ALEXANDER OAKES: Why Biden's plans for the National Guard worry veterans like me

President Joe Biden has faced backlash from governors and pundits alike for a recent proposal he pushed regarding the National Guard. The Biden Administration wants to give control over the Air National Guards of all fifty states to the Air Force, with the stated purpose being to bolster the ranks of the Space Force, which was created by President Trump.

Now, at face value, this seems like a reasonable plan. After all, with Russia developing “high-tech space weapons,” and China, another one of our most potent adversaries also pushing the proverbial envelope when it comes to the final frontier, why wouldn’t we do everything we can to secure our foothold above the atmosphere?

Well, the reality is that even though this plan from the Biden administration may appear to be a good idea when taken at face value, the fact of the matter is that trading security for more federal power is very rarely worth it.

For instance, remember when Congress passed the Patriot Act for our security? Yeah, how did that pan out? Or how about when we were all locked down by the federal government during Covid? That was for our security, but who—at this point—honestly believes that was for the best? All of these expansions of federal power seem like a good idea at the time, but in the end, they only serve the purpose of using our fear as a catalyst to erode our freedom and sovereignty.

When it comes to this new attempt to expand the power of the federal government for We the People’s Security, and how this is related to the National Guard, my mind goes back to early 2014 when I was in MEPS (Military Entry Processing Station). And, because this is Memorial Day, and because this issue is of utmost concern to those who we will one day commemorate, let me share my story.

At the time, I was a grumpy Marine Corps infantry veteran with several combat deployments under my belt. But I was still an idealistic young man full of testosterone, angst, and patriotism. This is to say that back then I wasn’t thinking about the efficacy of the wars I would presumably go on to fight, or even whether or not I trusted our nation’s leadership. Rather, I simply looked at joining the military not as a career move, or a move that would get me free college one day, but instead as a sacred duty to my country that transcended all of that. This was especially true after taking the oath that all military members take which, in essence, is a pledge to defend America from all enemies foreign and domestic.

When we were at MEPS there was a significant amount of downtime, and during this downtime young men from all different backgrounds would try to hide their nervousness by making small talk. To that end, typically the first question asked between two people in that setting was, “What branch are you joining.” Needless to say, being the only Marine in our small group gave me a lot of pride, but at the same time I was also shocked by how many people were joining the National Guard.

“That’s not the military,” I arrogantly thought to myself, not knowing that many National Guardsmen were and had been deployed to combat zones just like everyone else over the years. It struck me as strange that these people were going through the same process that I was even though they would likely end up staying within the borders of their own state. I mean, the National Guard is a state force who falls under the command of the governor, not the president, right?

As it turns out, National Guard units are not really entities of the state at all. They are actually just a reserve element of either the US Army or the US Air Force. I see this as a major problem for three reasons.

First and foremost, speaking from personal experience, military personnel are not like regular people. Now, mind you, this isn’t to say that they are inherently better than regular people, but rather that, unlike the “average Joe,” military personnel are uniquely bound by duty. As mentioned before, swearing an oath is literally one of the first steps you have to go through to be admitted to the armed forces.

Why this matters is quite simple. Someone who is bound by duty, which you could also call loyalty if you prefer, cannot serve two masters. Therefore, it is fundamentally impossible for National Guardsmen to serve both their state and the federal government equally. I mean, sure, if there is no clash between the two, then this isn’t an issue; however, in a time of increasing tensions between the states and the federal government, what would happen if there was an ultimatum given between the two, something not entirely unlikely given recent events?

The answer is that National Guardsmen would have to choose between serving their state/governor, or serving the interests of the federal government/president, who is someone that also has the ability to command them. Can you see why this is not a very stable arrangement in a time where most freedom-minded people are concerned about federal overreach?

The second reason I see a problem with the National Guard's current chain of command, and perhaps this is my own bias in favor of the US Constitution (which I will not apologize for by the way) is that it gives We the People the illusion of having sovereignty over our states. To elaborate, the second amendment of the United States not only allows us to, but rather charges us with the responsibility of maintaining well-regulated militias. The idea behind this, according to my own analysis of the founding father’s writings, is so that We the People can have a backstop in case our federal government gets too powerful and/or corrupt.

Well, why would we feel the need to do this ourselves as citizens when we already have that in the National Guard? But, you see, we don’t. What we actually have is a sect of the US military that the federal government has allowed our states to manage. At the end of the day, they do not serve the state; they serve the president. If they didn’t then he would not be allowed to use them without a governor’s permission. Make sense?

Aside from the fact that a military member can’t serve two masters, and that the National Guard is simply the mirage of a state military force, there is also a third reason why the current status quo of the National Guard is a problem.

In lay terms, we are currently seeing a massive shift away from local policing and instead to federal policing. And we are even seeing this shift in oversight among other first responder professions like firefighting. These moves telegraph what the federal government, or as I like to call it, the establishment, wants—more control.

If these units are already allowed to operate on US soil in a “policing” capacity, and the federal government wants more control over domestic policing, what is to stop from just using the National Guard however it sees fit? Not much.

Granted, this last concern seems a bit “out there,” but make no mistake, with this new proposal the Biden Administration is fundamentally shifting the power balance between the federal government and state government, at least in regard to the National Guard, in the federal government's favor.

Perhaps you trust the government not to abuse that power, or maybe you just trust the National Guard itself not to be a military wing for a tyrannical regime, but as someone who knows all too well how good at following orders military personnel are, and how giving the federal government power usually goes, I do not. Instead, I would prefer to either restructure the National Guard so that it is clearly an entity of the state, or clearly an entity of the federal government, and for We the People to break out of our complacency and make our own subsequent state militia forces.

But as I said before, I am just a grumpy old war vet bitterly clinging to the beautiful US Constitution that so many in our populace and government have seemingly forgotten about. I only hope that on Memorial Day of all days, we remember that constitution and its separation of powers. As my fallen brothers might say, Semper Fi.

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