Since the dawn of the Republic, enforcement powers have been clearly delineated between the states and the central government. The states were responsible for internal use of force to maintain order, while the federal government was responsible for external use of force to repel a threat to the security of every state from some foreign actor. States had the responsibility to enforce the law, the federal government had the responsibility to wage war.
Because of this constitutional division of labor and power, the use of federal troops at the state level has been rare. But several presidents have done so under exigent circumstances, including Abraham Lincoln who used the military to put down a full-bore rebellion.
According to the Congressional Research Service, under the Insurrection Act of 1807 Congress delegated authority to the president to call the military during an insurrection or civil disturbance, at the request of a state government, for the purpose of suppressing “domestic violence.”
After the passage of the 14th Amendment, another provision was added to the Insurrection Act that allows the president to use the military without a request from, or even the consent of, a state government to suppress any “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” This was enabling legislation to make it possible for the 14th Amendment, which provided citizenship to former slaves, to be fully implemented.
This call for troops is only if state law enforcement is unable to protect its own citizens, and the criminal conduct “obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.” (The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 further defined the Insurrection Act, but did not replace it.)
This section was enacted to implement the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship and other legal rights to African Americans, and does not require the permission of the governor of the affected state.
President George H.W. Bush used the Insurrection Act to send federal troops to Los Angeles in 1992 to restore order in the city after the riots that erupted in the wake of the Rodney King trial.
Before that, Presidents Herbert Hoover and Woodrow Wilson used federal troops to respond to emergencies.
Among the most noteworthy uses of the Insurrection Act came in 1957 when Republican President Eisenhower forced the Democrat governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, to desegregate schools in Little Rock.
Eisenhower issued an executive order that specifically noted the provision of the Insurrection Act that allows federal troops to take action without a request from the state government. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and then sent the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to quell race riots. When a riot broke out in September, the 101st did its job, and Arkansas has had integrated public schools to this very day. In 1919, in what puts us in mind of contemporary tensions in today’s America, President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, ordered federal troops to stop race riots in 20 cities across the United States, beginning with Chicago.
We are in the middle of an unprecedented wave of violence, rioting, and looting, and governors are clearly incapable of dealing with the threat. Every major city in America that is convulsed with riots has been governed by Democrats for decades, and today’s Democrats simply do not have the spine to confront the evil and lawlessness right in their front yards. So, as the President indicated, he is going to have to do it for them.
It has been tragic and bewildering to watch as governors and mayors turn over control of entire city blocks to people bent on destruction. It is mind-boggling. In Minneapolis, police stood across the street, guarding their police station, and simply watched as looters completely cleaned out a Target store less than 200 feet away.
The job of mayors and their police departments, according to Scripture, is to be agents of God’s justice by apprehending and punishing those who violate the civil rights of Americans to life, liberty, and property. You can’t do that by watching.
And then, when the protestors turned their destructive impulses toward the police precinct, the cops ran for the woods rather than standing strong, and handed their own police headquarters over to the very mob they were ordained by God to stop. It was disgraceful and bewildering, to see policemen with riot gear, vests, batons, and guns running like scalded dogs away from danger. The rioters made short work of Precinct 3 and now those cops have no place to call home.
This wholesale destruction - in many cases, of minority-owned businesses - of private property has gone on long enough in one city after another to make it clear that politicians and law enforcement officers just don’t have the stomach for it. They can’t or won’t fulfill their sacred duty to protect their neighbors.
These feckless leaders leave the president no choice. If he does not act, there will be no America left to save.
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