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Threat of near term coup is real

Farley 10/20 - an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce
at the University of Kentucky. His interests include national security, military doctrine, and maritime
affairs. (Robert, World Politics Review, “Over the Horizon: Warning Signs in U.S. Civil-Military
Relations”, BL)

In June, Rolling Stone helped bring down Gen. Stanley McChrystal by publishing "The Runaway General," a Michael Hastings article depicting
McChrystal's staff as contemptuous of civilian authority. Last month, Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" suggested that the uniformed military
had boxed President Barack Obama into an escalation of the Afghanistan War. In tandem, the publications re-awakened concerns about
the health of civil-military relations in the United States. Although the military has not directly challenged civilian
authority, some observers worried that contempt in the ranks and the effort to control policy in Afghanistan
could spell trouble for civilian supremacy. The Winter 2010 issue of Joint Force Quarterly did nothing to reassure them. An organ
of the National Defense University Press, JFQ typically publishes short articles on joint or integrated military operations. But the Winter 2010
issue offered one titled, "Breaking Ranks," by Marine Corps Lt. Col. Andrew R. Milburn, who argued that military
officers have a moral duty to the Constitution, rather than to the civilian leadership of the United States.
Accordingly, officers have a responsibility to openly disobey "immoral" orders, regardless of their legality. Milburn
characterized this responsibility as a check on foolish or impractical civilian authority, and as part of a remedy for congressional abdication of
foreign policy responsibility. Milburn's article met harsh criticism from both civilian and military sources. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling referred (.pdf)
to Milburn's essay as "chilling" and "regrettable." Dr. Richard Kohn of the University of North Carolina called it "an attack on military
professionalism that would unhinge the armed forces of the United States." Milburn's argument collapses under close scrutiny. Although
constitutional interpretation in the United States does not rest solely with the Supreme Court, it goes without saying that assigning each and every
military officer the responsibility of constitutional interpretation threatens the breakdown not only of civilian control, but also of the entire
military hierarchy. Milburn's argument also makes no clear distinction with regard to the rank of officers obligated to disobey orders.
Conceivably, junior officers could interpret the orders of senior officers to be legal but morally repugnant, thus further disrupting the chain of
command. Milburn's criteria for disobeying an order include the well-being of the nation, of the military, and of the officer's subordinates. But all
of these are political judgments that by their very nature are contestable. People disagree over both means and ends with regard to the well-being
of the nation. Individuals also disagree as to the value of the military as a means of guaranteeing the security of the United States. Indeed, the
very purpose of the civilian political process is to resolve these disagreements. Milburn ignores these truths, and as a result, rather than leading to
a disciplined military carefully subordinated to appropriate political authority, his schema would produce cacophony. Milburn's essay
represents just the latest warning about the state of civilian control of the military in the United States. Concerns about
the health of civil-military relations smoldered throughout the Cold War, flaring most famously in Gen. Douglas MacArthur's removal by
President Harry Truman during the Korean War. In the 1980s and 1990s, concerns emerged over the "Weinberger Doctrine" (later known as the
Powell Doctrine), which placed informal limits on the ability of civilian policymakers to order military action. The 1990s also saw acts of near-
open insubordination from officers who were contemptuous of President Bill Clinton and angered by his efforts to integrate gays into the U.S.
military. Since 2001, civil-military disputes have grown more heated. University of Notre Dame Professor Michael Desch locates
the source of the most recent threats to civil-military relations in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Desch blames both civilians and military
officers, arguing that Bush administration civilians ran roughshod over military advice in Iraq, while senior military personnel have tried to
severely constrain presidential decision-making in Afghanistan. Desch also suggests that the COIN strategies adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan
have exacerbated the problem by giving the military an explicitly political role. Soldiers in Afghanistan are expected not simply to break things,
but also to rebuild them -- including the country's political order. Desch's case is supported by Hastings and Woodward's depiction of the
situation in Afghanistan and the process through which the escalation decision was made. However, I am not as convinced as Desch of the
centrality of COIN to the problem of civil-military relations. Rather, I suspect that the larger problem lies with the civilian
concession of an ever-greater share of policymaking responsibility to the military. The United States military now conducts,
on a daily basis, a huge number of tasks normally termed "political." These tasks include day-to-day management of institutional relations with
scores of foreign countries, as well as assistance, training, and disaster relief. The military has become more knowledgeable about
and capable of such tasks than its civilian agency counterparts. Washington Post journalist Dana Priest chronicled the expansion
of the military's political responsibilities in her 2003 book, "The Mission." Combatant commanders have become, as several commentators have
noted, akin to imperial proconsuls in their areas of responsibility, controlling vast resources that dwarf those available to the State Department
and other civilian agencies. The assignment of political roles to military officers invites, and indeed almost requires, a
breakdown in the traditional conception of civil-military relations. Charles Dunlap foresaw the potential for just
such a breakdown as early as 1992, when he penned "Origins of the Coup of 2012" (.pdf). Set in the aftermath
of a fictional coup, Dunlap's article identifies the expansion of military responsibility into civilian realms as the
primary cause of the disaster. In particular, Dunlap warned of a civilian inclination to use military forces in
humanitarian and nation-building roles, tasks that would invariably involve the uniformed military in
civilian governance. Of course, Dunlap also warned that the military would take over the civilian policing function in the United States,
and that Congress would attempt to unify the military services. Neither of these "predictions" have yet come to pass. Moreover, the civil-military
difficulties in the United States remain substantially short of a coup. Nevertheless, Dunlap understood the potential problems that a
global foreign policy based on military stakeholders presented for civil-military relations.