Is the Constitution dead?

As officers, we are sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  But what if the Constitution is already dead?

Fabius Maximus examines the health of the  Constitution in a brilliant post, a revision of one that he did three years ago.  Whether you agree with his thesis or not, he raises important issues and concludes on an optimistic note.

If the Constitution is dead, then we, as officers, have failed in our most fundamental duty, and all we can do is hope that his optimism is justified.  I fear, however, that the result may be that we get to try out COIN theory in the one arena where it has historically worked.

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Filed in Uncategorized | 9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Is the Constitution dead?”

  1. Fabius Maximuson 05 Jul 2009 at 1:29 am 1

    I strongly disagree with this: “If the Constitution is dead, then we, as officers, have failed in our most fundamental duty.”

    Don’t get lost in the illusions of specificity. If someone dies of old age, neither his doctors nor the police are responsible. No enemies, foreign or domestic, killed the Constitution. We, America’s citizens (collectively, as we’re all in this together), allowed it to die in our hearts.

    As I describe in this post, the Constitution is not America. Just one phase of it. Nor the first. Not the last. Our challenge is to do better in the future with our next political regime, and manage the transition as smoothly as possible.

    [CR: If the Constitution died, it wasn’t from old age. The document has mechanisms, two to be exact, for making changes. If we were unable to effect the needed changes to a document that had served us well, then we did indeed kill it. Officers are not solely to blame, but as individuals who swore to defend the Constitution — which would seem to include the the obligation to keep it alive — from all enemies, we failed. I appreciate your trying to let us off the hook, by the way.

    In a Clausewitizian world of a distinct government-people-military trinity, you’d have a point. Government failed, we’re not the government, so what?

    But a constitutional democracy is inherently non-trinitarian: Government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. So too is the military. Officers, in fact all members of the military, have responsibilities that go beyond leadership in battle. But these responsibilities are not unlimited, and perhaps we took on too much with the “all enemies” oath.

    The old model having failed, along with its sworn defenders, the question is what’s next? I don’t know. The role of the military in non-trinitarian conflict (4GW) is the matter of some debate. Van Creveld suggested in Transformation that the trend in non-trinitarian environments is for militaries to become indistinguishable from gangs. Although he wasn’t addressing constitutional democracies as such, and would probably be horrified by my conclusion, the Founders considered this a strong possibility.

    One area where van Creveld and I do agree is that “smoothly as possible” isn’t going to be very smooth. If we couldn’t maintain our current system, the thought that we can create a new one without blood filling the gutters is fantasy.]

  2. seydlitz89on 05 Jul 2009 at 12:20 pm 2

    Hi Chet-

    Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Couldn’t resist responding to this.

    [CR: Indeed. I hope all is well in Germany.

    Your first point falls into the category of Clausewitizian esoterica, which is, unfortunately, not a subject we treat on this blog. Interested readers are referred to your new blog, below]

    I have also never read van Creveld use the term “4GW” so how can you equate it with his “non-trinitarian warfare” since van Creveld also rejects “axiomatic theory” which is what 4GW attempts to be?

    [CR: Well, for one thing, van Creveld himself has stated that the concepts are equivalent but that he preferred the term “non-trinitarian.” So apparently there is more to 4GW than an “axiomatic theory.” You might want to look into this. I documented van Creveld’s remark in my book Neither Shall the Sword.

    I took the liberty of deleting the next paragraph for violation of our comment policy. Knew you wouldn’t mind.]

    As to the US Constitution being “dead”, it would be dead from my perspective once people in government no longer use it to orient their government duties, but rather use mechanisms to subvert that duty as defined by the constitution. As to the guilt for its demise? That would rest with our political elite and the responsibility of officers would be to resign in protest and for citizens to demonstrate their dissatisfaction …

    [CR: Excellent point, and resigning en masse would have been one response. Few of us, myself included, took it. Point is, for the most part, we did nothing. For those interested in pursuing the connection between the military and the Constitution in the context of 4GW, I suggest starting with Mike Wyly’s “Fourth Generation Warfare: What Does It Mean To Every Marine?.”]

    BTW, I’m on a blog now . . .

    Come by and have a look …

    [CR: Congrats! Good luck with it.]

  3. Maxon 05 Jul 2009 at 7:49 pm 3

    “resigning en masse would have been one response. Few of us, myself included, took it. Point is, for the most part, we did nothing.”

    Interesting analysis;

    It turns out that, The Military “bussiness” isn’t really any different form ANY other bussiness in the US of A.


    [CR: That, perhaps, is the point.]

  4. Maxon 05 Jul 2009 at 7:59 pm 4

    More on resignations and why it’s
    practically unheard of.


    >”There is a huge distinction between retiring and resigning. When officers retire, they do so with full benefits, health care, and continued membership in the fraternity of military officers. When they resign, they give up all of that.”
    “This is why no U.S. general has resigned in more than 40 years—and the last one to do so later asked, without success, for reinstatement.”

    [CR: I would have settled for mass retirements. I did retire, but it was because I had reached my mandatory separation date, in my case, at 30 years commissioned service.]

  5. JRBehrmanon 06 Jul 2009 at 10:54 am 5

    Not Dead Yet!

    Support for and understanding of the US and state constitutions has never been all that consistent from legal or other learned elites here, much less from the electorate as a whole. Indeed, the Anglo-American overclass (M. Lind, K. Philips) was factious from the outset, arguably treasonous, with the soi-disant “Federalists” never truly embracing the Bill of Rights.

    Besides the Slavery Question, the legal and learned elites never quite managed to realize a Swiss-Roman well regulated militia coterminous with universal suffrage or even to keep from “quartering” long-term hire regulars based on voluntary or involuntary arrangements with a propertied or virtually titled class.

    There has also been a less than consistent anti-Federalist and usually more patriotic or just popular tradition of constitutionalism. Hopefully, both together amount to some sort of American “genius” to explain how, despite the tenuous nature of the words, some sort of constitution still stands, like the “Star Spangled Banner” itself. And, so, I agree …

    “We are America. We are strong because of our ability to act together, to produce and follow leaders. We are strong due to our openness to other cultures and ability to assimilate their best aspects. We are strong due to our ability to adapt to new circumstances, to roll with defeat and carry on. We will be what we want to be. The coming years will reveal what that is.”

    “Fuck, yeah!”

    Here are two challenges the genius of American constitutionalism must overcome:

    Restoring balance and modesty between three engorged branches of the federal government: I think that President Obama is doing that with a degree of patience some on his left find frustrating but that I consider astute, especially in its distinctly military dimension.

    Re-scaling public and private enterprise to reflect micro-economic realities and modular technologies: This will take a very different financial regime and industrial policy from those that the Anglo-American overclass and the Soviet nomenklatura “converged” on during the Great, World, and Cold Wars. My party is uniquely qualified to do this today, but I doubt that my generation of Democrats is up to the task.

    Finally, let me say I very much appreciate contributions in the Boyd tradition and other even more timely insights uniquely available on D-N-I, thanks to Chet, MaxFab, and that Hohenzollern/Hapsburg guy-who-does-not-read-email.

    John Robert BEHRMAN
    State Committeeman, SD-13
    Texas Democratic Party

    [CR: John — many thanks! I’m not nearly as optimistic, so I sincerely hope you are right.]

  6. Maxon 06 Jul 2009 at 5:12 pm 6

    ” I did retire, but it was because I had reached my mandatory separation date, in my case, at 30 years commissioned service”

    It’s a very good thing for all of us Chet, that you have the time
    and resourches to devote to and continue to lead this following.


  7. loggie20on 06 Jul 2009 at 6:05 pm 7

    There is a safe guard in the UCMJ (congress does this in law) against officers uttering treasonous remarks about high officials usurping the constitution.

    I left active duty in the early 80’s.

    Stayed in the reserve because I could be useful if the big war came. And the pension, too. There were a lot of guys in reserve who wanted to serve but not to be self serving.

    I left in part because the officer corps was not focused. Careerism was rampant even before the Soviets collapsed.

    The calling was no longer worthy to be called the “service” and the appellation “hey, GI”, no longer fit the officer and much of the NCO ranks.

    There were huge numbers of officers who should have lead but left because it was too political, too me first, too one mistake, too image only.

    No one proposed the officer corps as the guardians of the constitution.

    That is why there is a second amendment and there is only supposed to be a 2 year limit on raising an army. The national guard was to the guarantor of the Union.

    There is no obey clause in the officers’ oath.

    [CR: Thanks much. Most US citizens do not appear to be aware of the 2-year restriction on funding an army, which appears in Article I, Section 8 – language not applied to the Navy.]

  8. loggie20on 07 Jul 2009 at 4:41 pm 8

    The two year rule may be behind the authorization bill being separate from the appropriations bills, I don’t know for sure.

    The wording for the navy is “maintain” a navy.

    Which suggests the framers were unaware of the Roman approach to navies which was to build a new one for each of the 3 Punic Wars, and the expedition against the pirates in the 50’s BC.

    Until the empire the Romans maintained a class of warriors and raised legions for Hannibal and Spartacus. Cincinnatus was a reservist!

    However, England, France, Spain and Holland all maintained navies during the age of exploration.

  9. Maxon 09 Jul 2009 at 1:48 am 9

    JRBehrmanon 06 Jul 2009 at 10:54 am 5

    “Not Dead Yet!”

    Really ? If so,
    Kindly explain this High TREASON;


    CIA Admits It Misled Congress in Past, Lawmakers Say

    James Rowley James Rowley – Wed Jul 8, 10:36 pm ET

    July 8 (Bloomberg) — Six Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said the head of the CIA admitted the agency misled Congress since 2001 about “significant actions.”

    In a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta, the six members said he had “recently” testified that “top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all members of Congress” and “misled members” from 2001 until this week.