When a man or woman makes the decision to serve his or her country as a member of the Armed Forces, it's a momentous decision. He or she is embarking upon a journey unlike any other ever experienced in his or her young life. It starts at a recruiting office where the uniformed equivalent of a used car salesman shows them all the POSITIVE aspects of military service, but omits the LESS than pleasant ones such as BOOT CAMP. Nonetheless, our military is the finest in the world and bears the awesome responsibility of protecting this country and its interests at home and abroad. An enlistee or officer is also writing a blank check to the people of this country for an amount up to and including his or her LIFE, and he or she is prepared to honor that check should the need arise.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines undergo rigorous physical and mental conditioning designed to increase their physical strength and mental toughness, but it also turns the individual from a self centered individual concerned only with himself, to a member of a unit, a part of something greater than themselves. For the Marines, it's the simple code of Unit, Corps, God, and Country. These are his or her priorities and it's drilled into their marrow as part of their training. All branches of the Armed Forces have similar indoctrinations. They also take an oath upon enlistment or commission to “support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND domestic, and to OBEY the ORDERS of the officers appointed over them” Orders given MUST be obeyed if they are given by a competent authority. For the average recruit, that authority is evidenced in the stripes on the sleeve or bars on the collar of the officer or sergeant giving them the order.
The military has it's own internal code of law and conduct in addition to the Constitution and laws of the State called the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ. This code contains laws of conduct applicable ONLY to members of the United States Armed Forces. These include the duty to follow orders. Disobedience is a criminal offense that, depending upon the degree of charge, can result in reductions in rank, forfeiture of pay, general or dishonorable discharge, or a sentence of incarceration. Every serving member is taught the basics of this code, but they are not lawyers, nor are the expected to have a lawyers understanding of legality when it comes to the military. They are not expected to analyze orders, but to OBEY them unconditionally. and this is driven home to them again and again. It's necessary to the good order and discipline of the military, but it also saves lives in the stress of combat, when there is not the luxury or leisure to discuss things in committee. As Jack Nicholson's character, Colonel Nathan Jessup in “A Few Good Men” put it, “We follow orders or people DIE. It's THAT simple.” And if you DISOBEY an order, there WILL be consequences.
Since the days of the Nixon Presidency, there has been a contingency plan for the declaration of marital law in this country. Nixon believed that the Viet Nam protesters were controlled by Russian communists and that they may at any time erupt into unfettered violence in an attempt to bring out revolution and the overthrow of the United States government. This idea seems far fetched to us now, with the hindsight of history. WE know that this did NOT happen, but at the time it was a very REAL possibility, and as the Venona papers revealed, such ideas HAD been considered by the Central Committee and Politburo of the former Soviet Union. So Nixon authored the plan to be executed in the event of a civil emergency, not unlike Hitler's VALKYRIE plan that nearly cost him HIS government when it was subverted by plotters seeking to overthrow the NAZI regime in Germany. Every President since Nixon has had access to this plan, and all have made various modifications to it, but NONE have ever admitted publicly the plan's existence or any role they may have played in it's evolution.
Today we're facing a federal government like NEVER before. Since Nixon's time, we've seen the PATRIOT Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, domestic spying and monitoring of our internet usage and email traffic, the NDAA which authorizes indefinite detention of ANYONE without due process or habeus corpus, etc. The government has become increasingly hostile and adversarial to the civil liberties of law abiding, tax paying Americans and it shows NO signs of loosening its grip on our freedoms in the foreseeable future. There's also evidence that our election processes are no longer fair or honest and that their results may be untrustworthy. Voter fraud was RAMPANT in the last Presidential and congressional elections and will only AMPLIFY in the coming one. The stakes are too high across the board. If people cannot trust elections, then can they trust the legitimacy of our GOVERNMENT itself? And what happens if they CANNOT? President Kennedy said it best when he said “Those who make peaceful transition impossible will make VIOLENT revolution INEVITABLE” and he was right. Given what transpired in Iran and Russia when THEIR elections were disputed or suspected of FRAUD, should the same thing happen here, a similar uprising is not inconceivable.
If the protest is in the form of a TEA party, then the civil authorities have no worries, but if it's more of a VIOLENT protest or RIOT, the civil authorities may not have the capability to respond and military forces may be called in to restore order and enforce a declaration of martial law. If that force is resisted in any way, our troops may be called upon to do the unthinkable, open fire on their fellow American citizens. How will they handle themselves in that moment. For the troops facing the people, most if not all of whom will be unarmed, they will receive the order to open fire from either a sergeant or a junior officer. How they react in that split second will impact them for the rest of their lives, one way or another. Who are these men and/or women who have the power of life and death over political protesters, and how will they react? Will they open fire and slaughter American civilians, or will they refuse to follow these orders and risk reprisal from the military?
When soldiers take to the streets and are given the order to open fire, the ones holding the weapons will be kids only a year or two out of high school. The ONLY thing they'll have to go by is their moral compass, and their loyalty to their chain of command. They will NOT play issues of military or civilian law in their minds, and they will be hard pressed to disobey their orders. There are severe consequences to a member of the armed forces should they do so. They will not be thinking of the Nazis who answered for their crimes at Nuremberg with the defense that they were “just following orders” nor will they know or care that that defense did not work. The most conflict they will have will be MORAL conflict, if they were raised in a good Christian home, but even THAT can't be counted on these days.
For military enlisted persons, or commissioned officers alike, when an order to fire their weapons is given, there can be only one of three possible responses. They can OBEY the order and risk the consequences that may come of THAT at a later date, or they can REFUSE to obey the order, in which case they risk criminal prosecution for any number of infractions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They can lock their weapon, lay it down and step back, thereby refusing to obey and subjecting themselves to immediate arrest, they can take that weapon and run to join the people, thereby risking a charge of desertion, or they can encourage others to join them in their actions, thereby risking a charge of Mutiny or Sedition as well as desertion under fire, all of which carry the DEATH penalty if guilt is adjudicated by a courts martial.
While the UCMJ provides the defense that an order may be disobeyed if it is illegal or unlawful, the burden of proving that the order was unlawful in the first place falls upon the soldier who substituted his OWN judgment of legality for that of his chain of command. It is an uphill fight that MOST defendants lose, because the good order and discipline of the military depends on soldiers following the orders given. In combat situations, there isn't TIME to debate, and the man with the most stars or bars has to know that when he gives an order, it's followed.
If it is the intention of the Commander in Chief to use the Army as his own private police force, dissension in the ranks is a THREAT and will be dealt with VERY harshly so as to discourage OTHERS from doing the same. A soldier who refuses an order to fire can be charged with offenses ranging from simple disobedience, to Mutiny and Sedition, which are CAPITAL offenses. If YOU were in their place, would YOU risk that? Some will, but MOST will likely NOT. It's far easier to just follow the order. After all, there's a chain of command that will own the responsibility if it's the wrong order. And the men confronting protesters will likely not be combat infantry troops that have seen action in the field. They will more likely be Military Police battalions specially recruited and trained for just such an assignment.
There are growing calls across social media for the military to step in and remove an unlawful government, but there is no precedent in our law or history for such an action. The Founders wrote our constitution to prevent a tyrannical government from coming to power, but they could not foresee progressives, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, the Patriot Act, NDAA, or any of the things that have since come to pass in this country. They could not have known about SEIU, ACORN, Occupy Wall Street, the TEA party, the takeover by communism of Academia, the Media, the Courts, and the CONGRESS, either. We are living in dangerous times and there is no book or blueprint to get us out of the mess we're in. It ultimately took NAZIS to get communists out of Germany, and they just came HERE and set up shop in Columbia University. It's taken progressives nearly a CENTURY to wreak as much social, political, and economic havoc as they have in this country, and we're not going to clean it up overnight.
But to those calling for the violent overthrow of our corrupt government, be careful what you WISH for. You might just GET it, and then God help us! I would have NO objection at ALL to a military coup d'etat if I thought it would be led by a WASHINGTON and not a NAPOLEON as was the case in France and Spain. In THOSE cases, the CURE was worse than the DISEASE. But no citizen uprising can be successful without the military being on board. Only the MILITARY could have stopped HITLER before he destroyed Germany, and that lesson is NOT lost on our commanders. But they are SWORN to uphold the constitution and unless and until a competent authority tells them otherwise, that means they are subject to civilian authority, as long as that authority is constitutionally empowered. The military would likely require a finding of unconstitutionality by a Court of competent jurisdiction such as the Supreme Court before it would ultimately act, but it would be better if the military with its resources went against the GOVERNMENT than having it used by the government against US. We've seen what Quadhaffi did to his people (though not for long), what happened in Iran and Syria when THEIR people took on their military, and again in IRAN what happened to the SHAH when the military REFUSED to obey HIS orders to attack the civilians, so what OUR military will do when given such an order is a matter for speculation at best. We can only HOPE they will do the RIGHT thing.