The Oregon standoff: insurrection, civil disobedience, or in between?

David French at NR’s Corner makes “the case for civil disobedience in Oregon.” He’s referring to the occupation by armed men of a federal building on a wildlife refuge, about which Steve and I wrote yesterday.

There may be a case for civil disobedience in connection with the excessive sentencing of the Hammonds, two Oregon ranchers, and the broader issues of federal overreach involved. It’s interesting, though, that neither the Hammonds nor most of those who protested their sentences opted for civil disobedience.

The problem, in any case, is that the Ammon Bundy and his armed followers did not opt for civil disobedience in the commonly accepted sense. The model for civil disobedience in this country — developed many decades ago by black citizens in the South who, in my view, were more aggrieved by government than today’s Western ranchers — involves sitting-in and peacefully accepting removal by the police and any additional legal consequences. It doesn’t involve armed takeovers of facilities coupled with pronouncements about fighting and dying if necessary, which is what Bundy has done.

One hopes that, in the end, Bundy and his followers will stand down and the episode will end peaceably. But by undertaking an armed occupation, they have already gone beyond “civil disobedience.”

Both those on the left who attack Bundy and those on the right who make a case for what he’s done mischaracterize the situation, it seems to me. Bundy and his followers aren’t terrorists and they have not launched a true insurrection at this point. But neither are they engaging in traditional civil disobedience.

This is something in between. Their armed occupation should be criticized and ended, but the government shouldn’t overreact.