Monday, December 1, 2008

Not So Sure About This

The Washington Post (via Drudge) is reporting that the Pentagon will deploy 20,000 uniformed troops "within the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials."

As strapped as our military is right now, I'm surprised at the timing of the announcement. Perhaps it assumes that the Afghan surge and the retreat from Iraq will be over by 2011 and our troops will have nothing better to do.

The tragedy in India reminds us that we must continue to improve counter-terrorism and homeland security measures. And the hurricane damage locally is a recent example of how the military can help local police in an emergency: those soldiers literally kept traffic moving for many days before electricity was restored to traffic lights. But that was a temporary response to a most improbable disaster, a hurricane in Kentucky.

Could 20,000 troops have proved useful after Hurricane Katrina? Certainly to some extent. But those people who refused to evacuate, knowing the dangers and given a way out, had the right to stay in their homes, even if many of us would have chosen differently. No doubt a big solider in uniform with an assault weapon could have changed a few minds, and and therefore saved lives.

Still, the amount -- 20,000 troops -- and the permanent nature of this deployment troubles me. These troops are not the national guard; it's an active duty combat brigade. The ACLU and the Cato Institute have weighed in against it on the grounds that the deployment would violate the "Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military role in domestic law enforcement." It's the same tension we've seen since 9/11 and perhaps throughout our history: the balance between safety and freedom.

1 comment:

Sloane Graff said...

Sounds somewhat dubious, but if the ACLU has weighed in against it, I guess I have to support it.