Ever the opportunist, President Trump within the last several days has used the social unrest triggered by the police killing of George Floyd to mount an attack on the Constitution itself. His specific offense: exploiting his authority as commander-in-chief to try to convert the armed forces of the United States into a personal instrument for enforcing domestic order. Allow this effort to succeed and the constitutional order created in Philadelphia in 1787 will cease to exist.
Citizens already on overload as they attempt to cope with ongoing crises related to public health, a faltering economy, and endemic racial injustice may not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We can be thankful that thoughtful — and patriotic — very senior retired military officers are speaking up to alert the public to the danger Trump has created.
The founders believed that military power, especially in the form of a large standing army, was antithetical to liberty. “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive,” wrote James Madison, “will not long be safe companions to liberty.” For many decades, Americans took Madison’s dictum seriously.
After World War II, however, they set aside such concerns. Persuaded that the nation’s very survival required it to create and maintain a massive military establishment, Americans exempted themselves from Madison’s warning. Over time they became confident — perhaps too much so — that mechanisms for reconciling a massive military and individuals’ rights and freedoms were securely in place. Might and liberty could march hand-in-hand.
Read the full article here in The Los Angeles Times.