Can the U.S Military Hold the Line in the Gathering Political Storm?

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 September 8, 2017|
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Defense Secretary James Mattis’s words last month to U.S troops in the Middle East came from his patriotic heart: “And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, of being friendly toward one another . . . We are so doggone lucky to be Americans.”

Had he tried to tell them that their sacrifices on behalf of current U.S policy in the region are of transcendent importance, he would have used words that neither he nor they believed. Instead, in front of a few, he let slip what must weigh on this thoughtful Marine’s mind: what role can the armed forces play in the socio-political revolution which is gathering force among Americans? What role should they play?

“Hold the line,” he said, meaning: be a rock of stability in the midst of partisan strife, a beacon from which all may gratefully recall America’s true meaning. But what, in practice, can “holding the line” mean? Is it even possible?

One reason it may not be is that Mattis’s noble sentiments seem to be based on the factually incorrect premise that two sets of Americans are aggressing against one another. If it were so, the mutual infliction of damage might exhaust both sides’ ardor, eventually. But in fact, our troubles are consequent to a ruling class that defines itself by the contempt that it pours on the rest of the country—and to the rest of the country’s resistance thereto.

What could possibly induce a class that defines itself as superior to redefine itself as equal to those it deplores and despises? Moreover, these troubles are happening in conjunction with a collapse of standards—professional, educational, and moral, and of respect for the rule of law—at all levels of society. In short, what is happening in America is not the sort of thing that abates with time.

A viral video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing the troops has made news.

Addicted as Mattis is to reading history, the possibility will not have escaped him that our troubles may escalate to violence and that the armed forces are civil strife’s final arbiter. He also knows that, even in our cold civil war, the armed forces cannot be neutral. Yes, the armed forces are America’s most respected institution. But the ruling class uses them to wage wars of which most Americans disapprove as well as to prototype the engineering it wishes to enforce on society in general. With military rigor, the armed forces enforce political correctness to advance or hold back (commissioned officers especially) in responsibility and rank. Officers trained not to dream of transgressing any of the countless directives concerning “diversity” and “sensitivity” have been presenting the American people with images of ships running aground and into each other as well as of prisoners taken without firing a shot and bowing to Iranians. What does “holding the line” mean? To what are the military, and we, to hold?

We can count on the ruling class making this question ever more problematic. That is because there is literally no end to the impositions political correctness will put on the military and on society at large. Not so long ago, because the military believed that enforcers of oaths must be held to their own word, it punished officers for marital infidelity. The courts found this a violation of basic rights. More recently, courts have discovered a basic right to declare one’s own gender, regardless of personal plumbing. Because the ruling class conditions acceptance into society on acceptance of its impositions of P.C. fads, the military bowed and obeyed. What will officers have to swear or forswear tomorrow? No one can guess what the next imposition will be, or the one after that, because each imposition is less about the item being imposed than it is about the imposition itself. Thus the ruling class reiterates its power over its subjects by inflicting acceptance of ever new humiliations.

We can be sure only that the ruling class, persons schooled at college to despise their fellow Americans—the people who run the administrative state, the professoriate, the media, much of the judiciary, government-dependent big business, and finance—have neither the intention nor the capacity to stop shoving. The next time they gain the presidency, it will be “Katie bar the door!” What is the U.S military in all of this?

Today, the military’s political character is divided. While generals and admirals tend to be liberal Democrats whose beatific vision is a McMansion on a golf course paid for by a consultancy with a defense contractor, the lower ranks are overwhelmingly conservative. As push comes to shove, who will hold, who can hold, what “line” is by no mean clear.

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About the Author:

Angelo Codevilla
Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014
  • E. +Goldstein

    “As push comes to shove, who will hold, who can hold, what “line” is by no mean clear.”

    No, a look at Roman history tells us what will happen. The PC elite will enforce their desires and the people who serve will submit. However the kind of person who will occupy the ranks will change. Our military will become what Kerry said years ago. Those who cannot do anything else. This is happening from the top down.The idea of duty, honor, country is already disappearing from the officer ranks to be replaced by diversity training. The good troops will leave or be forced out as the good officers are. The current navy problems will multiply. Good men will be unwilling to follow self-serving politicians and fight pointless wars in places like Afghanistan.

    The military cannot defeat the effete PC ruling class. Only we the people from whom the military come can do that. If we the decent people of this country do not drain the swamp that is DC and the media, then the US will go the way of Rome.

    • Mike in Cincinnati

      Not sure that the alternative is any better.

      Dark times are looming in the future.

      Future visigoths are already in place. But is there a Byzantine empire to carry on another 1000 years after Rome falls?

      • E. +Goldstein

        The US is Byzantium to Britain and Europe as Rome. Unfortunately history does not fully repeat itself.

      • Christine Golden

        Anything is better than being a slave.

      • Joan

        Believe it or not, Russia is shaping up to take over the mantle.

      • themaskedblogger

        When it comes apart, what used to be the US will balkanize. Parts of it will do better than others. It isn’t hard to see which will be what.

      • TooTall7

        Yes! Texas!

    • themaskedblogger

      Perfectly correct. That’s how democracies die. And Democracy is a fragile flower.

    • Veritas

      America has already went through two revolutions and will have at least several more before we disappear from the world stage. In the next one the elites are going to get their asses handed to them and they’ll hang from trees like apples.

    • rbs76

      Key are the lieutenants, captains, majors. These are a huge group in the miliatry. They are more rural and a bit Southern. They take an oath to defend the constitution, they take it seriously. Obama’s cleansing of the the top command found the progressives, but, just below them are men who kept their head down. You see it in a McChrystal who voted Democrat but worked Constitutional.

      Evidence of this is just how fast Mattis was able to disseminate orders to refocus training on things tha would most immediately assure stronger miliary effectiveness and fewer casualities.

      When the leftists come and declare martia, laws to have illegal immigrants quartered in private homes, the mid level officers will refuse the order al illegal.

  • Cybergeezer

    Any essay about The U.S. Military, that does NOT address the ethnic dichotomy intrinsic within the ranks, is patently unacceptable.
    It’s one of the Democrat Party’s favorite toys.

  • It seems that we have a Gordian knot indeed. Seemingly impossible to untangle, yet it there must be a simple way if only we could see it. The response in Houston seems to reinforce that.

    But it’s still too tough for me to see where the lynchpin is. All that’s really clear is that we must continue the struggle, hoping for greater clarity.

    Thanks, Professor Codevilla.

  • RJ

    What if, in Wyoming–at Yellowstone, those new rumblings portend something violent is coming our way? Who can really stop Mother Nature? Al Gore and his band of merry revolutionaries? I don’t think so.

    Will Florida get beaten up to such a degree that many citizens will not return? I doubt that. So what if Kim sends to America a bomb that kills thousands upon thousands and destroys land for generations–we’ll just gather up the girls and have more babies while living elsewhere…for those of us lucky to survive!

    “Hold the line” is an order given to troops that aren’t moving forward, but responding to forces placed upon them with such intensity the commanding officers think it may collapse.

    Need a pathway to citizenship? Hey, illegals…join the Army…it worked for Rome! No, it did not! It signaled the end of Rome!

    Pay close attention to this dynamic, this new road to freedom that really goes nowhere and who pushes such a deal.

    • Adobe_Walls

      ””Hold the line” is an order given to troops that aren’t moving forward, but responding to forces placed upon them with such intensity the commanding officers think it may collapse.” Indeed, it will be interesting to see what the military will do if that collapse happens under a Social Democrat.

  • Deserttrek

    the republic is slowly dying

    • ek ErilaR

      The Republic died in 1913. It’s the Empire that is gasping and wheezing and the armed forces have been the creatures of the Empire since 1990.

  • carl Jung

    the military was co-opted long ago. they are reliable pets now, and not riding to anyone’s rescue.

    • Doom

      Exactly. Friends of mine are of the belief the military will follow their oath and defend the Constituion. I lol and say they’ll defend the people paying them. The US military can be counted on to defend the government, not the constitution.

      • Hopefully we don’t find out. However I think you’ll be surprised if it comes to that.

        • Doom

          I spent 25 years in…I’m not expecting to be surprised. The military is a reflection of our society. More “diverse”/liberal than ever before. I don’t think any of the officers above O-6 can be counted on to defend the Constitution. Those who don’t tow and push the progressive ideas/programs are not promoted.

  • Terenc Blakely

    My take is that if there is a shooting civil war the military will try real hard to stay out of it. There are many Federal agencies who have nothing to do with law enforcement who’ve ‘security’ forces. They and co-opted law enforcement agencies will take the lead in killing and imprisoning people who don’t kowtow when things hit the fan.

    • “… many Federal agencies who have nothing to do with law enforcement [have] ‘security’ forces. They and co-opted law enforcement agencies …”

      For as long as those agencies and forces last. Remember Solzhenitsyn’s statement:

      “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking:
      What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he
      went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would
      return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during
      periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested
      a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their
      lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at
      every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to
      lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a
      dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at
      hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of
      officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the
      cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love
      freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real
      situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened
      afterward.”

      Many thousands of Americans today can quote at least part of that. Tens of millions would say “Hell YEAH!” if it were quoted to them. No doubt a government tyranny can be attempted here and we can be utterly certain that the end result will be what we deserve. I believe we’ll be informed by Solzhenitsyn’s thoughts but I don’t think we’ll have to resort to axes, hammers, and the like.

      • Terenc Blakely

        The big difference is that Americans own guns…. millions and millions of guns. Makes you wonder why the left have been so adamant about stripping gun rights from Americans even when it hurts them so bad in elections.

        • Adobe_Walls

          Added to that is that the numbers of armed Federal forces are relatively few compared to the number of (for lack of a better word) deplorables.

  • brianreilly

    There is no longer an “American” line to hold that any establishmentarian recognizes or finds worthy of defense. The transition of the USA from a sovereign state into an administered province is the goal of all of them. Will the armed forces of the US work to accomplish this goal, stand by to see if it is accomplished by other means, or work (against the orders of their political management) to defend the sovereign state? Answer that. Answer it at the squad level. I do not claim to know.

    I am afraid to know. If the armed forces ever take up against Americans, all our fat is in the fire, regardless of the aim.

  • HA

    No, they cannot. How can they when the military is still being run by Obama’s generals and admirals? I don’t see Mattis purging them.

    • themaskedblogger

      One of Trump’s biggest mistakes. With a president who knows what he’s doing, there are always a rash of resignations on Inauguration Day.

  • themaskedblogger

    Now, there’s a scary thought.

  • Historybuff

    Interesting speculation.

    The ‘Ruling Class’ ? Which one… the leftist democrats that dominate college campuses and seek to suppress Free Speech, replace History with their lies, and destroy true equality among Americans?

    Or the ‘Ruling Class’ that spurns education for the ‘masses’, shouts down Free Speech, replaces facts with fantasy populism… and seeks to install Rich, Elite, Wall Street Billionaires as overlords?

    I think the Military will support the United States Constitution… whatever happens. Organizations such as ‘Oath Keepers’… VFW’s… American Legionaries … will honor their oaths along with the rest of the Uniformed Deep State.

    America will survive in spite of obama or trump.
    HB

    • Doom

      The military will defend the government, the ones paying them and funding their retirements.

      • Historybuff

        Ah… another russian trump troll weighs in.

        Sorry junior – you don’t have a clue about America.
        HB

        • Doom

          Another leftist retard spouting off with insults and name calling, but no argument. I’ll put my 25 years of military experience up against your BS any time snowflake.

  • Travvy

    Go to Google, and type in: “The number of Combat Veteran Commanders that Obama purged from the ranks”.

    It’s over 1,400.

    They’ve been replaced by POLITICAL OFFICERS, like the one in the Movie: The Hunt For Red October, who had the power to overrule the Captain of that boat.

  • Denisescapedca

    Political correctness is the offspring of feminism. Which is the offspring of Marxism and separatism. A way to neuter any opposition. Not hurting feelings (sensitivity training)….now has the greatest power over people. Imagine, a powerful nation brought to its knees….brought to the brink because of this. It took decades. Only Trump seems to have the ba*ls to say what’s on his mind and take the inevitable political firestorm to take on PC. Much of the lefts outrage is due to the fact that their sacred PC is dared to be challenged.

    • Safe Zone Inspector ⚠️🍼📎

      Dead on analysis. 🇺🇸👊🏻

    • TooTall7

      We, as a nation, are already low hanging fruit.

  • Max Flasher

    White leftists say they don’t consider all whites racist, only the white supremacist republicans. What exactly is a “white supremacist” though. There used to be a clear and distinct definition of terms like racism, fascism and white supremacy.

    That was before the left began playing games with the meaning of words and often expanding the definition so broadly that they become meaningless.

    Leftists say Trump is another Hitler and those who voted for him are Nazis, racists, fascists and white supremacists. I know Vietnamese, Hispanics and Asian Indians though who voted for Trump. Are they also racist, fascist, white supremacists or are they just deluded souls who need to spend some time in a re-education camp where they can be taught to have the correct opinion about race?

    I used to think our society was so severely socially fragmented that it surely must be terminally ill. The more I see though of the left shouting about things like racism, fascism and white supremacy the more I realize that these people are their own worst enemy. Their fanaticism is undermining them.

    I don’t think they have any idea of how deranged they appear to the average white person or to people like the Vietnamese, Hispanics and Asian Indians who don’t see white people like me as the devil.

    There’s a beautiful and strange YouTube video called “Dmitri Shostakovich-The Second Waltz”. Beautiful music and dancing plus it’s very strangely quirky which makes it even more enjoyable.
    https://youtu.be/F_rY7fpzNC0

    It’s odd that white leftists have such a deep racial hatred of white people since white people have in fact created a lot of very beautiful culture but the left is insane so there’s really no way to understand their reasoning.

    • “It’s odd that white leftists have such a deep racial hatred of white
      people since white people have in fact created a lot of very beautiful
      culture but the left is insane so there’s really no way to understand
      their reasoning.”

      Well … no. Not odd, not insane. Evil, just deeply evil.

      How do you take over something that is intrinsically strong? By weakening all the supporting members. For a human institution — say, western culture — you must demoralize the people who make up those members. Repeatedly tell them that what they consider beautiful is in fact ugly, that THEY are evil for believing in it. Racism largely gone (and nowhere legal or strongly approved? A MAJOR achievement — so call the people whose ancestors did the work and who support its success RACISTS. This extends to every single viewpoint, policy, and effort of the left: The BC crew could easily make a list of a hundred specific examples.

      The first level of countering this assault on America’s great strengths is to recognize it for what it is — NOT an attempt to improve anything for anyone except those at the top of the left, but purely and simply an attack using violence, lies, whatever it takes. Was it Harry Reid of who said of his lie about Romney having perhaps not paid his taxes for ten years “He lost, didn’t he?” Pure distilled spirits of leftism, that.

      The second level is to push back, within the law and the Constitution and laws if that proves possible. If we can convince the left’s followers that they are being conned then we may win this without violating the rules we want to protect and that’s obviously best. Otherwise resolve that we’ll do what seems necessary.

      This is OUR country Our fathers back ten or twenty generations fought and often died to create and preserve it. Are we less than they?

      • Max Flasher

        I agree with those who say that what happened here is simply that the left traded class for race. Instead of groups like rich landowners being labeled as the source of evil in the world, as happened in Mao’s China, our leftists cast white people as the devil. You don’t have to read much from leftist sites to realize that they consider white people evil.

        They also consider themselves evil but feel they’re much better than average whites because they at least are willing to endlessly wallow in white guilt and to dedicate their lives to fighting whites who aren’t interested in such a pastime. The left is insane.

        I’ve read that the Red Guard destroyed an estimated 90% of China’s priceless cultural heritage. Books, temples, art works and millions of lives were destroyed for the sake of creating a bright new future where all would be equal.

        All they actually created though was a hellish nightmare. Mao finally got tired of their insanity and sent them to rural areas to “learn from the peasants”.

        I do believe that the left’s increasing fanaticism will rapidly alienate a lot of people but they still do control the Democratic Party, academia, the msm and Hollywood which certainly is a lot of territory. All we can do is hope for the best. Time will tell what fate has in store for us.

      • Kenny A

        “Our fathers back ten or twenty generations”

        Or in the case of Angelo Codevilla, our fathers back no generations.

  • Safe Zone Inspector ⚠️🍼📎

    Mattis was speaking specifically to the junior troops about the PC takeover of the military. When you shove a transgender into a leadership role because you’re afraid of the PC backlash, instead of letting every man and women work their way to the top, you rot from the inside out.

    Those excellent people passed by for promotion in order to maintain PC acceptance will leave and the unqualified and over indulged mentally ill and confused leaders won’t be able to manage and lead by example.

    It happened in the name of “racial equality” and it’s happening now for every faction of the PC minority. Muslims, trans and others promoted for a cause. You can’t expect good people to stick around the military, when that’s the way to the top.

  • Southernationalist

    The US is gone. Kaput. We can still save 80% by precipitating a civil war that leads to the excising of the following malignant tumors. New England, New York City, South Florida, Northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, the Eastern Pennsylvania/ New Jersey/ Wilmington corridor, central Maryland and Baltimore, Coastal California, Washington and Oregon. Return Hawaii to it’s rightful owners and back them up on deporting all of the come-there’s. Do this and you can save most of the country. Continue along the present path and the tumors will metastasize consuming us all. Or, alternately, we could exterminate every last graduate of a Northeastern college and all of their fellow travelers from sea to shining sea. That would be exhilarating.

  • JohnnyClams

    Obama was our first truly leftist president, and let us hope our last. The left in its present state of ideological insanity simply cannot be permitted to win any more national elections. What a catastrophe if that were to happen. Their revolution to destroy civilization would likely succeed.

    • Max Flasher

      We seem to have already lost the capacity to transition to a new government after an election. The “Resistance!” is a good example of that. This though is a classic sign of a failed state. It could well be then that this was our last national election. God only knows what this place will look like in 2020.

      • JohnnyClams

        It’s tragic. It’s not Trump and his supporters who are radicals, revolutionaries, and extremists but the progressivist left, which now includes the media and the Deep State as well as the Democrat Party. They simply know no limits. Every boundary crossed is simply the preface to a new one to be torn down. It’s a scourge.

        • Max Flasher

          A very common topic of conversation at work in Chicago is the unraveling of our society in general and of Chicago in particular. Last week I was talking to a Mexican friend at work about this and one of the Assyrians came over and joined the conversation. After a few minutes he said “What’s happening in Iraq is going to happen here”.

          We’re not the only ones in trouble though. I know two Indian Muslims at work. I recently asked one what he thought of the rapid rise of Hindu nationalism in India. He said Christians and Muslims are being persecuted in India but the Muslims are better off because they have more areas where they are the majority and can therefore protect themselves better.

          I also asked the other one about this and he said It’s a very bad situation and that Hindus have already started killing Muslims in India over this issue of the killing of sacred cows. He then said relations are bad between India and China, he hopes there’s a war and he hopes India “gets whipped”.

          I got a haircut yesterday from an Indian Hindu woman from Gujarat which is also where these two Muslims are from. I told her what these Muslims had said about Muslims being killed in India. She said they bring it on themselves by attacking Hindus. I then told her what the one had said about how he hopes there’s a war with China and India gets whipped. She was shocked and said ” Did he really say that!?”. I said that he had. She just shook her head and said “There’s so much trouble in the world”. That sure is the truth.

          I recently read that one of the features of life in the modern world is always living with a sense of impending doom. That also sure is the truth.

        • brianOO7

          Hmmm. “Every boundary crossed is simply the preface to a new one …” Isn’t that a perfect description of Hitler’s march to war?

          • JohnnyClams

            Yep.

  • twilight_nymph

    a McMansion on a golf course paid for by a consultancy with a defense contractor
    Splendidly said! Not just the generals and admirals, either, but also much of the ‘intelligence community’ (whatever happened to the ‘intelligence services’?). It’s impossible to walk two blocks inside the Beltway without tripping over a fat, fify-ish ex-CIA drone pulling down mid-6 figs in a sinecure with a ‘defense consultancy’, often on a retainer with a hostile or semi-hostile nation.

    The hour is very late, but there is still reason to believe it is not too late, not quite. The self-regarding pseudo-elites in the author’s sights are nothing of the kind, often turning out to be anodyne mediocrities whose authority dangles by a slim thread.

    It is safe to say that a large majority of our military personnel are the kind of folks many of us civilians would want as a neighbor. What is lacking today is loud support from We The People. It is time to exercise the right to ‘no just say no, but hell NO!’ — and no need to be polite or diffident.

    The trappings of grandeur are brittle indeed.
    The McMansions are built on sand and won’t last long.

  • VXXC2014

    In 2d American Civil War the Ruling Class has position, resources, offices and advantages in *Organization*, logistics and Intelligence. Based on the actual split in the country the Ruling Classes reflect they can count on up to 1/3 of the Military and Veterans. Those are ties of interest and personal ties such as race, family, community and not ideology.
    Battles can be started for lesser reasons but Wars march on interests. As Prof C. has himself identified the Ruling Classes and public sector are some 40 million strong altogether. As for the military itself again it will probably reflect the split in interests that is the true driver of conflict: Power. Who has the POWER to do what to WHOM?

    Politics is POWER not right and wrong.
    POWER drives this conflict and it’s been eternally worth killing over, especially when you’re bankrupt and fear jail or death if you lose POWER. <= that's the True existential plight of our Ruling class.

  • Sun_Zeneise

    The ultimate question: Will the forces of order fire upon “The People” — whomever they may be identified to be?