This piece originally appeared on anti-war.com.
What if they called a war and no one came? Well, now’s the time folks. The apparent march to war with Iran represents a pivotal moment in the historical arc – the rise and fall – of our republic come empire. This potential war is so unnecessary, so irrational, that it borders on the absurd. Still, since the U.S. now fields a professional, volunteer military, few citizens have “skin in the game.” As such, they could hardly care less.
Unlike in past wars – think Vietnam – there is no longer a built in, established antiwar movement. This is unfortunate, and, dangerous for a democracy. See the US Government operates with near impunity in foreign affairs, waging global war without the consent of the people and, essentially, uninterested in what the people have to say at all. It should not be thus in a healthy republic. People should not fear their government; governments should fear their people.
So let me propose something seemingly ludicrous. It’s this: since Americans only trust the military among various branches of government, and since that military is both over adulated and ultimately responsible for waging these insane wars, it is within the military that active dissent must begin. That’s right, to stop the war America needs clean cut, seemingly conservative, all-American soldiers and officers to start refusing to fight. The people will back them; trust me. These guys are heroes after all, right? I mean few will pay attention to some aging hippie protester – even if he or she is correct – but even Republicans might tune in to hear what a combat vet has to say.
Remember, we soldiers take an oath not to a particular president or a certain government but to the Constitution. And that constitution has been violated time and again for some 75 years as US presidents play emperor and wage unilateral wars without the required, and clearly stipulated, consent of Congress, I.e. the people’s representatives. Thus, one could argue – and I’m doing just that – that a massive military “sit-down-strike” of sorts would be both legal and moral.
Sure, it’s a long shot. But there is historical precedence for dissent within the US military. It is an unknown but vibrant history worthy of a brief recounting. Back in the mid-19th century, many US Army officers were so appalled by the futility and brutality of the three American attempts to subjugate the Seminole tribe in Florida that a staggering portion of the young subalterns simply resigned.
There was also dissent in the ranks during the Mexican-American War of conquest. Though they did their duty, many officers were appalled by the blatant aggression of their country. A young lieutenant – and future general / president – named US Grant stated that he knew “the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War. I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign.” It’s unlikely that very many Americans even know that prominent statesmen, too, have often been against wars.
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Maj. Danny Sjursen, a Truthdig regular contributor, is a retired U.S. Army officer and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has written a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, "Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge." He lives in Lawrence, Kan. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet and check out his new podcast "Fortress on a Hill," co-hosted with fellow vet Chris "Henri" Henrikson.