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The Destination of Democracy

In a democracy, the job of government is to serve the public, right? That's the idea anyway. And indeed, despite all the bickering and inefficiencies of government, most of our governments' actions seem intended for the public good. But I think a deeper truth is lurking out of sight. I think the long term trajectory for any democracy is toward a military dictatorship. By my calculation, we're about halfway there.

The halfway point between a civilian-led military and a military dictatorship would have these key markers:

1.       The military would appear oversized despite budget problems. (check)

2.       Top generals would have lavish lifestyles. (check)

3.       The country would be in a state of continuous serial warfare. (check)

4.       Generals would get rich upon retirement. (check)

5.       Civilian leadership in military matters would be mostly cosmetic. (check)

Realistically, I can't imagine a situation in the United States in which a president would go against the advice of top generals on any important military decision. A president always needs political cover in case things go wrong. Essentially, the military decides and the president pretends it was his decision. That's what passes as a civilian-led military.

On a more basic level, the military has the big guns. If a civilian government pisses off the military, it could end up a smoking pile of embers. We're nowhere near the point at which the military might turn on the government in the United States, but that's because top generals are getting most of what they want. That's what keeps us halfway between a civilian-led government and a military dictatorship. But what sort of situation might cause the military to grab full control?

The minimum requirement for a military takeover is that some future war produces a celebrity general, such as General Patreaus, and that general goes on to become President. Obviously General Patreaus is out of the running for president, but every war creates new celebrity generals. If Iran goes ugly in the next year, we'll all be reading about the awesomeness of whatever general leads the military action.

Once a general gets elected to the presidency he can use his military connections to consolidate power. He would also have access to vast private wealth via the defense companies that would happily do his bidding in return for contracts. That's a lot of money available to buy influence.

A general can serve as president for eight years, then step aside to let a puppet take over for another eight years, Putin-style. It might take a full generation before people realize democracy has become window dressing.

Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex. One assumes he knew what he was talking about.

Just to be clear, I believe 99.9% of military personnel are true patriots who support democracy and are willing to risk their lives to defend it. My scenario only requires a few bad generals. And as we know, generals are sometimes flawed. It's also a truism that power corrupts. So the seeds are all in place. I'm just connecting the dots.


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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
I wonder if a military dictator would be worse than what we have now?

Personally, I was thinking that we should eliminate private defense contractors and nationalize them. There's no market forces in action to assist in defense procurement unless we allow the defense companies to sell their most advanced gizmos to other buyers. Right now, we wisely forbid that, but that makes the US military the only customer, and the free market system simply doesn't apply in that case. If we're going to even have a defense industry, it seems to me that all R&D should be done by the government, and all embargoed weapons systems should be produced solely by the government itself. Only when we decide those weapons can be sold to our allies might we consider allowing private industries to take over production, but never before.

If you can get rid of the profit motive for all these new weapons systems without actually terminating all the employees working on them (they just work for Uncle Sam now), I think you could really do something about the military budget. No profit for defense companies, no artificially low-balled bids that begin blowing up shortly after they're won, and fewer lobbyists trying to insist we need to buy billions of dollars' worth of weapons that might have been useful in fighting the last war.

Of course, nothing short of a military dictator could ever do such a thing, since no one in Congress is going to go up against their biggest donors to end the military-industrial complex. So, get a military dictator like Eisenhower to take over and just fix the problems he warned about, and I'll cheer him on. It seems to me the problem with being halfway between a democracy and a military dictatorship might just be the democracy part of it.

+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
It is much more likely that there will be a religous dictatorship in America. Since most of the U.S. military is made up of stong to fundamentalist christians they will support this dictatorship. Ideally it will just take a sufficiently destructive attack from the Muslim fundamentalist that will frighten enough people and a stagnant to declining economy.

Hilter's facism was seen as the opposite of communism and christian fundamentalism will be seen as the opposit of muslim extremism.
Nov 28, 2012
That doesn't make much sense in my mind.
It's really hard to win an election, and the politics skill set is very different from the military skill set.
Also, nobody feels like voting for a general if they don't feel threatened, so you also have to add that. A threat people really believe in.
Also, the general wouldn't be as famous as the president that put him in charge of the war, so in order for the general to became the that famous, you also have to add weak leadership from the previous president (otherwise he would get the credit).
So overall, having a general named by a weak president that becomes famous through a war and that also has the desire to be president, the skill set to pull it off, plus people feeling threatened, all at the same time seems very unlikely.

It's way more likely to believe a series of puppet presidents will be elected by moron voters, financed by large oil corporations in order to keep creating mid-east wars to inflate gas prices for a profit.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
Mark Naught:

"Paying homage to the 99.9% of the military while utterly dismissing them was a nice touch."

You forgot to read the disclaimer at the very beginning of the post. The entire thing is conjectural thinking. Not once were rank and file military mentioned specifically except at the very end, where credit was given where credit was due.

Be careful with the confirmation bias accusation; it's extremely easy to be burned by the torch you're holding.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
I wouldn't count Patreaus out of the running just because he had an affair. I would point out that Bill Clinton had numerous affairs both prior and during his Presidency, yet Democrats think he walks on water. I'm even going to go out on a limb and guess that there is a direct correlation between people having affairs and people running an effective Presidential campaign. The ability to charm people who know you are married into your bed would be an asset in getting people to vote for you.

I also have to echo other individual's comments. Unless you are re-defining military dictatorship as 'former high military official as President', then there is a big gap there. Mind you, I don't think it's impossible, just that you let a big step unstated. I could make the same claim about becoming a religious dictatorship, and all your statements would work just as well.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
We're already there. Under the latest defense budget passed this year, the President was given the power to arrest American citizens without due process. Welcome to the new political system, same as the old political system. We're all screwed, thank (insert your preference here) that we are all just programs in a computer simulation that's already finished running.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
"A general can serve as president for eight years, then step aside to let a puppet take over for another eight years, Putin-style"

How is the new guy a puppet for the departing general? The new guy now has that huge budget at HIS disposal, plus the full power of the justice department to go after the departing general if necessary.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
I'd like to see more detail on post-takeover. You just kind of left it at "he becomes president and then it's a military dictatorship." There's a long way to go between charismatic war hero general president and military dictatorship, and you didn't connect those dots at all.
Nov 28, 2012
You just cherry-picked certain news items that support your view, dropped them into a list, and said they are the harbingers of doom, as though you weren't looking for things that support your conclusion while ignoring things that detract from it. Paying homage to the 99.9% of the military while utterly dismissing them was a nice touch.

Sometimes it's fun to see confirmation bias at work.
Nov 28, 2012
I don't see how the scenario you describe could really be called a military dictatorship. In a military dictatorship the people have no say in who their leaders are and no right to disagree with their policies. If your hypothetical charismatic general were to try and take that away then your 99.9% military personnel who are willing to risk their lives to defend democracy would disobey the few bad generals.

The scenario you describe in which a charismatic general becomes a powerful behind the scenes operator seems plausible enough, but I fail to see how that situation would be a true military dictatorship.

And how many American generals do you think want to become a true dictator? Keep in mind that, by your analysis, they already have what they want.
Nov 28, 2012
So given a total military population of approximately 3,000,000 (active military plus active reserve), we can expect this to be misquoted as "Scott believes there are 3000 members of the active military who are traitors".
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 28, 2012
Your dots are blank raster that you imagine make a pattern. Not your fault, that's what you're programmed for.
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