Why A Coup Will Never Happen In the U.S.

I am sure that you all are following the news in Turkey, where members of the Armed Forces attempted a forcible transition of power in that country.  As of this writing, the attempt failed, but it certainly makes one stop and wonder if something like this could ever happen in the United States.  One author actually wrote a book (novel) on the possibility more than a half century ago.  The book was titled “Seven Days in May” (written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II) and was followed by a movie that starred some of the greatest names in Hollywood, including Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Frederic March, and Edmond O’Brien (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058576/).  The screenplay for the movie was written by Rod Serling (of “Twilight Zone” fame), was very powerful and, although there was very little action in the movie (and the book), the suspense was sometimes overwhelming.

The story goes something like this:  A General, by the name of James Scott, who happens to the be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with some other of the Joint Chiefs, decide to stage a coup using betting on the Preakness (a horse race that takes place in May, hence the title) and is almost successful except for a Marine Colonel, the Chief of Staff for the General Scott, who goes by the name of Jiggs (his real name is Martin Casey).  Now Jiggs becomes suspicious of activity surrounding an exercise that includes the relocation of units to a secret location, along with equipment and orders that would provide a perfect backdrop for an armed take over of the United States, including instantaneous communication cut overs to the General Scott, who would be the new leader of the free world.  Jiggs go to the President to express his concern, and is suddenly involved in a hunt for the truth, along with the President and some trusted members of Congress.

In the end, the plot is foiled and the United States retains the elected leader, but again it brings up something that I am sure comes in to US citizens’ minds.  Could the US ever have a coup?  As stated in the title, I am sure that the US will never find itself in the hands of a group of disgruntled military, ready to take over the US.  There are several reasons that I feel comfortable with that conclusion.

First, the US military has never tried to take over the United States, even in our worst times.  During the Depression, taking over the US would have been a relatively easy task, since the overall national security was in peril, but it never happened.  During the Vietnam War, with many disgruntled US service members coming home, a coup never happened.  Even in our worst conditions, the US military takes one thing as mandated — that they work ultimately for civilians including the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President and the President, who holds the title of Commander-in-Chief of ALL the Armed Forces.

Second, as a veteran and former active duty military service member, I took an oath before witnesses, a part of which was to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies foreign and domestic; and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”  I remember those words to this day, almost 20 years after I retired from the military, because I lived by those words and would never try to do something that would have placed this country in jeopardy.

Third, and foremost, the military is a profession.  There are several authors (including Charles Moskos) that confirmed this through research.  The military, being a profession, has a set of ethics that we apply every day of our service.  We serve the United States, their citizens, and the Constitution.  We do not serve one person, one office, or any political party.  We serve all people, providing for the “common defense” (taking something out of the Constitution).

And, although briefly stated, that is why a coup will not happen in the United States.  There may be novels written about it, or movies filmed about it, but in reality we are a country “of the people, by the people, and for the people” who would not stand for an armed take-over of the country by people entrusted for our defense.  We are not special by any means, but we have laid the groundwork to ensure that our Armed Forces are people that care about this country and take an oath to the document that built it.

That is what makes us Americans, and the UNITED States of America.

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