Co-opting our states
New "Council of Governors" threatens Federalism
Freedom, the American Founders believed, is best preserved by a separation of powers. The division of government power among different branches and different levels was thought to provide a bulwark to liberty. The combination of powers in one center was, said John Adams, “the very definition of tyranny.”
President Barack Obama yesterday signed an executive order “to strengthen further the partnership between the Federal Government and State governments to protect our Nation and its people and property” by creating a “Council of Governors.”
The President will choose ten governors (for their resolution or their pliability?), choose the co-chairs, and entrust the care and feeding of the Council to … the Secretary of Defense. The Council exists to share “views, information, or advice … concern[ing]:
- matters involving the National Guard of the various states;
- homeland defense;
- civil support
- synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and
- other matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities.”
All this is directly in opposition to our constitutional design and sounds as if it threatens posse comitatus as well. Part of the genius of America’s system of states is that it has traditionally separated the governments in charge of local regulations and criminal law from the government in charge of foreign policy and national defense. In a way, that system maintained the separation of powers enjoyed by the American colonies (at least before 1763) and was echoed by the position of Japan and West Germany after World War II.
The big question here is, if we want to unravel our American system of states and our traditional limits on the domestic uses of military power, aren’t those things worthy of a national conversation rather than a quiet executive order?