September 30, 2006

CHARLES DUNLAP WARNS about military involvement in law enforcement:

Converting the war-fighting mind-set of the professional military to one that readily accepts the risks — and delays — inherent in policing under our Constitution can be extremely challenging and confusing to those wielding the guns and attempting to establish order.

Nonetheless, some military officers welcome domestic law enforcement roles. In a world where hijacked airliners, anthrax-infested envelopes and other serious threats arise close to home, there is a certain appeal to their thinking. And praise for the better-late-than-never Katrina effort has created an attitude friendly to domestic security duties among many in uniform.

What are they missing? Appreciation for the erosion that law enforcement duties could cause in the public affection and admiration the military wants — and needs — to sustain itself as an all-volunteer force. Americans in the end do not like heavy-handed security efforts, regardless of how well-intended they are, and typically react quite negatively to them. Think Kent State, Waco and Ruby Ridge.

He’s right. Typically soldiers make bad police, and using soldiers as police for very long tends to make them bad soldiers, too.

UPDATE: More thoughts from Prof. Kenneth Anderson.