Democracy, the military and the para-military

The U.S. Army has been used many times in American history to intervene in strikes, disperse protestors and even enforce court orders to desegregate schools.

So it’s interesting that the top military brass was leery of supporting President Trump’s plan to intervene in the Black Lives Matter protests.

I can understand why they might not have wanted to be identified with one of American history’s most divisive figures.  But there is another possible reason why they hesitated.

Roughly 21 percent of American soldiers are African-American, compared to just under 14 percent of the total population.

If I were an Army general, I would not want to test whether black American troops, and their white and Hispanic barrack-mates, would be willing to put down a movement whose goal is to end police abuse of black people.

But, as it turned out, Donald Trump didn’t need the career military.  The federal government has 132,000 personnel with military-grade weapons.

Since they lack rigorous military discipline, codes of conduct or a tradition of staying out of partisan politics, they serve his purposes better than the career military would.

In Portland, Oregon, unidentified men are grabbing people off the streets, throwing them into unmarked cars and taking them off to unknown locations.

They are not protecting government property or private property.  They are not restoring order.  They are putting down a rebellion.

Presumably we in the United States are not at the point where we can expect people in unmarked cars to dump bullet-riddled bodies into the street and speed away, as in the Dirty Wars in Argentina and  other Latin American countries.  I wish I could say I was confident that we would never get to this point in the USA.

Portland is just the beginning.  The Department of Homeland Security reportedly plans to send its para-militaries into Chicago and other U.S. cities.

The likely result will be to broaden and intensify the conflict.  Revolutionaries and fascists have a common objective—to widen conflicts so that everyone will have to choose one side or the other.


Who Are These Guys? by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.

Trump’s police state attack in Portland, Oregon by Patrick Martin for the World Socialist Web Site.

President Trump sending federal police agents into major American cities by Kevin Reed for the World Socialist Web Site.

Border Patrol’s Dream of Becoming a National Police Force Is Becoming a Reality by Jenn Budd for Southern Border Communities Coalition.  [Added 7/22/2020]

TRUMP’S SECRET POLICE: A HISTORY LESSON by Peter Daou [Added 7/22/2020]  Trump is building on precedents set by Bush and Obama.

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6 Responses to “Democracy, the military and the para-military”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Taking your words out of context, “a common objective—to widen conflicts so that everyone will have to choose one side or the other” describes precisely the tendency of adversarial politics, such as presidential elections, or general elections here in UK, don’t you think?


    • philebersole Says:

      In the USA, we have a strange situation. We have extreme hostility between Democrats and Republicans, comparable to hostility between Catholics and Protestants a century ago.

      Yet there are hardly any serious differences between the two parties on fundamental issues of war and peace and of economic policy.

      Both parties are committed to military intervention worldwide. Joe Biden has attacked Donald Trump for being an appeaser of Russia and China. Critics talk about the danger of drifting into a new Cold War. They are optimists. If things go on as they are, we will be lucky to avoid a nuclear war.

      Both parties are committed to protecting the financial sector of the economy from losses, and a minimal interest in helping wage-earners. Joe Biden earlier this year told his financial backers earlier this year that nothing is going to change under his administration.

      When Ronald Reagan was elected President, I thought that since the Republicans had become an ideological party of the right, the Democrats would become an ideological party of the left, and American voters would have a meaningful choice.

      This didn’t happen. Instead the Democrats became a “yes, but” party of the right. In a way, we have a polarized politics, but with only one magnetic pole.

      Noam Chomsky wrote that the way to give a false impression of freedom of thought was to narrow the spectrum of allowable opinion, but to conduct vigorous debate within that narrow spectrum.

      There are certain other issues—issues that do not affect the holders of economic and political power—on which there is more polarization.

      I don’t know how much this is true of politics in the UK. Margaret Thatcher was an ideological politician of the right, and that Tony Blair was a “yes, but” politician who followed after.

      The Brexit debate seems like an example of what you were speaking of. The choices were either Leave (without any serious negotiations) or Remain. The Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbin was ground down party because of the lack of a middle ground between the two.

      Liked by 1 person

    • philebersole Says:

      In regard to polarization, Donald Trump is in a category all by himself. Who but Trump would make a political issue out of the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of infectious disease? Who but Trump would encourage his followers to risk death in order just for the sake of diverting attention from his failures?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vincent Says:

        He speaks of patriotic duty. However similar the Dems have gotten to the GOP, the patriotic duty is surely to get rid of him.

        As happened with Jeremy Corbyn: it wasn’t the lack of a middle ground but the majority opinion (even within his own party) that he’d make a disastrous prime minister. Fortunately his replacement Keir Starmer is credible in that role.

        Something has gone wrong in our selection of leaders.


  2. williambearcat Says:

    And some people said the last election was a choice between 2 evils. Boy were they wrong. I have Trumpeteers saying it’s all right. We have met the enemy and it is us.


  3. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    Or maybe, just maybe, we have a better brand of person in charge of the Pentagon? Not everything is a political calculation. Mark Milley could well believe that using federal troops to quell peaceful protests is wrong. He took a great risk of being fired, which the president can unilaterally do.

    Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff not that long ago. Charles Brown is Chief of the Air Force today. The political culture of the Pentagon is completely different than it was in the previous century. Of all the socio-political institutions of America, the military is the one that put forth the greatest effort against racism.

    Along with the militarization of state and local police forces, we need to be concerned about militarization and abuse of federal police forces.

    Liked by 1 person

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