Army at Home?

 Posted by on 29 September 2008 at 12:02 am  Foreign Policy, Politics
Sep 292008

Why is it that I’m not comforted by this “we’re from the army and we’re here to help” plan?

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.


“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said [1st BCT commander Col. Roger] Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”

Oy. Will these soldiers also be on call for “manmade emergencies and disasters” like … say … economic collapse caused by rampant government interference in the financial markets? Whoever wins the election, the answer surely would be “yes.”

I love and respect the American military, and that’s why I’m so worried about these plans to deploy the military inside the US. Soldiers must be trained to operate effectively in hostile territory amongst potentially hostile civilians. In those circumstances, every unknown person must be regarded with suspicion, and the overriding goal must be the mission at hand. In contrast, maintaining peace and security at home amongst fellow Americans is the job of the police — and the national guard, if necessary — including in times of crisis. That’s what they’re trained to do, at least in theory.

This news highlights the very real threat to our liberty of reshaping the American military into a humanititarian force abroad, as has happened since World War 2. The threat is not just that taxpayer dollars are wasted on feel-good missions without any relevance to national security. The threat is not just that soldiers must risk their lives for the sake of random strangers in foreign lands, rather than to preserve and protect American liberty. The threat is the logic of the idea: if the military help foreigners in times of disaster, why shouldn’t they also help Americans too? To the extent that the military is easygoing and friendly, thereby allowing it to operate at home with all due respect for American civilians, then it’s not an effective fighting force: it would not have the kind of detachment, discipline, and ambition to fight real wars in hostile territory. And, if it is that kind of effective fighting force, then any operation inside the US risks a ugly clash between civilians and military. Either way, it’s bad.

(Via The Agitator.)

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