The United States has long had a tradition of prohibiting the military from serving as the domestic police. We Americans consider a bad thing to have the military serving in that capacity. This tradition is reflected in the Posse Comitatus Act, which was enacted in 1878 and expressly prohibits U.S. military forces from engaging in domestic law enforcement.
The reason that Americans consider it a bad thing to have the military serve as cops is because militaries traditionally run roughshod over the rights and freedoms of the citizenry to a much greater extent than civilian cops do. The military mindset is: We’re at war, and everything must be done to win the war; we cannot surrender to the criminals.
The inevitable result is the type of things we’ve seen in the military’s war on terrorism — e.g., assassinations, murders, indefinite incarcerations, military tribunals, torture and sex abuse, denial of due process, cancellation of habeas corpus, kidnapping, rendition, bombing of wedding parties, missiles into cars, and so forth.
In the mind of the military, these types of things are considered perfectly normal because they’re part of waging war.
Thus, it’s not surprising that the Mexican people are now suffering major human-rights abuses at the hands of their own military forces, which are actively involved in waging that country’s war on drugs. The Mexican experience reminds us of why Americans have never wanted their military to be involved in enforcing the drug laws or any other domestic crime.
But if using the military for domestic law enforcement is a bad thing for Americans, then why isn’t it equally bad for Latin Americans?
For years the U.S. military has been actively involved as a domestic law-enforcement force in Latin America as part of the war on drugs. Colombia and Peru are good examples. In fact, the U.S. military bases sprinkled throughout Latin America are oftentimes justified as part of the U.S. government’s global war on drugs.
Why should the U.S. government be subjecting Latin Americans to the U.S. military as part of domestic law enforcement in their countries when Americans won’t permit themselves to be subjected to it here at home? Isn’t the use of the U.S. military in the war on drugs in Latin America, while prohibited from doing so here at home, just part and parcel of the arrogance and hypocrisy that has long characterized U.S. foreign policy?
This double standard should be ended. The way to do so is by closing all U.S. military bases in Latin America and withdrawing all U.S. troops from that part of the world and discharging them. (Of course, ending the war on drugs would be good too.)
Another important step is to close the U.S. military’s School of the Americas, which trains the military personnel of Latin American countries. Unlike the United States, the regimes in those countries use their militaries as domestic cops, which produces the negative consequences that come with such a policy. Thus, by training foreign military forces with full knowledge that they are serving as domestic cops back home, the School of the Americas reinforces a policy in Latin America that is inherently bad — i.e., the use of the military as domestic cop.
Of course, the risk that Americans face is that the U.S. government will end the double standard and hypocrisy the other way — by abolishing or ignoring the Posse Comitatus Act and copying what Latin American countries do in using the military as domestic cops.
Indeed, the U.S. military is practically champing at the bit to be sent to the U.S.-Mexican border to participate in the war on drugs, the war on immigrants, the war on guns, and the war on terrorism.
The American people would be wise to not abandon their heritage of prohibiting the military from serving in that capacity. They should extend that prohibition to Latin America and all other foreign countries.