Full Spectrum of Disgust

Our humble host let you know I was ruminating on the recent article at Small Wars Journal, “Full-Spectrum Operations in the Homeland, a “Vision” of the Future”.  Indeed I have.  The piece was written by retired Colonel Kevin Benson, USA, and Jennifer Weber, and was ostensibly an intellectual exercise to explore the staffing, intelligence collection, force structure, and liaison requirement for Title 10 forces to conduct combat operations against US citizens on American soil, couched in the context of Army doctrine.   (The misrepresentation of Posse Comitatus as “stemm(ing) from bad feelings about Reconstruction”, and not as a hedge against the Executive having an extralegal and well-armed police force at his unfettered disposal without the approval of Congress is telling, as is the selective and misleading quoting of Dr. Gorka.)

The scenario posited is more than a little implausible, and does not reflect terribly accurately the responsibilities and requirements of a State Governor in such a situation as is presented.  Those flaws can be excused, as not many of us write exercise scenarios for a living, and the flaws themselves are not central to the discussion of the main points.

What is not excusable, however, is the deliberate misrepresentation and slandering of a legitimate and law-abiding group of American citizens in order to present them as the “enemy”.   Whether the full ramifications of such a malevolent portrayal were considered beforehand, I cannot say.  What I will say is that the manner in which the scenario was done would not be substantively different if it had been written by Chris Matthews, or Barbara Boxer.

From the scenario:

“While mainstream politicians and citizens react with alarm, the “tea party” insurrectionists in South Carolina enjoy a groundswell of support from other tea party groups, militias, racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, anti-immigrant associations such as the Minutemen, and other right-wing groups. “

The absolutely unconscionable portrayal of political opponents of the current administration as enemies of our nation smacks of Alinsky, and has been a disturbing and recurring theme among the Media, Hollywood, and Barack Obama’s Presidency.   The not-so-subtle shift in terminology to describe our security threat, from “Islamic extremism”, a group that has loudly declared war on America and her people, to “violent extremism”, which is far easier to bend to describe one’s political rather than military enemies, heralded a deliberate and concerted effort to do just that.   To be an Islamic Extremist, one needed to believe in an extreme form (Wahabism, Salafism) of Islam.  But “violent extremist” is intentionally a far more nebulous term.  What is “extreme”?   Who is “violent”?

The FBI memo describing white male Veterans who believe in the Second Amendment, religious faith, and smaller and less intrusive government as potential home-grown terrorists was the first such example.

News reports and “rights groups” make continual mention of “right wing extremists”, as if some loser living in his parents’ basement and meeting with his equally-accomplished friends present more of a threat than Al-Qaeda sponsored terror cells, or murderous Mexican drug gangs that are a scourge of cities and towns in the American Southwest.

The Media’s immediate and false declaration that the gunman in Tucson, Jared Loughner, was a Veteran and a “right wing extremist”, when in reality he was neither, but instead a communist-anarchist psychopath, went largely unchallenged.  Subsequent declaration that the Tea Party was to blame for “dangerous rhetoric” that inspired the shooting, has been a common and oft-repeated meme, despite the absence of any logic or evidence to support such a claim.

In the Colorado theater tragedy, it was widely, if briefly, reported that the gunman there was a local Tea Party member, because there was a James Holmes found on a list of meeting attendees.   The retraction of that incorrect and politically-driven assertion was not nearly as loud as the original proclamation.

That aside, the late Samuel Huntington believed that the US Military would eventually be pulled into American politics, but since his 2008 death our senior uniformed leadership has plunged intentionally and headlong into them.  Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen, Army Chief of Staff Casey, CNO Roughead, all have not simply required that our service men and women execute the policies as set by our civilian leaders, but rather demanded acquiescence to the social beliefs and political leanings of what have become their political masters.   These include measures and policies that many find both morally repugnant and intellectually bankrupt.    Among these, of course, is the identity politics that were a mainstay of the 1960s radicals who made no secret of their desire to overthrow our government.

The SWJ article is a continuation of that headlong dive by the military into domestic politics.  While Jennifer Weber, an academic, might be excused, Colonel Benson should have, and likely did, know better.  His scenario is deliberately inflammatory, his portrayal of a legitimate, peaceful, and growing force in American politics is unprofessional in the extreme.  Perhaps he has rationalized his work in some way that eases his conscience, but that is mighty thin soup.    Despite the stated intent of the article, his association with what has been promulgated fills me with disgust.

After all, it was not Tea Party spokesmen who stated that it was time to “begin the armed struggle”, or “”I don’t regret setting bombs.  ‘I feel we didn’t do enough.”   No, those are the words of Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayers, respectively, unrepentant violent radicals and former members of the Weather Underground, and authors of a 1970 “Declaration of War” against the US Government.  And, of course, political benefactors of our current President.  “Violent extremists” indeed.

Even more alarming, I think, is that this article continues the recent trend of floating of the idea that it is reasonable and prudent to employ Title 10 forces against US citizens on US soil. The idea is couched in the doctrinal speak of seeming to attempt to define force structure and liaison requirements for an all-but certain future military mission, but is in reality a radically dangerous threat to our Constitutional freedoms. And this is by no means the first time. Some years ago, I sat and listened to the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine General James Cartwright, speak openly of the Constitutional limitations against use of the military domestically as “barriers to mission accomplishment”.  For him to assert so was an indicator that such ideas are well entrenched at the upper levels of DoD leadership.   We were aghast, and deeply disappointed.
The greatest danger from this line of thinking is the seemingly ever-more pliable senior leadership of our Armed Forces, both at DoD and the individual services who would otherwise object to such a use of our military.  This alarming emphasis on the employment of Federal forces against American citizens on US soil leads, without much variance, to a situation in which senior leaders and Officers may find themselves presented with decision, a moral dilemma. On one side they will have the tenets of the Constitution they have sworn to uphold and defend. On the other they will have the orders and directives from their political leaders that they KNOW violate that Constitution. How many, having been reduced to (and comfortable with) the position of minions to their political masters, will choose the latter without hesitation?

There are some who insist that the SWJ article merely challenges us to think “outside the box” about quelling an insurgency in the United States.   If so, why didn’t the authors choose as the adversary a group that has already publicly demanded a change in the form of government? Like the Islamic Extremists who want Sharia Law in the United States?   Or the Weather Underground?  The New Black Panther Party?  However, they did not.  They chose the current and law-abiding political opposition.   Shame on them.

The notion of portraying law-abiding citizens as national enemies should always be cause for alarm.  Always.  Vigilance in this regard must be constant.  Those of us who grew up in a world of big and small totalitarianism know what awaits us at the end of that road if we are not vigilant.  A healthy suspicion of the motives and intent of both politicians and the Federal government is a consistent theme throughout our nation’s history.  We have fought wars over the issue.  Army doctrine or no Army doctrine, such healthy suspicion should always remain.

The concept of facilitating the use of our military on US soil against American citizens should never be one we get used to.  Nor should it be easily done.  On the contrary, it should be damned difficult, nearly impossible in fact, and contemplated only in the gravest of situations against an existential threat.  Plenty of capability exists; local law enforcement, county, state, and federal police.  Governors have fully-equipped National Guard forces that may be rightfully employed at their  direction and authority under Title 32.  If, and only if, those assets are inadequate, should discussion even begin about “Full-Spectrum Operations” on US soil.   Our military should be a bulwark of our liberty, and not a threat to it.

Paine’s assertion is as true today as it was in 1776.

“Society in all its forms is a blessing.  Government is, at best, a necessary evil.”

7 thoughts on “Full Spectrum of Disgust”

  1. Kevin Benson is the former director of SAMS at Leavenworth, KS. While I won’t give my opinion on the scenario developed, or the current actions of civil-military relations, I will say that from a doctrinal and regulatory standpoint, it is very hard to commit title 10 forces to anything but a very limited support role to civil authority, and then only after they have exhausted their resources. I will also say that from a doctrine geek standpoint, the term would no longer refer to full spectrum operations, but rather the even more useless and nebulous “decisive action.” Under DA, we consider the use of offense, defense, and stability operations, or in CONUS it would be defense support to civil authority. As I am coming up on a 17 hour duty day, I am saying no more.

  2. Esli,

    I think you have current “doctrine” categorized correctly regarding Title 10 employment and DSCA restrictions. My increasing concern is that we have a number of people whose interest is in modifying those restrictions, and/or eliminating them. In the scenario, a Governor cannot simply ask for Federal troops without his state’s legislative approval, if the state legislature is able to meet above quorum levels. And of course, if he deigns not to employ his Title 32 forces for the job, the Feds should rightly refuse the assistance. Should.

    The new paradigm is not so respectful of those hedges.

  3. Remember, dissent is patriotic if you’re a liberal. If you want sensible government and low taxes you’re a “right wing terrorist”, report to a government camp at once citizen!

  4. Usually, such scenarios involve ‘Treeland’ and the forces are named ‘orange and ‘blue’, or some other nondescript titles. But here, a serious journal posted an article identifying an existing political group and labeling them terrorists: This a remarkable.

    That a serious author (look up his resume) from the bowels of Leavenworth and a serious career journal would politicize themselves- is stunning.

    Sort of thing Stalin did, identifying political enemies and training his officer corps against them. Or Sadam.

    Quite the development.

    This is where we are now. Imagine where we’ll be…

  5. We are entering “Nuremberg Defense” territory. Good men, perhaps; good military leaders, perhaps; they are only human.

    Gee, I don’t have an icon yet.

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