A Lesson From Niger About America’s National-Security State

The recent military coup in Niger serves as another reminder to the American people about the danger posed by the national-security state form of governmental structure that America adopted after World War II, ostensibly to prevent a communist takeover of America.

Like the United States, Niger is a national-security state, meaning that its government includes a vast, all-powerful military-intelligence establishment. 

Last month, Niger’s national-security branch went to war against the government’s executive branch, which was represented by the country’s democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum. 

Not surprisingly, the executive branch proved to be no match for the overwhelming military power of the national-security branch. While so far permitted to live, Bazoum was violently ousted from power. The national-security branch is now in overt control of the government. 

U.S. officials are up in arms over this development, especially since they have been furnishing U.S. taxpayer-funded foreign aid to Bazoum’s regime. A group of African countries are threatening military action to restore Bazoum to power, but the New York Times points out a reason why they might be reticent to try: Niger’s “battle-tested army has been trained by American and European special forces.”

Our American ancestors were fiercely opposed to a national-security state form of governmental structure. As James Madison observed, “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.” Madison knew that once the government has a vast, permanent military-intelligence establishment, that part of the government, as a practical matter, will be in overall control of the government. That’s because the other branches lack the military power to stand up to or oppose the all-powerful military-intelligence establishment, which has the troops, tanks, planes, bombs, mines, warships and other weapons of war at its disposal.

President Eisenhower also warned about this phenomenon. In his Farewell Address, he pointed out that America’s vast and powerful “military-industrial complex” had become a grave threat to the rights and liberties of the American people and to our democratic processes.

He wasn’t the only one. President Kennedy also expressed grave concern over the vast power of the national-security establishment. He induced friends in Hollywood to turn the novel Seven Days in May into a movie, to serve as a warning to the American people of the dangers posed by this type of governmental structure. The novel and the movie posit the possibility of a military takeover of the federal government when the national-security branch deems the president to be a grave threat to national security. 

But Kennedy did more than issue a warning. Unlike Eisenhower, he actually went to war against the national-security branch of the government over the future direction of the country. 

The national-security branch wanted to continue America’s Cold War trajectory against the Reds, which naturally would entail ever-increasing power and taxpayer-funded largess for the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which are the three principal components of the U.S. national-security branch of the federal government. It wanted a permanent hostility toward Russia, China, and Cuba. It wanted to invade Cuba to install a pro-U.S. regime into power. It also wanted to embroil the United States in a war in Southeast Asia to help prevent a communist takeover here in the United States.

Kennedy wanted to move America in an opposite direction. He declared that the United States would befriend Russia and Cuba, live in peaceful coexistence with the communist world, and not become embroiled in a war in Southeast Asia. 

Kennedy was deemed to be a grave threat to national security. The two branches — the executive branch and the national-security branch — went to war with each other. Kennedy lost the war when the national-security establishment orchestrated and carried out his assassination in broad daylight. His assassination highlighted the dangers that Madison and Eisenhower had pointed out. See FFF’s book JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.

After violently ousting Kennedy from power, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA didn’t take overt control over the federal government because they didn’t have to. All they had to do was permit Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who was on their same page, to be elevated to the presidency. Immediately, the Pentagon-CIA-NSA vision for the future direction of America was restored. The national-security branch was given its war in Southeast Asia. They have also never given up trying to effect regime change in Cuba, which is what their forever embargo is all about.

Thirty days after they prevailed against Kennedy, former President Truman, who had presided over America’s conversion from a limited-government republic to a national-security state, wrote an op-ed published in the Washington Post observing that the CIA had become a sinister force in American life. Given the timing of the op-ed, there is little doubt that he was referring to the national-security establishment’s assassination of JFK.

Ten years after the Kennedy assassination, democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende went to war against the national-security branch of the Chilean government, just as Kennedy had here in the United States. The Chilean national-security branch had the full encouragement and support of the U.S. national-security branch, which maintained that the national-security branch has a moral duty to protect the country from a president whose policies constitute a grave threat to national security. 

Allende and his executive branch proved to be no match for the overwhelming power of the national-security branch. Firing missiles from military jet planes at Allende’s position in the National Palace, and surrounding him with armored and infantry units that were also firing on his position, by the end of the conflict Allende was left dead, just as Kennedy had been. It was another lesson in what happens when a nation becomes a national-security state.

Longtime readers of my work know that I have long recommended a book entitled National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon. If you haven’t read it, I cannot recommend it too highly. I wish every American would read Glennon’s book. Its thesis, to which I subscribe, is a simple but ominous one: that the national-security part of the government is in charge of running the government and simply permits the other three parts — executive, judicial, and legislative — to maintain the veneer of power. Glennon is not some crackpot. He is a professor of law at Tuft’s University and former counsel to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Niger is not the only nation that suffers the danger of being a national-security state. So do the United States, Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Chile, and every other national-security state. America should be leading the world out of this statist morass by restoring our founding governmental system of a limited-government republic with a relatively small, basic military force. 

Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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