Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brainstorming National Defense

As the title states, this is brainstorming.  I've not had time to research this topic, but it's been on my mind for several years.  Please share with me any further knowledge or opinions you hold.
The Congress shall have Power

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;          

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution
 And also, 
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.      The Second Amendment to the Constitution.
I've on occasion thought that the idea of a standing army is not in accordance with Constitutional principles.  I consider myself a Constitutional Conservative.  And as such, I've wondered whether a standing army is somewhat inconsistent with a strict constitutional outlook. 

However, many people who likewise consider themselves constitutionalists, and have studied Constitutional history more so than have I, consider a standing army as necessary to national defence, which is one of the few constitutionally assigned responsibilities of our federal government.  My understanding, again with little personal study, is that a standing army became the norm very early in the history of our country, and therefore through very early precedent, is considered legitimate.  If I have it straight, the idea of a standing army was the source of one of the original disagreements between those known as Federalists and those known as anti-Federalists, in the struggle for ratification of the Constitution.  Since those same statesmen were involved in the continuing debate after our Constitution’s ratification, and since as soon afterwards as the early 1800s we've had a standing army of sorts, that although not part of the constitution, strict constitutionalists consider a standing army as consistent with the founding principle of national defence. 

Does that make sense?  Have I represented the history accurately? Really, I admit, this is poor scholarship.  I'd love to do a bunch of reading today to figure it all out, but I simply have other callings. 

However, I did want to get these thoughts down and hopefully elicit some discussion.

Mary's thesis for today,
Whereas  throughout the history of this sinful world, it's been shown time and again that the more a civic institution does for its citizenry, they are increasingly less inclined and eventually less able to do for themselves;

and whereas our founders had some very specific reasons for fearing a standing army;

and whereas the founders did provide us with an organized way for the states to take responsibility for their own defence and to contribute to the national defence, through the maintenance of a well regulated militia;

and whereas there is an inverse relationship between the growth of a standing army and the dwindling of state militias (which one might argue is a corollary of the first "whereas");

perhaps we who consider ourselves Constitutional Conservatives ought to find a way to justify our stance more closely to that which the founders intended. 

Is not our military structure, the way it is today, a bit like socialism, in that the more the government does for us, the less we do ourselves, and then the less able we become to do for ourselves?
I came to these thoughts this morning while reading The King's of Clonmel, Book 8 of John Flanagan's, The Ranger's Apprentice series.   Will, for whom the series is named, is a former apprentice who is now a full fledged Ranger.  He is now working with the other apprentices at the Rangers' annual gathering.  The Rangers in the fictional Araluen kingdom, are primarily an undercover and intelligence gathering group in this feudal system of Flanagan's world.  But as such, they also assist the various Lords and battle masters with strategy when the need arises.  Will's assignment is to guide the apprentices in developing a strategy for a tactical exercise, according to the assets listed in the exercise.  As I read today, Will reminded the apprentices of their unstated assets, such as the trained archers each village of more than 100 citizens is required maintain.

This put me in mind, once again, of the militia system originally included in our founding documents, and my persistent questions about national defence and a standing army.

The way I understand it, militias were to be maintained by the states; each state in its freedom was to set up their militia according to their own needs and assets.  But the states were not allowed the freedom to neglect this responsibility.  I think I've read that not only were the citizens required to own firearms, they were responsible to know how to use them, and how to act together as a military force when needed.  Part of the states' responsibility was to call periodic musters to train and to test the militias for readiness.

I've heard some say that the national guard is the modern rendition of the state militias. I don't buy that.  Again, this is speaking off the cuff, because I've not researched it.  Perhaps readers could comment?  But the the primary way in which the militias are autonomous is that they have to be called out at the command of the state governors, and led by the command structure within such a state.  Is that right?  In case of some state disaster or national military need, must they be called out by their governor and assigned under the auspices of the particular military structures from within that state?

Further though, I believe the National Guards are set up uniformly throughout the nation, and their operation is subject to federal authority.  And they certainly do not involve the broad societal training in firearm use and military tactics.  Only those who choose must participate.

Are there still militias in the original sense?  Groups of citizens who gather to maintain skills in firearms and military skill?  I've been told there are.  I've even been accused of being a militia type, since our family owns and practices the use of firearms both for putting food on the table and for maintaining the ability to defend ourselves and those around us.  But we certainly don't participate in any military training exercises. 

It seems as though the idea of "militia" today has become a dirty word and those who strive to maintain such skills are perceived as crazies.  I've never known anyone who is part of a militia group, that I know of.  Therefore, I can't defend or criticize such activities.  All I know is the rumors, which seem to span a broad spectrum as far as the legality of activities, but also as to the veracity of the rumors.

But perhaps we need to explore the possibility of renewing the state militias.  Perhaps there is a place for a lessening of the national military, and stronger state run militias.  Could it work?  Is it conceivable?  I don't know.  But I am interested by the thought that we've become locally weaker as our national defence is provided for us by the federal government.  We've become so dependent upon the national military that many people aren't even aware of the many ways our military contributes to and defends our freedoms.  We tend to just float through our days, complaining about one thing or another that is wrong with our country, with little or no thought for how peace and order are maintained both at home and abroad. 

This seems to me to coincide with an attitude of, "Well, the government will do it.  I probably won't like their decisions, but what can I do about it?"  This is a typical symptom of dependency in all manner of nanny state issues.  I believe an argument could be made that this attitude of dependence puts us at a higher risk of ever increasing federal encroachment on our individual and states' rights.  I believe the founders would be appalled at the amount of freedom we've thoughtlessly conceded.  And I wonder if the demise of the state militia system is an important facet of states' rights and limited national government.  Not only are we ambivilent about our national defence and critical of it, we also have forfeited any ability to defend ourselves against any tyranny that would arise from within our borders.

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