Iraq War Hinders Domestic Crime Fighting

Matt Yglesias observes that, “one effect of the Iraq War has been to take a lot of cops out of the field fighting crime at home and send them to Iraq as Army Reserve and National Guard members instead. That’s hardly a knock-down argument against the war, but it’s a reminder that these visions of endless ‘strategic patience’ don’t come without cost.”

While that’s certainly true, it would likewise be the case if said reservists were off chasing Nazis.

Perhaps the take-home here is that cops ought be prohibited from having second jobs that might require years-long deployments overseas? We don’t allow, for example, FBI agents or CIA officers to simultaneously serve in the National Guard.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bob says:

    The reverse argument is that the NG and USAR MP’s get experience and training they would otherwise not. And they provide a wealth of knowledge while on Active duty and serve as role models to Iraqi police they advise. Active duty MPs can’t discuss issues such as community based policing like reserve and NG MPs.

    And once we decide they can’t then why allow health care workers or firemen to be in NG or reserves?

  2. Michael says:

    While that’s certainly true, it would likewise be the case if said reservists were off chasing Nazis.

    Yes, but in the case of the Nazis, the cost of not fighting them was higher than the cost of fighting them. Saddam, on the other hand, spent decades losing against Iran, and couldn’t even manage to hold on to Kuwait for any amount of time.

    Perhaps the take-home here is that cops ought be prohibited from having second jobs that might require years-long deployments overseas?

    So then we would either have to reduce the number of troops in Iraq, replace them from an increasingly small pool of new volunteers, extend our already extended stop-loss programs, or institute a draft. Your pick.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    How many is “a lot”? Never seems to be defined. Is two “a lot”?

  4. legion says:

    While that’s certainly true, it would likewise be the case if said reservists were off chasing Nazis.

    Perhaps the take-home here is that cops ought be prohibited from having second jobs that might require years-long deployments overseas?

    Umm… I’m pretty sure ‘civilian-critical’ jobs like cops and firefighters _were_ kept in the states during WWII. At the very least, they were exempt from the draft. If this really is a ‘war on terror’, perhaps, as you say, our leaders should actually treat it as one, rather than as just another excuse to consolidate power and make money.

  5. DC Loser says:

    We don’t allow, for example, FBI agents or CIA officers to simultaneously serve in the National Guard.

    Is that a true statement? While it may be true for these two agencies, we certainly allow civilians in the military intellligence branches and DIA to serve and be deployed as active duty reservists.

  6. mike says:

    My understanding is that a new rule allows FBI agents to serve in the reserves (don’t know about the NG as you state above) however, the FBI can trump any call up order by DOD. Perhaps the same could be done if a particular state/town/etc.. were hit especially hard by callups – an all out ban seems extreme absent a need. Is there a crime spree going on somewhere – the answer is that if there is then assemble a federal task force until that town/city’s personnel get redeployed – not ban them from service – it is hard enough finding a young American willing to serve let alone turning already skilled cops etc… away.

  7. M1EK says:

    The right answer here is that the National Guard was never supposed to be used for missions like this.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Umm… I’m pretty sure ‘civilian-critical’ jobs like cops and firefighters _were_ kept in the states during WWII. At the very least, they were exempt from the draft.

    Presumably, that’s still true. But we have a volunteer force now and it doesn’t make sense to have these people deployable. But if they’re not deployable, they shouldn’t be drawing a Reserve paycheck, either.

    we certainly allow civilians in the military intellligence branches and DIA to serve and be deployed as active duty reservists.

    That strikes me as problematic, since you’re just shifting the assets from civilian to uniformed but it may make sense.

    My understanding is that a new rule allows FBI agents to serve in the reserves (don’t know about the NG as you state above) however, the FBI can trump any call up order by DOD.

    Interesting. Years ago, an MP captain I knew turned down an FBI gig because resigning his commission was part of the deal. Things may well have changed since then.

  9. Funny thing is, I actually commented earlier at the Yglesias post:

    “Oh, come on man! You wouldn’t support a law-and-order administration, cutting back on due process amid some nationwide big-city crackdown targeting the most heinous minority criminals terrorizing America’s streets.

    Hope you don’t have a book due out on criminal justice!!”

    He’s got a book on foreign policy coming out, which I took a initial stab at in one of my posts today.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s a lot less to this observation than meets the eye. The relationship between number of law enforcement officers and crime is more complicated than that. I recall reading a study some years ago of a real life experiment (I think it was done in Kansas City or maybe Omaha).

    They identified three precincts with similar demographics and crime statistics. In one they cut the number of police officers patrolling in half; in another they doubled the number of police officers; in the third they left the number the same. There was no change in the amount of crime.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    The right answer here is that the National Guard was never supposed to be used for missions like this.

    That’s a complicated situation, M1EK. Certain specialties were deliberately placed in the Guard and the Reserves a dozen or more years ago. Granted that the Bush Administration hasn’t rectified that but they aren’t the only ones to blame, either.

  12. legion says:

    Dave’s half-right. During Vietnam, LBJ explicitly refused to call up the Guard & Reserves, so the unpopular war wouldn’t have as much of an impact on the rural poor that still generally supported it (and him). During the 70s, Creighton Abrams (the guy the tank is named for) re-structured the Army with, as Dave said, numerous specialties sunk heavily in the Guard & Reserves so we simply couldn’t fight a war that unpopular that half-assedly again.

    What Gen Abrams didn’t expect was a)that a President would still continue to sink American blood & treasure into a war this unpopular, and b) that a war this unpopular would elicit this limp (compared to Vietnam) amount of cultural backlash from the American people. I have a lot of bad things to say about Bush, but I also have to admit: we get the leadership we deserve.

  13. Richard Gardner says:

    The US Postal Office is likewise being hindered because too many postal workers are also in the National Guard/Reserves (note: only since about 1999, before then the USPO had the WORST Guard/Reserve rating in the country, until the Chief of the Guard Bureau (3*) happened to be sitting next to the Postmaster General one day about 1999 and asked why the USPO was the worst Reserve/Guard employer in the country – huh? was the response, and things have been much better since).

    Guess what, police departments like to hire ex-military. Guess what, ex-military are more likely to also be members of the Reserve/National Guard. Duh. A local Police Chief just came back from a deployment in Iraq. Chief Moose of Montgomery County, MD (caught the DC sniper) escaped the press by getting called up as an USAF Major (my view on how he disappeared from Montgomery County and got time to write his book).

    This is old news; saw if a couple of years ago. To me the more significant issue is the double counting of intelligence “experts” that work at civilian jobs at the DIA, CIA, OSI, NCIS, “No Such Agency,” etc, that also have billets on the military side. Even if they work for a DC contractor, they aren’t easily replaced if called up (TS compartmented clearances). They aren’t being called up, they are shuffling from one critical job into another.

  14. DC Loser says:

    Chief Moose left his job as chief of the Montgomery County PD soon after the snipers were caught. He moved on to somewhere else over 5 years ago.

  15. spencer says:

    I do not know about now, but back in the Viet Nam era the CIA had its own in house reserve unit for employees that would never be activated.

  16. I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.