Saturday, July 6, 2013

Reflections on the Fourth of July 2013

I watched many fireworks this past few days. I also ate well.

In between, I thought hard about this celebration of America. In particular I thought very hard about the meaning of Gettysburg, the enormous Civil War battle that occurred 150 years ago in Pennsylvania (1 July 1863 to 3 July 1863).

Here are my conclusions, for better or worse:

1) The United States is Revolution Proof

Basically, a strong majority will at least appear to prevail in the political arena and will thus find accommodation within our Constitutional system. A determined and organized minority may revolt--as the Confederacy did in 1861--but they will lose as they will be out-manned and out-gunned given the position of the President as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

2) The South Never Stood a Chance

Gettysburg marks the high tide of the Confederacy. By all accounts, General Lee desperately needed a complete victory so he could march on Washington and seek a negotiated peace. Despite a long string of victories Lee understood that the South was out of troops and munitions and the North was nearly inexhaustible. This meant he needed to gamble and seize the offensive. Gettysburg was the logical conclusion of that gamble. The Union held dug-in positions on the high ground. Lee's attack resulted in the loss of over 1/3 of his Army which rendered victory in the ensuing war of attrition impossible. It is hard to imagine a stronger rebellion than the Confederacy--yet, it failed.

3) Revolution by Other Means is Similarly Impossible

In some nations, protests, coups and other mechanisms have resulted in regime change. But, not in the USA. In the US superior leaders are generally co-opted into the system. Because the US has long been the land of opportunity (albeit less so in recent years) the most talented in the system soon become invested in the system. People with IRA accounts and 30 year mortgages are not likely to revolt.

4) Those Seeking Change Must Work Within the US Constitution and Under Law

All of this precludes radical change in the US. Only change within the existing legal framework is possible and desirable. Overall, the historical outcomes of revolutions are mixed at best. It is hard to find a successful rebellion in a functioning republic or democracy.

The upshot of this is that any talk of violent armed revolt is nonsense. The US military is so advanced today that no amount of small arms can match it.

Those interested in change should look to history to learn how legal and regulatory reforms took root in the past. Similarly, one can analyze law and determine mechanisms available for durable reform. Reformers can also study political contexts that support reform efforts and try to propose reforms that fit with a given political context. This is the only path for reform in the US right now and those offering more radical paths are destined to fail and even further entrench the status quo.


  1. I agree that violence is really not the way to go.

    If I wanted to start "negotiations", I would shut down the freight railway system because 80% of all goods move by rail.

    Railways pass through the center of each community and thus no need for organized marches to Washington.

    I would slow down the transportation system until such time as the Ruling Class agreed to negotiate.


    1. As an attorney I am obligated to denounce lawlessness everywhere and always. As a Christian I am obligated to denounce violence except in highly limited circumstances. Given the consequences of the recent train wreck in Quebec, messing with trains is both illegal and immoral.

  2. What is the difference between protesters taking to the streets and where they walk slowly down down the street (perhaps J-Walk) and interupting traffic on a highway or a city street and the slowing down of freight rail traffic? There are transport trucks with hazardous chemicals on board along roadways too. As I recall, the immigrant protests in 2006 shut down complete cities with peaceful protests which prevented the movement of traffic.

    I did not suggest that rail cars be vandalized. I was thinking about protesters walking slowly along the railway tracks and thus slowing down traffic.

    I don't mean to argue with you. I just wanted to make my point quite clear.


    1. You are correct that non-violent civil disobedience holds a role in the US political system, as has been amply illustrated by our history.

      I apologize if I misapprehended your point.

  3. I agree that the US is revolution proof, but it reminded me that Thomas Jefferson suggested that we should write a new constitution every 19 years I believe. So do you think that the US is also new constitution proof as well?

    1. The 27 amendments to the Constitution both support and undermine your point. In light of the amendment process do we need a new constitution? Certainly, the availability of the amendment process diffuses political energy for a new constitution.

      It is an excellent Constitution--except for the language regarding slavery which should be stricken. In fact, the Confederate Constitution was remarkably similar except for slavery.

      In light of this history, the US is at least highly resistant to a new constitution.

  4. The U.S. is not "Revolution Proof"

    It is just that the U.S. media will not describe it as a revolution but rather an "Insider Threat" and "Domestic Terrorism".

    Make no mistake .... Huge civil unrest is on the horizon and it will be led by the middle class or those who once enjoyed the "American Dream" and have lost it, and not the usual suspects belonging to the lower class. The main reason why the Occupy Movement (as an example) did not become whole and flourish was because the visible minorities refused to participate en masse because they did not want to destroy the first black presidency.

    I view all the anti-terror legislation as being geared towards "The War At Home" and where Martial Law will need to be implemented.

    The No-Fly list is to prevent the movement of "Professional" protest organizers. Why would anyone who qualified for the No-Fly list still be allowed to drive a car? One would think that if the threat was great enough to be placed upon the No-Fly list that the individual should be arrested immediately.

    And if the truth be realized, there is more of a threat with the transportation of hazardous materials within tank cars on the railways then any airport. Every tank car on the train is a potential WMD. 90-ton rail tankers filled with deadly chemicals and other hazardous materials roll slowly through our major cities every day over unprotected and unguarded rails, with no warning to those communities, and we are worried about some airplane. An assault on a chlorine tanker could create a toxic cloud extending up to 15 miles. It is estimated that up to 100,000 people could be killed or injured in less than a half-hour by such an attack.

    The Airports are being given huge attention because in the future business people and anybody who even smells of wealth will need special protections and priority as they travel.

    I believe that the war on whistleblowers is because with the implementation of Martial Law, at least 30 percent of the Federal, State and Local civil service would not agree and would be leaking the plans and the Police State incidents as per martial law implementation.

    I study this topic rather closely.


  5. I have no expectation of martial law and while the US government prepares for many contingencies I do not believe that martial law is on the table.

  6. I have given great thought over these past few days and towards your view of no martial law being implemented.

    Perhaps you are correct.

    It seems to me that every police force has been militarized and has the identical "Teams" and "Equipment" which the military presently uses.

    Thus; your view may very well be true.