Call out the National Guard to stop urban gangs?
Two Illinois state representatives, John Fritchey and LaShawn Ford (both Democrats), want Land of Lincoln Guardsmen in the streets of Chicago.
Fritchey's molten rhetoric provides the sketch: "As we speak, National Guard members are working side-by-side with our troops to fight a war halfway around the world. ... We have another war that is just as deadly taking place right in our backyard."
Fritchey's first glitch is rather revealing: National Guard servicemen and women are troops, and definitely our troops -- a reserve of trained soldiers able to fight in their own units or augment U.S. regular forces. His second glitch, conflating Afghan combat with Chicago street crime, exceeds political hyperbole and enters the realm of blockheaded ignorance.
A National Guard squad rolling into an inner-city Chicago neighborhood can establish "presence" -- and presence can serve a deterrent function. A policeman on a beat establishes presence. Here's the concept: When the cop drives by or stands on the corner, rational thugs scatter and look for easier targets.
However, unlike experienced street policemen who know neighborhoods and are trained to defuse conflicts and arrest criminals, 20-year-old riflemen --whether National Guard or Regular Army -- are trained to shoot to kill. Military Police (MPs) are a hybrid, but MPs are also first and foremost combat soldiers.
Consider these questions and the operational issues they raise: What will be the rules regarding use of force guiding these young American soldiers as they patrol your city? Do you intend to provide the soldiers with ammunition? In domestic situations, the Guard has deployed soldiers without ammunition, to avoid the use of lethal force, though this is increasingly rare post-9-11 (besides, soldiers without ammo can be robbed of their military equipment by gang members). Or do you intend to really lock down the city and declare martial law (since we hear rumors that some gangs have assault rifles)?
Will there be special vehicle and pedestrian checkpoint procedures, or in the name of fairness and to pre-empt charges of profiling, will the Guard be expected to stop and inspect every person and every vehicle entering threatened neighborhoods? Do you intend to give the soldiers crash courses in arrest procedures, or the gathering and protection of evidence?
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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