The Militarization of America

U.S. Army troops patrol Samson, Alabama after March 10, 2009 mass shooting

“A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen”—James Madison

A mass shooting in two towns in south Alabama left at least 10 people dead.  One aspect of this horrific crime that most media failed to cover was the deployment of military troops to the area.  While there is a debate about whether these soldiers are actually U.S. Army (as specifically stated by the caption in the Reuters' photo above) or National Guard troops as some have speculated, the real question is should the military be used for domestic law enforcement?

The answer is emphatically no!

The military is trained to kill the enemy.  Law enforcement or (as they should more properly be referred to as) peace officers are trained to keep the peace; to resolve conflicts between individuals and investigate crimes.  These missions are mutually exclusive.  Soldiers trained to identify and eliminate the enemy are ill equipped to "serve and protect."  As the saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Throughout history, the military has been under the purview of the executive.  The king used the military both to fight wars abroad and at home, often unleashing the army on anyone who threatened his power.  Standing armies have long been the tool of tyrants.  Realizing this fact, the Founding Fathers vested plenary authority over the military to Congress.  Congress controls funding, declares war, and makes the rules and regulations for the military forces.  Although the President is commander-in-chief, his role is equivalent to a supreme general, i.e. he is to execute the war in accordance to the rules and objectives set forth by Congress.  His authority as commander-in-chief only is limited to war time.

Much of the debate over the adoption of the Constitution centered on how much power would be vested in the executive branch.  In the Federalist Papers Number 69, Alexander Hamilton attempted to mitigate concerns that the President would have powers equivalent to the King of England.  One of his arguments was that, unlike the King, the President's authority over the military was limited:

The President is to be the "commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. He is to have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment; to recommend to the consideration of Congress such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; to convene, on extraordinary occasions, both houses of the legislature, or either of them, and, in case of disagreement between them with respect to the time of adjournment, to adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; to take care that the laws be faithfully executed; and to commission all officers of the United States." In most of these particulars, the power of the President will resemble equally that of the king of Great Britain and of the governor of New York. The most material points of difference are these: — First. The President will have only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the Union. The king of Great Britain and the governor of New York have at all times the entire command of all the militia within their several jurisdictions. In this article, therefore, the power of the President would be inferior to that of either the monarch or the governor. Second. The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies — all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.  The governor of New York, on the other hand, is by the constitution of the State vested only with the command of its militia and navy. But the constitutions of several of the States expressly declare their governors to be commanders-in-chief, as well of the army as navy; and it may well be a question, whether those of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in particular, do not, in this instance, confer larger powers upon their respective governors, than could be claimed by a President of the United States.     

Unfortunately, it seems that Anti-Federalist No. 74 is a much more accurate representation of the way things have really turned out.

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 expanded the President's authority to declare martial law and seize control of National Guard units from state governors.  Luckily, these provisions were repealed the very next year.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the executive branch (or perhaps President Bush in one of his many pernicious and unconstitutional signing statements retained the "right" to interpret the law as he wished).  In any case, on September 30, 2008, the Army Times reported that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team would be placed under the day-to-day control of NorthCom, "a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities."

This video provide a good example of why using the military for law enforcement is a very bad idea:

Let's clarify what the Guardsman in the last scene is saying—he may have to kill an American on American soil for exercising an unalienable right that the Founders considered so important that it was codified in the Bill of Rights.  While many states have passed legislation to protect the right to bear arms in an emergency, the implications of the Guardsman's statement are chilling.

Unfortunately, the militarization of America is not isolated to the military.  Because of the War on Drugs, local police have also become militarized.  The federal government provides police departments with military weapons and training.  My own county in rural Tennessee has an armored personal carrier.

The Founders were wise in limiting the role of the military.  There was a reason that America was to have no standing army.  There was a reason that law enforcement was to be a local matter (the Constitution only mentions three crimes—piracy, treason, and counterfeiting).  All of these things were an attempt to limit the scope of the federal government and the power of the executive branch.

Sadly, many Americans are not alarmed by, and even welcome, the militarization of the police as well as the increasingly active role the military is taking in areas traditionally served by domestic law enforcement.  These trends are nothing to celebrate.  They represent a serious threat to the freedom of every American.  Stumbleupon  Technorati  Digg 


What did you think of this article?

  • Trackbacks are closed for this entry.

  • 1/19/2009 8:43 PM Joe D wrote:
    Peter Schiff doesn't get it either.

    A currency needs to satisfy 3 functions to become a true representation of transactions between living beings.

    1. Medium of exchange
    2. Store of value
    3. Delivery of value (energy)

    For gold currencies to be valid the issuer should be able to deliver "value / energy" on redemption of currency, otherwise gold currency has no mechanism to satisfy the "3. Delivery of value" function to be real currency.

    Using gold as currency without redemption obligation by issuer was the longest running scam in the world. Gold does not have a inherent value/energy so exchange value has to be negotiated during each transaction, hence it cannot act as store of value. During times of resource crunch / famine the last person holding gold cannot make one more exchange and he/she ends up as the looser in the series of transactions. Essentially it ends up as a ponzi scheme.

    Ancient Wisdom

    The ancient wisdom of becoming rich while doing business with gold currency is to understand the "secret that gold is worthless substance" and hold on to it for minimum amount of time. As soon as one gets gold, exchange it for something valuable like food grains and store it, food grains like rice, wheat can be stored for 20 years. When food scarcity hits the market negotiate favorable terms while exchanging food grains against gold, with clear understanding that gold is worthless substance while food is essential for survival.
    Reply to this
  • 3/12/2009 12:46 PM Bill wrote:
    And some books give money as being a scientific construct.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/12/2009 5:28 PM Citizen X wrote:
      We can prove that money arose organically through price regression.  Someone or something has to assign prices (the relative value of a good to another good) to things.  Unlike every other good, money has a universal price, i.e. its purchasing power.  We have to have a starting point to determine this price.  That starting point is the period that "money" goes from being just another good used for direct exchange (barter) to the medium of exchange (money).  How else could a universal price be determined by a central planner?  It must have arisen on the market.

      In addition, the term "scientific construct" implies something much too narrow.  Throughout history, societies have used cattle, sea shells, beads, fish hooks, and cigarettes as mediums of exchange, as money.  All of these things began as a commodity before becoming money.  They were still commodities while they were being used as money; by that I mean that they had value both in direct use and in indirect use--exchange.  Even fiat currency is a commodity as it derives its value not from being a piece of paper but from the fact that it is generally universally accepted and exchanged for goods which have direct use value.

      Reply to this
      1. 3/17/2009 4:11 AM fonzie wrote:
        When are you gonna do your radio show again...???
        Reply to this
  • 3/13/2009 6:04 AM Mark Rudis wrote:
    This is a great article and we need to be concerned, the Feds are pushing legislation to allow the state house/senate to override their own governor in order to accept stimulus money despite the objections of their own governor. I expect the feds to extend that authority to the state national guard and governors will be left defenseless. I was not surprised to learn that troops were in Alabama, we are becoming desensitized to this. Watch out Lincoln did it and he is the idol of our setting president. Thanks Citizen X because we wont hear this from the media!
    Reply to this
  • 3/14/2009 10:20 AM rockysci wrote:
    One of the great unspoken abuses of our government has been the growing reasons of turning to our military might as a solution. I believe just last year the federal gov't authorized a standing military unit within the U.S. To add to this frightening senario is the growing business of private armies (such as blackwater, I mean Xe!) that now have the right to operate in the U.S.
    X, great article. Something need to address the growing police state which we've become. I'd only add that this has been happening for many years now, under several different administrations.
    Reply to this
  • 3/14/2009 8:14 PM Stephanie wrote:
    Why do we have Troops protecting us from ourselves when we should be having them protecting our borders?
    Reply to this
  • 3/14/2009 9:01 PM Dakotah wrote:
    I don't understand why everyone is so bent out of shape over some national guards men/women being sent to places like New Orleans, during the flooding. The things they don't show on television or in the papers, is the every day struggles the guards men/women had to face just trying to get the people to leave the more damaged areas. I think the problem is not that the military was used, it is that the government, local and federal, felt is was necessary to bring them in. Sure everyone wants to say the police are supposed to handle what happens over here in America, and the military is only supposed to deal with defending this country and its allies. But if one was to have been there when the guard and army had to move into places like New Orleans, they might not feel the same as they do now. I had family in New Orleans when the guard was called in, and I am glad they were there to help. It is sad when the people that are getting shot at are the one's that were sent in to help. They didn't show in the video the women getting raped and the people shooting at everyone and everything they saw. If the government kept the guard at their duty stations and just let the police handle it, then there would've been more bodies to bury. There are always two sides to the same story. I'm not saying that having to shoot civilians on American soil is a good thing, but some times it is necessary to serve and protect. When the police kill someone in the line of duty we get mad and cry out for justice, but when the military does it in another country we say it couldn't be helped and give them a medal. When disasters happen you can either have just a few police men/women out there trying to help people and keep the "peace" or you can have a few hundred men/ women of the national guard there to help. Next time a hurricane hits the coast or some kids shoot up a school, you should write to the governor of the effected state or states and ask him/her not to call on the military for support and just let the police handle it. And we will see how that turns out. The men and women of the armed forces take an oath to defend this country from enemies far and wide, foreign and domestic.
    Reply to this
  • 3/17/2009 10:26 AM Patrick wrote:
    Citizen X, have you checked our "Liberty in Eclipse" by Will Grigg? It really illustrates all the different ways that we've laid the groudnwork for a total police state at sometime in the near future.

    As always, great post!
    Reply to this
    1. 3/17/2009 1:24 PM Citizen X wrote:
      No, it's on my list, though.  Grigg is passionate and articulate; I'm a big fan.  Here is his blog.

      Reply to this
      1. 3/18/2009 11:11 AM Patrick wrote:
        I love his liberty minutes. Great snippets for a libertarian on the go...
        Reply to this
  • 3/17/2009 7:05 PM Azazel wrote:
    Although I agree that the local law enforcement shouldn't be militarized and the National Guard deployed for any reason, one of the shooter's victims while he was travelling between towns WAS a police officer... now I can't confirm whether those troops were deployed subsequently to that victim's shooting or whether it was during the police shoot-out, but people seem to forget another role that the military has (which I must say the local police force could have done just as well): maintain peace in the streets. At the time, the police had no idea who this guy was, if there were more gunmen or if there was going to be a riot (for any reason). Samson being a small town maybe the local police force felt they weren't able to properly contain this "threat", considering it also spread to another town, and THEY were the ones who called the National Guard (or whoever those guys really were) to aid them. Maybe no article mentions this because they don't want the people of Samson and surounding towns to lose confidence in their local police force...
    Reply to this
  • 4/1/2009 9:25 PM edee wolfenberger wrote:
    i was told by a member of the 'national guard' that they have been a part of the army since 1998. makes a different slant on the use of this entity against citizens of the USA.
    Reply to this
Leave a comment

Submitted comments will be subject to moderation before being displayed.

 Enter the above security code (required)


 Email (will not be published)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.