Most Americans believe that the military is required to fight terrorism, but the military is trained and designed to fight armies representing foreign governments. The terrorists are civilians who typically have no alignment with a government.
We have learned some hard lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan. America has drained its resources and has lost many good soldiers in these two countries with little to show for it.
So, what is the best way to fight terrorism? Perhaps, it is as simple as letting our cells fight the terrorist cells. There currently is a strong movement toward a world economy, so it makes sense to form international counter-terrorism cells to fight the terrorist cells. It will be a more economical and practical approach to solving this problem. Other countries, who realize that terrorism is detrimental to the world economy, will be more receptive to this smaller-scale approach than to providing military forces to fight another country’s armies.
So, let’s round up the Posse to fight terrorism. The Posse that I am talking about gathering together and forming up is the Posse Comitatus Act, which was passed as a response to the federal military occupation of the former Confederate states during the ten years of Reconstruction after the Civil War. The southern states bartered for this law in the Election of 1876. The Democrats consented to Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a Republican, winning the disputed election in return for passage of this law.
The Posse Comitatus Act originally prohibited any president or Congress from directing, by military order or federal legislation, the imposition of federal troops in any state. But an exception was made to the act in 1958, permitting President Dwight Eisenhower to send federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, during the school desegregation crisis. This exception allows the president to call up military forces when state authorities are either unable or unwilling to suppress violence that is in opposition to the constitutional rights of the people.
The original Posse Comitatus Act also referred essentially to the Army, but the Air Force was added in 1956. The Navy and Marine Corps have been included by Department of Defense regulations. This law today is often relied upon to prevent the military services from interfering in domestic law enforcement. The Coast Guard is not subject to this law.
Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, are individuals who violate criminal laws and are subject to punishment under our criminal laws. If the Posse Comitatus Act has any strength, it must be to prevent military from interfering with domestic law enforcement. The CIA and president are perfectly capable of working with foreign governments to fight terrorism outside our country. And the FBI and Homeland Security teaming with criminal experts can fight terrorism inside America.
The Posse exception, allowing the president to declare that states are unable or unwilling to suppress terrorism, should not be utilized except in emergencies. This exception also should not be utilized when the federal civil agencies like the CIA, FBI and Homeland Security are capable of taking action against the terrorists.
Even if the civilian counter-terrorist cells are only half the size of a similar military force, we need to round up this Posse to the next highest number and treat it as being equal to the military in size. Sometimes bigger is not better. Small teams with flexibility might actually have a better chance against the terrorists. The president should not go around the Posse Act just because the military has more manpower than our civilian criminal forces. Rounding up the Posse also gives us the most bang for our buck.
As military units return from Iraq, they may start training for domestic operations. The Army service component of Northern Command is training some of its units to serve in large-scale emergencies and disasters. It is being called the Consequence Management Response Force, and also appears to be training to deal with domestic unrest and crowd control. That sounds like it could be a violation of Posse Comitatus.
I served in all four military services over four decades and support the military in everything that they do that is military. But the military should not be involved in civilian matters any more than civilians should involve themselves with military matters.
In effect, we should be able to round up and use the Posse when we need it to fight terrorism in the United States. And with our federal and state criminal machinery in place, we should not need military involvement.