Saturday, August 28, 2004

Juan Cole at Informed Comment had a lengthy and interesting post today on the possible connection between AIPAC, Israeli intelligence and Bush administration Neocons at the Pentagon. Overall, consdering the topic, it's a pretty measured and balanced post. Having debated Juan in the past on H-Diplo over Neoconservatism's origins, foreign policy ideas and ties to Israel, the news of an FBI investigation gave Professor Cole ample opportunity to take a few partisan cheap shots at the Bush administration, which he declined to do, sticking instead to serious policy analysis. Cole's earlier Senate testimony on Iraq was much in the same spirit. It's this understanding of the difference between politics and policy coupled with his expertise on the Mideast that will someday, I predict, see Juan Cole working for the NSC or the State Department in a future Democratic administration. Mark my words.

Nevertheless, Juan completely loses me at the end of his post. First here:

"If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the US and whom the US government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out."

If anyone believes, right or left, that the American people would accept military rule as a way of life then they are completely out of their gourd. If such an insider putsch were ever tried here it would look a great deal like the August Coup in the Soviet Union and be about equally successful. This is not Weimar Germany where General von Seeckt could truthfully warn the civilian government in Berlin that " the Army stands behind me ". Not only would public reaction be violently in opposition but the U.S. military in " the homeland" would probably either mutiny if given such an order or disintegrate as a cohesive force.

If there is another apocalyptic act of terror inside this country by Islamist radicals the outcome will most likely be a massive retaliation against the leading anti-American states of the Muslim world. The gloves will come off, there will be a draft and we will have a war on the scale of WWII. If radiological or biological weapons are used to inflict mass casualties on American citizens by terrorists the subsequent consequences could very well involve nuclear war. If foreign statesmen who are currently playing a double game with Islamist terror groups do not believe this will happen they are whistling in the dark.

And secondly:

"If I had been in power on September 11, I'd have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can't absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can't continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I'd have thrown everything the US had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.

Israel's settlement policies are a complete and utter failure but if a President Cole had announced such a move on September 12, 2001 the American public would have reacted with collective disbelief. President Cole might very well be impeached if he insisted on such a policy.

Moreover, if the U.S. will force Israel out of the West Bank after a terror bombing then why not Britain out of Northern Ireland ? India out of Kashmir ? Russia out of Chechnya ? China out of Tibet ?

Becoming the big anti-Zionist stick for al Qaida in reaction to 9/11 is not exactly the precedent I would have wanted an American president to set.
If anyone believes, right or left, that the American people would accept military rule as a way of life then they are completely out of their gourd.I think this goes a bit too far. I agree that in most scenarios I can imagine Americans would not accept military rule. Which leaves two questions (at least): There are scenarios which involve massive destruction. Can't you, Mark, imagine scenarios in which the public is so frightened that it essentially demands martial law? Second, what do we mean when we say, "military rule"? Outside of martial law, which is a known quantity, what if there was a suspension of habeas? Or a radical expansion of the "enemy combatant" doctrine or the theory that the President's powers include being able to suspend the Constitution?

Finally, whether we have a von Seeckt or not largely depends on whether we have a Stresemann in power at the time, doesn't it? That is, bluntly, I can't imagine a military coup against a Republican, but I can well imagine one against a Democrat.
Hi Mithras,

Temporary and local martial law in the wake of mass destruction I can well imagine Americans accepting, since the possibility is envisioned in the Constitution and the enforcers of martial law would be, in all likelihood, National Guardsmen and civilian police.

What I find incredible is the thought that the public would accept an American Pinochet on a semi-permanent basis. We're just not a terribly obedient or collectivist minded people and antigovernment/antifederalist/critical thinking runs deep in our politics, right and left. Moreover, certain principles of our constitutional system are surprisingly inviolable - recall FDR's attempt to " pack the Court " at the height of his personal popularity and in the midst of a real crisis. The public reaction to this much, much, milder ( and Constitutional) innovation was overwhelmingly negative.

We could of course, suspend Habeas by Congressional action, it's just a really bad precedent and completely unnecessary IMHO. Lincoln, as you know, suspended habeas on his own authority as C-in-C and set up military courts to try civilian sympathizers but in *stretching* the Constitution here he still accepted the authority of SCOTUS to reverse his actions at a later date, which it did in Ex Parte Milligan. The political pendulum later swung against Andrew Johnson but it would have also done so against Lincoln, had he lived, albeit to a lesser degree.

This sort of nod and wink political bending of the Constitution during an emergency has inherent dangers but they are probably less than following through on the Constitution's actual mechanisms to handle insurrection/invasion, which will be difficult to reverse once enacted. I much prefer Bush's " enemy combatant " doctrine which can be pretty easily brought into line with traditional laws of war practices to handle separating war criminals from legitimate POW's to granting vast de jure expansion of Federal authority.

As for von Seeckt and Stresseman, Eisner etc., Weimar as a system in 1920 had less legitimacy and authority in the German mind than did the Army, particularly in Prussia proper. While the pro-democracy and liberal Social-Democrats were the most popular party, German society at the time had a deeply ingrained attachment to hierarchy, titles, tradition and paternalism. American attitudes toward the military here, while supportive and nominally admiring, are not anything like the German and American officers are not a caste apart like the old Junkers-dominated German officer corps.
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