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Kinzer writes: "In a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has."

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and White House chief of staff John Kelly watched a presidential appearance alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence in August. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and White House chief of staff John Kelly watched a presidential appearance alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence in August. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

America's Slow-Motion Military Coup

By Stephen Kinzer, The Boston Globe

19 September 17


n a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has.

Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers — usually three — who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. They do not put on their ribbons to review military parades or dispatch death squads to kill opponents, as members of old-style juntas did. Yet their emergence reflects a new stage in the erosion of our political norms and the militarization of our foreign policy. Another veil is dropping.

Given the president’s ignorance of world affairs, the emergence of a military junta in Washington may seem like welcome relief. After all, its three members are mature adults with global experience — unlike Trump and some of the wacky political operatives who surrounded him when he moved into the White House. Already they have exerted a stabilizing influence. Mattis refuses to join the rush to bomb North Korea, Kelly has imposed a measure of order on the White House staff, and McMaster pointedly distanced himself from Trump’s praise for white nationalists after the violence in Charlottesville.

Being ruled by generals seems preferable to the alternative. It isn’t.

Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.

Trump has made clear that when he must make foreign policy choices, he will defer to “my generals.” Mattis, the new junta’s strongman, is the former head of Central Command, which directs American wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. Kelly is also an Iraq veteran. McMaster has commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan almost without interruption since he led a tank company in the 1991 Gulf War.

Military commanders are trained to fight wars, not to decide whether fighting makes strategic sense. They may be able to tell Trump how many troops are necessary to sustain our present mission in Afghanistan, for example, but they are not trained either to ask or answer the larger question of whether the mission serves America’s long-term interest. That is properly the job of diplomats. Unlike soldiers, whose job is to kill people and break things, diplomats are trained to negotiate, defuse conflicts, coolly assess national interest and design policies to advance it. Notwithstanding Mattis’s relative restraint on North Korea, all three members of Trump’s junta promote the confrontational approach that has brought protracted war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, while fueling tension in Europe and East Asia.

Our new junta is different from classic ones like, for example, the “National Council for Peace and Order” that now rules Thailand. First, our junta’s interest is only international relations, not domestic policy. Second, it did not seize power in a coup, but derives its authority from the favor of an elected president. Third and most important, it main goal is not to impose a new order but to enforce an old one.

Last month, President Trump faced a crucial decision about the future of America’s war in Afghanistan. This was a potential turning point. Four years ago Trump tweeted, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan.” If he had followed that impulse and announced that he was bringing American troops home, the political and military elite in Washington would have been stunned. But junta members swung into action. They persuaded Trump to announce that instead of withdrawing, he would do the opposite: reject “rapid exit” from Afghanistan, increase troop strength, and continue “killing terrorists.”

It is no great surprise that Trump has been drawn into the foreign policy mainstream; the same happened to President Obama early in his presidency. More ominous is that Trump has turned much of his power over to generals. Worst of all, many Americans find this reassuring. They are so disgusted by the corruption and shortsightedness of our political class that they turn to soldiers as an alternative. It is a dangerous temptation. your social media marketing partner


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+72 # REDPILLED 2017-09-19 18:16
This is the next (final?)This is the next (final?) step in the decades-long descent of the U.S. into the militaristic/co rporatist [fascist] state President Eisenhower warned us about in his January, 1961 Farewell Address.

Perverting the annual discretionary budget into a Permanent War Economy sucking down more than 50% of that budget; militarizing the police, starting with Bill (Neoliberal/Neo conservative) Clinton; using 9/11 to justify the expansion of the National Security Surveillance State; and relying on the ever-compliant and greedy corporate media to militarize everything from sports (football game flyovers by military jets) to weekly dramas ( see this year's crop of "NCIS" and "Homeland" imitators in which U.S. "heroes" defeat "terrorists" all over the globe, which the U.S. naturally has the right to dominate, were the previous steps.

Keep Americans fearful and they will support and pay for anything, regardless of how that diminishes their rights and standard of living, while the Ruling Parasite Class, which includes War St. and Wall St., gets wealthier and wealthier.
+24 # mill valley maven 2017-09-19 18:25
+59 # engelbach 2017-09-19 18:31
When the US government is not run by ex-military officers, it is run by civilians who are wannabe military officers.

The escalation of Americas illegal wars hasn't required real generals in the White House. Most presidents, almost without exception, have engaged in unnecessary, illegal, and immoral military adventures.

That may get worse under Trump, but it will be because Trump is the worst, most dangerous human being ever to hold power in the United States. Even if his minions were all civilians, we would be in the same deadly danger of a disastrous pre-emptive war.
+33 # tedrey 2017-09-19 18:49
Isn't the reality not that we are faced with a new military junta, but that the long-existing military/indust rial apparatus as a whole is no longer, (due to Trump being Trump,) much kept in leash by the civil authority?
+4 # lcotler 2017-09-19 23:51
Eisenhower warned in no uncertain terms about that Deep State. Now the Deep State is in control.

It controlled Obummer, now it has Drumpf.

Remember JFK?
+56 # 2017-09-19 19:03
I agree that a soft military coup took place the weekend of the Camp David meeting with the generals, after which Trump reversed his Afghanistan policy. But it's viewed as a lesser evil by some Americans not so much because they see all politicians as corrupt as because they view this particular president as a pathological liar and narcissist and mentally unhinged. So any control exercised over him by someone saner than Steve Bannon, who is almost as crazy as Trump, himself, is met, rightly or wrongly, with a sense of relief. This is a national nightmare and tragedy I hope Robert Mueller will eventually deliver us from.
+9 # elkingo 2017-09-19 23:45
You're so right Kate. Trump is not really the POTUS and he was never elected. This IS a nightmare which we will soon awaken from, or die in our sleep.
+21 # Trixie 2017-09-19 20:31
"As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece."

And we put them there! We promote capitalism, not democracy.

It has been our hidden policy since the founding of this country. Mr. Kinzer needs to study our history more closely, or perhaps he is aware of this but not allowed to report it.

The problem is that the policies we have supported abroad are being practiced here at home and we are just starting to recognize it.
+4 # California Neal 2017-09-19 21:38
There's nothing new here, folks. Remember Obama's lengthy review of Afghanistan war policy? (His attention span is far longer than the new guy's.) Going into the review, I had some confidence. He opposed the Iraq war. He understood the lessons of Vietnam. He knew the history of Afghanistan, in which invaders--even neighboring Russia--always fail.

But after interminable discussion with the generals, Obama agreed to try a "surge." Are the generals that convincing? Do the politicians always fear the effect on their party & presidency of accusations from the right wing: that they were soft, that they didn't follow the generals' advice & "lost" a country? Do the generals threaten that something could happen to the president's family members if they don't get their way?

So I don't think we've had a coup d'état. The POTUS has invited an unusual degree of military leadership in civilian government. They are no more or less powerful than under Obama in deciding our policy in Afghanistan. They are less warlike than our crazy POTUS regarding North Korea & Iran, and therefore less of a clear & present danger than he is. They actually do provide some hope, along with Tillerson & others, that diplomacy may be allowed to function. Of course Trump did his best to destroy that hope at the UN today.

Along with Kate, above, I hope Mueller will rescue us from Trump (or that enough evidence will emerge for even a GOP Congress to impeach & convict him).
+1 # lfeuille 2017-09-19 22:44
I wasn't a coup. It was a giveaway. Trump didn't want to be bothered with details and it was him that empowered the generals to do his job. And it was Trump that picked a cabinet of generals in the first place. It's what he wanted. It was forced on him.
+2 # elkingo 2017-09-19 23:40
Of course "military junta" is anathema in the US: we are not some banana republic. Furthermore, he is the Constitutional Commander-in-Ch ief of all of them. But he is so nuts as to impose a surreal situation and
I'm glad there is some restraint on him, even if it's generals. Not all military are militarists.
+5 # lcotler 2017-09-19 23:49
I call, with tongue in cheek, for a general strike. Of course, there won't be one.

Apropos that general strike, my best friend told me today, that socially responsible, emotionally and rationally justifiable eruption of deep, sincere feeling won’t happen because Americans are not capable of that feeling, that warranted outrage, only of arrogance, idiot confidence, and deep religious allegiance to their imbibed, inculcated mythology.

The revolution that will occur will not be by them, it will burst upon them, and astonish and punish them.
+2 # California Neal 2017-09-20 16:04
I sure hope, & believe, you're wrong. Remember the women's march, & the demonstrations against the Muslim ban.

If "general strike" is a pun including "generals' strike," I love it.
+10 # bardphile 2017-09-20 01:25
And all this is happening while the State Department is downsized and key diplomatic positions go unfilled. Trump just threatened NK with obliteration. Are they supposed to take him "seriously but not literally?" Scary.
+14 # kgrad 2017-09-20 08:31
Endless war = $$ in the pockets of the military-indust rial complex. Profits encourage more endless war —> world-wide tragedy. How many deaths will it take?!
+1 # California Neal 2017-09-20 16:09
Few among the big corporations & wealthy people who fund the GOP would want to move to the NUCLEAR war option unnecessarily.
-14 # Shaas 2017-09-20 08:53
That's the result of the irresponsible hysterical campaing by the Democratic Party that cornered the President Trump who so many times declared that he is against foreign wars... No he really has been cornered back into the USA-war-politic s-as-usual.
+4 # California Neal 2017-09-20 16:16
Oh, sure. Blame the Dems for Trump going nuts in ways that the generals, Tillerson & other Cabinet members, & GOP funders oppose. It's certainly not the Dems who want to toss aside the Iran deal. Over the decades, the GOP has been the party that always pushes for military solutions, & even they don't really want nuclear solutions.
+4 # randrjwr 2017-09-20 21:03
Quoting Shaas:
That's the result of the irresponsible hysterical campaing by the Democratic Party that cornered the President Trump who so many times declared that he is against foreign wars... No he really has been cornered back into the USA-war-politics-as-usual.

But he also the guy who said, on the campaign trail, without any "cornering" by the Democrats, something like "Since we have all these nukes, why can't we use them?" That, along with his suggestion of a "2nd Amendment remedy" for Hillary's imputed desire to "take your guns," should have disqualified him from the campaign, but----the rest is history.
-2 # John S. Browne 2017-09-20 14:52

That's for sure. The military junta that, through the globalist "Fourth Reich", the global(ist) deep state shadow government, ultimately controls the U.S. and the world, wants, and now gets, endless war. Yes, of course we should have ended the Afghanistan war [TRULY---rememb er, though it's claimed that we are, we are NOT truly out of Iraq yet either, if ever, and the Iraq war is probably far from over due to the warmongers wanting all of this mass-murder to go on endlessly because there is such obscenely-colos sal profiteering to be had from it, and because it enables them to increasingly become, as the figurehead of global(ist) government, an empire and the dominant power throughout the entire world], but the war in Afghanistan is meant to go on interminably as well.

Because of the global(ist) totalitarian militarized police state that actually controls the U.S., we citizens of the U.S. and our constitutional republic are more and more under siege, and the country, as well as the world, are being locked down under just that, a militarized fascist police state. Thus, true freedom, liberty and rights are outwardly being sacrificed down the "memory hole" of history to become a thing of the past, only distantly remembered, if that, and every singly one of us is increasingly unsafe at the hands of "our 'own'" government, a government that is NOT our own, but owned and operated by the fascist global(ist) deep state shadow, one-world government, "Fourth Reich, Inc."

-1 # John S. Browne 2017-09-20 14:55

(Continued from above)

Freedom Is a Myth: We Are All Prisoners of the Police State’s Panopticon Village
John W. Whitehead, J.D.
The Rutherford Institute
September 18, 2017

0 # John S. Browne 2017-09-20 15:30

(Continued from above)

Yep, here we are in the "matrix" panopticon control grid, like being in a room where the walls are literally being moved inwards to crush us. Our individuality, liberty and freedom, as well as our rights, are being outwardly eradicated and crushed, and we are expected to become "good little automatons" who "go along to get along", and who don't question anything of the tyrannical authorities and their "matrix" control grid, but completely accept it and be "good little slaves of corporate-fasci sm". That is what is taking over the U.S., the West and the entire world. Wake up, indeed. We not only need to completely wake up and face what is really happening, but rebel against it with all of our hearts, minds and souls, and not allow it to continue to destroy our individuality and true independence.

+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-09-20 18:17
This is really good and correct. As Tedray says above, the military junta is only now apparent in the Trump regime. It was always there. We still have the invisible shadow government mostly housed in the CIA that runs presidents. Kennedy was killed because he would not take orders from the military and CIA. Nixon was driven out of office because he would not take orders from the CIA. No other president in the post WW II era has dared to challenge the CIA or Pentagon. Obama was the most obsequious. The Bush dynasty were simply CIA officers loaned out to the white house.

The US is a military dictatorship. They rule for the benefit of their masters on Wall Street and in the global banks. This is what modern or 21st century fascism looks like. It does not look like the old-style Hitler or Mussolini. It is now Mattis, Kelly, Trump, and the rest of the junta working on behalf of a few dozen global corporations. They are ramping up a war against both Russia and China. They are not going to allow the US to be overcome by the economic growth of Asia and the BRICS nations led by Russia and China.

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