There seems to be some confusion running around on the internet about the nature of the government of our nation, its founding document, the oath sworn by military members relative to that government and document, and the people. Let me try to clear that confusion up.
The Constitution establishes a government of, by and for the people in an attempt to circumvent the sometimes messy—and even bloody—events that occur during changes of government in many other parts of the world. The operative idea is of, by, and for the people.
The Constitution does not supersede, circumvent, or trump the will of the people in any way. This idea is older than the Constitution and is the idea that led to the document to begin with. This idea, given its most eloquent voice in the Declaration of Independence, states that the people have the right to modify, abridge, change, or eliminate their government as they choose so as to maximize their own natural right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they wish.
While this idea is startling to most people, it also means that they have the right to cede, declare independence, and defend that independence if that is the way they believe they can achieve the greatest liberty. Of course, the democratic republic the Constitution created seeks to avoid that necessity, but the option still exists because it is foundational to our concept of liberty.
Which brings me to the idea of the military oath. It is not accidental that the oath is to the Constitution first, the government second, and the military chain of command last. This oath, one of the most sacred any person can swear, by the nature of the document it seeks to uphold before anything else, is an oath to the people, and therefore, to the ideals of the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness on each person’s terms.
As a result, any military member who suggests that it is in any way possible a legal order for them to use military force against anyone who has exercised his or her right to establish the pursuit of life, liberty, happiness, and even government on his or her own terms is wrong. Yes, I understand that there are many, practical difficulties with this concept, but fundamentally, the military must be subordinate to the people, even if the people choose to subordinate the government.
For any military member to suggest otherwise is for him or her to reveal a complete failure of understanding of the oath he or she swore.
Now, contrary to what many people will want to think at this point, I am not suggesting at all that military members should not fight to protect Americans from aggression against them, even aggression launched by separatists. Indeed, the greatest mistake the Confederacy made in the Civil War was to fire on Fort Sumter, because at that moment they became an enemy of the Constitution. If, however, they had not, any military action on the part of the Union to force the Confederacy back into the republic would have represented the greatest kind of violation of the ideals of liberty and self-determination.
I do not now, nor will I ever, advocate the use of violence, especially warfare, to achieve political gains, even independence for those who may wish it, but I served my country for a decade and a half and will fight to the death to preserve the right of anyone to seek life, liberty, and happiness on his or her own terms. I hope and pray that my fellow brothers and sisters in arms—even my fellow citizens—understand the nature of what we have and pledge ourselves to the same. If we do, then the ideas that founded our great nation have been preserved, the republic is sound, and this crisis remains one of words.