THE FALL OF AMERICA would unleash hell: economically, diplomatically, militarily, culturally; the whole world would be rocked to its foundations. Like the fall of Rome, the nearest historical equivalent, the collapse of the United States would mark the end of an era.
The musings of a history buff? Not really. The odds of the American Republic collapsing into chaos and civil strife – even civil war – are already better than even.
In the latest issue of the Atlantic, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Barton Gellman, puts it bluntly: “Against Biden or another Democratic nominee, Donald Trump may be capable of winning a fair election in 2024. He does not intend to take that chance.”
The Washington Post is no less pessimistic. It has just published an opinion piece by three retired Generals urging the military to begin preparing now for the “insurrection of 2024”. As befits senior military officers, their words are not minced:
[T]he Defence Department should war-game the next potential post-election insurrection or coup attempt to identify weak spots. It must then conduct a top-down debrief of its findings and begin putting in place safeguards to prevent breakdowns not just in the military, but also in any agency that works hand in hand with the military […..] The military and lawmakers have been gifted hindsight to prevent another insurrection from happening in 2024 – but they will succeed only if they take decisive action now.
These words should quell immediately any impulse to scoff at the idea that the United States could fall. The Generals’ opinion piece is not so much a straw, as a whole haystack, in the wind. The key question it provokes is daunting. Either, they are writing to warn Trump and his followers that the United States Armed Forces are prepared to stop them. Or, it is an act of desperation from military men who already sense that the armed forces can no longer be considered reliable defenders of the US Constitution.
Alarmingly, at least some of the Generals’ advice suggests that it may be the latter:
In addition, all military branches must undertake more intensive intelligence work at all installations. The goal should be to identify, isolate and remove all potential mutineers; guard against efforts by propagandists who use misinformation to subvert the chain of command; and understand how that and other misinformation spreads across the ranks after it is introduced by propagandists.
The picture painted here could not be clearer. If American democracy falls beneath the blows of Trump and his followers, then the American armed forces will not escape the breakdown of legitimate authority, nor the open recourse to violence, that will sweep across the rest of American society. The Army, itself, will split between Trumpists and Constitutionalists. Civil war will be inevitable.
The most astonishing feature of this looming threat to American society and its democratic institutions is how few members of the Constitutionalist political class can see it. From the President on down, there is not the slightest evidence that anything is being done to hasten the “decisive action” the Generals are demanding. The Democratic Party, in particular, is a rudderless hulk, riven by faction, and incapable of self-discipline. Trump and his followers, with scant regard for the Constitution or even the Rule of Law, are clearly preparing to re-write the political rules of engagement, and the Democrats just look at them, blinking helplessly in the headlights of the Republican Party’s onrushing Mack Truck.
One can only speculate what the Generals are saying to themselves – and any other Constitutionalists still willing to fight for the republic – behind closed doors. The strategic position can only be described as dire.
The mid-term elections are less than twelve months away and, right now, all the smart money says that the Republicans will re-capture both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The key question then, of course, is what will they do with the full powers of Congress at their disposal?
Some will no doubt be clamouring to impeach Joe Biden. But, unless the Republican Party emerges from the mid-term elections with two-thirds of the Senate under its control, Biden’s conviction on the Senate floor is most unlikely. Impeachment also runs the risk of finally concentrating the minds of the Democrats. As Trump, himself, demonstrated, an incumbent president has a lot of resources – military resources in particular – upon which he can call in extremis. In Biden’s case, those resources might even agree to come to the President’s rescue.
From a purely strategic standpoint, Trump’s and the Republican Congress’s best move would be to take Biden and the Democrats completely by surprise. If the attention of Trump’s enemies is focused almost entirely on what he might do in 2024, then the obvious strategy is to move against them as soon as the new Congress convenes. Depose Biden and install Trump as President in January 2023.
But, surely, there is no legal way President Biden can be deposed? If the Republicans lack the numbers to impeach him, then he cannot be removed from office until the General Election of 2024. Obviously, that is correct. But the Republicans may decide that the “legal way” is not their best option. If they can depose Biden quickly and cleanly, without warning, then they can, almost certainly, rely upon their mates in the Supreme Court to bestow an ex post facto blessing on Trump’s fait accompli. (They would no doubt plead that the maintenance of peace and national unity demanded nothing less of them!)
The Republican blitzkrieg would be swift and brutally effective. By a Joint Declaration of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the 2020 Presidential Election would be declared fraudulent and Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory voided. The Joint Resolution would, further, confirm that the Office of President of the United States had again been bestowed upon Donald Trump by a clear majority of the American people on 3 November 2020. This would be acknowledged by correcting the Electoral College vote, and by the Chief Justice administering the Oath of Office to the President-Elect. The proper constitutional order would, thereby, be restored.
Congress would then decree the immediate arrest of the “November 2020 Traitors”, leaving the House and the Senate devoid of Democrats. Trump loyalists in the armed forces would attempt to arrest all senior military officers deemed sympathetic to Biden and the Constitution. Public protest would be met by a declaration of martial law.
American democracy would thus be extinguished in less than a week – and all hell would break loose. The more numerous and much wealthier “Blue States” ( i.e. Democratic Party-controlled) would secede from the Union. A second American civil war would tear the United States apart. The savagery of the conflict would intensify. Ultimately, as Margaret Atwood anticipated in her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, an uneasy truce would follow the use of tactical nuclear weapons by the armies of both sides.
With America in ruins, and the global economy in free-fall, ethno-nationalism and autarky would be the order of the day. To complete this grim apocalyptic picture, successive global pandemics and runaway climate change would bury what remained of humanity’s hopes. A new Dark Age would descend.
A grim prognosis. Which is why we must all hope that a great many more Americans than “three retired Generals” are, at this very moment, readying themselves for “decisive action”.
A version of this essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 23 December 2021.
Interesting that you see America falling into ethno-nationalism as a very dangerous thing, while we have a government that is pushing for this very outcome every day.
Yet where is the outrage and concern that you have for a blowhard in a different country.
You're overlooking a much more viable, less insane, but nevertheless damning possibility. It's not about Congress, but rather the states.
The Republican state legislatures carefully put in provisions allowing them to award their Electoral College votes the way they want to (i.e. literally ignoring the voters of their state). Or they have enough (35) state legislatures under their control that they invoke an Article V Convention, and literally re-write the Constitution.
What fever dream rubbish, as well as including a fair amount of projection by the Left/Democrats. AOC just tweeted out that Biden should simply enact the Build Back Better stuff by executive fiat and to hell with Congress and all their silly passing legislation stuff. Now that's authoritarian and if a similarly prominent Republican had suggested Trump do the same the screams about a dictator would have been heard on Mars.
Then there's these three generals. Thank god they're retired. There was a time long ago when the US Left was so worried about a military takeover of the US that they made a film about: Seven Days in May. But now the idea of generals acting directly political is getting kudos from the same side. Disgusting. And of course we've already had General "White Rage" Milley being praised for his (claimed) actions along these lines. As I said in that post: What Milley did in conjunction with Pelosi is the biggest breakdown of US constitutional order in modern history.
A few months ago I took a look at the arguments about a second American Civil War, but I think that the more likely possibility is a Civil Break., based on two basic groups of Americans who increasingly hate each other, as summarised by one Pearl Harbour historian a few days ago during an interview:
Our culture, we don’t eat the same breakfast cereal anymore. We don’t read the same newspapers. We don’t consume the same news. We’re divided in every way, shape, and form in our culture, and thus it translates downstream into our politics. I personally think — and not that I’m hoping, I’m just an observer — but I think the United States is heading toward a breakup. It’s already happening.”
Judging by the numbers of people escaping the likes of California, Illinois and New York to Indiana, Idaho and Texas, that process is well underway already.
On the note of a breakup there is this news:
In a July 2021 University of Virginia poll, 41% of Biden supporters (as well as 52% of Trump voters) were at least somewhat in agreement with the idea “that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union.”. There is already a movement in California to split that state up, with a bunch of Northern counties wanting to join a "Greater Idaho". That state already had the largest percentage population growth of US state, although judging from this, the California newcomers have learned nothing:
I heard one California transplant to Texas complaining the other day that the Texas governor was unenlightened, which, in this context, translated to government doesn’t pay for your personal choices. Oy.
Oh, and one last thing: Joe Biden is not going to be booted when the GOP takes over the Senate and House in 2023. Trump might love the idea to justify his 2020 beliefs but the GOP have bigger fish to fry in 2024 and frankly Biden has been great for them. His imbecility and dementia have lifted the GOP far above the conniptions of January 6 (much as Ye Olde Partisan hater Pelosi has tried to drag them down into it), so why replace him now. Let the Democrats do that, with Kamala Harris if necessary for an added GOP bonus.
Ultimately the reason for their own little civil war at the moment is that their big-spending policies haven't worked. To be fair they're little different on that front to other "progressive" parties around the world: spending more money on existing government institutions is all they've got. Actually new and radical ideas? As Joe would say, "C'mon Man"
How much whisky did you put in that Christmas cake Chris? Steady on, Merry Christmas, and God save us from retired generals.
Chris Trotter paints some valid "what if " picturesofTrump republicans crushing US Democracy . But he seems to see the status Quo of Democratic rule as something to preserve and protect.] mad woke Democrats. How much is the danger from insurrection, and how much from a Democrat establishmentthat is out of touch with working class people. Both companies have come to rely on extremes..
There are 400 one star and 300 two stars on active duty. So each year at least a hundred retire. Current living there are about 2,000 retired generals and admirals, probably more. That three see fit to write a letter is actually unremarkable. Which is not to say that America doesn’t have problems, but imminent civil war is not one of them.
'The next potential post-election insurrection', says the US senior military. When was the previos one? 1860? Or are we talking about the demo-turned-riot of 6 January this years? That was no insurrection; nor did Donald Trump call for one.
Sure he wanted a demonstration; sure he wanted large numbers; sure he wanted a lot of noise. Once it became clear to him the thing had got out of hand - admittedly his general obtuseness slowed down that process - he not only disavowed it, but he at once called off his formal challenges to the election result.
Good heavens, the man wasn't even there.
He has, however, presented a strong political challenge to the present Democrat majority. But, let's face it, the Democrats have largely been doing Trump's ongoing ... well, let's call it campaigning ... for him. For a long time I thought it merely a case of D.J. Trump living rent-free in Democrats' heads. But now I'm starting to think that that accommodation is being freely and knowingly given.
Now, why do you suppose the Democrats and their handlers would want to do that? I suspect the reason is exactly the same as that for Trump's obstacle-free run in 2016. Let's not forget, though, that in coming second last year (yes, by a decisive margin), Donald Trump outscored every other presidential candidate before him in the popular vote. Not even Barack Obama in 2008 got past 70 million votes. Say what you like (or say what you dislike) about Trump, he should brought out the voters!
Is THAT's what is worrying the 'established authority' in the US? Could Donald Trump, by some strange, unwitting, alchemy, be actually GOOD for the US democracy? Maybe the reaction, right now exothermic and violent, could eventually benefit the US, and the planet. The US military might want to think about the consequences of their proposal to tie down the pressure valves.
CXH I think you need to try a different algorithm. Remember Different horses for different courses.'
British - said to mean that different people are suitable for different things or kinds of situation, and this ought to be taken into account when making choices in particular cases.
DS - I think that USA is said to have rigged its Supreme Court with Republicans, right-
wingers. Would that be a stepping stone to rewriting the Constitution?
Chris - Should we watch Dr Strangelove again after Christmas and some happy times and perhaps whisky?
And then again a DVD of Short Circuit - nice software and speed reading? Good things we won't get given for Christmas.
As prospects look for Biden at the moment he will be a lame duck president after the mid terms with a hearty GOP majority in both houses. He is looking totally ineffectual now, how is he going to look after two years trying to appear presidential with no support in either house? Whoever stands in 2024 for the republicans is a certainty in an honestly conducted election and it will be Trump if e can still be bothered. He has no need for any impeachment antics , and the next year or two is a hell of a good time to be sitting on the sidelines.
There doesn't seem to be anything about it in the MSM here , or the BBC but Russia has just in the last week or two made some ultimatums to the USA that seem to be to return to agreements long abandoned by Nato and the US that were entered into immediately after the reunification of Germany. This involves removal of all US nuclear arms from anywhere but their own soil. So out of Italy; out of Germany etc. And has forbidden inviting Ukraine into Nato or moving more arms into that country. Or else! The western media is all about Russia threatening to invade Ukraine, but that is not where Russia sees it's problems lie.
The US president has now to capitulate and do as Russia is demanding or find call Putin's bluff. The humiliation of US backing down on this reversal of the Cuban Missile crisis is probably more than the US political testosterone levels can deal with so the present administration is going to either look like a looser or start WW3.
Surely Trump can see it is not the moment to seek that position. Whatever happens in the next few weeks or months is not going to go well for whoever is carrying the can in the USA.
D J S
It's funny how those on the far right go on about Biden's so-called dementia, which is in fact according to doctors no more than the occasional bout of old age bad memory and hesitation due to his stutter - and yet completely ignore Trump's obvious mental incapacity, which is far greater than Biden's and far more obvious in his speeches. Still, reality seems at a premium these days among Americans. I was watching Jordan Klepper (oh that we had someone like him – or even Katie Porter) talking to antivaxers on YouTube the other day. He kept asking them where they got their information from, and they kept resisting telling him. Comments like "everywhere". I suspect they know the sources they're getting their information from are dubious and I also suspect that they are deliberately seeking out non-reality based propaganda for whatever reason. And they hate the good old MSM. Which for all its faults does actually employ fact checkers.
I once stated on this site that I thought the American system with its checks and balances could resist a far right takeover. I am no longer confident. I find from American Internet acquaintances that there is no neutral body that sets electoral boundaries for a start. Gerrymandering is rife – on both sides but the Republicans are weaponising it in order to win the next election. And I dread to think what will happen if American democracy goes tits up.
Why do Americans on the Right not care about democracy? 'Freedom' inflames their anti-democracy.
Do focus groups inflame democratic force? Our polies retreat like crabs before viewers or a tide.
The species matters, yet Jacinda's child -- very strange holding two opposite things in your brain. Does she know more than us, or ...
I tend to think there is something wrong with her. Not majorly, most share her silliness -- a good advantage politically.
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