During the last seven years of the so-called "global war on terrorism," this expansion of power "together with the rise in military funding" has only escalated, accompanied by increasingly sinister features bound up with US imperialism's growing reliance on militarism as a means of offsetting the decline in its global economic position.
The military chiefs of the Pentagon's regional commands"CENTCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM and the new AFRICOM" have largely supplanted ambassadors and civilian officials as the representatives of US interests and power around the globe.
Meanwhile, in prosecuting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military command has been tasked with running colonial-style administrations with virtually unfettered power over entire populations.
Finally, with the creation of military tribunals and military prisons, such as the one in Guantanamo, the military has usurped tasks that historically have been assigned to civilian courts operating under the rules of the US Constitution.
These momentous changes have taken place even as the military, and particularly its officer corps, has grown increasingly separate and estranged from the civilian world and become ever more dominated by Republican politics in general and evangelical Christian beliefs in particular. A "professional" and "volunteer" force, it is more insulated from the popular pressures felt by armies made up of draftees and "citizen soldiers" of earlier generations.
The Washington Post Sunday published an extraordinarily blunt opinion piece by a former assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration, Thomas Schweich, on the increasing dominance of the American state by its military apparatus.
"Our Constitution is at risk," wrote Schweich. He warned that the elevation of an unprecedented number of former senior officers into Obama's cabinet could "complete the silent military coup d'etat that has been steadily graining ground below the radar screen of most Americans and the media."
Schweich, who served as an ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and then oversaw international law enforcement affairs at the State Department, wrote that he "saw firsthand the quiet, de facto military takeover of much of the US government," which in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, "was, in theory, justified by the exigencies of war."
He stressed that what began abroad is coming home. "Now the Pentagon has drawn up plans to deploy 20,000 US soldiers inside our borders by 2011, ostensibly to help state and local officials respond to terrorist attacks or other catastrophes." This mission, he warned, "could easily spill over from emergency counter-terrorism work into border-patrol efforts, intelligence gathering and law enforcement operations."
A report that appeared in a magazine published by the US Army War College last month, just weeks after the election, indicates that the Pentagon is preparing its own "transition," a process that is being driven not by Obama's vague promises of "change" but by what the military command sees as a historic crisis of the existing order that could require the use of armed force to quell social struggles at home.
Entitled "Known Unknowns: Unconventional 'Strategic Shocks' in Defense Strategy Development," the monograph was produced by Nathan Freier, a recently retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a professor at the college, the Army's main training institute for prospective senior officers. According to the magazine, he "continues to provide expert advice to key actors in the security and defense policymaking and analysis communities."
One of the key contingencies for which Freier insists the US military must prepare is a "violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States," which could be provoked by 'unforeseen economic collapse' or 'loss of functioning political and legal order.'
He writes: "To the extent events like this involve organized violence against local, state, and national authorities and exceed the capacity of the former two to restore public order and protect vulnerable populations, DoD [Department of Defense] would be required to fill the gap."
Freier continues: "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order . . . An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home."
In other words, a sharp intensification of the unfolding capitalist crisis accompanied by an eruption of class struggle and the threat of social revolution in the US itself could force the Pentagon to call back its expeditionary armies from Iraq and Afghanistan for use against American workers.
Given such conditions, he adds: "DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance."
This peculiar phrase--"an essential enabling hub for continuity of authority"--is a euphemism for military dictatorship.
He concludes this section of the article by noting, "DoD is already challenged by stabilization abroad. Imagine the challenges associated with doing so on a massive scale at home."
The point is well taken. Having failed to quell resistance and restore order in Iraq and Afghanistan, what would be the prospect of the military succeeding in an occupation of the US itself?
That these questions are being asked by the Pentagon's strategic planners should be taken with deadly seriousness. Those commanding the armed forces of the US capitalist state foresee the present crisis creating conditions for revolution and are preparing accordingly.
Bill Van Auken
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