As readers know who’ve been following LU coverage of the Jade Helm saga, I don’t believe the exercise is a pretext for invading Texas or violating U.S. law.
I do think it sets a bad precedent by putting U.S. soldiers in local communities, to hold an exercise that will involve running around on private and local public property. This is not something the American people should ever get used to or agree to accept. No training requirement trumps the importance of maintaining our non-militarized public environment. No training requirement, period. A non-militarized public environment in our communities was a core goal of the American Revolution, and has remained indispensable to our national understanding of liberty. It will never not be a latent threat to the conditions of liberty, for the military to treat civilian community spaces as available venues for warfare exercises.
So I think Texas Governor Greg Abbott is doing exactly the right thing by ordering the Texas State Guard to observe the exercise and report to him what’s going on. I hope, frankly, that the exercise is so hemmed about by skeptical observation of all kinds that the Department of Defense thinks better of ever doing it again. There are sometimes more important things than what military planners decide they need at a given time, and this is one of those cases of a higher priority. Our trust in the good intentions of military planners should not lead us into policies that are bad for other reasons.
With that reiterated once more, a brief update on Jade Helm. For some reason, it appears to be spreading geographically outside the area that was originally briefed several weeks ago. Here, again, is the exercise map depicting notional geography, and the areas where live play will occur in Texas.
The dark rectangular areas correspond directly to the locations in which county governments and citizens received the first briefings from exercise planners (see the links above): i.e., around the greater Austin area and in the “Coastal Bend” counties of Victoria and Goliad. The large circular area covers most of East Texas, implying that some level of play could occur throughout the territory encompassed by it. The brief in March to citizens near San Angelo, just west of the broad circular area, did push the limits a bit. (See Map 2.)
But the brief to the citizens of Howard County in mid-April (second link above, and see here as well) indicated that there would be a deployment of troops a considerable distance west of the live-play areas briefed on the notional-geography graphic. This geographic evolution jumped out in full relief today with the news that landowners in Big Spring, Texas, in Howard County, are being paid by DOD for the use of their property during the exercise. Greg Abbott and his agencies undoubtedly recognized it sooner.
As I’ve pointed out before, unconventional warfare training will inherently involve small groups of special forces operators, and that’s not a footprint that would be a prelude to the kinds of dangers some critics fear. The briefs in Howard County on Jade Helm appear to have been pretty vague about the nature of the live play in the area; the Breitbart report alludes fleetingly to Big Spring featuring as a major logistics hub. That could be its role, although having a major logistics hub in “hostile” or “denied” territory would not be characteristic of unconventional warfare practices.
The public debate on Jade Helm has been overheated and full of ad hominem attacks and irrelevancies, which I discussed in an earlier post. It’s very hard to get people to focus on what matters. It doesn’t matter that the intentions of the military are trustworthy, as I believe they are; what matters is that there should never be such military exercises in our communities at all. No government leaders can be trusted, in the long run, with the resulting environment of public complacency about the presence of the military on our streets and property.
With that premise in mind, one of the ways Jade Helm 15 should be held strictly accountable is in the matter of where it says its live play troops will be operating, and whether or how that changes over time. The expansion into Howard County appears to be a change, and it’s not clear what it means about the full geographic scope of the exercise in general. What will be happening in the space between Big Spring and the live play area around Austin? If Big Spring does serve as a logistics hub, there will presumably be something flowing between the two locations. It’s not actually reassuring to think that there may be special forces or other military activity, in that big, Texas-size space, that won’t necessarily be visible enough for the locals to be briefed on it in advance.
On principle, there should not be military activity going on in out midst that the people are unaware of. But neither is fully notified and briefed activity a good fit for the towns and ranches of a free people. There are millions of acres of federal land to host military activities. Plenty of that land meets the criteria stated for the Jade Helm training: rural, undeveloped, but close to small towns. Almost none of it is in Texas, of course. Texans are right to pursue this closely, until common sense is restored and everyone realizes this exercise wasn’t a good idea, and we should never try it again.