The intervention of military forces in formation or toppling of government is against the spirit of democracy. Is the world’s greatest democracy the United States is heading towards the perilous condition?
President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the peaceful transfer of power after losing elections has opened a bunch of possibilities. Experts suggest that Trump might deploy military if controversy arises over election results. President is relentlessly questioning the credibility of the mail-in ballot voting system. He has framed unsubstantiated allegations of mail-in-ballots being fraudulent.
Till now, questions were raised about the 2020 election ending in Supreme Court or Congress. The military is the third possibility and a more dangerous one. Trump will not leave any stone unturned to retain the presidency. The constitution of the United States allows for deployment of military forces in civilian matters in extreme cases.
Insurrection Act of the American Constitution
American military consists of three parts- active duty, National Guard and reserves. Active duty is meant to protect the nation from external agencies. It gets active in the time of wars against enemy countries. It has no role to play in internal matters within the country. National Guards, on other hand, are deployed by governors in times of national disasters or riots. All state units of National Guards work under the aegis of law enforcement agencies.
The Insurrection Act of 1807 empowers the President to deploy active duty in states without prior approval of governors. The troops can be ordered by President only on the grounds of insurrection or defiance of law and order in extreme conditions. Activation of active duty continues as long as the law and order crisis continues in the state. The two-century-old law has never been used for military intervention in America. It was invoked on other grounds though, sometimes with governor’s approval and sometimes without.
What is the likelihood of the provision being invoked this year?
Trump has tried to invoke the Insurrection Act to control the protests after the killing of George Floyd. His proposal was vehemently opposed. Trump will not hesitate to use the provision to retain power after the election.
Civilian control is one of the most basic tenets of American democracy. Men in military uniform are subservient and accountable to civil leaders. Their existence is limited to a very specific purpose, to protect the nation from external aggression. Civil matters are taken care of by the police. The military is expected to be apolitical.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of Joint Chief of Staff, is the topmost military official. He has discarded any possible military intervention to solve election results. He has reiterated the military’s commitment to stay apolitical.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper echoed the same view as he ruled out the role of active duty in law enforcement. Things are not in favour of military intervention but there is a possibility for it. It is hard to say if the military will be able to refuse any orders by President Donald Trump.
Downsides of military use in the election.
It will be a historic situation if President Trump can bring active duty or National Guard into the election picture. It will establish an unhealthy precedent for the world’s greatest democracy. New York governor, Andrew Cuomo has hinted about the presence of National Guards at the booth.
Uniformed personnel on polling booths will intimidate voters. This will be an unseen horrific picture in America’s history where voters will vote under stringent supervision and a sense of insecurity.
Trump has urged his supporters to be actively present on booths to see what is happening. This creates chances of local violence. Trump is showing mistrust over entire voting machinery.
There are bad precedents and there are good precedents. This one might be the worst for a nation claiming itself as a flag bearer of democracy.