The National Guard is back in the headlines thanks to a showdown at the Texas border and Joe Biden’s latest foreign policy debacle. The Biden administration has refused to enforce federal law to limit undocumented immigrants (many of whom “lost” their documents just before arriving at the U.S. border) from crossing from Mexico into the United States. The Transportation Security Administration permits those new arrivals to board domestic flights merely by showing their Department of Homeland Security arrest warrants as identification. (American citizens are permitted no such luxury.)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent National Guard troops to erect barbed wire at one of the best known entry points at the Texas-Mexico border. President Biden ordered Abbott to withdraw his state’s officials and permit federal agents to slash the barbed wire to permit unrestricted entry at that point. The Supreme Court narrowly supported Biden’s position on federal authority.
Gov. Abbott refused to back down because Texas’ constitutional right to defend and protect itself is “the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary. The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border,” Abbott announced.
Biden is threatening to federalize the National Guard—i.e., take direct control over its troops. Taking a giant leap towards martial law would be damned unwise. The Biden administration is seeking to extort $60 billion in additional foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel from Congress as the price for enforcing federal law and limiting undocumented immigration on the southern border. Governors of at least twenty-four states have announced they stand with Texas, and at least ten states have sent some of their National Guard troops in solidarity.
When I ask Libertarians to phone bank for Defend The Guard legislation, I get lukewarm reactions. I get it. You don't think a state legislature or governor has the balls to say NO to the feds. Well, here it is.
The time is now. https://t.co/31MbsSzzEc
— Angela McArdle (@angela4LNCChair) January 29, 2024
The Texas showdown should awaken Americans to the perennial federal abuse of the National Guard. The federal government has treated state National Guard units as a tool which they could deploy at their convenience any place on earth. As West Virginia legislator and Air Force Academy graduate Pat McGeehan observed, “The process of throwing American troops into foreign wars has become a matter of unilateral decree by the president, an office swayed carelessly by the administrative state and impulsive bureaucrats from the Pentagon.” This abuse became far more widespread and perennial after 9/11.
The folly of the standard operating procedure was also exposed by the news that several Arizona National Guard troops were injured by a drone attack at a U.S. military base near the Jordan-Syria border. Three U.S. soldiers were killed in that attack. White House Press Spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre touted the dead soldiers as “three military folks who are brave and who are fighting on behalf of this administration”—despite no evidence that the troops chose to sacrifice themselves for Joe Biden.
Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs tweeted: “I am heartbroken to hear reports of the Arizona National Guardsmen wounded in action during the attack in Jordan…We are ready to offer support for the Guardsmen and their families, and will be prepared to take action as the situation develops.” Hobbs’ tweet outraged Arizonans who were furious to learn that their Guard troops were deployed in the Middle East instead of the state’s unprotected southern border. “Why is the Arizona National Guard in Jordan and not defending the ARIZONA BORDER?” protested one critic. The Arizona Mises Caucus scoffed at Hobbs: “You could have prevented this last year by pushing to pass defend the guard, which every democrat voted against. You have another chance this year, bring our boys home.”
Across the nation, the “Defend the Guard” movement is spurring state legislatures to vote to “prohibit a state’s National Guard units from being deployed into active combat without a formal declaration of war by Congress, as provided by the U.S. Constitution.” That movement is being spearheaded by the organization, Bring Our Troops Home. Hunter DeRensis is their communications director and also editor here at the Libertarian Institute.
Many legislators will introduce “Defend the Guard” bills in their states in the coming weeks and months. Here is a website to track information on these legislative proposals in your state and to sign a petition for the cause. Texans will have a chance to register their support for the Defend the Guard Act in a March 6 Republican primary ballot proposition. The Texas Republican Party platform already formally endorses Defend the Guard.
Today, January 30, the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee will hold a hearing a Defend the Guard bill written by Maryland Delegate Robin Grammer. Following is the testimony I submitted for that hearing.
In Support of H.B. 0299, “Defend the Guard,”
I am writing to support HB 0299. I am a Rockville author. I have written eleven books, including a bestseller, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), and Terrorism and Tyranny (St. Martin’s, 2003). I am on the Board of Contributors of USA Today, a contributing editor of The American Conservative, and a frequent contributor to The New York Post and other publications. My writing often focuses on government lies and abuses.
H.B. 0299 would prohibit the governor from sending any Maryland National Guard unit into “active duty combat” unless Congress has passed an official declaration of war or under other narrow circumstances. More than 600,000 Guard members have been deployed abroad since 2001 in undeclared wars or conflicts. Maryland Guard members fought in Fallujah and were sent to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. This had nothing to do with defending the residents of Maryland against any threat for which the Guard was originally created. The risk that the U.S. government could become entangled in warfare in Ukraine is another urgent reason for safeguarding the Maryland Guard.
Permitting presidents to rely on state Guard units undermines the control of a president’s war-making capacity. Afghan war veteran West Virginia Rep. Pat McGeehan explained the purpose of this legislation when he proposed a similar bill in his state: “For decades, the power of war has long been abused by this supreme executive, and unfortunately our men and women in uniform have been sent off into harm’s way over and over. If the U.S. Congress is unwilling to reclaim its constitutional obligation, then the states themselves must act to correct the erosion of constitutional law.”
Presidents have too much power. H.B. 0299 gives Maryland legislators a chance to rein in the White House’s power over Maryland citizens regardless of who is president.
Thanks for the opportunity to submit this testimony.