Of the five soldiers murdered in the Tennessee Terror Attack, four were Marines, and as that branch’s doctrine declares, every one was “a rifleman.” Many demand to know why these members of the armed forces went unarmed. Each could answer with his Oath of Enlistment.
While in uniform, those soldiers at that civilian recruiting office went unarmed because they swore, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” To do otherwise would erode a safeguard as old as our republican government, transforming civilian offices into zones of military occupation. In short, if we arm soldiers off base, the terrorists win.
End Gun-Free Zones. Restore the 2nd Amendment. But Don’t Introduce Armed Soldiers into Society
Since the Chattanooga shooting, many have called for an end to military gun-free zones. Politicians, presidential candidates, and members of the media question why a government that trains men and women to use deadly force abraod denies them the same tools to defend themselves at home. Already six different state governors have authorized their National Guardsmen to lock and load.
They call gun-free zones a ridiculous policy and they’re absolutely right. Recruiters should have the ability to conceal carry. Military police should pack heat. But uniformed American soldiers on American soil should never openly show force.
Today we forget that freedom is the exception rather than the rule of world history. Our Founders did not make this mistake. As that bleak politico who penned Federalist No. 8 observes, “to be more safe,” a people “runs the risk of being less free.” If the government exists to defend the rights of the individual as the Founders believed, soldiers must never eclipse civil society.
To their credit, our military has always embodied this ethos. They move only when the Commander-in-Chief—an elected civilian—gives the word. More Cincinnatus than Sulla, our soldiers liberate and defend while their opponents enslave and conquer. This republican character of their esprit de corps stems directly from a desire to preserve democratic freedom. Instead of pushing these troops across an American Rubicon, we should let them continue doing their duty.
Terrorists Win When We Overreach
Of course our soldiers will never march on state capitols, and neither will jihadists. Instead, like the extinct anarchists of 19th century Europe, today’s terrorists rely exclusively on “the propaganda of the deed.”
By definition, rogue extremists cannot galvanize the economic, political, and military might necessary to win a war in any conventional sense. There’s little threat that Boko Haram, ISIS, or Hezbollah could bombard Fort McHenry and burn our Capitol. Instead, terrorists attempt to exert political will by terrorizing.
Jihadists like Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez don’t blow themselves to bits to win strategic victories. They do it to win moral ones. They don’t measure success in miles conquered. They measure it in minds changed. They do not seek control of a nation-state. They seek capitulation of national consciousness.
For the jihadist, victory comes not by marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and hoisting their flag above the White House. Rather, it occurs when out of fear, we disgrace our own banner by tearing down principle. It comes when we overreach.
Learn From History. Don’t Repeat It
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, good leaders made bad policy. Supposedly critical in the moment, many provisions of the legislation enacted shortly after the attacks have been shown both ineffective and dangerous. Therefore, to rob Abdulazeez of a victory, we must remain calm.
Instead of converting recruiting stations across the country into little Alamos, lawmakers should simply empower individual citizens in uniform by reversing the Federal policy that makes them soft targets. Citizen soldiers already have all the tools necessary to defend themselves. Washington should let them by abolishing gun-free zones.
Soldiers ought to have the freedom to exercise their Second Amendment rights like any other citizen—either by storing a handgun in a glove box or carrying it concealed on their person. Armed Military Police should defend those who dedicate themselves to our defense. All provisions to keep these men and women safe must be considered—that is, everything except an open show of force at home.
Balance Liberty and Security.
Arming uniformed soldiers in a civilian setting blurs the separation of martial and civil authority. It perpetuates the fear that feeds the terrorist’s strategy. And it has no place in a free society. The best counter-terrorism policy will keep American soldiers safe while preserving the principles they seek to defend.
Honor the oath of the Chattanooga five who died for our freedom. Preserve the Constitutional separation of martial and civil power. To do otherwise, to surrender by taking the first steps to transform society into a security state, would hand the terrorist a victory.
Philip Wegmann is a Staff Writer and the Radio Producer for The Federalist. Follow him on Twitter.