A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.
The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted.
Granted, it is what the Federal Government did during the early years of the Great Depression, when military force was used to disperse the Bonus Army in the so-called Battle of Anacostia Heights.
It's worth pointing out--for those fond of meaningless historical parallels--that President Hoover, not President Roosevelt, ordered out the troops.
Meaningless, why? Because we have had ample warnings over the past two weeks of a dangerous tendency for the upper echelons of the US military to want to wag the dog of civilian foreign policy choices.
We've had continuing SecDef Gates talking about the many years we're going to be in Iraq.
We've had generals in Iraq discussing the fact that they won't keep the SOFA agreement requiring us to be out of Iraqi cities by the end of June.
We've had generals and senior politicians cautioning the incoming administration about not closing Gitmo too quickly, and not abandoning the flexibility to torture.
It all begins to sound suspiciously like President-elect Barack Obama is being given a not-so-subtle message by the defense/industrial complex: Play around with the domestic economy all you want, Mr. President, but you're not going to be allowed to institute a sea change in foreign policy.
My liberal and progressive friends tell me to wait and see--Obama's made of sterner stuff, and when he's president he'll bring them to heel.
I hope they're right.
We've got a lot riding on it.