Private funding of the US military would lead down a dark and dangerous path
Erin Schaff / The New York Times
Thursday July 8, 2021 | 2 a.m
In accepting a Republican Party megadonator’s offer to fund the deployment of National Guard troops to Texas, South Dakota Governor Krist Noem made a dangerous decision.
This arrangement is reminiscent of the private mercenary forces we see in oligarchies, and it upsets the fundamental American principle that the nation’s military forces should be publicly funded and subject to civilian control through elected rulers.
If this were to set a precedent, Noem’s opening of his state’s National Guard troops would spawn paramilitaries in the United States, which is deeply troubling. The arrival of such forces in any country is almost always a harbinger of a nation’s collapse into dissolution and conflict.
This has happened in several countries in Central America, South America and Asia, and today private paramilitary forces are a key tool in Russia’s efforts to weaken America’s international relations. and extend its own influence. The government of Vladimir Putin, working in concert with the private military companies funded by the country’s oligarchs, sent these organizations around the world on missions that included combat operations, intelligence gathering, propaganda and support for the foreign politic.
This is brutality and kleptocracy, as these paid forces are sent to areas where oligarchs can advance their own financial goals and sow corruption while helping Putin expand government influence.
Now Noem wants to apply that model to her state’s National Guard, announcing that she has accepted private funding from Tennessee billionaire Willis Johnson to send up to 50 troops to Texas in support of US-Mexico border operations.
To their credit, some Texans are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to reject Noem’s offer of troops.
The Dallas Morning News is correct in an op-ed on the subject, saying that private funding “turns soldiers at best into private security contractors, at worst into mercenaries.”
“It takes the country away from democracy towards oligarchy,” the newspaper continues. “This gives rise to something political analysts call ‘privileged violence’ in which security becomes a commodity rather than a right. If a donor can decide the border is a military priority for South Dakota, could they make a similar decision regarding the deployment of troops to Mount Rushmore? The US Capitol? His beach house while on vacation?
Noem’s offer could also be illegal, as National Guard deployments between states are typically paid for either by the federal government or the host state.
There is also a purely political whiff about overtures by Noem and GOP governors from other states to send troops to Texas and Arizona. Noem tested the waters for a Republican presidential nomination race in 2024, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was the first to donate troops, would be a favorite.
One of the governors involved, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, at least rejected the idea of privately funded troops.
“It’s a function of the state,” Hutchinson told CNN. “This is something that we respond to other states in terms of disaster. I would consider it a bad precedent to have private funding.
Not just bad – awful. This is another step by the extremist leadership of the GOP to undermine our nation’s core ideals – civilian control of the military is one of them – and remake the national image into something unrecognizable.
Texas should refuse Noem’s opening and the South Dakotas should defend themselves and their fellow Americans by demanding that the governor reverse Johnson’s donation and withdraw his troop offer.
Meanwhile, voters in Nevada and elsewhere should prevent far-right ideas like this from spreading.
When the GOP leaders push us in the direction of Russia, we are heading in a terribly wrong direction.