guy that founded web giant eBay wrote, “The monetization and manipulation of information is swiftly tearing us apart.”
And in some cases, it already had. Other professions, like doctors and lawyers, had their political behavior dissected and charted for all to see. Military officers weren’t far behind. It wasn’t long until we saw microtargeting aimed at the Navy SEAL vote, the Army strategist vote, the Air Force space officer vote, and the Marine Corps force recon vote.
In one way, we were already seeing it in 2016. A former Air Force missile officer wrote an op-ed during the run-up to the election and claimed US Air Force missile officers would not support one of the candidates: “If I were back in the launch chair, I would have little faith in his judgment and would feel alienated if he were commander in chief. I am not alone in this view. A vast majority of current and former launch officers in my circle of friends and acquaintances tell me they feel the same.”
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This digital, big data-driven aspect of the Information Age was external to the military profession and exerted a profound influence on and into the profession. The military had always been a political actor by necessity, but not a partisan one to such a high degree in the modern era. Social media platforms pulled the military apart and then dragged its members into politics (willingly, in too many cases). Even then, we saw this coming and knew the only way to combat it was to hold fast to our nonpartisan traditions. But we failed.
At the same time, as battlefields got emptier and the active military contracted from about a half of one percent of America’s population in 2015 to about one-tenth of one percent of society by the early 2030s, we had our own insidious internal dynamic: the notion that the military wasn’t really subordinate to civilian leadership.
There were some in and out of uniform, otherwise well-meaning folks, that raised the argument that officers had a duty to disobey not just illegal orders, but immoral ones too. It had long been well known there was a duty not to execute orders that ran afoul of what was explicitly prohibited in the UCMJ or US law. But after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, several individuals openly discussed expanding this duty to disobey in a way that would give military commanders de facto veto power over orders from civilians higher in the chain of command.
A Marine lieutenant colonel wrote a highly publicized essay in Joint Forces Quarterly that argued military officers have “a moral autonomy” which allows them “to disobey an order” they deem “immoral.” Not long after, an Army major also wrote, “When faced with illegal or immoral orders, it is the duty of professional soldiers to refuse such orders.” A law professor at West Point (later forced to resign for another alarming legal theory), shopped around an article for publication discussing the probability of conditions emerging that would require the American military to use or threaten “force to oust a U.S. president.” And even a well-known former defense official, who had recently coauthored a book on civil-military relations, echoed the same idea on an influential foreign policy audio podcast—that soldiers have a duty to disobey “immoral” orders.
That’s how it started. But no matter the problems with this logic, it spread.
By then the foundation was in place, the arc easy to see, with its ugly, twin features: a more assertive military, super-polarized and hyper-empowered by social media, ginned up with a growing sense of autonomy and independence from civilian leadership.
Of course, historically, the American military was not always a profession, and has suffered surges of unprofessional behavior and the loss of public trust (such as the period after the Vietnam War). From my own view, while it’s hard to pinpoint, I think sometime after these trends got a foothold, we ceased being a real profession. The “expertise” was still there in part, but it had been warped to reward political maneuvering. We were not “corporate” in that the separate services started to align with political parties and agendas over older obligations. Our “responsibility” was to individuals and partisan platforms and not the American public as a whole. And, we never held anybody accountable for partisan ethics violations. Nothing was sacred, we drew no lines, and so nobody faced real consequences.
It wasn’t all on us, of course. Because we were so isolated, a fraction of a percent of America, civilians got more and more comfortable deferring to what we told them as gospel. As one publication then pointed out: “there are costs to America’s uncritical soldier worship.” Specifically, nobody called BS; politicians that questioned senior military leaders were cut down as “unpatriotic” or dismissed as “disloyal,” and the word “traitor” was thrown around with regularity. Maybe more important, the millennial generation seemed unconcerned with democracy, a sentiment that continued and rose with time. Even in those days, at least one online poll found nearly 30 percent of Americans could imagine themselves “supporting the U.S. military taking over the powers of the federal government” (bad enough, this was made worse by another poll that found Congress less popular than colonoscopies or root canals). The seeds were already in the ground back then; it’s no wonder the time was ripe for military subversion of a civilian-led government.
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From then on it was a bumpy ride, but the destination was already in view.
I pinned major in 2022. Around then, the huge jump in social entitlement spending—the so-called “Boomer Bump”—led to a decrease in military spending, and I was very, very tempted to take the buyout (in the end, I just couldn’t see myself as anything but a commissioned military officer). The Republican candidate that emerged in the next presidential cycle was a former Army cavalry scout, a Gulf War guy who made a name for himself in a big tank fight and gotten out to bootstrap and build a successful tech company. He campaigned on a radical reduction in conventional military assets in favor of nuclear platforms (one of his favorite stump speech taglines was, “If the Russians want to ‘escalate to de-escalate,’ then let’s show ‘em the biggest, best escalator we’ve got”). He won in 2024, in part by promising to gut the Navy and Air Force down to nuke delivery systems, while holding on to Army and Marine Corps programs, driving a wedge between the “Blue” and the “Green” services. It was slow and subtle at first, but one by one the combatant commands nearly all went to the Greens. A Marine even commanded PACOM for the first time, which pissed the Navy off. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs went out of turn to the Army. I made lieutenant colonel in early 2027.
Above all else, the combatant command shakeups were really what got the services into politics. We all knew what general or admiral supported who (and what party), and everyone on down the line took sides. Litmus tests, long a practice in judicial appointments, crept over into the military. And it wasn’t like there was much of a choice, as long-ago social media comments and profile information, political and otherwise, became part of the normal course of vetting military leaders. Just using general Facebook data (even without unambiguous political statements), the commander-in-chief could identify the partisan leanings of senior military leaders and promote those most loyal and sympathetic to a particular political ideology. This was used for the first time in 2025 and infused into the military human resource bureaucracy by 2030. I knew officers that did or didn’t make stars based on what they’d written, “liked” or “shared” decades before. I thought I’d steered clear of that minefield. But it didn’t really matter.
Campaigns weren’t just hunting for retired general or admiral endorsements anymore; they claimed whole parts of the military. They’d moved on from names to titles, broad categories, and entire services. The cyber-political machine microtargeted every military demographic into submission. We saw the first active duty military political action committee declare in early 2027 (the SEALs; the Marines followed soon after).
I made colonel in 2032 and applied to the newly formed Global General Staff (G2S) and got in. It was nearly all Green, with a few token Space Corps guys and nearly no Blues (they’d never be able to go back if they took the assignment and crossed the invisible line separating the two). Space was the one exception; both sides needed Space and brought them along, though nobody really trusted them. I stayed at the Pentagon until I made brigadier general in 2036.
That’s when, a little over a year ago, I took over the NORTHCOM plans section. The Army chief of staff could not stand the new Democrat president, and so she continually leaked damaging information on the president, including goings on in the Situation Room. Just before the president fired her, she resigned as Army chief of staff, and on the way out called the president “a weak disgrace.” She then leveraged her recently held inside position to run as a Republican against her former boss.
She won. And now she’s the president, in part owing to fears emanating from the pandemic outbreak on Oahu, where rumors persist that the contagion was stoked and spread by the Chinese. She used this, and the standoff in Poland, to raise security concerns and appoint several active Green military officers in key positions, including secretary of state. People were so scared of the mounting threats they didn’t protest this breach of custom. The vice president was the token non–military officer, but everyone knows he’s an empty suit. With so many uniforms in the cabinet, nobody really knows anymore what the official line is between a military- and civilian-led government. Not that Americans seem worried; politicians have conditioned the public over time to show such extreme deference to the military that they even trust what has become, in effect, a military government.
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Two months ago, while I was assessing the quarantine on Oahu in support of PACOM, the Chinese hit the California beach. The PLA exploited the confusion in Hawaii and Poland to go straight at the West Coast. Nobody in this administration would admit it, but the reductions in the Blue services left us blind and naked in the Pacific. There are unconfirmed reports that our cyber and space nodes were compromised, likely through heavily politicized contracting. The Chinese exploited our weakness: our partisan forces were so inwardly focused on political favors that we were not ready when the fight came to us.
What might have stopped this crisis from ever happening?
I did exhume one academic paper from 2016. I figured if the problems started around then, maybe someone knew what to do then. It was about challenges to the “all-volunteer force.” Though the authors called fears of a coup “far-fetched,” they anticipated the “overt politicization and subversion of legitimate constitutional authority” that actually ended up happening. They stated, emphatically, the profession should return to nonpartisan norms through the power of example: senior officers visibly and vocally leading and setting standards across the force. (Notably, the authors said last-minute, short blog posts just before presidential elections wouldn’t be enough to stamp out the partisan fever in the military. They were right.) They also called for new language for the governing regulation (then called Department of Defense Regulation 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces), and concluded that retired officers should end the practice of partisan political endorsement.
I’m not sure any of this would have worked, but let’s say we had done it. What if we could go back and draft some principles and hold service members accountable to them. Maybe use the power of the internet for good; to self-organize and circulate a petition within the active and retired parts of the profession to get a critical mass of buy-in before things got so out of hand. To preempt the worst.
And sure, the language would’ve been tricky, because we’re talking about a personal pledge to self-restrict important rights—but to be a member of the profession of arms is to suppress certain individual interests for the nation’s benefit, and in some cases, this demands exceptional measures in order to reinforce civilian control. Considering all that’s happened, here are some core principles we might’ve written into a “Military Professional’s Pledge of Nonpartisanship.”
- Through the Constitution, American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines serve all Americans first, above any political party, ideology, cause or candidate.
- To maintain a cohesive and unified fighting force, military service members continually strive to keep partisan political opinions to themselves, in person and online.
- Military service members, as good citizens, have the opportunity to participate in public life, sharing their hard-earned expertise with humility for policy purposes, always moderated and guided by their important duties as nonpartisan servants of the nation.
- Military retirees, particularly senior members, still holding official commissions and bound by UCMJ—also represent the military profession and are obligated to uphold the spirit of nonpartisanship (unless an officer resigns his or her commission or runs as a candidate for political office, acts which would publicly replace some of these obligations in favor of new political ones, directly accountable to voters).
- Military service members, privileged to be part of an honorable profession, take personal responsibility to live up to these values and hold themselves and others accountable when these standards are not met. Only vigilant adherence to this commitment will suffice to maintain America’s trust and confidence in its profession of arms.
While I wish we could go back and try some of these—either way, from where I sit, 2016 was where the road forked and we went the wrong way. And now we’re paying the price.
I feel like I need to explain my own part in all this. For the record, while I was uncomfortable with the way the president got herself elected, and how she’s stuffed the cabinet with Greens, my personal unease started with the quarantine. The day after inauguration, the president directed us to draw up a plan to leverage the pandemic to lock up and question Hawaiians of Chinese descent (or anyone that even spoke Chinese). Of course, the PLA attack and naval blockade made that order obsolete.
After the Chinese established a beachhead, Congress suspended habeas corpus and the Posse Comitatus Act in the occupied states due to the emergency (not that federal law meant much there anyway). More importantly, the sweeping military force authorization, hastily drawn up by the president’s top legal hand at the Office of Legal Counsel, was deliberately written to provide maximum gray space for military ops. A reporter quoted the attorney general as saying previous policy bans on assassination were “irrelevant due to the current crisis” and “nonbinding on this president.”
What really catalyzed me to get in touch with the Washington Society was when the president directed us to use military assets, still loyal to the country and embedded within the leadership of the fallen western states, to seize and transport those states’ governors and military commanders out to US-held states to face military trial.
But her guidance made clear that “lethal measures” could be used to take hostile or unwilling subjects in the raids; there was an unmistakable suggestion she’d be perfectly happy if an operation resulted in a “traitor’s” dead body—to keep the other governors in line as the Chinese advanced. She’s railed against those that capitulated, accused them of treason. But they likely had no choice and our military lawyers tell us that case isn’t so clear—that, even in this situation, the commander-in-chief’s order is illegal. I’m a general, not a lawyer, but Lincoln never went this far. Neither should we.
And besides, this isn’t China. Not yet. We don’t purge. Even under attack, we have rules and laws. We don’t follow Mao around here; the party and the gun should be separate. Ultimately, that’s what the Washington Society represents.
Maybe it’ll turn out OK. Maybe they won’t call me Benedict Arnold—I’m not selling the country out to our enemies, I’m doing my part to help give the country back to the people.
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To my family, I want them to know…
Image credit: casch52
Major Cavanaugh makes fine use of fiction to illustrate truth, and demonstrates the wide-open thinking that begets change. He writes about the role of the military in our democracy, but soldiers are not the only actors in American politics. Since our beginning, the public’s commitment to democracy has been surprisingly shallow. The public often doesn’t know, or forgets some of the bedrock principles that have made our Constitution work, among which are due process, tolerance of minority opinions, assurance that religion will not drive bad public policy, and a fairly distributed tax burden. Custom grown from necessity has developed unwritten parts of the Constitution, too, including the prerequisite of high character for high authority, and transparency from candidates for high office. Too often, too many Americans have been willing to ignore those basic principles or to surrender personal liberties (or, preferably, other’s liberties) in order to scratch their particular emotional itches. So far, the Constitution has survived, but its long survival has been a close-run thing. Major Cavanaugh wonders if it will last much longer.
Wow. This was a very shocking but believable read. I got chills reading this. I learned that this could possibly be me one day. That I could possibly have to deal with these situations.
The author claims that his essay is “a respectful twenty-fifth anniversary re-boot" of my 1992 essay, “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012.” It definitely is not that; rather, it’s an insulting caricature of it. It’s pretty clear that he does’ understand what my essay meant in 1992, or means now.
My recommendation to young writers is to be original and not try to piggyback on someone else’s work. It concerns me that an “Army strategist” does something like this. Isn't what we need from Army strategists is fresh, innovative thinking that builds on previous work, as opposed to lamely trying to mimic it?
I am also concerned because this is the same officer who, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, published an op-ed in the New York Times that was rather transparently aimed at suppressing the military vote. Had that occurred, it would have plainly aided one political party over the other in a hyper-partisan. If there ever was an election in which those still in uniform should have remained silent, it was presidential election of 2016.
Moreover, as I wrote elsewhere, it is wrong for a serving officer to openly contradict what has long been the policy from the civilian leadership of both parties, that is, to encourage those in the armed forces to vote.
I believe it is very wrong for military officers to be writing op-eds suggesting who should not vote. That’s not the job of the military or, for that matter, anyone. Furthermore, officers should not be indicating to the public that those in the military who do choose to exercise the voting franchise are somehow violating a "professional duty." Every citizen ought to vote; that’s how free countries operate. And, I might add, it does not do a republic any good to try to alienate the military from the vote, which is the fundamental act of any democracy.
The current essay rather thinly disguises the author’s political druthers about the administration. For example, does he think we don’t know about whom he is speaking when he disparagingly writes about “a former Army cavalry scout, a Gulf War guy who made a name for himself in a big tank fight” who ran for president in the author’s scenario? What conclusions are we supposed to draw from the scenario where the author names a “Democrat” as the victim of unreasoning military hostility? And what about another veteran in the scenario who wins the presidency as a Republican only to act nefariously in that position?
Is this really the kind of partisanship that MWI ought to be hosting?
If anyone is interested in my views, a sampling can be found on my blog, Lawfire https://sites.duke.edu/lawfire/
Uhh, he didn't say a single thing about voting. At no point in this did the author even mildly suggest a single member of our armed forces shouldn't vote. Everything he said was about politically-charged rhetoric and about his concerns of using personal data to "target" groups during political campaigns, including in this essay parts of the military.
…did you even read the essay?
LOL you still actually believe we vote? Let me tell you something my friend, and you're not gonna like it… but it's the truth. And if you have the least bit of intelligence, you'll know it.
Only 538 people in this country have votes that count. And only 216 of those votes are needed to win. Everyone else pretend votes. You and I don't count. We're what they call the popular vote, which in reality, means nothing. It's all for show to make us believe we have a democracy. But we don't. We have an electoral college that consists of 538 representatives (politicians). And they are the only ones who get to decide who is elected.
You, and I, and every other person in America could vote tomorrow for the same 1 person. And guess what. 216 of the 538 members of the electoral college can vote for someone else, and they win. If you don't believe it, that's okay, because it's already happened 5 times.
But that's not the real kicker. What I'm about to tell you proves how this country really works. The constitution (bankruptcy compact) has 2 oaths. An employee oath (article II) and executive oath (article VI). Is the president the executive, yes or no? Which oath did Washington take? Answer: Article II.
I won't explain why because I don't have the time now, but I will say it was intentional. And every president after has followed suit. Meaning the actual Office of President has never been occupied. That's not a theory. That's real truth. It's not rocket science. The only way the executive can fill the executive position is to take the executive oath under article VI. Never been done. So not a single president has been legitimate. lol
That's how America works. On illusions.
Correction to the above: the third sentence should read: "It’s pretty clear that he doesn't understand what my essay meant in 1992, or means now."
I would write my own fiction and start it with…
Why did all our institutions fail to see the very real threat Israel posed on us? They successfully proved we were the weakest country in the world. That America was so easy to defeat, they didn't even have to fire a single shot. Anyone who had enough money could simply bribe (lobby) our politicians, as they have done. AIPAC whooped our asses from within. How did it happen? Our military was strong! It was because our political leaders were money hungry cowards that were easily bought.
Lobbying. Game over. We were as good done when they attacked the Liberty and we bowed down to help cover it up. That was the end for America, but we didn't know it. They took control of everything. I think back to how they did 9/11 and got away with it. Our own political leaders simply handed our asses over to the enemy for a few bucks. Israel didn't even break a sweat beating us. And now they've been celebrating our defeat for years. All because no one was smart enough to catch it.
Kennedy. USS Liberty. Marine Barracks. WTC 1993. WTC 2001 The fact we went out our way to help cover all those up should have been a red flag for us. That was the proof that we were defeated.If only we could have caught it sooner. If only we would have woke and stood up for ourselves. If only they hadn't killed the 1 president with balls to stand up to them. And now we're paying the price.