Incredible question about coup debate: Did the military leave?
Posted Friday, February 8 2013 at 02:00
We shall not waste too much time with the thesis of an army within an army, because it simply does not stand up.
The East African newspaper (February 2-8), led with an amazing article titled “Coup Talk Rattles Army, But Did the Military Ever Leave?” which presented two theses to the reader. First, that “there is an army within an army in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, the most effective being the Special Forces Command”. Second, “It seems the army never quite left ... For the National Resistance Army ... active politics is familiar territory ...”
The East African would have us believe that there is “disharmony within the army” around their first thesis presented above, “leaving observers worried about the country’s future” and equally, presumably, around their second thesis. Except, we are left in the dark about the identity of the ubiquitous “observers”.
We shall not waste too much time with the thesis of an army within an army, because it simply does not stand up. Nobody with a modicum of knowledge about military organisation, formations, command and control, would go down that road. A serious general researcher and observer further, would not fail to draw accurate conclusions!
The second thesis provokes deeper reflection: did the military ever leave? Have they left or not? What would “leaving” actually mean? Why would they be expected to “leave”? The East African and others, need to think their ideas through, once again.
On our part, we provide glimpses of experiences from elsewhere, about the military “leaving” and “not leaving” - as our contribution to the re-think. We invite the reader to draw their own conclusions about what is possible, desirable, and necessary. Consider the role of the British military as re-organised and built by Lord Protector, Gen. Oliver Cromwell, in the emergence of democratic governance in the United Kingdom. What about Gen. George Washington, the American military, the war and declaration of independence? Marshal Napoleon Bonaparte, the French military, and the destruction of the “ancient” regime? Giuseppe Garibaldi and the unification of Italy? Otto von Bismarck, the military and the unification of Germany?
China, with its People’s Liberation Army (PLA), needs particular attention. Since the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the centre of gravity in the state has resided in the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China (not that of the People’s Republic!), headed by the party leader. Mao Zedong headed the Military Commission from 1936 to 1949, and from 1954 up to his death in 1976. His successors in this respect have been Hua Guofeng, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. The Commission constitutes the supreme command of the PLA, to date!
Ten overall commanders (later, Marshals) of the PLA, including then Commander - in - Chief Zhu De, under the supervision of the Political Commissariat headed by Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, etc, provided the military leadership of the protracted people’s war. After victory, the 10 historical Marshals performed various important military roles, and were additionally intimately involved in the politics of the new China.
Some were negatively affected by the cultural revolution in the 1960s, while others were later to be instrumental in supporting the leadership of Hua Guofeng against the “Gang of Four”!
After Deng Xiaoping (during the armed struggle he was political commissar of the units commanded by Marshal Liu Bocheng) came to power, the PLA “embarked on a military modernisation programme, which had three major focuses. First, military modernisation required both the strengthening of party control over the military and the continued disengagement of the armed forces from politics. These steps were necessary to ensure that a politically reliable yet professionally competent military would concentrate on the task of military reform. Second, defence modernisation attempted to achieve improved combat effectiveness through organisational, doctrinal, training, educational, and personnel reforms ... These reforms emphasised the development of combat capabilities in waging combined arms warfare. Third, military modernisation was aimed at the transformation of the defence establishment into a system ... independently sustaining modern military forces. This transformation necessitated the reorganisation and closer integration of civilian and military science and industry and also the selective use of foreign technology”. (Assorted sources, 1978).
In other words, after the departure from the scene of the 10 historical Marshals, the PLA has undergone continuous technical professionalisation - from a peasant force, into the world’s largest armed force, but still strictly controlled by the party.
Mr Mafabi is the private secretary/political affairs- State House email@example.com