Coup insanity, 02 October 2009


An article at the Huffington Post [1], along with a recent post at the Random Musings blog, got me thinking about the horrors of a military coup in our Republic. While I’ve recently been enjoying my time delving into matters photographic, this idea is just too insane to ignore. Both the HP article and the RM post refer to a recent article by John L. Perry [2] wherein the author suggesting that a military coup to remove our current President from office may be a realistic (and even desirable) possibility in the near future.

Being an unofficial (and admittedly amateur) student of Originalist thought, it is already somewhat troubling that our Republic maintains a large and well-trained standing army. I have mentioned this concern in previous posts, so I won’t belabor the point; that said, one relevant statement on these dangers bears repeating:

The veteran legions of Rome were an over-match for the undisciplined valor of all other nations, and rendered her mistress of the world. Not the less true is it that the liberties of Rome proved the final victim to her military triumphs; and that the liberties of Europe, as far as they ever existed, have, with few exceptions, been the price of her military establishments. A standing force, therefore, is a dangerous, at the same time that it may be a necessary provision. On the smallest scale it has its inconveniences. On an extensive scale its consequences may be fatal. On any scale it is an object of laudable circumspection and precaution. A wise nation will combine all these considerations; and, whilst it does not rashly preclude itself from any resource which may become essential to its safety, will exert all its prudence in diminishing both the necessity and the danger of resorting to one which may be inauspicious to its liberties. [3]

One can, of course, easily argue that our military forces are a necessary evil in a world as dangerous as that which we inhabit – and I do not argue against this notion, either. That said, encouraging said forces to take upon themselves the burden of “defending” that which we ourselves are eminently capable of protecting is, at best, an irresponsible notion; at worst, it is a dangerous proposition that can only end in disaster.

Consider, for a moment, the situation as mentioned by Madison in the above quote. The Roman Republic had a long-standing tradition of relying on citizen soldiers for its defense, but only calling upon them in times of dire emergency; a notable example of this sort of ideal may be found in the story of Cincinnatus (possibly apocryphal, but informative, nonetheless). [4] After a few hundred years, however, these institutions had evolved from these relatively unofficial forms into the standing armies that Gaius Julius Caesar (and later Caesars) used to usurp authority from the Republic’s representative government; the next five hundred years saw the dominance of the Roman Empire across most of Europe until it’s fall, but the Roman Republic never recovered. It should also be noted that following the collapse of the Roman Empire (which, more often than not was still the highpoint of ancient Western civilization), Europe itself was engulfed in the Dark Ages. [5]

And yes, before you ask, there is a reason for the brief history lesson; Perry makes a point of saying that “America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized.” Unfortunately, this sort of view is highly dependent on the notion that we, as a civilization are more evolved than others throughout history, and that the sorts of violence, repression, extremism, depravity, and rampant disorder will not find fertile ground in our case. Sadly, history is not very kind when it comes to such matters. Our own Revolution (or the First Revolution, as Perry seems to prefer it) produced Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson, et al. in its wake; even a cursory review of history will reveal that such actions – particularly when they are undertaken by military (or paramilitary) forces – are just as likely to produce Caesar (whose reign was overthrown by another coup that led to the Second Triumvirate, and eventually to the establishment of the imperial order, beginning with the ascension of Octavian), Napoleon, Franco, [6] and a whole host of others in recent years – many, as Perry points out, in Third World nations. It is safe to say that based on historical examples, the odds of a revolution producing a favorable outcome are stacked heavily against this sort of result.

The Random Musings post also points out that there are no less than three legitimate means of removing a sitting President from office that 1) do not involve invoking military force, 2) have rational justifications and procedures for their use and implementation, and 3) rely on the authority of our existing form of representative government. This latter point cannot be understated; while the soldiers who serve in our various military organizations are also our fellow citizens, they do not represent us. They perform a valuable service, namely defending us from our enemies, but they were not chosen to represent our collective will.

That said, anyone who has read my previous posts will know that I am no ardent fan of our President and his policies. I believe that most of these are merely misguided, though some may, indeed, be dangerous. That said, if the latter does prove to be the case, there is only a little over a year left before we will be able to reconstitute the structure of our legislature, so the danger, if there is one, may not prove to be a permanent one. Remember that the President is not the only authority regarding the establishment of various policies for the Republic; in fact, he has little power to do so on his own, and must rely on collaboration with the Congress to carry out his ideas. As such, the opportunity to undo any mischief [7] in which the President may engage will very soon present itself.

So, please, for the love of God, don’t be so quick to desire the forcible removal of the President by our nation’s military forces. We have many means of counteracting the misguided notions of our President, and we should resort to any of these before hoping that a military coup will swoop in and save us all. Ours is a nation that was founded on the belief that the People can and should determine for themselves how to govern their own activities; we should not be so willing to accept actions that are said to be in our best interests if we ourselves have no voice in approving said actions. The price of even considering solutions that take place outside the limits of our laws may be the death of our Republic – and that is a price I am forever unwilling to pay.


[1]: Huffington Post article, 30 September 2009. HP notes that the site that originally published Perry’s article almost immediately removed it from their site, though it still exists out there on the internets (see next note).

[2]: Full text of Perry’s article available here (PDF warning).

[3]: James Madison, The Federalist, Number 41.

[4]: See here for a description of his life and actions (Wikipedia article). It should also be noted that a similar (and more recent) example may be found in the actions of George Washington after the American Revolution; I suspect this attitude (not to mention his military exploits) contributed substantially to his enduring popularity and significance among American Presidents.

[5]: Yes, I know…the term “Dark Ages” is generally not well-received among academics anymore. That said, it is not without reason that the term was originally applied. Even though civilization itself did not collapse, it is well documented that much of the knowledge of the Roman sciences disappeared from common knowledge – in some cases, not being rediscovered for more than a millennium.

[6]: That would be Francisco Franco of Spain. See here for more information (Wikipedia article).

[7]: This term is lifted from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address: “By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years”


One Response to “Coup insanity, 02 October 2009”

  1. […] [Aside:  Seeker312 covers some of the same ground here.] […]

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