FOR years, at least since 2003, United States officials, lawmakers, think tanks and media in general have been pushing the narrative that militias are destabilizing “other” countries, especially the Middle East. They have argued that only official armed forces and law enforcement should be armed, that parallel forces pose a danger to stability, and to regional peace. All this is true, apparently in most but not all cases.
THE focus has been on hostile unfriendly militias, like Iraqi Shi’a groups with ties to Iran, and Lebanese Hezbollah, which is better armed and motivated than the Lebanese army. In some countries, again especially in Iraq and Lebanon, the line between “the state” and the militias is actually blurred. In Iraq the militias are nominally aligned with the state military. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is allied to Iran but it is part of the Lebanese government, actually its strongest component. Actually close to a “king-maker”.
WHICH brings us to the USA. There probably are as many heavily-armed militia groups here as in any unstable Middle East country. Perhaps smaller units, but more of them. These American militias can and do march fully armed in the streets, intimidating the opposition.
IN the past four years these militias have enjoyed the blessing, often open support, of the ruling Republican regime. During the last (current) election cycle, they have been very active, threatening the safety of state-level officials who oppose President Trump’s policy (or lack of policy) toward the COVID pandemic. Michigan, for example. Some have hinted at disrupting the political process if their candidate, Donald Trump, loses the election. Mr. Trump himself has encouraged these groups to “stand back and stand by”, implying a threat if he loses.
NOW the outgoing president is pretending that he won, that he is now thwarted by plots. He is supported by right wing outlets like Fox News, shady quasi-Fascist organizations like Breitbart and shady web conspiracy disseminators like QAnon. And much of his captive party. The militias are preparing for a march on Washington, encouraged by Trump and his sons. Fully armed of course. Most Republicans in Washington, still terrified of their now-powerless president, are silent for now. All this sounds like Middle Eastern, African, and banana republic politics. It is.
SO, it is a small world after all, and not as diverse in its politics as we like to think and claim.