Banks’ tweet shows ambition is his only agenda
Published in the Journal Gazette May 10, 2023
By Chuck Zumbrun
Congressman Jim Banks, in response to the Biden administration sending 1,500 US military personnel to the US-Mexico border to support the Border Patrol in administrative duties, posted on Facebook on May 2, 2023: “Authorize the use of military force against the cartels NOW!”
Like many people, Congressman Banks posts provocative statements on social media with emphatic capitalization but no explanation or details. With this post it seems there are three possible interpretations: that we should use our military against drug smugglers on US soil, or that we should invade Mexico and attack Mexican civilians, or that this is an inflammatory post for political gain, not a serious proposal to deal with drug smuggling.
If Congressman Banks is proposing we should use military force against drug smugglers on US soil, he’s ignoring history, our long tradition, and legal precedents that we do not use the US military for law enforcement on our own soil.
Law enforcement and military personnel have very different training and purposes. Law enforcement officers are a part of the community that they serve and protect. The lawbreakers they encounter are members of their own community. If they use lethal force, it is in self-defense and as a last resort. On the other hand, military personnel are trained to accomplish their mission, and to strike the enemy with lethal force to accomplish that mission. Those the military attack are enemy combatants, not criminals.
Legal constraints of military operations on domestic soil go back to the aftermath of the Civil War and originated as the Posse Comitatus Act. After the Civil War, white supremacists in the South used the law to prevent the military from acting as law enforcement to keep the South from imposing racist laws.
While that law has its beginnings in a disgraceful purpose, it has become enshrined as an essential safeguard that the military cannot be used to settle civilian affairs. The origins of the Posse Comitatus Act go back even further, to the abuses the British military visited upon American colonists, who were then subjects of their government prior to the Revolutionary War.
The irony that Congressman Banks would be proposing using military force on US soil just a few days before the anniversary of when National Guardsmen, acting as law enforcement officers, used automatic weapons on protestors and killed 4 civilians at Kent State cannot be overlooked. Congressman Banks cannot possibly be suggesting using the US military for law enforcement on our soil.
That Congressman Banks would propose the US military should invade Mexico and use lethal force against Mexican citizens is even more preposterous. That was the plot of Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger”. In 688 pages of turgid prose, Clancy lays out why invading a friendly nation by the military for law enforcement is an abuse of military power and a violation of our principles.
Mexico is our ally, and while the members of the cartels are despicable criminals, they are not enemy combatants. To use our military to attack civilians would violate the Geneva Convention and basic human decency. Congressman Banks cannot possibly be suggesting we should use military force to attack Mexican citizens on Mexican soil.
That leaves the conclusion that Congressman Banks posted “Authorize the use of military force against the cartels NOW!” solely as a provocation for a perceived political gain. Since proposing either to use the US military on US soil for law enforcement or to invade Mexico is clearly absurd, it leaves political gain as Congressman Banks’ purpose in making this post.
As a Congressman, Jim Banks is entrusted with the sole power to declare war. That he would take that power so lightly as to post something implying we should declare war just to enhance his political posture shows he cannot be trusted with that power.
Conservative columnist Michael Gerson, in 2022, said "this is now what it takes to win prominence in the modern GOP: a quiver full of culture-war attacks and a stout willingness to look foolish in public." Congressman Banks has no purpose except to advance his prominence in the GOP.
Congressman Banks could propose real solutions, he could work with Democrats to create laws to deal with the genuine and difficult problems our country faces. But instead, he chooses to post foolish and irresponsible nonsense solely to fuel his personal ambition.