West Virginia state Rep. Pat McGeehan participated on a panel with Wyoming state Reps. Tyler Lindholm and Andi Clifford to talk about the Defend the Guard Act during the Bring Our Troops Home National Press Club event in Washington D.C. He asked a compelling question: what if this idea spreads?
Defend the Guard legislation would ban the overseas deployment of National Guard troops by the federal government without a congressional declaration of war. McGeehan has introduced a Defend the Guard bill in the West Virginia House every year since 2015. The coalition hopes to have the bill introduced in 20 states this year.
During the panel discussion, McGeehan explained the pushback he’s gotten on the bill. He said the opposition tells him the bill would be effective.
McGeehan talked about the first time he got the bill on the House agenda. He said there was this “frantic chaos that sort of broke out.” The Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard called the speaker of the House and demanded an immediate meeting. McGeehan said the adjutant general showed up to that meeting in “full military get-up” – as McGeehan describes it, “Sort of looking like Jack Nicholson did in a Few Good Men.” The general claimed he got a call from the Pentagon threatening to put all of the West Virginia National Guard bases on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list.
“One thing that really signaled to me though is that kind of overreaction is very disproportionate. I think they don’t like this idea. And what if this idea was to spread?”
McGeehan went on to say, “I don’t believe they can maintain the sort of military ’empire’ around the world without this reserve force, resting in part on the Guard. So, if you have enough states that are refusing to relinquish their state militias…”
McGeehan also defended the constitutional basis of the legislation. He pointed out that the Constitution only authorizes the federal government to activate state militias for enumerated purposes — to repel an invasion, to put down an insurrection or to enforce the laws of the union.
“I don’t believe any one of those categories covers invading sovereign nations.”
At the end of the discussion, McGeehan spent some time explaining the difference between a congressional declaration of war and an authorization to use military force (AUMF), saying it’s more than just semantics.
He said the declaration of war has a long history in Western tradition. The just war doctrine culminated with Thomas Aquinas. In order for a war to be just, he said there had to be a declaration from a lawful authority – in the U.S. that’s Congress. The declaration should be very specific and spell out the reasons for the war. McGeehan compared the specificity of a declaration of war to the requirements for a search warrant. In a nutshell, there are certain specifics that go with a declaration of war that a mere authorization for the president to use force at his discretion doesn’t meet. McGeehan said politicians today have abandoned the just war doctrine because it just isn’t convenient.
“I don’t think any conflict since the Second World War has actually met all the criteria for traditional Western just war doctrine. There is a very big difference between a declaration of war and these authorizations for military force, which can sometimes … just last forever.”