Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina and the Iraq War

Justin Raimundo of has some thoughts on Katrina, Iraq, and the End of 'National Greatness' 09/12/05.  He points out that not only the stationing of troops in Iraq affected the ability of the National Guard to respond to Katrina.  But also emergency equipment like satellite phones and high-water vehicles had been sent to Iraq to fight for our Shiite Islamist government against Iraqi Sunnis.

He also throws some cold water on the "national greatness" slogan of the neoconservatives:

Hurricane Katrina has blown away the pretensions of the "National Greatness" neocons, as well as their dreams of glory at home and abroad. The bitter winds of a cold realism are sweeping away the cloudy delusions of self-infatuated intellectuals whose Walter Mitty-esque dreams of glory are paid for in the blood of other people's children, never their own. And not a moment too soon…

Raimundo is a good example of the antiwar liberatarians.  Others that make, like the neo-Confederate crowd at, are really hardcore jingoes who are trying to gain respectablility from featuring antiwar columns from war critics of a more democratic mind-set than they are.

But this article to which I linked also shows a real problem with Raimundo's analysis in the way he deals with issues relating to Israel.  I've seen enough of his columns to know that he's mainly focusing on the influence of the hard-right Likud Party on US policies, which is real.  I've talked about it many times here myself.  But in using phrases like "Israelis and their American amen corner", as he does in this article, I can't say that his writing is altogether free of old-fashioned anti-Semitism.  Or maybe it would be more fair to say that he soometimes words things in such a way that they are easily open for anti-Semitic interpretations.

On the role of the National Guard in "homeland defense," this piece is also valuable: Gary Hart, "A Well-Regulated Militia," The American Prospect vol. 14 no. 10, November 1, 2003.

The events of September 11 changed all that. After the attacks, government officials began suggesting that the military would do a better job than the National Guard at protecting the homeland. Prior to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, having warned that terrorists would surely attack America, strongly recommended that the National Guard be trained and equipped primarily for the homeland-security mission, its original constitutional purpose, in addition to supporting regular expeditionary forces, as it presently does in Iraq and Bosnia. In its final report to the president, on Jan. 31, 2001, the commission stated, "We urge, in particular, that the National Guard be given homeland security as a primary mission, as the U.S. Constitution itself ordains."

Though not yet adopted as official government policy or even comprehensively debated, this issue must be addressed with considerable urgency. Unless the National Guard's primary homeland-security mission is clearly understood, presidents will continue to be tempted to use it exclusively as an auxiliary expeditionary and invasion force.

Hart raises an important issue.  It would be a serious problem for our democratic institutions if the regular military came to be seen as the primary military force to respond to emergencies instead of the National Guard.  I thought about this the last week or so when I heard accounts praising the outstanding performance of the regular military.

Hart is not arguing that the regular military should never be used in emergencies.  But he argues that the National Guard should be the primary force that fulfills that role.  That would imply not only that they should get the training and equipment that they need to respond properly, but also that they not be sent for extended tours of duty in wars, especially wars of choice like Iraq, so that the best-trained units and their equipment will be available for use in the continental United States to respond to a catastrophic event:

Our [regular] military forces have communications, health, transportation and other systems -- almost all mobile and portable to one degree or another - that could prove critical in an emergency. No abstract theory should dictate that these systems and capabilities not be deployed domestically. But that is not the issue. According to the ideal of the historic republic, and the principles of the American Republic particularly, the front line of homeland defense is composed of citizen-soldiers who formed the original militia, for whom the Second Amendment was designed and who now form the 50 state National Guards. This was their original constitutional mission and one for which the National Guard must be urgently trained and equipped rather than, as at present, used almost exclusively as combat support. Only when their homeland-security training, equipment and resources prove inadequate -- when a disaster or attack is of the greatest magnitude -- are the regular forces to be called upon. As Jefferson counseled, under our Constitution and history the standing army is the last, not the first, resort for domestic security against terrorist attack.

Further, as a practical matter the National Guard is "forward deployed," that is to say living and working, in 2,700 communities, including all major cities, across the country. The Colorado National Guard, for example, has much more immediate access to the urban areas of Colorado than most major U.S. Army units. The one exception is the Fourth Army division, stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. But this is the exception that proves the point: If Colorado were to be attacked, the frontline forces are the Colorado National Guard, which would be supplemented and backstopped, if necessary, by the regular U.S. Army. (my emphasis)

Hart also reminds us that the extended use of Guard troops in Iraq is often a double-whammy, because "a disproportionate share of National Guard members double as "first responders" - local police officers, firefighters and emergency health workers - thus making America's communities doubly vulnerable to attack."

No comments: