by Benjamin W. Mankowski, Sr.

On Sunday, May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama made an announcement that much of America had waited nearly ten years to hear – Osama bin Laden is dead. Reactions ranged from jubilation to relief to wondering who would take his place. There is one question that Tenthers and indeed all Americans should be asking for the sake of our troops, “When can they come home?”

Two years into the war in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush was criticized (and justly so) for “taking his eye off bin Laden” by invading Iraq. But is it possible that criticism had merit well before then, as well as after Bush left office?

During the conflict in Afghanistan, we began to hear more about nation building than bin Laden. This nation building exercise was continued, not begun, in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Many of Bush’s critics fail to note that President Obama did not mention bin Laden with any increased frequency in comparison with Bush before May 1. Most of the talk in Afghanistan centered around solidifying the new government there, much as it had under Bush.

Just as there are over 50,000 U.S. troops (sorry, advisors) in Iraq under Obama, there is little reason to believe the Obama Administration will be in any rush to draw down troop levels any faster with the death of bin Laden. The solution, at least partially, lies with some classic Tenth Amendment Center legislation originally debated when Bush was still President – Defend the Guard!

A considerable portion of the forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan consists of National Guard units, in capacities not originally intended for the Guard. As per the Defend the Guard Act, “Under the Constitution of the United States, each State’s National Guard is a defensive force controlled by the governor, but can be called up for federal duty by the federal government, provided that said duty is pursuant to the Constitution of the United States; and…Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the Constitution of the United States delegates to the Congress the power to provide for ‘calling forth the militia’ in three situations only: 1) to execute the laws of the union, 2) to suppress insurrections, and 3) to repel invasions.”

To what laws does the Constitution refer in this case? As James Madison says, “All laws which may be constitutionally made.”

Defend the Guard was originally written during the Bush presidency in response to the National Guard being used for purposes outside its original constitutional scope. Bush was not the first President to do this, as Congress gradually increased federal control over the course of a century via legislative fiat (without an Amendment to the Constitution).

Democrats at the State level need a reminder that just because one of their party is in the White House does not guarantee an end to the wars typically associated with the Republicans. Republicans similarly need to learn that opposing the flawed policies of previous Republican Presidents and Congresses is not a betrayal of their party, but an attempt to guide it to the constitutional principles that the more visible members of their party so often praise.

At best, State lawmakers would be helping the Federal government do the right thing. At worst, they might prevent them from doing the wrong thing.

The National Guard has served with distinction during many crises, both foreign and domestic, since its creation. We the People and our elected officials in the State Legislatures must do our part to reward their hard work and dedication. While they are defending us, they need to know that we are doing our part to Defend the Guard!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Track the progress of Defend the Guard legislation here

Ben Mankowski writes a regular column for the New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center