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"Can Self-Government Survive the Next Convulsion?" American Purpose

When Washington worries about our government surviving against future military threats, it uses nuclear war as its benchmark. To skirt the worst, it maintains international nuclear hotlines; hardens our nation’s nuclear command, control, and warning systems; and games possible nuclear attacks, defenses, and counter strikes. More important, it maintains elaborate plans to uphold the “continuity of government” (think “Last Survivor” fortified with real nuclear bunkers, emergency communications systems, and legal lines of succession).

Developed during the Cold War, these continuity of government plans give Washington some confidence it might ride out a nuclear attack and continue to govern. We assume that less dramatic threats can be handled as “lesser included threats” to this "big one."

But can they?

In the attached American Purpose piece, “Can Self-Government Survive the Next Convulsion?” I argue no. With any bad luck, targeted civil disorders, pinpoint biological attacks, assassination drone strikes in Washington, as well as precision strikes against key U.S. financial, energy, and commercial nodes could unplug self-government in favor of martial rule without a “Day After” pulverizing of America’s major cities. Such pinpoint attacks could also do this without uprooting most Americans’ daily routines.

If this is at all likely, it recommends that we finally get serious about distributing our government by moving more of it out of Washington. It also recommends encouraging our nation’s largest commercial institutions and companies to locate their largest offices and plants away from the left and right coasts into the nation’s heartland. 

How might this work operationally and politically? I take a stab below if only to assess if making such heroic changes would be worth the candle.


On July 12, 2021,  Henry Sokolski gave a virtual presentation for American Purpose on this op-ed.

For the video recording, see below. 


Jun 18, 2021
AUTHOR: Henry Sokolski

 Can Self Government Survive the Next Convulsion?

By Henry Sokolski


As Washington ponders how close it came to a coup on January 6 and the nation unmasks from a pandemic that’s left over 600,000 dead, here’s a question worth asking: How prepared is our country for the next convulsion?

During the nuclear war-spooked 1950s and 1960s, Washington supplied all kinds of answers, designed to get us through the “day after”—bomb shelters, civil defense, line-of-succession laws, remote bunkers for Washington’s political elite. These hedges even had a name: continuity of government, or COG.

With Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack, the killing of John F. Kennedy, the near-assassination of Ronald Reagan, and the attacks of September 11, we even had a chance to take some of these plans out for a spin. Such excursions, however, were viewed as “lesser included threats” that were lesser versions of the truly Big One, the all-out nuclear attack. 


To read the full article, click here.


July 12, 2021: Henry Sokolski on "Can Self-Government Survive the Next Convulsion?"


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