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Wrong Training Ground

Some within the Pentagon are not pleased that reservations have been raised in eight states about the deployment of National Guardsmen to Honduras. In fact, some of the more indignant warriors want to rewrite the Constitution to eliminate such obstructionism. That would be a mistake.

In peacetime, the Army and Air national guards are under state control, as they should be, an inheritance of the commitment of the Founding Fathers to state militias. In time of war, they are a vital part of the national fighting force. The controversy over Honduras has to do with the annual training programs during which the guard members are under federal control.

Gov. George Deukmejian has had no hesitation in approving deployment of a few of the California guard to Honduras, although he is to be challenged Thursday by a resolution introduced in the State Senate by Barry Keene (D-Benicia) opposing the assignment of Californians to Honduras. Fifteen military police volunteered for duty in Honduras and went down April 17 for a fortnight. Another 15 will be rotated for two weeks next weekend, and then the California “invasion” of Honduras for this year will be over. Last year, California declined to participate because all guard forces were committed to major maneuvers.

In 1985 a total of 10,000 National Guardsmen were rotated for training in Honduras, and this year there are plans for about 6,000. There has been no problem filling quotas, apparently. But there has been a lot of resentment by some in the Department of Defense that governors and/or legislators in eight states have opposed the deployments.

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The reservations of state officials are understandable. The commitment to Honduras of thousands of American troops, ostensibly to build roads and airfields to help Honduras defend itself against the menace of Marxism from Nicaragua, has destabilized Central America. It has raised serious questions as to whether the United States is in fact preparing staging bases for its own action against Nicaragua. It has raised suspicions of direct military complicity with the contras engaged in the guerrilla war against the government of Nicaragua. The action has drawn criticism from most of the Latin American nations, including most of the Central Americans, because they oppose foreign intervention of all sorts. And it has stirred debate in the United States as to the constitutionality of such a commitment of U.S. armed forces without the official sanction of Congress.

For the Pentagon, the real issue may be nothing more than sensitivity to the criticism, inherent in the actions of the eight states, to the growing U.S. deployment in a region where Washington has declared no war. The Pentagon cannot be concerned about manpower, for it has more than adequate resources, with the option of declaring a war emergency if it truly needs the backup of the National Guard.


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