Is it ok to have a purposeless military?

I believe this is a common sense proposition. You should never define a military force without it having a purpose.

You would think that there would be nobody on the other side of this question. Who would do such a crazy thing as to define a military force, but just have them milling around without a purpose or a mission? It’s ridiculous. Or is it?


(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

What is the purpose of the military force called the unorganized militia? What is their mission? What is its proper scope of activity? I think that even people who generally support the 2nd amendment do not have a consensus and certainly have not thought much about it.

As an aside, it’s straight up sexism for female citizens to be included in only one of these two forces. A smart Republican would introduce legislation to fix that.

15 thoughts on “Is it ok to have a purposeless military?”

  1. Fighting Indians probably had something to do with it, plus who knows what threat may arise?

    Why do Swiss citizens keep machine guns in their closets ?

  2. Translation. Mercs with steady pay get killed. Now, everyone else is a “volunteer”.
    Of course, officers get land titles and pensions. Nice to know after the money is gone that warfare stays legal, in the fine print.

  3. @TM Lutas

    That section of law is a definition. It defines the term “The militia of the United States” and other terms.

    That section does not build barracks, distribute rifles, or schedule weekend training sessions. It does not create an aimless military force wandering around doing who-knows-what.

    There is no purpose assigned to any group of people by that section. Maybe you are asking, “Why do we have a definition for the Unorganized Militia”. I suppose, to use that definition elsewhere. That would be the interesting part. It doesn’t appear to me sinister or problematic to define a term.

  4. Well from here it looks like the Unorganized Militia, is all citizens not in the Organized Militia leaving aside the ancient sexism.

    So this vast armed mass has no purpose. Makes sense, as they seem to just shoot each other. Maybe this is why …. nah, crazy thinking.

  5. I would [and have] argued that age and gender discrimination laws passed in modern times effectively open the Unorganized Militia to females and to those up to 65 [the generally accepted retirement age].

    For completeness I would add the following section:

    10 U.S. Code § 312 – Militia duty: exemptions

    (a) The following persons are exempt from militia duty:
    (1) The Vice President.
    (2) The judicial and executive officers of the United States, the several States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
    (3) Members of the armed forces, except members who are not on active duty.
    (4) Customhouse clerks.
    (5) Persons employed by the United States in the transmission of mail.
    (6) Workmen employed in armories, arsenals, and naval shipyards of the United States.
    (7) Pilots on navigable waters.
    (8) Mariners in the sea service of a citizen of, or a merchant in, the United States.
    (b) A person who claims exemption because of religious belief is exempt from militia duty in a combatant capacity, if the conscientious holding of that belief is established under such regulations as the President may prescribe. However, such a person is not exempt from militia duty that the President determines to be noncombatant.

    Given the nature and size of the Federal government at the time the Militia Act was originally passed, that meant at the time if you were a Federal employee you were not part of the militia.

  6. Dearieme – I don’t believe that you actually think that the only thing a military does is kill injuns. The military certainly doesn’t.

    The penumbras of the 2nd amendment go far beyond trigger pulling. Virtually every MOS that the army has, the organized militia has. Which ones should the unorganized militia have? Is dealing with hostile signals attacks a function of the unorganized militia? Is logistics a legitimate function of the unorganized militia? The administrative state just tried to kill off the unorganized militia effort that was self titled the cajun navy/army. I’m on the side of that effort. Which side are you on?

    Neal – you are so far off the actual subject of this conversation I just don’t know what to say.

    Andrew Garland – definitions are exactly the proper section of law to discuss. They provide clarity and the possibility of common purpose and useful cooperation. They are foundational which is why every legislature whose code I look through has the definitions up front, to squash confusion and foolishness (as much as that is possible with word placement choices).

    I do not find the definition of the unorganized militia to be sinister or problematic. I find the entire discussion, left and right, of the 2nd amendment to be idiotic because both sides have not intellectually digested what that definition means. The left’s problem is significantly worse than the right’s but neither makes the grade into simple, adult reflection on what the founders wanted.

    PenGun – By your thinking, the organized militia would have no purpose either. Are you purposefully beclowning yourself or did you just not think it through? The exact same process that you should use to derive a purpose for the organized militia should be applied to the unorganized militia. It’s a security force, one that (according to the text of the second amendment) is necessary to the security of a free state. I’ve led you to the nice, tasty water. Have a drink.

    Subotai Bahadur – You’ve brought up something quite important there. Why would federal employees not be part of the unorganized militia? It’s quite important to a proper understanding of the 2nd amendment.

  7. “I don’t believe that you actually think that the only thing a military does is kill injuns.” Then why imply that I said any such thing?

  8. TM Lutas the federal employees were not part of the unorganized militia because the purpose of the unorganized militia is to maintain the State and federal employees are already working towards that goal.

  9. Part One:

    One concern of the era was the escalation of a slave revolt. In particular, Southern states with many African slaves who spoke Portuguese worried their labor force was vulnerable to provocation from Spain’s colonies in Florida and the Carribean. (To a colonial American ear, apparently, Portuguese and Spanish were so similar as to be a useful military code for Spanish instigators among Portuguese-speaking slaves.)

    So the Southerners wanted a ready force to put down any revolt. Mutual defense of each others’ property, and all that.

    The Northerners, on the other hand, objected to enabling slavers. They didn’t want their own militias involved, and they CERTAINLY did not want their citizens in federal service — military or otherwise — sucked into slave repression missions. The Northerners weren’t even very big on allowing formal state governments to keep “standing armies” ready for response to revolt. (Another concern of the era — once some government or another has sunk costs into a “standing army” the temptation to deploy it against SOMETHING becomes dangerously great. As Madeleine Albright said to Colin Powell “What is the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

    So defining a state-level “militia” apart from federal military forces and informally organized compared to state-controlled forces was – in my view — a compromise. The slavers could arm themselves and prepare for a problem. The anti-slavery majority would stand back and hope the slaves would content themselves to murdering the deserving and NOT rip the rest of the state (or neighboring states) to pieces.

    I might return for a “Part Two” discussing Jefferson’s notion of a coastal, water-borne, “militia” of small armed craft — analogous to the modern “Coast Guard” — that he hoped would deter pirates smugglers and raiders, but NOT provoke European warships from England, France or Spain. (And, incidentally, would be ideal for chasing fugitive slaves fleeing by boat to Florida or Cuba…)

  10. Militias at the state level were not a racist plot to suppress slaves. Our legal concept of militia draws from the English equivalent. Northern states had militias. In fact, today there are 3 types of militias [the statutes cited are not the only ones in existence]. As noted, there are the Organized Militias [the organized Reserves and the National Guard] which are subject to Federal call up. There is the Unorganized Militia, as defined and discussed. And State Defense Forces, subject to the command of state governors and NOT subject to Federal call up. They are authorized under 32 USC §109. There are 21 states with State Defense Forces, some larger and some smaller. Their missions include disaster relief and taking the role of replacing the National Guard when it is called up and deployed. They go by various titles, most frequently State Guard or some variant.

    The Texas State Guard is probably the strongest such units comprised of:

    Command Group

    Texas State Guard Headquarters, Camp Mabry, Austin, TX
    Engineer Group

    HQ Engineer Group, Camp Mabry, Austin, TX

    HQ Army Component, Camp Mabry, Austin,TX

    1st Regiment (Alamo Guards) San Antonio, Corpus Christi, l, Zapata.
    2nd Regiment (Travis Rifles) Gatesville, Taylor, San Marcos, Austin.
    4th Regiment (Panther City Fencibles) Fort Worth, Arlington, Decatur, Wichita Falls, Mineral Wells.
    8th Regiment (Terry’s Texas Rangers) Houston, Bryan, Huntsville, Beaumont, Port Arthur.
    19th Regiment (Parson’s Brigade) Dallas, Grand Prairie, Wylie, Kilgore, New Boston.
    39th Composite Regiment (Roughnecks) Midland, Lubbock, Amarillo, El Paso.

    Air Component

    Formed in 1996, the Air Component Command supports the Texas Air National Guard and provides Defense Support to Civil Authorities, (DSCA).

    HQ Air Component Command, Camp Mabry, Austin,TX

    HQ 4th Air Wing, Dallas,TX

    417th Air Support Group, San Angelo, TX
    454th Air Support Group, Dallas, TX
    436th Air Support Group, Grand Prairie, TX
    482d Air Support Group, Wichita Falls, TX

    HQ 5th Air Wing, Camp Mabry, Austin, TX

    401st Air Support Group, Camp Mabry, Austin, TX
    447th Air Support Group, Ellington Field, Houston, TX
    449th Air Support Group, Lackland AFB, San Antonio,TX

    Medical Brigade

    HQ Texas State Guard Medical Brigade [nickname “Texas Medical Rangers”][6]

    Austin Medical Company
    Conroe Medical Detachment
    Corpus Christi Medical Company
    Dallas-Fort Worth Medical Response Group
    Galveston Medical Response Group
    Hill Country Medical Company
    Houston Medical Response Group
    Rio Grande Valley Medical Group
    San Antonio – Alamo Medical Response Group
    Temple Medical Response Group
    Tyler Medical Response Group
    Wichita Falls Medical Company

    Maritime Regiment

    Established in 2006, the Maritime Regiment serves the U.S. state of Texas by providing maritime, littoral, and riverine operational support for homeland defense or in response to man-made or natural disasters, e.g. hurricanes or flooding. Additionally, the Maritime Regiment provides operational support for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Wardens and the United States Coast Guard (stationed in Texas).
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), Regimental Headquarters, Austin, TX
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), 1st Battalion, East Texas
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), 2nd Battalion, San Antonio, Austin.
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), 3rd Battalion, Dallas, Ft Worth
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), Combined Engineering Command, Statewide
    Maritime Regiment (TMAR), Regimental Band, Austin, TX

    A free people responds to emergencies, and to tyranny, by themselves without seeking leave and permission from their rulers.

    “I am not here as a serf or vassal. I am not begging my lords for mercy.”

    “Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”
    -George Orwell

  11. The unorganized militia consisted of the white males between 17 and 45 and blacks were excluded for obvious reasons. Women were also excluded as they were from the vote.

    The most important thing the unorganized militia did in the early 1820s was elect Jackson. He was the candidate of the Militia.

  12. Dearieme – Rereading that first comment I can see where I might have misinterpreted. I’m glad I did.

    JNorth – So long as we agree on the proper distinction between the state and the government, I think we don’t have much daylight between us. The american tradition of division of powers would seem to be implicated in keeping federal employees out of the unorganized militia.

    Pouncer – So far as I can tell the problem of portuguese speaking slaves wasn’t that they were speaking a military code, but rather that they were educated, militarily trained, war captives sold on to America as surplus to the slavery needs of their victorious african enslavers. On the bright side, they were smart and could get more done. On the down side for the american slavers, Stono rebellion et al, a major motivation for South Carolina to put in their harsh slave code which made the whole dirty system worse (among other things, it illegalized private manumission).

    You say that this was one concern that prompted state militia, which implies you believe that there were others. I’d be happy to read about those as well as, unlike slavery, they may be more pertinent to our situation today.

    Subotai Bahadur – I would agree that the militia weren’t a racist plot by slaveholding southerners. Support of the slave system was, however, a use case for the militia in slave states and specifically the unorganized militia in those states was at least sometimes roped into the role by the slave codes.

    Mike K – The thread is about the unorganized militia today and while the stretch of history in the slaveholding states is certainly not entirely irrelevant (“blacks were excluded for obvious reasons”), see Pouncer above, can we not hijack the thread?

    I view the unorganized militia as the force of last resort, and one that is almost always present when jihadists strike. How can we gear it up in a positive way to help us fix today’s inadequate response to our security challenges?

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