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Uniform Fix

Author: Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow
January 16, 2014


In 1992, the U.S. Army War College's in-house journal, Parameters, published a highly thought-provoking essay by then-Lt. Col. Charles Dunlop entitled, "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012." Dunlop employed the literary device of writing a letter from the perspective of an unnamed senior U.S. military officer -- who was imprisoned for opposing the fictional future coup -- explaining what had precipitated it:

Americans became exasperated with democracy. We were disillusioned with the apparent inability of elected government to solve the nation's dilemmas. We were looking for someone or something that could produce workable answers. The one institution of government in which the people retained faith was the military. Buoyed by the military's obvious competence in the First Gulf War, the public increasingly turned to it for solutions to the country's problems.

Though Dunlop was warning primarily about how the military could increasingly get drawn into a political leadership role by undertaking more and more civilian tasks at home -- rather than preparing for war -- the passage should be familiar to observers of Washington's toxic environment. Today, Americans are beyond exasperated with the inability of the country's elected leaders to address -- much less solve -- pressing national problems. In a June Gallup poll, when asked in which societal institutions they had the most confidence, Americans ranked the military first, with 76 percent of respondents having a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in it. The presidency came in far lower at 36 percent. Congress was dead last at 10 percent.

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