Mr. Christian, Front and Center!

Sometimes, when a soldier is ordered to do something that violates his or her oath to defend the Constitution, the soldier refuses to obey.  When a group of soldiers receives such an order, mutiny can result. 

There have been published reports that the current commander-in-chief Donald Trump is considering a military attack on Iran. Not only would this be contrary to Trump’s constitutional obligations, it would be career suicide for the military brass that would be charged with carrying it out.

Theirs is an army that has been kicked out of Iraq, defeated in Afghanistan, discredited in Libya and ignored in Syria. To fight another war 7,000 miles from home with that sort of army plus a quarter million green recruits and zero support from the nation at large would be about the dumbest mission an officer could undertake. If Trump is in fact determined to attack Iran, we can be confident that there is at least one general or admiral who is now considering the possibility of mutiny, and some may even be plotting it.

The landscape surrounding Iran is dotted with outposts where U. S. forces are stationed–or maybe stranded–many within easy range of Iranian missiles. On their own turf, Persians are know to be formidable fighters, and, as victims of unprovoked attack, they would have world opinion on their side. Iran’s rulers, who enjoy widespread approval among the general public, wouldn’t abandon their posts because of a few drone attacks. As our intelligence sources tell us, Iran is pretty well armed and may be able to call in assistance from erstwhile allies to the East.

There can be no general officer who believes, in the exercise of sound professional judgment, that war with Iran is winnable or in any way a good idea. On the contrary, all evidence indicates that this war would be launched solely for the glorification of the commander-in-chief, whose recent command to organize a military parade for his personal aggrandizement must raise concerns among members of his staff. At least one of them found the plan sufficiently alarming to disclose it to the media, an insubordinate act in itself.

If this commander-in-chief were to issue an order to attack Iran, and a general officer declined to obey, what might happen? Trump would probably order a sergeant to take the general out and shoot him, and the sergeant would probably obey out of fear for his own survival. This possibility leaves responsible general officers with a conundrum. What do you do about a deranged commander-in-chief with the power of life and death in his hands? In the past, assassination has been considered for such leaders, and it’s occasionally succeeded. If real life were a work of fiction, high-ranking military officers would today be plotting the assassination of their commander-in-chief as a preemptive measure to avert a catastrophic application of armed force.

Trump, a paranoid fellow to begin with, might sense a mutinous atmosphere among “his” generals, even if it’s not there. After all, he’s known to be a voracious consumer of fiction, and, as a creation of the mass media, is essentially a fictional character himself. That may be why this all sounds so much like the plot of a Shakespeare play. The tendency of absolute power to transform narcissistic people into tragic, destructive characters is a recurring theme, in history as in fiction.

If it’s plausible that a deranged president might suspect his generals of plotting his assassination and take some sort of action to forestall any such plot, it’s also plausible that putative plotters might act preemptively to save themselves. So if you read that Trump or one of his generals fell down a flight of stairs or succumbed to indigestion, your skepticism will be entirely justified.