Sunday, May 02, 2010

Oil spills, crime waves and the increasing militarization of American life

Three recent developments are just the latest examples of the increasing militarization of American life: 1) The National Guard will now assist in the cleanup of the oil spill created in the aftermath of the explosion and subsequent sinking of a deepwater drilling platform off the Louisiana coast. 2) Several members of Congress are asking for a deployment of the National Guard along the U.S.-Mexican border. 3) Two Chicago area state legislators are now calling for the Illinois National Guard to assist Chicago police to quell a supposed wave of violent crime.

At first blush readers might accept that these problems are all worthy of military intervention and perhaps beyond the capability of civil authorities to handle on their own. The response to the growing oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico now includes U. S. Coast Guard vessels and equipment and two cargo planes provided by the U. S. Department of Defense. BP, the oil giant that operated the rig, seems overwhelmed. The damage to Gulf Coast habitat, fisheries and tourism seems potentially catastrophic. And, the accident itself raises serious questions about the safety of offshore oil exploration, especially in deep waters. No wonder Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the spill to be of "national significance." The spill seems a natural candidate for military intervention. And, after all, the military has personnel and equipment that no other entity, public or private, has.

As for border security, there have been periodic calls for a National Guard presence at the Mexican border. Few people will deny that the borders of the United States are very easy to cross and therefore an invitation to those wishing to come into the country. Whether the National Guard could be effective in doing anything about this is an open question. A guardsman commenting on the most recent call doubts it. (See Havoc29 from Kansas.) Nevertheless, policing the borders is essentially a federal responsibility, so why not involve soldiers?

Less clear cut is the case for involving National Guard units in the policing of the nation's communities. The Illinois state legislators who are calling for National Guard intervention on the streets of Chicago failed to mention that deaths from violent crime this year are running only slightly ahead of last year. And yet, with municipalities facing increasing budget pressures, it seems inevitable that police officers and patrols will be cut, perhaps significantly in the coming years.

I'm skeptical that we are now in a sustained economic recovery, and fully expect a second leg down that will leave the world economy in perhaps a decade-long funk. If I'm right, that would mean continuing cuts at all levels of government leading to further problems which will then lead to increasing calls for military assistance for a variety of tasks including those related to public safety and infrastructure repair.

Along the border the National Guard has, in fact, been providing support for a long time as the Guard proudly declares on its website: "The National Guard has provided engineering, counterdrug and other support to [U. S. Customs and Border Patrol] for more than 20 years and will continue to do so." The military's Joint Task Force North founded in 1989 has been helping to interdict drugs and fight terrorism as well. The Army Corps of Engineers has long been party to many projects that are clearly civilian in nature. Abroad, the U. S. military has often performed tasks not directly related to combat such as humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.

The involvement of the military in many of these missions seems in some ways logical. But that is just the problem. We are shaping public policies and priorities so that the resources to perform these tasks are increasingly unavailable to the civilian federal agencies or to the state and municipal governments responsible for those tasks. Starved of tax revenue or congressional appropriations, these entities have turned to the military for help. In part, this is because the country's politicians have convinced the public that much of government is wasteful and even useless with one very important exception: the military. The lavish funding heaped on the military is not, however, a reflection of the return American society is getting from that funding. Rather it is a consequence of the powerful military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned the country against in 1960.

The dangers of this mission creep were evident as far back as 1992 when a prescient U. S. Air Force lieutenent colonel, Charles J. Dunlap Jr., wrote an essay entitled, "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012."(PDF) Dunlap foretold that U. S. military involvement in the kinds of activities discussed above would expand with deleterious effects on the ability of the military to fight effectively. The involvement of military personnel in civilian activities, he warned, would also lead to their increasing politicization. Military officers are not used to taking orders from seemingly inefficient, democratically elected bodies which are often slow to act to address even urgent problems. Those officers may seek to circumvent such bodies when they appear to be impeding action on challenges that seem to call out for quick responses. Dunlap even predicted a second, but this time disastrous engagement in the Middle East, the result of a military scattered in its focus and mission. (He guessed the confrontation would be with Iran rather than Iraq, but results are roughly what I think he foresaw.)

With the dangers to the world economy increasing yearly from oil depletion, climate change, mountainous public and private debt and myriad other challenges, it seems likely the United States (and the world) will face continuing economic difficulties including declining or stagnant revenues for government at all levels. With economic difficulties ongoing and the needs of public intensifying, it will be all too tempting to ask the institution likely to suffer the least from funding cuts, namely, the U. S. military, to step in and address problems that overwhelmed local, state and federal governments and agencies cannot.

This is why Dunlap imagined that there will ultimately be little opposition to a military coup if it arrives. After all, by then the military will be performing so many tasks in civilian life that taking direct command of government may well seem the next logical and necessary step to the save the nation.


Robin Datta said...

Militarization may be a phase en route to relocalization. The entitlements secured for state & local employees by their unions can no longer be supported in a contracting economy; the way out is to fulfil the letter of such obligations - by gutting the dollar. Meanwhile Armed Forces personnel have no such unions and are unable to secure comparable entitlements.

And the military is apolitical - BushBaby's Defence Secretary carried over into Barack Hussein's cabinet; the Gestapo - Homeland Security - has quickly became an established feature of the landscape.

Dwight Baker said...

Loss what can we do?
By Dwight Baker
May 5, 2010

Eagles Eye View Aiming at Issues for We the People Advocates

Out and about through Middle America are the many that have serious doubts about where We the People all are headed. Our Great Nation is being miss-managed, and those doing so don’t care to hide the facts. Lies permeate our soul as a Nation and We as People. Many of We the People rich heritage that made this Nation the Greatness that we inherited is being sold down the drain. And few understand that in the long run ‘if not stopped’ will lead our posterity and us alike into the bondage of slavery.

Stating the things that I do are hard for some to conceptualize but ‘not me’ if you doubt my words then go and prove me wrong? My strongest talents have proven to be thinking then creating outside the box of traditional understanding and logic.

We do not as a People need to totally understand all the wise ones that have gone on before, but it is Ok to do so. For those many long gone have not lived in the exact circumstances as we face each day. And for me that is where the rub comes in.

Far too much is being promoted by the progressive media hounds that in my estimation tells the same old stories over and over again but with each having a different spin --- yet solutions are seldom presented and ‘if so’ few and far in-between.

Yep—the folks heading up our Federal Government are filled with fraud and some treason and seem to be proud of it. Not only them but going down to state, county and city levels we find the same sort of scum that has come to the top of the heap spending our money un-wisely.

Now what is the fix? The same thing that has been done before by civilized folks under the hard hand of tyranny ‘Resist’! And what forever could be wrong with that? Not a thing, for when people lose their voice and vote to change a democratic republic then slavery has already been accepted as their continued lifestyle.

Yet We the People in America are faced with an over-ridding ‘Fear Tactic’ and that is seen in all our money we have allowed to be spent making private industry into armed forces. Why did that come about? That was and is an insidious plan to take us out ‘kill us’ those ‘who resist’ in small groups and keep down our voices and votes from having an international public hearing. And those that made the plans to do so while in public office violated the Laws in our Constitution. But what is new about that?

Our Bill of Rights and Constriction is winked at by the power bosses as just useless outdated words, that simply have no effect on them or their vile and evil agendas they seek to do, while in or out of public office. The GOOD OLE BOY CLUB ‘Bilderberg’ is as alive today as it was when first created by John D. Rockefeller years ago.

That group of unsavory characters is Elite Dietist. They are rich beyond measure and have a thirst for power. They worship themselves as God, thus they have no respect for common men women and children. They are the ones running our governments big and small.

NOW, what can We the People do?

Raise our voices, votes and flags of dissent in each community where we reside. Do not be afraid to speak out ---for the right to dissent is as natural as the sun coming up and going down. Once doing-- others with the same heart and mind for doing what is right will come along and before any of us know a foundation of friendships will come about. Meeting of the minds will become an affair desired for and run too each time a local meeting is scheduled. Those who run to others and form high-minded groups of thought about ruling themselves will never become slaves to any system of overboard and out of control governance.

Jimbo said...

United States foreign assistance to the developing world (less than 1% of the Federal budget) is necessarily strategic and development oriented. It used to be "civilian". But an increasing share of foreign aid is being directed to "conflict states" , where we are fighting wars or the literally never-ending war on drugs and so much less foreign aid is available for actually helping people and supporting civil society and private sector development. Welcome to the National Security State, which began right after WWII and has steadily expanded civilian and overseas. Tea Party simplicities aren't going to reverse this. It requires a much more profound change in the culture. Which doesn't seem to be happening.

Dredd said...

It is even more serious than that in some locations.

Many are not aware of posse comitatus and all it means.

Soldiers are doing police work such as giving speeding tickets in some states.

Anonymous said...

More importantly, Dunlap did not predict the hollowing out of military-intelligence complex functions. The CIA at this point is more contractors than civil servants.

There are more contractors than military personnel in Iraq & Afghanistan. In the recent suicide bombing by a supposed informant in Afghanistan, 2 of the 7 intel officers present were Blackwater.

But the craziest military/civilian entanglement I've heard of is in China and Iran: the military owns businesses. In China a lot of the front-line military budget comes from divisions running businesses to be self-supporting. In Iran, the Revolutionary Guard has absorbed a lot of the industrial capital base that was "theocratized" (nationalized and given to the mullahs) in the Islamic Revolution.

Anonymous said...

You have to decide... do you want results or not?

The U.S. Department of Defense (although certainly not perfect) does have good project managers and, as you noted, a lot of unique capabilities.

Of course, all that talent and infrastructure does not come cheap.

Sending these types of challenges to DoD is like going to the emergency room for a cold. The problem will get solved, but it will cost a lot more than it would through other normal methods.