Much of the Western democratic world is waiting for the United States to reverse Trump era neo-isolation and rejoin the global community.  President Biden now finds himself where President Truman, following the end of WW II, and President Clinton, following the end of the Cold War, found themselves.  He must now define America’s role in the world given globalization, mass migrations, climate change, and pandemics.

Central to that new definition are the roles of diplomacy, the military, and the intelligence community.

But January 6th has created yet other new domestic realities.  Those include domestic terrorism, right wing militias, recruitment by those militias from the ranks of the military, and the need for greater intelligence, and possibly surveillance, on nationalist terrorism.

Both domestic intelligence and tightly structured law enforcement chains of command failed miserably on January 6th and the octopus of insurrection spent hours trashing the Capitol of the United States and threatening the lives of our leaders.

Compounding these problems is the steadfast resistance of most Americans to surveilling—spying on—our fellow citizens and using military force on our homeland.  But what choices does the octopus of insurrection leave us?

National, State, and local law enforcement agencies do have intelligence capabilities. They are not always as professional as they might be, but how professional do we want them to be?  We haven’t heard much about “defund the police” since January 6th.

And we do have law enforcement on two levels: National Guard units belonging to the respective States, and law enforcement agencies under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, estimated at between 60,000 and 80,000, mostly directed toward border security.  But some of them did find time to escort Mr. Trump to the church near the White House so that he could hold up his well-worn Bible.

Most of my lifetime has been spent with concern for nuclear war.  It is now concern for domestic insurrection.

As the United States resumes its international leadership role on climate protection, immigration, pandemics, arms control, and much else, it must, at the same time, reorganize and restructure its intelligence and preparation for future attacks on our own government.

President Biden is going to need all the help he can find.

International engagement while insurrection bubbles just below the surface at home is a tricky two-step.  Especially when part of the insurrectionist manifesto is nationalism.  But the polyglot insurrectionist network doesn’t worry about climate and pandemics.  It simply wants to build walls around the U.S. and let workers whose jobs are built on international trade fend for themselves.

There are plenty of experts urging a return to internationalism and only a few with any comprehensive solution to right wing insurrection.  But the latter is a relatively new phenomenon and will soon attract the attention of smart people at think tanks.

To propound an old personal theme, where is Wall Street, big corporate America, in all this?  Surely the money men and women want international commerce and are not friendly to walls.  But their tangible assets, buildings, people, and infrastructure, are all jeopardized by the upheaval of insurrection.

In the old days, it was too easy for concentrated wealth to support larger and stronger militaries.  But the nationalist militia are not intimidated by B-2 bombers, nuclear aircraft carriers, and larger rockets.

Knowing President Biden, he will restore and modernize the American foreign policy.  What is less clear is a strategy for isolating latent domestic fascism, protecting the institutions and practices of democracy, and restoring a sense of civic duty and engagement in future generations of America.

The domestic threat will be overcome by devotion to citizenship and the marginalization of domestic terrorism.

6 Responses to “World Leadership and Domestic Insurrection”

  1. Neil McCarthy Says:

    The problem, it seems to me, requires as a long term matter a combination of education and redistribution, the latter to unwind some of the economic desperation in which nativism takes root and domestic terrorists operate, the former to insure that the next generations are committed to the enlightenment values upon which the country was founded (for that reason, subjects like history and philosphy are as important as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)).

    In the short term, I hear you contemplating the sort of (soft) “police” state that might help mitigate the problem but that carries with it, as you know, inherent risk. I do hope that whatever domestic intellgence capacity is created right now is not, fifty years from now, riven with the sort of abuses you and your colleagues uncovered at the CIA when you looked under that hood in the 1970s.

  2. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    I have been a fervent follower and supporter of you ever since the 1980’s. However, your closing statement to this commentary is insufficient at best. “The domestic threat will be overcome by devotion to citizenship and the marginalization of domestic terrorism.” Transfer this to the COVID-19 pandemic threat as “it will be overcome by devotion to hand washing and wearing a mask”. Define citizenship. Most of those of whom you speak as being insurrectionist, militant white supremacists, etc. all consider themselves as being very devout citizens of this country. So does that qualify? Just how do you suggest that we “marginalize domestic terrorism”? Just not bring it up on the daily newscasts? Ignore it and it will go away? HOW ABOUT SOME SPECIFIC SUGGESTIONS? As another of my favorite statesman, the late Senator and Governor Lawton Childs would have said, “It’s time to come to the lick log.” Or the late Senator Fred Thompson once said in a movie, “Gentlemen, it’s time to come to Jesus.”

  3. Gary Hart Says:

    In 1988 I published an 88 page inexpensive paperback that summarized more than a decade of domestic and foreign policy thinking. But I was preparing to seek the presidency then. That is a great deal different from 500-600 word essays that seek to summarize ideas around the themes of civic duty and civic engagement. I’m sorry Mr. Pillow wants more of the “how” and less of the “what”. But this site has provided plenty of “how” over the last ten years. I’ll continue to do my best. GH

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:


    Actually, this pandemic WOULD be overcome by devotion to hand-washing and mask-wearing and compliance with all of the other public health measures when required, negating the need for devastating lockdowns.

    As for how to overcome the domestic threat, Biden’s effort to redefine bipartisan to essentially exclude the extremes of Congress by appealing directly to the people through the almost lost art of persuasion is a good start. Of course, a justice department that takes the threat seriously lead by an apoliticl AG will help.

    Sometimes the ‘how’ of any given problem is simple at its core and stares us straight in the face.

    Regaining America’s global leadership role, though, will be decidely more complicated and will definitely take all of eight years! 🙂

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone!


    For our Senator’s concern, not a man of regular knee jerk response, or hyperbole ever, to be as great as this, means America must wake up!

    The internationalism of Biden is welcomed by those from nations like mine.

    The Fascism of some is a hard nut to crack and how to is the hard part, but how to even discuss it is a start. That is the strength of this Senator and his site…

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