Fortress D.C.

I haven’t been to Capitol Hill for more than a year, but friends paint a sad picture of that area — swarms of National Guardsmen and few civilians. They find this disturbing.

According to the editors of National Review, there are around 6,000 troops in the area now (down from 25,000 on Inauguration Day). The plan, apparently, is to keep thousands there through March, and some National Guard presence through at least the Fall.

I agree with NR editors that this show of force makes no sense. In fact, even Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s left-liberal representative in Congress, has spoken out against the prospect of that continuing National Guard presence.

Turning the Capitol and its grounds into an armed fortress is a bad look in a democracy. We should want tourists to flock to the Capitol, as they have always done. A large presence of troops will keep them away.

It’s true, of course, that we need to protect the building and those who work there. But there’s no reason to believe that another attack like that of January 6 will occur now that the fantasy of blocking Biden’s election is an impossibility. And even that attack probably could have been handled without the National Guard if the Capitol police had been better prepared.

Thus, the NR editors rightly conclude:

The large-scale presence of National Guardsmen on the Hill should end. These troops have done their duty admirably, but it’s time to go home.

New security protocols may be necessary at the Capitol — certainly the police should be better prepared for protests that might run out of control — but they should be carefully thought through and calibrated. And they shouldn’t include a tall razor-wire fence that symbolically separates our elected representatives from the people they serve.

The U.S. Capitol is one of the marvels of our open society. It shouldn’t be made to look like it belongs in a closed one.