WASHINGTON, December 10, 2016 — “You want to defend the United States of America? Then defend it with the tools it supplies you with, its Constitution. You ask for a mandate, general, from a ballot box. You don’t steal it after midnight.”
So says U.S. President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) to Gen. James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) in the 1964 screen adaptation of Fletcher Knebel’s and Charles Bailey’s novel “Seven Days in May,” a political thriller about a military plot to seize control of the U.S. government.
America’s media is worried President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s choices for cabinet and other administration positions threaten to make fiction a reality, with generals James Mattis, Michael Flyn and John Kelly among those under consideration.
The New York Times warns that Trump “is spending a great deal of his time with retired generals, and those of a particular breed: commanders who, when they served, were often at odds with President Obama.”
The Washington Post adds, “Trump’s heavy reliance on military leaders marks a departure from the previous three residents” who “relied mostly on people who had spent decades in civilian service, as politicians or academics or lawyers.”
Military affairs journalist Tom Ricks told National Public Radio, “It’s against the American tradition to have a general running our military [retired Gen. Mattis as Defense Secretary]. It is seen as a threat to civilian control of the military. That said, I think Donald Trump is a far bigger threat to this country than James Mattis ever would be.”
Ricks not only fears military control over our military, he also fears civilian control over civil government.
Ricks, the Green Party’s perpetual ballot counter Jill Stein, shell-shocked Democratic leaders and weeping “not-my-president” protesters are all suffering from a gargantuan psychic wound as they come to grips with being so thoroughly rejected by everyday Americans.
Americans, the Pew Research Center finds, lack “confidence in most key national institutions,” but their regard for the military “is at or near its highest level in many decades.”
It’s abundantly clear there is a gulf separating America’s self-appointed elites from the rest of the country, and it goes much deeper than politics, centering instead on values. But a far wider gap separates the culture of our military from those who tremble at the thought of an Argentine-style military junta overthrowing Washington.
A 2007 RAND Corporation study found our military to be “younger, much more likely to be male, and somewhat more likely to be minorities… They are also likely to identify themselves as Republicans and conservatives.”
At a time when civil liberties are under assault by the legion of easily offended social justice warriors that seem to dominate college campuses – radicals who demand speech codes, pressure spineless university deans to un-invite graduation speakers and demand “safe spaces” to avoid confronting serious, rational and superior ideas – brave Americans who are willing to give “the last, full measure of devotion” in defense of freedom are far more open minded.
In their book “Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security,” Peter Feaver and Richard Kohn write:
“On the issue of banning books, the military responses were unambiguously on the side of civil liberty; very strong majorities of officers we surveyed said they opposed removing books from the public library that were anti-religion (89 percent), pro-Communist (94 percent), or pro-homosexuality (82 percent). Thus, elite officers are more supportive of free speech than a random sample of the American public.”
Carl von Clausewitz once famously said, “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”
In the final analysis, all the media hand-wringing over the U.S. military’s influence in the coming Trump administration represents a fear by America’s elitists that the shock and awe delivered by voters this past November 8th is just the opening salvo in a coming culture war.
One under the command of real generals.