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I think the US is itching for self-destruction.

From this side of the ocean, it's bizarre just how much parts of the US hate the other parts. The centre hates the coasts, the coasts hate each other, the south hates everyone, and everyone hates Washington.

This isn't, as you say, good for stable politics.

But nothing will happen unless there's a direct challenge to federal government, or federal government is stolen by any one faction.

Even then, if the states try to leave, you have too much infrastructure and too much mutual dependency to make the attempt anything other than extremely messy.

It would - not so ironically - be like the sudden appearance of the Berlin wall. And it would likely have to be enforced in much the same way.

So while I'm sure the will is there, I'm not sure the practicalities make it possible - at least not while a joint military exists.

Historically, a military coup is more likely, with martial law of a relatively mild sort used as an excuse to limit personal and commercial travel and to harden the state boundaries.

If that happens the US is more likely to collapse outwards than inwards. The military will be the last thing standing, after the rest of the population has been devastated and state boundaries don't matter any more.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 05:34:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole country can't be held over a longer period by a government imposing martial law. Indeed, a military coup seems just as likely to end up with multiple rival claimants for various shreds of Constitutional legitimacy and loyalty of various military branches and units as to end up with a single power bloc in control, while a single power bloc in control seems like a recipe for fracturing.

While a military coup seems like a quite plausible scenario for an effort to extend the American Empire, I don't see a military coup that successfully reforms the American Empire to the point of recovering viability as very likely at all.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 06:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A military coup would make it possible to introduce conscription and resource rationing. There would be many hold-outs and there might even be organised resistance. But the military would own most of the population of a continent, which would be difficult to argue with - even with the inevitable corrupt mismanagement and resource shortages.

The problem would be more about picking a victim that the war machine could pick a fight with and win. The life expectancy of the result would depend entirely on the degree of psychosis of the leader.

With a weak leader, you get an ever-shortening cycle of coup, counter-coup and shrinkage as factions fight for supremacy. With a strong leader you get an attack on a likely outside target.

With solid propaganda and a secret police force - both of which already exist - you get something that looks like North Korea but bigger, more belligerent, and not as long-lived.

Currently the militia people believe they're all that, but the reality is that a military force doesn't even need to start shooting to beat them. At best they can be left holed up in their enclaves, provided they don't make too much noise. At worst they can be starved out with gas and food rationing.

Since most of them have no clue about organised farming, and the ones that do are vulnerable from the air, they wouldn't last more than a year or two at most.

I'd be more worried about street gangs in the big cities than militia people. They're well-organised and psychotically vicious, and they'd be happy to move into any power vacuum left by existing authority.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 07:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where did militia people come from? That caught me by surprise.

This is heading well down an event tree ... down a branch where efforts to put the American political economy on a sustainable basis have failed, then further where a military coup has succeeded, then further where there are no successful regional counter-coups ... and finally deciding whether it is pursuing a totalitarian or authoritarian path ...

... but collecting a bunch of event twigs together in a "bad people at the center are trying to impose their will via central government control" bucket ...

... the last place I would look to for effective resistance are a bunch of fantasists in the woods. Effective resistance to an authoritarian central authority requires a more sure grip on reality than they seem to display.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 10:56:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was starting from the assumption that people who like playing with guns and don't like the bad old fed would be first to go on the offensive if TSHTF.

Also, many of them are right wing cranks with some overlap with the Tea Party.

I agree they're not the effective resistance they seem convinced they are.

They might make good brownshirts for an ambitious general, however.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the Tea Party "movement" is, after all, a creation of the Oil Industry and other such corporate vested interests, but that is not guarantee that they will remain subservient to corporate interests if the right reactionary populist comes along to tap the possibilities that they represent.

It would not be the first time that those who sought to sow the wind reaped the whirlwind.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:19:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As most here know, I've maintained for several years that
the coup already happened.
So have many others here and there. Here's a great, far wiser piece by Chris Hedges.

It's over. Now we must talk revolution.
Chalmers Johnson could not bring himself to put it in those exact terms, but the difference was minimal.
I think TBG has put his finger on two structural changes that will make the existing military/corporate dictatorship at least temporarily viable- the chance to install a command economy, a la WWII, and conscription.
A draft may not even be necessary, in a world where the other options for youth are very limited and in which the solving of problems and differences by murder or theft has been reified, raised to a national "business model", as well as a sport, a recreation.
And yes, the gangs look to me to be the greatest threat, in a continent stripped of any real faith in the rule of law.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 02:45:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm. I'm not so sure a military coup is in the cards, at least not yet. That usually happens in situations where the generals lose faith in the civilian government, and they're not at that point - they have plenty of faith in the Republican Party. As long as the GOP remains electorally viable, which it will for another decade, then the generals can just undermine the occasional Democratic politician who gets in their way, or do what they've done with Obama and simply turn him around to their thinking. (Not that Obama was a tough sell.)

What strikes me as being more likely is something more closely resembling the end of the Weimar Republic. President Teabag wins power and accelerates the dismantling of the basic elements of our democracy, empowering and extending the security state while at the same time empowering their corporate masters. If it's done via the ballot box (in contrast to what happened in Germany in 1933) then it wouldn't be easy to stop.

In the scenario I described above, there'd be some sort of political crisis that makes it clear to the West Coast (for example) that they've lost Congress for good and lost the ability to ever turn federal policy around. The Republican efforts to undermine the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship and other attacks on democratic rights such as Arizona's SB 1070 are the only ways the GOP can cling to power beyond 2020, so it's quite possible that states like California will be increasingly shut out from exercising influence over the federal government.

Once a crisis appears, and once Congress fails to act - or acts against California's values - then you'd have a moment where CA could force a redefinition of the relationship to the US. Depending on the context, this is where the role of the military becomes very important.

Another factor is the slow but steady collapse of American civilization - one reason I feel confident that California and other states will eventually go its own way is that the combination of peak oil and right-wing politics will make it increasingly difficult to actually sustain the federal government, and will lead to more localization of responsibilities and roles, fueling the drift toward some kind of either dissolution or looser federation.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 08:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All that stuff about the next decade is not about what this diary skims across ... long term trends in resource quality and availability don't kick a country in the present situation of the US in the head in a single decade.

OTOH, the last paragraph launches right into the first paragraph of the diary.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 11:36:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
If it's done via the ballot box (in contrast to what happened in Germany in 1933) then it wouldn't be easy to stop.
What do you mean? The Nazis were nothing if not legalistic. Everything they did was formally legal and approved by the Reichstag.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's correct, which is why I specified "done via the ballot box" - the Nazis were never elected to govern Germany. Everything they did was technically legal, with the Reichstag being bullied into compliance with the Enabling Act. What I was thinking was more along the lines of a Republican presidential candidate "winning" an election, being inaugurated through the normal Constitutional methods, and then dismantling democracy soon thereafter.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:10:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
the Nazis were never elected to govern Germany
Hitler became Chancellor lawfully after his party won the parliamentary election.

You're projecting the US' Presidential system on a Parliamentary system. Please don't do that.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:16:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand the distinction and the timeline well. My comments are coming from a strand of German historiography that I was trained in, that rejects the view that the Nazis were "elected" to govern Germany and instead emphasizes the undemocratic, if lawful, nature of their seizure of power. Things get complicated, obviously, because one also doesn't want to use the results to say Germans didn't support Hitler or his party; 33.1% of the vote is pretty significant.

The Nazis may have won a plurality at the November 1932 election, but it was far from a majority. Since President Hindenburg and Franz von Papen refused to include any of the left parties in a government - particularly the SPD - they kept casting about for a suitable chancellor, and settled on Hitler only when they had no other options, and only when von Papen was able to convince Hindenburg he could keep Hitler under control.

Even then the Reichstag had the votes to block the Enabling Act a month or so later, but because the power of the state was used to bully the Reichstag members - especially Centre Party members - into backing it, it's hard to say it was truly fair.

My original comments may have lacked specificity, but they were actually intended to highlight the differences between the parliamentary and presidential systems. In Germany in 1932-33, one couldn't say that the Nazis were "elected" to govern, but they wound up doing so through lawful means. If the US were to see a similar seizure of power, the presidential system we have means that if a President Teabag can claim victory through lawful means, then it provides a more powerful mandate and argument of legitimacy than anything Hitler had, and makes it difficult to counter. Perhaps that comparison is rough and inexact, but I stand by it.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:19:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
My comments are coming from a strand of German historiography that I was trained in, that rejects the view that the Nazis were "elected" to govern Germany and instead emphasizes the undemocratic, if lawful, nature of their seizure of power.
With all due respect and as a non-historian, that's just self-serving historiography on the part of the Germans.

Seriously, the largest party in two elections in a row on the same year, scoring more than 30% both times and with the second party at least 10% away, and historiographers claim that Hitler didn't have a democratic claim to power while giving von Papen and the DNVP (which was openly opposed to the Weimer Republic itself throughout its short history) legitimacy...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 10:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Nazis may have won a plurality at the November 1932 election, but it was far from a majority. Since President Hindenburg and Franz von Papen refused to include any of the left parties in a government - particularly the SPD - they kept casting about for a suitable chancellor, and settled on Hitler only when they had no other options, and only when von Papen was able to convince Hindenburg he could keep Hitler under control.

The KPD and NSDAP had fifty percent of the vote between them (down from 52% in the previous elections). The DNVP had 8.5%.  The BVP, which other than its Catholicism and anti-centralism was very similar in attitudes to the DNVP, had 3.1%.  How do you get a pro-democracy coalition with those numbers, given that this is the pre-Popular Front era KPD with absolutely zero interest in supporting a democratic government even as a short term tactical measure?  Making Hitler chancellor was, on the numbers, what you'd expect in a PR style democratic parliamentary system of government.

You also need to understand what the Hindenburgs and von Papens wanted, that is the destruction of democracy and the imposition of a traditional style reactionary dictatorship run by the old elites.  

I agree that the way in which the NSDAP obtained its two thirds majority for the enabling law was not democratic, but at the same time, lets not lose sight of the fact that in two fully democratic elections in a row, the German electorate had given over three fifths of its vote to parties which explicitly said that democracy is a very bad thing that needs to be abolished, and that among those over forty percent were voting for a right wing dictatorship.  Furthermore, even without intimidation there was a minority of the Centre party that while not opposed to democracy on principle, wasn't made up of principled democrats either.

by MarekNYC on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 11:49:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If president Teabag is elected in a three-candidate race where a spoiler manages to carry at least his or her own state, and the president is elected through a deal in the electoral college, then you have a similar situation regarding legitimacy.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 23rd, 2010 at 04:13:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I was thinking was more along the lines of a Republican presidential candidate "winning" an election, being inaugurated through the normal Constitutional methods, and then dismantling democracy soon thereafter.

That's exactly what happened in Germany.  They won the largest share of the vote in fully democratic elections in Nov. 1932, formed a coalition with the ultrareactionaries of the DNVP, called another election, this time filled with considerable intimidation, including the arrest of leading communists, and did better, but didn't get a majority. However, at this point all the KPD Reichstag members were under arrest, as were some of the SPD ones, leaving the NSDAP-DNVP coalition with a large effective majority.  They then proceeded to cajole and coerce the Center(Catholic) party into voting for a law abolishing democracy.  End of story.

by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:29:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
Once a crisis appears, and once Congress fails to act - or acts against California's values - then you'd have a moment where CA could force a redefinition of the relationship to the US. Depending on the context, this is where the role of the military becomes very important.
I was in California in 2000-4, and I remember back then some paper or other (may have been the LA Times) published a wargame about the secession of California. Their premise was that, because California has so many military bases, especially air bases, it would be the only state which could mount a serious attempt at establishing air superiority over its own airspace (assuming the bases stayed under control of the state and not the federal government) which would be a necessary element of successful secession. The wargame was still supposed to end with a Federal victory...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:47:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that assumes the military sides with California and not the federal government - which, given the fact that most soldiers stationed here in CA are not from CA (I live in an apartment building full of soldiers attending one of the DoD schools in Monterey and the vast majority of them are from the South) seems unlikely for the time being. Another reason why I think outright secession would be some years away, although a political crisis that forces a redefinition of the state-federal relationship in the direction of more state autonomy seems very likely to happen in the near future.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The obvious problem with that: The assumption that the bases stay loyal to Gullyvornyah.  The soldiers are from all over.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 05:20:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan:
I'm not so sure a military coup is in the cards, at least not yet.
Bernard I. Finel: The Military Coup of 2012 Revisited
In 1992 then-LTC Charles Dunlap wrote a famous article, The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 where he warned about the dangers of the military taking on increasing numbers of civilian missions and ultimately finding itself a substitute for civilian rule altogether. In this weekend's Washington Post, Ambassador Thomas A. Schweich makes a similar argument in his essay, "The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It's time to stop the mission creep." Dunlap's wry tone is bookended with Schweich's more shrill assessment, but between the two is the single biggest issue that has generated virtually no serious debate in American politics.


Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:51:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A primary reason that I do not see a military coup in the cards for the USA is that the military already wields profound influence over civilian government. There's no need to antagonize the public with a direct coup when they can count on the Republican Party to do what the generals demand, and when they can now count on the Obama Administration to do the same.

The only way that would change is if a government came to power that actively resisted the generals, and sought to bring the American Empire to an end. Right now I don't see either party being willing to do that.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 12:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
---the military already wields profound influence over civilian government.-------
----- they can count on the Republican Party to do what the generals demand, and when they can now count on the Obama Administration to do the same.

Add to this statement the fact that the relationship between the remaining corporate machinery in the US and the military is-- essentially identicality of interest, and it seems clear that the coup happened a while ago.

The political machinations we watch is the political system's attempts to adapt itself to the realities of that.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:02:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the coasts hate each other

No. Really no.  They like to make fun of each other, but the northeast metro corridor and the pacific metropolises see each other as together against the crazy rednecks in the South and middle.  And even that is misleading since Blue America is a set of high population density islands in a low density sea of red.

by MarekNYC on Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 09:09:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
nothing will happen unless there's a direct challenge to federal government, or federal government is stolen by any one faction
Hasn't the Federal Government been stolen by Wall Street?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 22nd, 2010 at 04:41:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The federal government was stolen by the same military-industrial thugs that Eisenhower warned about. Truman was the last president to be able to oppose the military and win. But the military was traditionally inept at government by media framing, misdirection, public relations blitz. They just sorta left the mice to play, while they built up their empire. Cheny and Rumsfeld, et al saw a power vacuum in the time of the Ford administration and tried to fill it--with parallel structures under their control. But I think they were only partly successful. Now that's changing- Cheney's finally dying, Rummie's chicken soup, and the military is quickly improving their skills in these areas, and all those parallel structures are co-opted and being employed to manipulate, or to avoid congressional meddling.
These things don't seem to progress neatly. It's an interesting question where the fundamentally parasitic world of modern finance will end up. I think they have managed their fabulous theft only because of inattention.
I think the real powers will see their danger, and dump them on the ash pit- out to play with their yachts, but with little real power.
The empire cannot live with them screwing up the works every decade or two, that is now clear.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Nov 24th, 2010 at 03:20:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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