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.