03 August 2008

McCain's Terrible Idea: A Surge of Martial Law in America

Tanks n' T-walls: Coming Soon To a Town Near You!

Operation Fardh al-Qanoon is the security plan that was implemented in Baghdad in early 2007 to cut down on suicide attacks, sectarian bloodshed, and weapons trafficking. The practice of dividing Baghdad into sectors via massive T-walls and well-armed checkpoints was instrumental in reducing the rampant violence that had besieged Baghdad. The Baghdad Security Plan went hand-in-hand with Counter-Insurgency tactics adopted by the Coalition Forces, where soldiers moved off the FOB and into Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts right in the heart of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods. John McCain has, rightfully so, taken some credit for supporting this successful strategy, but he goes off the deep end when he says he wants to apply COIN tactics right here in the US. From ABC (h/t Reason):

Answering a question about his approach to combatting crime, John McCain suggested that military strategies currently employed by US troops in Iraq could be applied to high crime neighborhoods here in the US. McCain called them tactics 'somewhat like we use in the military...You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement.' The way he described it, his approach sounded an awful lot like the surge.

There is a lot of problems with this statement, even though this blog is more apt to side with preserving Law and Order than other libertarian outlets like Reason. First off, crime declined throughout the 1990s due to more effective law enforcement tactics by police officers in major urban areas, not by utilizing heavy-handed methods which would be associated with martial law. Second, are our cities in such dire straits (like Baghdad in early 2007), that the citizens would be ready to have military checkpoints with M-249s pointed at them while they drove to work? Are Americans ready to suspend the 3rd amendment so that troops can be quartered in safe houses? You could make that argument if City Hall was getting mortared every other day, car bombs were going off routinely at the Wal-Mart, and some sort of zombie apocalypse just happened, but it's just not that bad in America. Third, as one unfortunate example, Clinton tried stationing Marines at the Texas-Mexico border to counter drug trafficking. Our beloved Marine Corps is the best in the world at killing the enemy, but some prudence should be exercised in utilizing them for routine law enforcement. In 1997, some confusion resulted in Esequiel Hernadez, an 18-year old ranch hand, being killed while he was carrying a .22 rifle to herd goats.

This is an example of McCain unabashedly throwing civil liberties out the window to pander to the suburban/gated-community mommy vote. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences could be devastating for America.