With a week left before Christmas, we face a time when COVID-19 is surging again, along with increases in hospitalizations and deaths. Mother Nature is laying waste to parts of America, particularly in the Midwest, and now we are now learning America is closer than ever to civil war.
Say what? Say three retired generals of our armed forces. They warn that the military must prepare for a massive, violent insurrection in 2024.
In a newspaper OpEd, retired Army major generals Paul D. Eaton, Antonio M. Taguva, and brigadier general Steven Anderson write:
As we approach the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we — all of us former senior military officials — are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk.
In short: We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time.
They are not alone. Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego and a member of the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force, says America is dangerously close to civil war.
We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe. No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war, but, if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.
Walter’s book, How Civil Wars Start is considered a “must-read” by those who study and monitor instability around the world. In her career, she has studied conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and other hot spots and concludes that the same conditions that brought civil wars there are flourishing in today’s America.
She says Donald Trump, president from 2016 to 2020, created the “pre-insurgency” and “incipient conflicts” that are considered the first two steps to civil war, and she now feels “open insurgency” emerged in the riot that ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 in Washington.
Things deteriorated so dramatically under Trump, in fact, that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.
U.S. democracy had received the Polity index’s top score of 10, or close to it, for much of its history. But in the five years of the Trump era, it tumbled precipitously into the anocracy zone; by the end of his presidency, the U.S. score had fallen to a 5, making the country a partial democracy for the first time since 1800. “We are no longer the world’s oldest continuous democracy,” Walter writes. “That honor is now held by Switzerland, followed by New Zealand, and then Canada. We are no longer a peer to nations like Canada, Costa Rica, and Japan, which are all rated a +10 on the Polity index.”
The retired generals point to the Jan. 6 riot as a major factor in their concern about a combining insurrection. They write:
One of our military’s strengths is that it draws from our diverse population. It is a collection of individuals, all with different beliefs and backgrounds. But without constant maintenance, the potential for a military breakdown mirroring societal or political breakdown is very real.
The signs of potential turmoil in our armed forces are there. On Jan. 6, a disturbing number of veterans and active-duty members of the military took part in the attack on the Capitol. More than 1 in 10 of those charged in the attacks had a service record. A group of 124 retired military officials, under the name “Flag Officers 4 America,” released a letter echoing Donald Trump’s false attacks on the legitimacy of our elections.
Recently, and perhaps more worrying, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, the commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, refused an order from President Biden mandating that all National Guard members be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Mancino claimed that while the Oklahoma Guard is not federally mobilized, his commander in chief is the Republican governor of the state, not the president.
The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines — from the top of the chain to squad level — is significant should another insurrection occur. The idea of rogue units organizing among themselves to support the “rightful” commander in chief cannot be dismissed.
In a system where those who wear the uniform are supposed to support the Constitution, the adds that too many may not is frightening. The retired generals’ note:
All service members take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution. But in a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief, while others might follow the Trumpian loser. Arms might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war.
So much for any chance to enjoy Christmas. What may follow should scare the hell out of true Americans.
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