Tuesday, February 05, 2008

America's other Army

From Strategypage - America's Secret Army

Most American men are unaware that they are in the army, or, as described by the Militia Act of 1903 (popularly known as the Dick Act), the unorganized militia. The main purpose of the Dick Act was to sort out over a century of confusion over the relationship between the state militias (now known as the National Guard) and the federal forces. The 1903 law was the first of many laws hammered out to create the system now in use. But in the last century, not much attention has been paid to the little known "unorganized militia" angle. This force contained every able-bodied adult male who was not a part of the organized militia. The 1903 law legalized the right not to be part of the organized militia, because a 1792 law had mandated that every adult male be part of the militia. The problem was, most men didn't want to be bothered. To deal with this, state governors created two classes of militia; paid (who trained and were armed and organized into units) and unorganized (everyone else.)

The militia is a state institution, and predates the founding of the United States. It harkens back to the ancient tribal practice, where every able bodied male turned out to defend the tribe. During the colonial period, this really only meant anything in frontier areas, where hostile Indians sometimes required the use an armed militia force. In the late 18th century, only about ten percent of American families possessed a firearm, usually a musket or shotgun. Weapon ownership was much more common on the frontier, and in more settled areas, men with muskets often joined the organized militia more to be with their hunting buddies, than to prepare for war. The urban militia was sometimes used as a paramilitary force, when there was civil disorder or some kind of natural disaster. During the American Revolution, the militia served mainly as a police force, especially since about a third of the population were loyalists.

Currently, the "unorganized militia" is expected to come up when the Supreme Court again considers the laws pertaining to the right to possess firearms. Many localities have outlawed or regulated that right, which is guaranteed (but not precisely spelled out) in the Constitution. Nevertheless, if you are an adult American male between the ages of 17 and 45, you are part of the militia, whether you knew it or not, whether or not you want to be, and whether or not you are armed. Just so you know.

This is fully in line with my view of the rights of the citizens and the States as seen in multiple previous posts. In the first of those I looked directly at the issue of these two pieces of the Constitution. While everyone with weapons looks at Amendment II, it is the Article I, Section 10 escape clause that allows the mustering of the militia by the States when invaded or in imminent Danger that will not admit delay. Perhaps of all the 'civil rights' we have and the least *used* or supported by the population, the right to defense of the State is one that gets forgotten.

Almost completely these days.

In that forgetting, however, we forget one of the deepest roots of our democracy, which goes back, not to the Greek but to the Nordic lands, and their views of exactly who would rule and how accountability was meted out. That was via the traditional form of democracy known as the Thing (or ting) done at the local level and then the Althing done at a proto-National level. A Thing was a social gathering (usually to renew ties during spring) and it was also a 'settling of accounts' under the law. In Sweden, and elsewhere in the Nordic climes, the King soon came to realize that the crown may rest upon his head, but only by the assent of the Althing. While still aristocratic in nature, the Things allowed, at the lowest level, for local Chieftans and lawgivers to reconcile the community with the rest of its neighbors and the King and State as a whole. The power of the Thing was the community that backed it: every able bodied man.

This, in its rawest of forms, is the ability to put government in check by the People. The fealty of a given ruler or King would be *to* that assembly and the King would need to act in accord with it to continue ruling. That basic of all pacts between rulers and the ruled would migrate through the British Isles and mix with other forms of local governing via the Scots and Irish and infuse itself more southwards into England. The Nordic rulers of England would change that common view into the Common Law, and the fealty of a King to the Assembly or Parliament is the exact, same as the King to the Althing. In the US the local Chieftans would be represented by the individual State and the ruling group would be the federal government. That same tie via the Common Law which itself comes from the Norse exists, to this day, in the unorganized militia language, which the States may call upon to defend the State when the federal government is not able or not *willing* to respond to invasion or Danger.

While ancient it is a sacred bond and perhaps the most sacred to any people who consider themselves to be free: they can hold government absolutely accountable to themselves and dissolve that government whenever they want and that is backed by force of arms at the very last and yet most important times when governments seek to remove freedom from their People.

If you try to wish this away or regulate all arms out of the hand of individuals, you no longer have a free society: you have a tyranny.

Even worse, if you try to suppress the teaching of arms along with removing them, you then encounter the ancient martial arts that unarmed individuals may perform. Any move to stop all teaching of arms is something that can and will be resisted as it is uncivilized to wish for government that is unhindered by any limit or any accountability. Remove the last limit and then government may do as it pleases as the People have become slaves.

In an era where individuals practice Private War and keep such war-making in the shadows until they strike, unlike civilized armies and Nations, the only defense the population can ever be assured of is: themselves. That, too, is backed by the Law and the Constitution, not only given in the language, above, but in the English Common Law before the United States was even formed, and also within the Law of Nations... not that you will ever be taught these things in school.

There appears to be some work going on the last couple of generations to help Americans forget what it means to have and hold Freedom by using their Liberty to safeguard it. Let us hope that we do not have to put that faulty memory to the test any time soon, as we just might fail the test of 1776 these days... because grasping and holding freedom is ancient.

And necessary.


Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Another forgotten part of the Consitution:

Private Ships of War

A Jacksonian said...

Cannoneer - That we have... the lovely Letters Language, for citizens willing to volunteer their ships so as to arm them and get warrant. That does apply somewhat more generally via the Letters language as Privateers also carried out land raids. The entire Prize Courts helped that system no end, as well as rewards for duty done. That part comes out of Roman trade law via the Black Book of the Admiralty and then into the Common Law... and is highly amenable with our system of government having been integral to the formation of it.

Not mercenaries but citizens given warrant to take up arms, represent the Nation and held accountable to the Laws of War. It is starting to look like we need that sort of America...

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

I doubt that our Allies in the Long War would refrain from interfering with such an American vessal. Certainly the Russians, Chinese and probably the Indians would seek such a vessal out for a test case. Any landing forces from an American privateer would be subject to attack by just about everybody.

I like the idea, though. Just don't think it is possible in the world as it is now.

A Jacksonian said...

That is the problem with the modern world: no one wants to remember what Nations can do. If I remember correctly al Qaeda was cited in 2001 as having ownership or part-ownership in 6 vessels in the Indian Ocean basin, and up to two 707 class aircraft (purchased during their period in Egypt while they dealt with the Red Mafia for nuclear material). Those would be, properly, considered to be Pirate vessels and also liable under the Letters language... with any US vessels needing demonstrable linkage of ownership to prove such. As the world grows more complex, and our National tools fail in the face of inspired groups and individuals (thinking here of Simon Reubens' work with the Chernoy brothers) their ability to actually tease out such networks gets to be limited by the very problems of National actors: their accountability is so high and ingenuity impaired by bureaucracy that getting to the bottom of something takes years. Getting to the bottom of the Bank of NY fraud has gone on for over 7 years at this point, with only the immediate actors imprisoned, while the entire web of front companies has thwarted Treasury, FBI, CIA and their UK counterparts (amongst many). Trying to trace down something far easier, like dodgy ownership certificates in Africa has also gone beyond their ability... no one wants to pay attention to those things.

So, we depend on haphazard law enforcement, incapable treasury, INTEL systems that can't even figure out how many nuclear separators Iran has (nonetheless running them), overworked and undernetworked FBI, and a military that can only act *if* it is near 100% certainty. And if a port goes missing someday in the US, we will be wondering just *why* we couldn't stop that.

Because we depend far too much on bureaucracy and do not, ever, want to depend on ourselves. And given that one plot was luckily stumbled across on a more mundane venue to do something like that with someone else's ship... why we don't warrant citizens to go after those owned by the enemy is beyond me. If we cannot dare the art of the possible, the probable that we do not want becomes near certainty.

While our enemy wages Private War we are unwilling to exhaust the means of Public War to confront them. That is not 'civilized' that is decadence to trust that much in government. Soon you find you will not have a State, a government or civilization if these things are not confronted. In that we are no different than other civilizations that could not or would not stand up to such. What follows is usually this thing called a 'Dark Age'.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Interesting comments on the original Strategy Page thread.

I love the National Guard. But they are part-time Federales and We The People need to remember that.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

I went and voted today, AJ, and I despair for the Republic.

Perhaps the survivors will be more receptive to your message.

A Jacksonian said...

Cannoneer - I seem to be having this discussion a lot today. I will post a response to an emailer... my thoughts have been running dark for sometime, but my response to darkness has been steady and unwavering:[begin]

We have two precedents for what is coming and neither is nice: the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Like at the time of the Revolution, our Nation is in dissolution, literally dissolving out from under us. It was nearly 100 years ago the 'progressives' were able to convince our fellow citizens to undo the wisdom of the foundres and shift the States out of the balance of power - thus we now find distant and disenchanted government ruling as it will, just like George III did leading up to the Revolution. And the divisions in the US run deep and hard between those willing to adhere to civilization and Nation and those wanting to get rid of it and be enslaved to the State and let bureaucrats rule everything until liberty is gone. Those divisions are like from the Civil War, save now only the Nationalists are willing to go armed... that should worry the Transnationalists a bit, but they seem relatively blithe about it.

Trying to hold a Constitutional Convention *now* would shatter the Nation with disputed and hotly contested elections and the SCOTUS unwilling to step in *twice*. Look at each and every faction that wants *their* vision of America impressed on their fellow citizens. That gamut starts on the far Right and goes to the far Left with absolutists of all kinds in-between. That would be the Civil War scenario... and without a legitimate government and the tradition of civilian control over the military, the armed forces would stay aside and not get involved.

Doing nothing, letting the tinder smoulder, will bring us another Shays, save that *this* time there will be far more competence involved. Imagine the charismatic Obama *losing* and his followers going haywire for a real uprising... there is far too much 'cult of personality' growing there to discount that happening if he gets the Nomination. And can you see someone like McCain trying to figure out what to do with a *revolution* inside the Nation? We can already tick off the hotspots of Berkely, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, parts of Chicago, Seattle, Portland (OR), Miami, New Orleans.... not 'ethnic riots' but 'man the barricades and get the oppressor' revolutionary sort.

America has had a *lot* of dumb luck go its way over the past couple of hundred years. But luck is not a strategy nor policy.

If we are *very lucky* the two parties will shatter this November, and then, out of the pieces, we just might be able to make something. It need not end in violence if the hotheads can be kept cool and not see violence as the only way left. That is why I stay calm, cool and my vitriol at a low level: I am keeping my head and offering a *better way* forward. A different way, not necessarily good but definitely *better*. That is a hard, hard path back to liberty... and requires us to undo a few things our great-grandparents did wrongly and, perhaps, learn some wisdom from the founders who talked about the *failings* of the Constitution. I am aghast at their prescience, quite honestly: those that worried about military dictatorship have proven unfounded by and large, but those worrying about tyrannical government are fully and completely vindicated.

The screaming and shouting will lower... it had better or we get one of the first two scenarios. That is when it is time to step in and offer to discuss a *better* way and restart this long dying discussion of democracy, freedom, liberty and responsibility. Before blood runs in the streets, not after.

A few calm, clear voices not calling for 'talks' but for an honest re-examination just might get heard. Because, by then, the abyss will be in front of us and the hotheads will be saying *jump*. That is when you whisper: there is a better way.


I do not think we will get that far... but with the way things are shaping up, this is not going to be a pleasant time for the Republic. I trust, and damned hard, the voices of that founding generation on the power of Reason. If we are beyond Reason, as a People, then that is it as an unreasoning government is tyranny itself. And a whispered voice of Reason often gains much attention amidst the clamor and chaos of unreason. So we shall see if we will be dusting off Common Sense in a bit...and it is very chilling to re-read that these days.