I cherish the time I've spent in Italy; far too short and busy, but wonderful. The people, the mountains, the vineyards, the architecture, and the food – oh, god, the food – are amazing. In some ways, it's like living in a museum: wonderfully dilapidated yet impossibly clean given the age, use, and abuse.
Italy's not perfect – no place is – but two things especially marred my perception and have prevented me from actively pursuing opportunities to spend more time in Italy. Both struck me (ca. Y2K) as particularly illiberal: conscription and the Carabinieri.
As a volunteer in the US Air Force, free of indenture, I was horrified by the slavery of military conscription forced upon Italian teenagers. I was doubly horrified by the shameful way other Americans acted toward the conscripts, treating them as some untouchable caste.
I was more mystified, however, at the ubiquitous presence of the Carabinieri, the impeccably dressed, groomed, and heavily armed gendarmes patrolling the trains and public squares. It was explained to me that the Carabinieri were a relic of Italy's fascist past, which, like most history, is a comic-book version of a corps with a much longer and more convoluted origin.
The only real substance of the course required to obtain an Italian driver's license was an explanation of the Carabinieri's “loli-pops”, essentially broomsticks with a round, red reflector on one end. We were advised to pay close attention to any Carabinieri we saw brandishing a loli-pop, as ignoring this sign to stop was a sure way to end up on the receiving end of automatic weapons fire.
No one ever offered any limits to Carabinieri power, just that non-compliance was ill advised and that they always carried their automatic weapons. I wondered at the subservience that would establish and maintain a military police class with unlimited power to stop and search without cause.
No one, I thought, would ever conceive of such a thing in the United States, and even fewer would submit to such a thing.
Recently, though, I have been nagged by the growing thought that the Clintonians within the Obama administration would actually welcome an American Carabinieri, seemingly as a direct response to individuals who would object to just such a thing. There has never been an outright expression of the desire, just a hint here and there that permeated the embargo even I have placed on paying attention to the statements of DHS or DOJ terrorcrats and their fawning sycophants – until now.
From Matthew Yglesias' Think Progress blog (emphasis added):
What we need, I think, is some form of American gendarmerie—a quasi-military federal organization specialized in police/security functions rather than finding and killing bad guys per se. Such a force would, unlike today’s military, have a valuable peacetime domestic role to play as a flexible auxiliary police force that could assist high-crime jurisdictions with the kind of temporary infusion of extra personnel that can help push crime rates down to a lower equilibrium. A “surge” if you will. But it would also be prepared to deploy abroad in the case of contingencies. The regular military would be big enough to beat an adversary (i.e., a lot smaller than the regular one) but it would need to call on the gendarmes (who naturally would need a less French name) to conduct an occupation. This means we wouldn’t be caught lacking capacity in a real emergency, but since the gendarmes would be performing a useful peacetime domestic service politicians would (appropriately) feel that initiating situations that require their mobilization is high cost situation that ought to be avoided if possible.
Yglesias unnecessarily caveats this mother of all bad ideas by saying he hasn't thought about it much. No kidding.
Beyond the illogic of using a mythic foreign nail to justify creating a hammer with such a valuable role in smashing domestic screws that it's too valuable to use on the intended purpose, there's the ever-present problem of just who would wield such a thing. Not that Yglesias cares about my consent (a progressive wonk caring about anyone's opinion but their own, there's a hoot!), but I will consent to this plan, and simultaneously spoil it in his mind, under one condition: I will be the commander.
Under my command, the American Carabinieri will never be used to patrol the bedrooms (or any other private property) of anyone, as it surely will when (not if) it comes under the control of a conservative regime. However, under my command, it will also never be used to patrol the ideological fences, rounding up stray members of the tax herd who wander too close, as it surely will when under the control of a progressive regime.
Under my command, the American Carabinieri will be distinguished by its complete refusal to engage in policing of anyone but the political class, and then only for clear initiation of force or fraud, such as theft of credit card numbers, authorizing and conducting torture and imprisonment without trial, assassination, murder, sexual molestation, non consensual takings, takings without just compensation or due process, corruption, suppression of human rights, collection of taxes, etc.
In short, the American Carabinieri under my command would only be used to shorten the lifespan of the corps and the abhorrent cartel that would give it charter.
But enough of fantasy. While I'm sure Yglesias is not the first to give voice to a North American military police force, he is one of those inside-the-beltway wonks that can never remember that such bad ideas are inevitably turned against party loyalists such as himself. I only hope he will remember his role in creating the monster when a gun stock from the American Carabinieri smashes into his pasty-white face.
With the human-like figures of Janet Napolitano, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton exerting current influence over forces of violence, I no longer have the faith that formation of a US government gendarmerie could only happen in dystopian fiction. I do not believe creation of such an abomination could occur under a conservative regime, as Democrats would rightly oppose it. However, if Obama were to pursue his vision today, I doubt the plan would meet significant congressional resistance.
I also no longer have faith that a military police presence on the North American continent would encounter popular resistance. We are already seeing the precursors to thought police in the public square with no widespread disclaim as long as they don't venture too far into the ghettos of Venice Beach as they remain clear of the ghettos of Venice, Italy.
No, I am sad to say, there are overwhelming scads of people who would be willing to consent and cheer on creation and maintenance of an American Carabinieri. The only thing that could save us from its accompanying horrors is the collapse of the US government hegemony and the almighty dollar. May it come quickly.