Signs of Intelligent Life, Redux

Perhaps I’m just taking this too seriously, but upon further consideration, it seems I have another bone to pick with John Perry’s silly coup idea.  In particular, there’s the apparent presumption, running through the article, that such a coup would be a relatively minor, surgical, “civilized” affair:

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. […]


Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making. [Emphases added]

Beyond a perfunctory observation that, “A coup is not an ideal option…”, the remainder of the article is similarly devoid of any discussion of the potential downsides of this course of action.

Color me overly-paranoid, but IMHO, this apparent idea that matters will stop with a “bloodless coup” & “interim administration” is naïve at best.  Perhaps Perry might view such a coup as a one-time thing prompted by an unprecedented crisis – as something that will never happen again (or at least, not until the Right discovers some other President is dislikes as much as Obama). And, perhaps he’s right, and this wouldn’t set a precedent; and both the American people and the U.S. military would somehow forget that a sitting President was removed from office by the officer corps of Armed Forces of the United States.  I strongly suspect, however, that the consequences of such a “bloodless coup” would reach beyond the immediate & obvious.

American civilians love their military. (Yes, there are the kooks, but even they are notable mainly because of their rarity.)  This is true, even though it’s the sort of standing army our country has historically feared.  There seem to be a couple of reasons for this.  First, when civilians look at the military, they do not see The Other.  They see a reflection of themselves – ordinary citizens who have chosen a life of service. But they also love the military because, by and large, they do not view said military as a threat, or an engine of oppression and despotism. Even though it is a standing army, it is a tame one; therefore, Americans see little problem with weapons procurement, military spending, etc., because the idea that such weapons might one day be turned against them is laughable.

All of this would change in the aftermath of Perry’s coup. That historically rare trust between the U.S. military and the American citizenry – now so strong that the prospect of an American military coup is almost never even considered, let alone taken seriously, by either the officer corps or the populace at large – would disappear overnight.  For a large proportion of the American populace, the Armed Forces of the United States would no longer be “our military” – an institution much honored & beloved by the citizenry – but rather “the military” – an organization whose leadership will have demonstrated that it possesses the means (if not – yet – the motive or opportunity) to rob the paymaster.

Such an attitude could have interesting political consequences.  For example:

  • Will American taxpayers remain supportive of military spending while simultaneously fearing that those military weapons might one day be turned against them?
  • If the (imaginary) threat of Obama-induced gun control is sufficient to keep the gun industry out of recession…just imagine the reaction when a for-real military coup demonstrates that the Constitution really is “ink on a page”.
  • What might happen to recruiting, when the military is shown to be both a threat to the Constitution, and a potential means of political advancement?

Moreover, both civilian and military men, however, a precedent would be set, loud and clear, in the political equivalent of bolded caps lock:


Or, with apologies to Tacitus: “A well-hidden secret of the late American Republic shall have been revealed: that it is possible for Presidents to be made in places other than the ballot box.” (*)

With such a realization in place, how long will it be before interested parties realize that the way to political power lies in courting the loyalties of the military?  The easy way to do this is through bribes, bonuses, etc. Perhaps even a special tax dedicated to the funding of the military? As Septimus Severus advised his sons: “Stay together, pay the soldiers, and take no heed for the people.” Interesting things can happen when politicians place far more emphasis upon the vote of the Legions than of the public at large. It is not much of a stretch to imagine the Legions concluding that such a peaceful robbery of the paymaster is rather more convenient than a de jure coup.

But it is not difficult to imagine military officers, with their penchant for decisiveness & directness, growing tired of the vagaries of politics. Also, the loyalty of a Legionnaire is far more durable when earned, not bought: Bonuses or not, military men are more likely to respect a commander who leads from the front, who cares about his troops, and who’s led them to victory…than they are to respect some @#%$%$# politician. Perhaps some ambitious commander who fits this description, and whose ambitions know no limits, will eventually decide to cut out the middleman? And, what happens when there’s more than one such commander?

Even with “bloodless” military coups, TANSTAAFL still applies.

[Aside:  Seeker312 covers some of the same ground here.]

(*) The original, from Book I of The Histories, reads:

A well-hidden secret of the principate had been revealed: it was possible, it seemed, for an emperor to be chosen outside Rome.

This was in reference to the fact that support by the Legions – the Roman military – was a sine qua non for any imperial claimant after Nero.


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