Perhaps we could call the nearly twenty years since 9/11 the Era of Security, especially in Washington DC. Airline travel has come needfully complicated, while all sorts of barriers to car and foot traffic abound. So how did Capitol Hill police get caught unprepared for a mob forming across the mall — just at the moment when Congress was performing its key role in ensuring a peaceful transition of power?
Inquiring minds want to know, perhaps none more than those inquiring minds that had to flee:
The disturbing breach of security at the U.S. Capitol is raising serious questions about the safety of lawmakers and staff who work there, and drawing criticism toward the security services who are meant to keep them safe.
Images of a mob scaling walls, breaking down fences, and storming the seat of the country’s Democracy have led to criticism that the Capitol Police should have been better prepared for the possible assault.
“What the hell was law enforcement on Capitol Hill thinking by not having secured the Capitol today?” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked on CNBC, calling it one of his great disappointments.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), asked Wednesday evening by MSNBC’s Joy Reid if Capitol Police made her feel safe, answered “I did until today.”
Bear in mind that the scaffolding and fencing around the building wasn’t for any anticipated issues yesterday. The city has been preparing for the inauguration in two weeks, which will be a scaled-back event but still one of the biggest security concerns for Capitol Hill police and other agencies. Combine that with the events of the day inside the building and down the street, and one would think that a special effort might have been made to provide some extra security.
They didn’t even have riot police on hand, Townhall’s Julio Rosas told Tucker Carlson. He also debunked the “Antifa” excuse by corroborating the obvious — that this crown moved from the Trump rally directly to the capitol:
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) January 7, 2021
For a nation that has made security a near-obsession, that’s a really strange lapse. It’s so strange, in fact, that some are raising questions about whether it really was a lapse at all, especially at the Pentagon:
The Pentagon scrambled to deploy more than a thousand National Guard forces to help protect the Capitol on Wednesday after they had remained on the sidelines during a limited early deployment while rioters stormed Congress.
The absence of authorized military personnel while chaos upended the certification of the presidential election was a stark contrast to the military’s role in protests for racial justice in June, when National Guard helicopters flew perilously low over crowds of demonstrators, front-line forces massed near the city, and Pentagon leaders were criticized for appearing to support President Trump’s heavy-handed response.
This time, Pentagon officials appeared determined to steer clear of the politically charged fray, acting in lockstep with city leaders as they outlined a small, minimally visible role for the D.C. National Guard, and none at all for active-duty military forces.
It’s fair to question whether Capitol Hill police prepared properly for the events yesterday. It’s not quite as fair to question the Pentagon, which hadn’t been asked to do anything prior to the riot. Domestic security is not the purview of the military, not even in DC. Had the military entered DC on its own to secure the capitol, it might have looked like a military coup rather than an insurrection. The responsibility for getting the Pentagon involved would have been either Congress, which has jurisdiction over DC, or the city government, or Donald Trump.
We should even keep the criticism of the Capitol Hill police in perspective, too. They should have been prepared for trouble when they heard about Trump’s rally, certainly, and should have had some riot police deployed. But it’s tough to look at this and see how the outcome could have been prevented altogether:
This video of the siege of the Capitol on TikTok is crazy and different than I had seen pic.twitter.com/JXwvKVLjxB
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 7, 2021
Would a few dozen more police in riot gear have stopped a crowd this size? Perhaps if they had been able to deploy anti-riot tactics early, yes, but police would still have been far outmatched against the sheer weight of an enraged mob. That’s why enraging mobs in the first place is such a bad idea. Nothing good ever came out of a mob action; it usually only results in very bad outcomes. That’s true no matter how righteous one believes the cause in question to be, either. BLM or MAGA, the riots produce the same results if allowed to go on long enough.
Thus we come down to the choice between feeding demagoguery and demanding responsibility from leadership. If we choose the latter — and by “we,” I mean everyone on all sides — then we don’t need Capitol Hill police to plan for these sorts of eventualities. If we keep choosing the former, we’re gonna need a lot more police, and a lot more intrusions on our liberty, to keep order. That’s the choice we must make … and soon.