Military Coup in America?

Has the US Military Become Politicized?
(Getty)
Retired General Paul Eaton
Professor Victor David Hanson

A military coup’d’etat in America? No sane person inside or outside America could have thought about that, but as a result of recent political events – particularly since the election of former president Donald Trump and then his defeat against president Joe Biden – the leading, and most stable, democracy in the history of mankind seemed to be in danger.

A few years ago, The Washington Post, a leading national and international newspaper, started publishing on its daily masthead that, “Democracy Dies in the Dark.”

Last week, in the same newspaper, three retired generals wrote an opinion warning about a military coup. An explosion of supporting and opposing opinions was ignited, and the unbelievable became real: the Americans are discussing the possibilities of a military coup, not in a Latin American “Banana Republic,” not in the coup-infested Middle East, not in Africa or Asia, but in the leader of the free world.

From tweets, websites and statements to the media, these are two opposing American opinions:

On one side, a military coup could happen, said retired general Paul Eaton, one of the three generals who wrote an opinion in The Washington Post.  He served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as Deputy Chief for Operations at the Pentagon. After his retirement, he criticized, among other military things, the US invasion of Iraq.

On the other side, the talk about a military coup was the imagination of the American Left that would like to have its own coup, said Victor David Hanson, a conservative university professor.  He is the author of “Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, and Globalization, Are Destroying the Idea of America,” among many other books.

PAUL EATON: REPUBLICANS’ FAULT

“The real question is, does everybody understand who the duly elected president is? If that is not a clear-cut understanding, that can infect the rank and file, or at any level, in the US military. And we saw it when 124 retired generals and admirals signed a letter contesting the 2020 election. We're concerned about that. And we're interested in seeing mitigating measures applied to make sure that our military is better prepared for a contested election, should that happen in 2024 …

How worried am I on a scale of 1 to 10? I see it as low probability, high impact. It is an eventuality that we need to prepare for.

In the military, we do a lot of war-gaming to ferret out what might happen. You may have heard of the Transition Integrity Project that occurred about six months before the last presidential election, and, as usual, predicted different scenarios about the coming administration.  

But we did not predict a rebellion against our democracy. Now, more than a year after the presidential election, 40 percent of the Republican Party supporters refuse to accept Joe Biden as president. We believe this compromises our military, and causes them to doubt our democracy. And, therefore, we are now calling for a scenario about what might happen in the 2024 presidential election …

Can the current Pentagon leadership handle it?

I am confident that the best men and women in the US military are outstanding. But I just don't want that large percentage of democracy’s enemies to affect the US military.

I believe that we need to wargame the possibility of a problem and what we are going to do. The fact that we were caught completely unprepared – militarily, and from a policing function – on January 6, is incomprehensible to me. Civilian control of the military is sacrosanct in the U.S. and that is a position that we need to reinforce …

A component of that – unsaid – is that we all know each other very well. And if there is any doubt in the loyalty and the willingness to follow the Oath of the United States, the support and defend part of the U.S. Constitution, then those folks need to be identified and addressed in some capacity …”

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: LEFT IMAGINATION

In a recent Washington Post opinion page, three retired generals — Paul Eaton, Antonio Taguba and Steven Anderson — warned of a supposedly impending coup should Donald Trump be elected in 2024.

The column seemed strangely timed to coincide with a storm of recent Democratic talking points that a re-elected Trump, or even a Republican sweep of the 2022 midterms, would spell a virtual end of democracy …

From Election Day in 2020 to Inauguration Day 2021, we were told by the Left that democracy was resilient and rightly rid the nation of Trump. The hard Left, for one of the rare times in U.S. history, was now in complete control of both houses of Congress and the presidency.

In reaction, the Left again pivoted. It suddenly announced that should it lose congressional power in 2022 or the presidency in 2024, democracy was all but doomed.

Apparently, what changed Democrats’ views was that democracy was working all too well in expressing widespread public disgust with the Left …

In truth, coups were regularly discussed during the past four years — but only in the context of a by-any-means-necessary way of deposing Trump extralegally before his term ran out.

The nation is clearly not blaming the courageous soldiers in the enlisted ranks. But it has had enough of the Pentagon’s loud top brass who seem more interested in stirring up political divisions at home than adopting winning strategies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya or deterring China and Russia …

To restore the military’s reputation, officers should eschew politics to focus on restoring strategic deterrence and military readiness. They should keep clear of divisive domestic issues. They should stop virtue signaling to the media and influential members of Congress.

But most importantly, officers should quit all their coup porn talk — either to remove a president they don’t like or to project their own reckless, insurrectionary behavior onto their political opponents …”

 


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