Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

A ‘Defend the Guard’ Explainer

Posted by M. C. on October 7, 2022

“For decades, the power of war has long been abused by this supreme executive, and unfortunately our men and women in uniform have been sent off into harm’s way over and over. If the U.S. Congress is unwilling to reclaim its constitutional obligation, then the states themselves must act to correct the erosion of constitutional law.”

by Michael Maharrey

Presidential administrations come and go but the war machine churns relentlessly on. “Defend the Guard” legislation can throw a monkey wrench in its cogs.

Defend the Guard is a state-level bill that would stop the deployment of a state’s National Guard units unless specific constitutional criteria are met.

The legislation would prohibit the deployment of state Guard troops in “active duty combat” unless Congress has passed a declaration of war or taken official action pursuant to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 of the United States Constitution to explicitly call forth the National Guard for one of three enumerated purposes.

  • Execute the Laws of the Union
  • Suppress Insurrections
  • Repel Invasions

The legislation specifically defines “active duty combat” as participation in an armed conflict. performance of a hazardous service relating to an armed conflict in a foreign state, or performance of a duty through an instrumentality of war.

Passage of Defend the Guard would also force the federal government to only use the Guard for the three expressly-delegated purposes in the Constitution. And, at other times, the Guard would remain where the Guard belongs, at home, supporting and protecting their home state.

This would make it very difficult for the U.S. to wage unconstitutional wars.

Rep. Pat McGeehan (R-W.Va.) introduced an early version of the Defend the Guard bill in West Virginia in 2016.  He served as an Air Force intelligence officer in Afghanistan. In an article on this legislation, he pointed out the problems wrought by ignoring the Constitution.

“Discarding this constitutional first principle that helped forge the backbone of our own republic has resulted in grave consequences. Thousands of American lives have been lost in unnecessary foreign conflicts, devastating our military families while fatiguing our country’s defenses – all while draining trillions from the pockets of taxpayers.”

Guard troops have played significant roles in all modern overseas conflicts, with well over 650,000 deployed since 2001. reports that “Guard and Reserve units made up about 45 percent of the total force sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and received about 18.4 percent of the casualties.”

Since none of these missions were pursuant to a Constitutional declaration of war or any of the three expressly-delegated purposes in the Constitution, the Defend the Guard Act would have prohibited those deployments of Guard troops.

The strategy is based on James Madison’s blueprint in Federalist #46—a refusal to cooperate with officers of the union. The “Father of the Constitution” wrote that one state resisting an unconstitutional federal act would “create obstructions.” And if several states worked together, he said it would create “obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”

See the rest here

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