MINOT, N.D. — Service in the National Guard is a proud thing.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem besmirches that pride by treating her state's National Guard troops as something akin to mall cops. A private security force that can be rented out.
That's the takeaway from Christopher Vondracek report on Noem's decision to answer Texas' call for support from other states to deal with the crisis at the southern border. As many as 50 members of the South Dakota National Guard will be deployed to the southern border, and per Noem's office, the expense will be paid for by a "private donation."
"A follow-up question on the reason for the private funding — and whether this suggested the mission was outside the scope of the National Guard's role — went unanswered by the governor's office Tuesday morning," Vondracek reports.
The problem is not the mission. The crisis at the southern border is real. The Biden administration's response, so far, has been incompetent when not completely addled by the fraught politics of immigration.
There's no question that our southern border states need support.
The problem is in how Noem decided to provide it. She has rented out a contingent of the National Guard to a private entity. Someone who is unknown to the public at this point.
This is completely inappropriate.
Utterly beyond the pale.
A terrible precedent.
Many of you reading this may be inclined to support Noem's decision because you believe the border crisis is a real and pressing problem. Maybe you're politically aligned with Noem. You trust her, and you believe in the mission.
Would you feel the same way if it were a Democratic governor? Accepting private dollars to deploy state military resources in pursuit of some left-wing policy priority?
Politics are, and should be, beside the point.
This is a door we cannot allow to be opened.
We do not want to empower politicians to use the military or police forces they command as private forces for lease. If an elected leader is going to use police or military power, it should be wielded only in the public's interest and paid for only by the public.
To do otherwise is to open a Pandora's box of cross loyalties and abused power.
The intractable politics of the southern border, combined with the intractable quagmire of buck-passing that is Congress, and a presidential administration that seems little interested in even acknowledging the scope of the problem at the border, has created a leadership vacuum into which state leaders, of necessity, must step in.
But not the way Noem is stepping in.
We here in North Dakota know something of this quandary. When political extremists descended on our state to use violence and chaos as tools to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, our state was stuck with a bill for the law enforcement response that measured in the tens of millions. The federal government, then under the control of the Obama administration, refused to help us. When our state put out a call to other states for assistance, partisans like former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton tried to impede that help.
But even in that terrible situation, our state didn't deploy its military and police resources in response to an anonymous donation.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company which owns and operates DAPL, did make a very public and voluntary $15 million payment to the state to defray the security costs, and while distinct from what Noem is doing, that was wrong, too.
Again, the public should pay for the military and the police, so that there's no question who the military and police work for.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.