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White House

President Sending Troops, Law Enforcement to Kenosha

President Trump addresses supporters on the airport tarmac in Cleveland, Ohio, August 6, 2020. (Joshua Robert/Reuters)

President Trump tweeted early this afternoon (here and here) that, after consultation between administration and Wisconsin officials, Governor Evers has agreed to accept federal security and law-enforcement assistance. Thus, the president says he will forthwith be dispatching National Guard troops as well as federal law-enforcement — I presume (though he does not say) agents from the various Justice Department components that, in the main, are carrying out Operation Legend.

Let me just quickly repeat a few things I’ve been saying since late May, when the rioting began.

The prerequisite for enforcing the rule of law is the establishment of order. Law enforcement agencies — federal, state, and local — are capable of maintaining law and order, but not of establishing it. They simply do not have the resources to impose order if it has been lost due to insurrectionist violence. And trying to conduct law-enforcement operations when order has been lost is like the concept we used to ridicule in connection efforts to treat jihadist war as if it were a problem fit for courtroom adjudication — you can’t turn battlefields into crime scenes.

In our system, the president has not only the authority but the obligation to protect the people of states in which order has broken down and widespread violence, beyond the capacity of law enforcement to quell, has taken hold.

I do not mean to suggest that this is without risk. As we’ve discussed on The McCarthy Report podcast, the Kent State killings by the Ohio National Guard in 1970 were a defining flashpoint of the Vietnam-era Days of Rage (to borrow the title of Bryan Burrough’s excellent history of the revolutionary violence of that period). What has to be done has to be done with care, firmness, with restraint.

It is not and would not be the purpose of the armed forces to arbitrate our intense political and cultural disputes. That includes, of course, the debate about whether our divide is the result of systemic racism or other deep societal flaws which we’d rather chalk up to purported systemic racism than address. But we must have the order on which both liberty and a functioning republic depend before we can deal effectively with our challenges. The violence has to end, or it has to be ended.

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