What would it look like with armed military men walking up and down the streets of U.S. cities day in and day out? Americans may soon find out.
That’s because the U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops deployed within the nation’s borders by 2011, according to a Washington Post report.
The Post cites the Pentagon’s stated goal: to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.
"There's a notion that whenever there's an important problem, that the thing to do is to call in the boys in green," Gene Healy, vice president of The Cato Institute, told the Post. "And that's at odds with our long-standing tradition of being wary of the use of standing armies to keep the peace."
The Cato Intsitute isn’t the only group speaking against the move. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Libertarian Party are also opposed to the government’s plans. In fact, Libertarian Party National Chairman William Redpath the government’s plan "further evidence of a disturbing trend of militarism in today's society."
The federal government’s emergency response team will be built on the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, which just returned from more than a year in Iraq.
"This is not the proper role of active-duty soldiers, who have been trained and seasoned in combat," says Redpath. "When you have active-duty soldiers being substituted for National Guardsmen, you're opening yourselves up to potential violations of civil liberties during their operations. American soldiers, the finest instruments of war in the world, do not need to be patrolling the streets of American towns after hurricanes or floods. That is not their purpose as soldiers."
There is no lack of examples in modern history of how an atmosphere of militarism during a time of crisis can lead to an excessive use of force and widespread violations of even basic Constitutional protections. Could inserting trained combat troops into these situations is an invitation for disaster? Redpath, among others, thinks so.
"If there needs to be an emergency response team that can assist and supplement local emergency responders, it should be comprised of National Guardsmen—not active-duty soldiers," says Redpath. "The use of active-duty soldiers instead of National Guardsmen puts undue tension on an already strained military during a time of war."
Jennifer LeClaire is the editor of The Voice magazine and author of "Doubtless: Faith that Overcomes the World." You can also visit her online at www.jenniferleclaire.org.