Second, Trump was clear he views those engaged in the unrest and criminal acts in these riots as terrorists, an enemy. He said so, ostensibly as justification to deploy the U.S. military to apply federal force—his “personal” force—against the riots. Indeed, the secretary of defense used the military term “battlespace” to describe American cities.
While there may be some very accomplished criminals on both sides of the riots, the truth is that they are minuscule in numbers. The vast majority of the people protesting in the streets are justifiably furious at the murder of George Floyd, but they’re even angrier over pervasive injustice, mass incarceration, frequent false arrests, and an institutionalized devaluation of black lives and property. And yes, as this anger has spilled over, violence and criminality have ensued. But as much as the president would like them to be—indeed, needs them to be—terrorists, that is not what these people are. The president and members of his administration seem bent on ensuring that the so-called antifa—or anti-fascist—movement is fully on display as a principal reason for the violence. To deal with antifa, the president even tweeted that he intended to designate the group a terrorist organization—never mind that he has no authority to designate any domestic movement as such. Those of us who’ve looked closely at homegrown violent extremism do, in fact, agree that a domestic terrorism statute should exist. And were such a statute to come into being, the obvious targets for designation as domestic terrorists are, first and foremost, violent white supremacist groups and individuals who provide material assistance to these groups.The obvious targets for designation as domestic terrorists are, first and foremost, violent white supremacist groups and those who assist them. And even if antifa is found to fit the statute as well, let me be clear: White supremacists have murdered, lynched, tortured, terrorized, oppressed, and discriminated against black Americans from the beginning of the idea of America. They have killed black Americans by the thousands, often in the most horrific ways imaginable. Far more damage to the United States has come from these terrorists—fascists, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis, all feeling newly empowered today—than those who have opposed them.
Finally, the governors have sufficient law enforcement capacity—and, if necessary, the combat power of the National Guard—to handle their respective crises. If not, they can ask for federal assistance. There is no precedent in modern U.S. history for a president to wield federal troops in a state or municipality over the objections of the respective governor. Right now, the last thing the country needs—and, frankly, the U.S. military needs—is the appearance of U.S. soldiers carrying out the president’s intent by descending on American citizens. This could wreck the high regard Americans have for their military, and much more.