President Trump said last week that if governors can’t get a handle on protests that turn violent, he’ll step in with U.S. troops to get the job done. His Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, isn’t keen on the idea.
Esper said on Wednesday he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty forces to quell civil unrest at the moment.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
To legally put U.S. military boots on the ground inside the U.S. in an enforcement capacity, Trump would have to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act – something last done in 1992 in response to the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. But the military has positioned 1,600 active-duty forces on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. to deploy, just in case.
He acknowledged the difficulty of deploying the military without entering the political fray. Esper said:
“I work very hard to keep the department out of politics, which is very hard these days as we move closer and closer to an election.”
Retired Navy admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:
“Our fellow citizens are not the enemy, and must never become so.”
Let’s hope that Esper, and common sense among police chiefs, police officers, Guardsmen, and protesters, carry the day, and join together to identify and root out the rioters and looters that are marring some of the protests.