What is the role of the American military? The Area 51 situation

By Nathan Barton

Freedom Net Daily ran this headline recently: “US Air Force issues veiled threat to murder Americans it supposedly exists to serve,” reposting a UK Independent article on the Area 51 storming:

“The Air Force has issued a stern warning to the over half of million people planning to storm a top-secret US military base in the Nevada desert who are on a hunt to ‘see them aliens.’ Over 600,000 people have signed up to an event called ‘Storm Area 51, they can’t stop all of us’ which invites attendees to gather en masse before going into the air force base, which has long obsessed alien conspiracy theorists. The satirical event, which is organised on Facebook and is scheduled to take place on 20 September, appears to be a joke given the high security and heavily guarded nature of the base. … But Air Force spokesperson Laura McAndrews has released a warning to potential trespassers [sic]. ‘[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,’ she said. Ms McAndrews added: ‘The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.’ But she failed to elaborate on specific details around how officials would react to potential intruders.”

Like the publishers and editors over at FND and RRND, I admit to enjoying the events and responses to this “little’ Facebook jest. In addition to the Air Force response, the Las Vegas Police (and many other municipal police forces) have also responded, as BGR and other sources report, saying that they will arrest anyone “breaking the law.” It is quite the internet phenomenon.

But it raises some serious questions.

First, the headline posted by Freedom Net Daily. Does the US Air Force exist to “serve Americans” as the headline states?

Well, no. The USAF, like all the other branches of the military actually exists, in accordance with their oaths, to preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies. The last part of that phrase, very well-known, is telling: “… against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Enemies can and does include some Americans. Admittedly, the Armed Forces’ record on this is stained and incredibly imperfect: Congress and the White House use them to do a LOT of things that are NOT part of their mission – and for which they all will ultimately be held accountable. But Americans can and sometimes ARE “enemies of the Constitution.”

Does that include those who commit criminal acts? I think that indeed it can, although we must be wary of mission creep. Secure military installations are correctly, properly and constitutionally areas in which people can be restricted from entry. Especially those intent on such things as vandalism, stealing, and creating disruptions. The military forces have, and on occasion do exercise, a legitimate (and moral) power of defense. Including the use of lethal force if nothing less will do. Whether it is the mysterious Area 51, a ICBM silo in Nebraska, or an ammunition storage point in a National Guard Armory or another military installation.

Therefore, if someone is killed by lethal force responding to their criminal act, it is NOT murder. The headline is wrong in multiple ways. And to my way of thinking, it is certainly appropriate to remind/warn people that attempting to invade a secure military installation is something which can result in you getting shot in the act of committing a crime. As has happened many times over the years – even at Area 51. But at dozens or even hundreds of military installations, right back to the American Revolution. (And I don’t think it is a “veiled threat” either: it’s pretty clear.)

But the warning by the various municipal police in Nevada is also wrong. Area 51 is not within the municipal corporate limits of any city or town, to my knowledge. It is, almost certainly, within the jurisdiction of a Sheriff (Clark County, if I’m not mistaken). But the news does not report that the local Sheriff is involved: just Las Vegas and other towns and cities in Nevada. For them to attempt to arrest people who peaceably assemble on public land (NOT part of a secure military installation) is an unconstitutional abuse of their supposed power. And they have no jurisdiction. Therefore no reasonable cause to warn potential wrongdoers. Any more than these Nevada police should warn people in South Dakota that trespassing is a crime. Not their job!

I suspect they are just wanting to share some of the publicity of this odd little event.

Let me leave this subject with one more thought. Using force (lethal or not) against a single person committing a criminal act (trespassing, vandalism, whatever) at a military installation is both common and unlikely to be a problem for the security personnel (civilian or military) who have to do so.

But when it involves tens or hundreds of thousands of people, however stupid they are in doing this, there is no doubt a lot of serious thinking that those government employees are going to be doing. Even if a lethal response is both legal and even moral, is it really the most expedient thing for them to do? I suspect that many will not. If this event really does come to pass.

Yes, things are bad in a lot of ways. But not bad enough, and even the usual junior enlisted or GS-3 government employee is not going to just rock-n-roll with an M4 against a mob of rowdy but generally peaceful lawbreakers out in the middle of the desert. And I doubt even more that some USAF or USN or USMC ground attack aircraft crew would follow any orders that would have them lay down fire on a large group of people doing something as stupid as this. Any more than you or I would use a shotgun to deal with that trespassing teenager, no matter how many times we’ve warned him.


About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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4 Responses to What is the role of the American military? The Area 51 situation

  1. Bosney Wash says:

    The whole of the Nellis AFB complex (to include Area 51) is under exclusive federal jurisdiction. If the Clark County sheriff tries to enter it, he’ll be treated the same as any other criminal.


    • TPOL Nathan says:

      Maybe. Or would he get a pass, the way cops racing by at 70 in a 50 mph zone in someone else’s jurisdiction do?


  2. Thomas L. Knapp says:

    “Does the US Air Force exist to ‘serve Americans’ as the headline states?”

    The headline doesn’t state that the US Air Force exists to serve Americans. It claims the US Air Force “supposedly” exists to serve Americans. There’s a difference.

    “Well, no. The USAF, like all the other branches of the military actually exists, in accordance with their oaths, to preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies.”

    And the first words of that Constitution, identifying its putative authors and supposed beneficiaries of “provid[ing] for the common defence?”

    “We the People of the United States”


  3. Geoff says:

    Use of Deadly Force is Authorized for Illegal Entry to a Military installation. One or two may just be turned back or arrested. A dozen or so most definitely will be detained and arrested. More than what the guards can handle and the shooting may start. Leave or be dead.


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