If you are the senior military officer and think the commander-in-chief is making decisions that will unnecessarily cause many of your fellow countrymen and others to lose their lives, what do you do? If you think that the commander-in-chief is making horrible decisions, in part, because of cognitive decline, and his senior civilian staff is taking no action, what do you do?
The Biden administration has made a series of inexplicitly bad decisions regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the southern border, the tax and spending package, etc., that are doing great damage to America. And only now are some of his original supporters coming out and saying that they made a disastrous mistake in electing him.
Congress is almost certain to hold several hearings as to who made what decisions that cumulated in the Afghan calamity. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark A. Milley had to have known that pulling out the NATO troops from Afghanistan before rescuing all of the Americans and the Afghans who supported the effort was a death warrant for many of these people – and was contrary to long-standing U.S. military doctrine. Even if President Biden made the explicit decision and then ordered them to carry it out – at what point is the proper action to go public with the disagreement and resign? By defending the decision and carrying it out, Mr. Austin, Mr. Milley, and other senior military will have unnecessary blood on their hands – and their reputations forever destroyed.
In the U.S. (and other civil democracies), the military does not stage military coups against even the most incompetent and corrupt civilian leadership, leaving the strongest remedy – resignation – and private humanitarian action. Some veterans groups, private military contractors, and various humanitarian and religious groups are now – all to their great credit – trying to arrange private covert rescue missions for those who are being left behind in Afghanistan. It would send a great signal to the world if some of the senior generals still on duty would resign and join up with the private rescue efforts – as many retired officers are doing – as a way of demonstrating that they are true to their word that no colleague or other American would be left behind enemy lines as long as they have some ability to do something about it.
In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a French historian and political writer, published “Democracy in America.” He marveled at how Americans came together to solve problems in the absence of government or incompetent government. As Americans moved west, with no government, they plotted out towns, erected schools and churches, set up fire departments and even courts as voluntary associations.
Before the Civil War, some Americans who abhorred slavery not only spoke and wrote about it and supported anti-slave politicians but took direct and often extra-legal action by operating the so-called “underground railway” that liberated some slaves and funneled them into non-slave states. Americans had often created volunteer units to fight – on one side or the other – in various “foreign” wars before the U.S. became formally involved.
One of the most famous examples was the “Flying Tigers,” more formally known as the American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Republic of China Air Force (1941-42), composed of American military pilots commanded by General Claire Chennault to support the Chinese against the Japanese military invasion. In today’s parlance, they would be known as private military contractors. The U.S., politically, was not ready to enter WWII, but the AVG pilots felt action had to be taken and did so at great personal risk. (They were well paid by the standards of the day – as they should have been – but that did not compensate for the risk).
Many Americans are in anguish, realizing that the president, the vice president, and many around them are not up to the job – as even many of those who voted for him now realize. Americans’ saving grace is that private action and voluntary associations can fill in for or replace incompetent and corrupt governments. Americans do not need to sit and suffer; they only need imagination and energy to overcome government failures.
Many public school systems failed to provide basic education during the pandemic because of the rise of CRT and “wokeism.” The good news is that increasingly parents realize they and their children do not have to be prisoners of corrupt public school bureaucracies. They have the power to get rid of petty tyrants and/or create private alternatives, including homeschooling.
As we were wisely often warmed: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” Congress has been trying to do this for decades with some success. The effort is now in overdrive with the attempt to spend another five trillion or so to buy out our freedoms. If we do not resist, all will be lost. Americans need to say to their political leaders: “More than ever, government has proved its incompetence and malice. Stop the spending, taxing, and overregulation, and we will find private ways of solving the real problems by donating to those who are taking constructive actions and volunteering time.”
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.