Trump and the “Old Guard”-the Coup of 2020?

Since the eruption of nationwide demonstrations in the US in the wake of the death of George Floyd, concerns have focused on Donald Trump’s use of the military and federal marshals.  Even more so, concerns have focused on whether or not POTUS will leave office if defeated in the 2020 election or if he will attempt to illegally extend the date of the election itself.  Such concerned individuals include Joe Biden himself as we see in the following video clip:

While many people may think that Joe Biden is delirious, he is not.  The question of whether or not the US military will acquiesce in the further theatrical stunts of the president during a time of pandemic is unfortunately a very open one.  Numerous high ranking general officers, retired and even active duty have openly expressed concern about the president’s use of National Guard or potentially active duty personnel to quell demonstrators.  Indeed, even the president’s own defense secretary expressed his concerns regarding the president’s suppression of demonstrators.  All of this is unprecedented in recent American history.  Many commentators worry that Trump will invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to quell demonstrations.  The last time this was used was by then President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 to dispatch US Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton to assist in the suppression of Los Angeles rioters protesting the acquittal of policemen who were accused in the beating of Rodney King.

Could a coup in the US work?  It would be a dicey affair, given the size of the United States.  Certainly, if the president would be golfing in his favorite Mar a Lago Resort in Florida, sealing him in there would be no problem.  The resort occupies a peninsula.  However, a complicated scenario would play out elsewhere in the country.

First of all, communications country wide would have to be shut down to avert the Tweeter in chief from mobilizing his fascist goon squads nationwide via social media platforms, Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting.  There are many examples of coup attempts that have failed due to a failure to secure communication facilities at the first moments of a military or paramilitary revolt.  I hate to go down the rabbit hole of Nazi Germany, but one can’t forget the failure of Operation Valkyrie in 1944.  That attempted coup against Adolf Hitler failed when the coup plotters did not secure control of the central Berlin radio station. The plot fell apart as soon as Joseph Goebbels hit the airwaves and the Reserve Army did not join the revolt.

Secondly, troop deployments would be complicated nationwide.  Certainly, every state has its National Guard and local Guard armories that would provide coverage in the rural areas.  However, active duty Federal troops would have to deal with huge city centers to supplement the Guard, such as Marines from Camp Pendleton to patrol Los Angeles or US Army troops from the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, NY to secure New York City.  Additionally, many divisions in the active US Army and the National Guard have components deployed overseas fighting in the War on Terror.

Would there be another, better option, one with enough psychological effect to sway the American people and the military, one that would grease the skids of the  military kicking a reluctant Trump out of office?  I think Biden might have been hinting at it in his interview.  His reference to the “enlisted rank and file” of the US military literally escorting Trump out of the White House makes no sense unless he was referring to one group of enlisted soldiers:  those of the Escort Platoon of the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, better known as the “Old Guard.”  The regiment is the oldest in the US Army and has provided ceremonial escort duty to the White House, the President, and Arlington National Cemetery since 1948.

Escort Platoon is a term referring to a platoon of soldiers in the regiment whose primary ceremonial mission is to march in ceremonies or military funerals. Generally, line infantry companies delegate the escort role to their 1st platoon. This platoon is generally composed of the tallest soldiers assigned to the unit. These sentinels are commonly seen standing at ramrod attention next to the president.

The regiment’s Presidential Escort Platoon, Honor Guard Company, is based at nearby Fort Myer. A former member of the platoon who served in the early 2000s reported that 6 foot 5 inches was the minimum height required by the platoon . This “Old Guard” serves at presidential funerals, inaugurations, Pentagon retirements, state dinners and state visits at the White House, and during presidential speeches in the Rose Garden, among other duties. The Old Guard is the only unit in the U.S. Armed Forces authorized, by a 1922 decree of the War Department, to march with fixed bayonets in all parades and functions. This was granted in honor of the unit’s 1847 bayonet charge during the Battle of Cerro Gordo in the war with Mexico.

The members of the Escort Platoon are not just ceremonial soldiers.  The unit has seen service in Afghanistan, so they would be more than a match for the president’s hired mercenary private guard force/rent a cops.  One can only imagine the psychological effects on the reluctant Trump, the White House staff and the outside world if the psycho in chief is led out the door at bayonet point. The effect would be similar to bouncers taking rowdies out of the bar at closing time.  One doesn’t have to go home, but they can’t stay there.  Perhaps simply humiliating the bully would suffice, averting the need for regicide, which no one wants.  Violence begets violence and it would be better to avoid it.

Does this seem a far fetched scenario?  Unfortunately, our most imperial of presidents seems to have more of the qualities of a Roman emperor than a president.  Like Nero or Caligula, he seems set on polarizing the society in order to solidify his power.  Obviously, Trump is driven by insanity and not reality.  Psychotic behavior does not mean the president can’t tie his shoe laces.  Like his father, he is a high functioning psychotic.  However, the psychotic behavior of some emperors became too much to bear and this drove the Praetorian Guard of Rome many times to interfere in or choose them, especially in the cases of Caligula and Nero.  America is not a democracy in the strict sense of the word like Athens.  Rather, it was set up as a republic in the full sense of the Roman Republic, a republic that later became an empire.

If you doubt the inspiration of the Roman Republic and Empire upon the young America, all you have to do is read the founding fathers and examine the institutions that they made. based upon their readings of Roman history.  Benjamin Franklin called America an “infant empire” in the years before the Revolution.  America has a Senate made of up of the upper class set up on Capitol Hill just like Rome had a Senate and worshiped Capitoline Jove.  Like Rome, America colonized itself before it attempted to colonize places overseas.  America had the West to colonize before it went to Alaska, Hawaii, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Rome colonized the Italian boot before it went overseas to Carthage and the rest of the world around the Mediterranean.

Certainly, there are differences between Rome and America.  Modern US corporations have used the country’s military cleverly to do their bidding in a stealth manner in ways the Roman aristocracy could only dream of.  Since the days of the Spanish American War in 1898 and the Filipino Revolution that followed it, Americans have been uncomfortable with openly exercising the mechanics of empire, an aversion the Romans never had.  However, both have had an extensive period of overseas colonization and fighting that eroded their republican institutions.

Between the first Punic War and its final conquest of the rest of the Mediterranean world, Rome was a republic in name only.  Impoverished, its citizen soldiers found themselves jobless, forced to move to Rome and other city centers to scrape a living in abject poverty.  Desperate to escape that poverty, many found a military career the only escape hatch, a place where they would receive  secure pay, food, clothing and a property allowance for 20 years of service.  If this sounds familiar to those in America, it is.  There is no more need for a draft.  Poverty is all that is needed to get desperate Americans to enlist to pay for their daily subsistence, educations benefits and a future retirement.  It is all they have left.  After more than a century of overseas actions, the US is exhausted from several wars, especially the most recent War on Terror, a war with no end in sight.  Its oligarchy gets richer and richer while its lower and middle classes are impoverished.  Their benefits are disappearing, gobbled up by the requirements of empire.

Both Rome and America are unique.  They represent super states that come along only once or twice in a millennium.  As they develop, it is necessary for the center to become stronger to keep this amalgam together.  Rome survived numerous civil wars and revolts.  The Western Empire did not end until 476 CE and in the East until 1452.  Certainly, America will not disappear tomorrow.  However, we must look at the present transition as simply one in which the baggage of empire will be more visibly displayed in all of its nakedness.  Unfortunately, Trump my be given the choice of retirement, a straight jacket, or a body bag.  Certainly, Biden and everyone else hopes it will not be the body bag.

About the Author
Akiva ben Avraham is a former community college adjunct, US Army intelligence analyst and officer, and a caregiver.
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