President Bush is kicking around the idea of increasing the
role of the US armed forces in reacting to major natural disasters here
at home. This seems to be pushing up against the Posse Comitatus Act of
1878 pretty hard. This law prevents the US military from acting in a
law enforcement role within our borders. Following the Civil War, it
made sense to provide a sense of sovereignty to the states that had law
behind it from enforcing an overbearing federal government from wrongly
using federal troops in a domestic role.
What are your thoughts about this mission creep for our military, especially
in a time when we're at war with a major portion of our forces engaged?
The thought of U. S. troops operating within our own borders is something that's bothersome to me, and, I suspect, bothersome to the troops.
When I was in the Army, the L. A. riots broke out. Word got around that troops would be used to quell the riots, and several soldiers spoke up about what they would do if called upon to fire upon U. S. citizens. Some said they'd refuse to. Others said they didn't know what they'd do. I said that, if given a lawful order, I'd follow it. Thinking about it now, I must have known that I wouldn't be shooting at a friend or a relative, since all my family was east coast, not west coast. Or at least all I knew of.
What about today? If I was still in uniform, would I take arms against citizens to enforce the law? There are still lots of issues with that.
- First, the question presented Posse Comitatus Act of
1878 as a potential obstacle to that. However, if the President of the United States waives it because of war, insurrection, or national emergency, then legally troops can be deployed. So, yes, troops could legally perform such a duty.
- Next, there is the question of what would the troops do. Would they obey the orders to shoot? Yes, I think they would. But they would not like it. A soldier knows something that many do not: sometimes you have to do the hard thing, even if it hurts someone. And not just someone else. Even if that someone is the soldier himself.
If your mission involves killing someone, you kill someone. If your mission involves your being killed, you are killed. Most missions aren't like that. But some are.
- Does the U. S. have the military manpower to perform such duties? That's actually the largest obstacle to this. Troops are stretched. They aren't getting the support from most on the left, but then again, most on the left never supported the troops to start with.
Troops are still in Korea, over 50 years after hostilities ceased, and there's no end in sight. Troops are still in Kosovo a decade later, and there's no end in sight. Troops are in Iraq, still performing mop-up missions after winning that war in record time. (Some think when the war ends, troops come home. That's never been the case. Ask Germany and Japan, who were occupied for a period of time following World War II.)
But the manpower just isn't there to support many more missions for a long period of time. But that's because U. S. troop strength was cut nearly in half in the 1990s. Remember when Clinton and Gore took credit for reducing the size of the federal government by nearly 500,000? Guess where that came from? Yep, the military. The Army alone went from 780,000 to 480,000 under that plan to reduce the government. The rest of the government? No change. And, it's gotten bigger since then.
But to me, the big problem isn't really any of these issues. The problem is that federal troops are even being considered.
The whole idea of the Posse Comitatus Act is the meaning of the term "posse comitatus" ("force of the country") in that people can take care of themselves.
Following the recent disasters in the Gulf states, some took the attitude that the federal government was supposed to handle things. But only some places took that attitude. Those areas that looked to the federal government are the areas that have had the most trouble. The areas that looked to themselves are the ones that have had the least trouble.
Compare Louisiana, whose leaders lean to the left with Mississippi, whose leaders lean to the right. Which of those states are having the most difficulty? That's right. Louisiana. The more left-leaning of the two.
Most on the left think and perpetuate the attitude of "it's someone else's responsibility." Those of us on the right generally think and perpetuate the attitude of "I take responsibility."
Now, I hate to throw this in, but I must. While researching this, I found many Web sites that blame Blacks for the problems in Louisiana. But the numbers don't bear this out: Mississippi has a higher percentage of Blacks than does Louisiana. So that racist drivel is ... well, racist drivel. (But then, again, maybe race does figure into this. More Blacks =
quicker recovery? That ought to throw the Aryan Nation into fits!)
It's not race that exacerbates problems, it's attitudes. And the "it's someone else's responsibility" attitude is a losing attitude. If you take the attitude "I take responsibility" then you'll come out ahead.
If more people in Iraq took control of their situation, U. S. troops could be home in months.
Then, if a national emergency actually happened, troops could respond a lot easier to the situation.