Legionnaire: Avoid domestic use of military at all costs

January 6, 2021 saw one of the darkest moments of domestic history in America. Regardless of your politics, it was a day that, quoting President Roosevelt, “…will live in infamy”.

There have been calls over the last months of President Trump’s term that it may be necessary to remove him through use of the military, or more recently, that the military should have been called out to control the insurrectionists at the Capitol on January 6. I think I can speak for many of my fellow veterans and those on active duty, that this is the last thing that America needed or wanted.

The most important difference between democratic governments and other types, such as communist, socialist, theocratic, military dictatorship and totalitarianism, is the transfer of power from one leader to the next. America has always shone like a beacon when it came to this transfer, even in hotly contested elections. The 1824, 1876, 1880, 1960 and 2000 elections were all very close and came down to deal making and court decisions. The common denominator in each was that the losing candidate conceded the election.

When a person enlists or accepts a commission into military service, the oath in part reads, “…I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

This means the ultimate duty of the military is to protect and defend the Constitution. Regardless of our feelings, thoughts or beliefs, we have sworn to defend this most sacred document. The separation of military and civilian power was vital to long-term success.

Two incidents in particular, underline the opposite sides of domestic military use. The first, much to my personal disgust, was when President Hoover called out the Army, led by General MacArthur and staffed with Majors Eisenhower and Patton, to break up peaceful protests by WWI veterans looking for their promised service certificate bonuses from the government. They were looking to receive these bonuses early. Their behavior was exemplary, but President Hoover ignored them, then ultimately sent the Army to disperse them. Tear gas was used by these soldiers. It was a major reason Hoover lost reelection.

The second, was the use of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers to force the integration of African Americans in Little Rock, Arkansas schools. President Eisenhower was opposed by Governor Faubus and Arkansas National Guard troops. I believe this was a justified action, as nothing less would have been effective. In this case, the show of force was enough to overcome the obstinance of local government.

I believe that in general, military use for domestic issues should be avoided at all costs. With the local, state and, if necessary, federal law enforcement agencies and their training and equipment, it should not be necessary to utilize active-duty troops. Let us pray this is not tested in the future. After all, if we cannot lead by example, how do we expect to bring other countries into the “Democratic fold?”