When a state of National Emergency was declared on February 15, 2019, not many realized that we were closer to martial law than we had been in recent years. The declaration of a National Emergency gives the office of the president additional power to institute Martial Law should he or she sees fit to do so. Numerous other countries around the world have already experienced martial law and have seen first hand the harmful effects that follow.
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 signs that should be a warning that martial law may be coming and we’ll discuss how you can prepare.
What is Martial Law and
Before we begin discussing the signs that lead to Martial Law, let’s first discuss what it is and how is it different from a National Emergency or the State of Emergency.
Martial Law at its most basic level is defined as a law that allows the military to take control of civilian functions in a state or country. When implemented, the military becomes the state or the country’s governing body, resulting in civil laws, rights, and the habeas corpus being suspended.
It’s important to note that during a National Emergency your constitutional freedoms are suspended. However, the main difference between a state of National Emergency and Martial Law is that during a National Emergency, the military doesn’t need to take control of civilian functions. But you should keep in mind that Martial Law could quickly follow a declaration of National Emergency. During both of these scenarios, your civilian rights can be suspended allowing the government to impose its will, rules, and regulations on citizens.
When Has Martial Law been Implemented in the U.S.?
The U.S. President and the Congress can declare Martial Law on a federal level, while the Governors in each state can declare Martial Law within the borders of their respective states. In 2006, H.R. 5122 or the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law and it gave the president the power to declare martial law and take control of each state’s National Guard without consent from state governors.
The United States of America has also seen its fair share of martial law as a result of:
- Foreign attacks
- Civil violence and protests
- And after major disasters
Has martial law been declared on a national level? Yes, it was declared once during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln declared that the country was under military rule.
On a regional level, Martial Law has been declared on several occasions. Here are a few examples:
- On December 7, 1941, the Hawaii Governor declared martial law on the Territory of Hawaii following the attacks of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.
- Subsequently, the Department of War expanded the martial declaration to Washington, Oregon, and California in February 1942.
- In March 1942, the entire U.S. Pacific Coast was put under military rule.
- Subsequently, the Department of War expanded the martial declaration to Washington, Oregon, and California in February 1942.
- On May 21, 1961, the Alabama State Governor declared martial law to prevent civil rights activists from demonstrating in the state.
There are many more cases where Martial Law was declared within different states resulting in some instances of reports of abuse of power and leaders not wanting to relinquish that power.
Signs That Martial Law is Coming
As pointed out, Martial Law is usually declared following a crisis or emergency that is plaguing the country or state. Usually, this is in the form of war, natural disaster, or civil unrest. But in this modern era in which we now live, there are other more looming threats, some that have only recently developed due largely to technical innovation, that could trigger Martial Law. And unfortunately, some of these threats could be catastrophic, which shows that Martial Law would indeed be implemented if any one of these were to come to pass.
- Economic Crisis – Probably the most dangerous emergency that could cause a declaration of Martial Law is a severe economic crisis. This is a major concern since so many of the world’s economies, including the U.S., are increasingly in a delicate balance of interconnectivity. One major financial incident could potentially trigger an economic collapse in another country much like dominos. And with industrialized nations being more interconnected today than ever before, the incident doesn’t have to happen on U.S. soil for the country to feel the negative impact of that financial incident. Like in 2007, when the U.S. experienced the subprime mortgage market crisis which developed into a full-blown international banking crisis affecting many countries around the world. A repeat of this incident in 2019 could be even more catastrophic and far-reaching as the impact would reverberate around the world. If the even spun out of control resulting in a collapse of the financial sector, Martial Law could be implemented to try and restore order to avoid panic and an all-out collapse.
- Fears that the U.S. economy could contract has intensified after several media outlets put forth damning reports just last week. On August 14, 2019, a reliable indicator showing the possibility of a recession has appeared. That indicator is called inverted yield curve, which shows that the interest rates of short-term bonds, which are bonds that have a maturity of less than 5-years, are higher than the interest rates of long-term bonds, those with a maturity of 5-years and above. An economy that is healthy would usually have high-interest rates for long-term bonds compared to short-term ones. This doesn’t bode well for the U.S. economy. CBN News reports that history has shown that recession follows within several months to two years after an inverted yield curve is spotted. This could lead the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates to try and prevent the economy from plunging into a recession.
- The Washington Post also mentioned that the inverted yield curve is suggesting investors are losing faith in the economy in the short-term. High-interest rates are normally given to long-term bonds so the government can attract more investors to them. But since the interest rates of short-term bonds are higher, this means that more people are investing in the bond market for the long-term, as they’re losing confidence in the economy’s short-term prospects. The report also mentioned that a contraction of two large economies, the United Kingdom and Germany, and a slowdown of China’s growth is not making things any better for the U.S. It is also worth mentioning that global leaders are currently not collaborating to try and do something about the economic slowdown and contraction that are impacting numerous countries at the moment.
- Cyber Threat – The second dangerous emergency that could cause martial law is a cyberattack. Governments and corporations have obviously taken advantage of the advancement in technology and the rise of the internet. The downside is that this makes them dependent on cyberspace and the internet leaving them vulnerable to a cyberattack. Forbes reported that last August 16, the State of Texas experienced a cyberattack that caused 23 government agencies to go offline. The attack was identified as ransomware and it came from a single threat actor. This is the reality that a lot of agencies and companies face on a daily basis, especially if they’re dependent on the internet. If a coordinated attack coming from a single threat actor can take out 23 government agencies of a state, imagine what several threats can do to a country and how it can paralyze agencies and industries. A large scale cyber threat resulting in a shutdown of the nation’s infrastructure and banking system (just to name a few) could be used as an emergency to declare martial law on a national level.
- The threat of a cyberattack is very real and it can happen anytime and sometimes without warning. Working in the IT sector, in my opinion, this is one of the greatest threats our country currently faces but so few people are aware of. This is why the director of Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley said in a cyber conference in Aspen last July that the immediate danger of a cyberattack is what keeps him awake at night. The U.S. is already involved in cyber warfare with the Middle East, in particular, Iran. Then there’s also Russia and China, who are both large threats in cyberspace. The two countries are considered as the world’s leader in cyber warfare and we got a taste of them meddling in our last presidential election. Though the U.S. military and government are well protected, the private sector doesn’t have this level of protection. They are vulnerable to these cyber threats and an attack on a major company will likely have a devastating effect on the country. – source Forbes
- If a cyber threat were to happen in the U.S., expect the government to do everything in its power to ensure that order will be maintained. So much of our nation’s infrastructure depends on a delicate balance of everything working smoothly. A great example is the grocery store’s just-in-time delivery system. If the systems that ensure our food inventories are shipped just-in-time is compromised, expect food shortages at your local grocery stores. As the saying goes, we’re just 3 meals away from anarchy. Again, this is just one small example that could be the tipping point forcing Martial Law on the nation.
- EMP Attack – An EMP is another form of attack that could trigger the declaration of Martial Law. An EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse, can decimate electrical devices within the vicinity of its burst, making it extremely dangerous given how dependent we are on our electrical devices as pointed out in the previous point. Terror groups or any other hostile groups could use an EMP attack to return a city or region back to the dark ages, which is likely to cause panic, chaos, and riots as people would scramble for whatever supplies they can get their hands on. A declaration of martial law would surely follow if ever this kind of attack happens in the country.
- Though an EMP attack is possible, the probability of it happening is low. There are a lot of factors that terrorists or rogue nations need to accomplish to successfully launch an EMP attack on the U.S. Many experts believe that the threat of an EMP attack is low on the list of credible threats. Possible, but not necessarily probable. Nevertheless, President Trump signed an Executive Order on March 23, 2019, with the intent to protect the country from an EMP attack. The order established a policy with a stated goal of increasing the country’s resistance to such an attack in the event it should occur. – source Business Insider.
- Should a large enough EMP attack impact the entire country, the nation would effectively be returned to the stone age. The outlook for survival for the general population would be low. The federal government would have no choice but to enact martial law to ensure the survival of its citizens.
- Civil Unrest – This is another emergency that could force the U.S. government to declare Martial Law. Looking at the country’s history, you can see a lot of the reasons state governors have declared Martial Law in their respective states due primarily to riots and strikes, with some becoming violent. Strikes are still prevalent in the U.S. even now and a large-scale strike or demonstration could still give the federal government reason to declare Martial Law in the country. Last August 17, 2019, Portland, Oregon almost became a battleground for civil unrest when the far-right white supremacist Proud Boys demonstrated on the city and they were met with a counter-demonstration from the anti-fascist group Rose City Antifa. If it weren’t for the city’s police force keeping things under control, the demonstration could have become more violent.
- This demonstration in Portland, Oregon is just one of the many examples that show how divided the U.S. is right now. Inflammatory rhetoric coming from both sides is dividing people even more based on party, mindset, and race.
- The media is not helping with this issue either. Many of the news sites and outlets are shown to cater more or be biased towards certain ideas and groups, something that has been happening for years, but escalating more in the last several years. News outlets on both ends of the spectrum are increasingly spinning their stories toward a specific political view that is more of a biased narrative than sticking to the facts. This is only deepening people’s biases and beliefs even more, forcing them to see the “other side” as their enemy. This has resulted in keeping people divided, paving the way for more possible clashes similar to what transpired in Portland, Oregon last August 17.
- Natural Disasters – The last emergency that could cause a martial law declaration are natural disasters. The U.S. has experienced a lot of natural disasters throughout its history. In the last 3 years alone, the country experienced 9 natural disasters that claimed thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in damages. History has also shown that the government is more than willing to declare Martial Law to ensure the safety and orderliness of the country, state, or city, in the aftermath of a disaster. This is probably one of the emergencies that cannot really be prevented, but only be prepared for it. For example, here in Southern California, we’re constantly being warned about the “big one” and how we’re overdue for a large earthquake that normally happens every 150 years along the San Andreas fault. While no one knows when it will exactly happen, experts warn that it will result in a large death toll.
- The fear of the Big One happening has been amplified lately, especially after the Earthquake Track recorded more than 3,000 small earthquakes happening in California just in the past 30 days. The frequency of these small quakes has some asking if this is a sign the Big One is about to come. Unfortunately, no one really knows when it is likely to occur other than it is far overdue.
- While there are many other natural disasters our nation faces, such as hurricanes on a seasonal basis, it is not an unlikely scenario for the government to declare Martial Law in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster.
How To Prepare for Martial Law
After seeing the signs that could end in Martial Law being declared in the U.S., it’s important to know how you can prepare yourself and your family to ensure that you are well-equipped in case it is declared.
- Monitor the news and keep up-to-date on what’s happening in your area. This can be challenging prior to Martial Law being declared, especially if the flow of information is cut off or an emergency damages the communications infrastructure in your area. With the recent events unfolding in Hong Kong, information to the citizens is getting throttled by the government. Being able to communicate outside of your area or region using conventional methods like the internet could be challenging, but even having a decent HAM radio would give you the ability to stretch far beyond your local area to get news from the outside.
- Next, be sure to keep supplies handy. Food, water, and medical supplies are critical to have stored in advance. In addition, be ready to be mobile if events beyond your control force you out of your home. Depending on the severity of the event and your level of comfort with the military controlling your area, you should have options in the event staying in place is no longer an option. Also, keep cash on hand since credit cards or atm machines might not work during this period. Be sure the cash that you have is not in large denominations so you can always give an exact amount of money when you purchase something. When there’s an emergency and the power may be down, this is probably not the best time to ask someone if they can break a $100 dollar bill.
- In addition, be sure to have an evacuation plan ready on a physical map in case you need to move out of your house quickly. This means that you already planned whatever route you’ll need to take and have alternatives in case the main roads are compromised. Make sure your mode of transportation (whether it be a bike, car, motorcycle, or whatever) is available and ready anytime you need to leave. In the event that everyone is not at home when a catastrophe happens, be sure to have a plan already defined with your family as to where you’ll meet and how you’ll communicate with each other.
- And last but not least, observe the Gray Man principle. It is also important that you try not to stand out during these times to avoid becoming a target for the military or other groups who are trying to take control. Keep your head down and blend in with the crowds as much as you can. And just as important, observe OPSEC. The less people know about your supplies and the fact that you are prepared, the less likely your home will be raided for supplies. Loose lips sink ships.
Should You Be Concerned?
While on the surface Martial law can be used for good to bring back order following an emergency, there is a strong potential for abuse of powers as a result of leaders not wanting to relinquish their newly expanded power, even after the crisis has abated. As such, it’s important that you are aware of the signs and the events that could trigger them.
So should you be concerned? I suppose I wouldn’t use the word concern as much as I’d recommend you stay informed, educated, and alert. Most people go through life oblivious of their surroundings and by the time they decide to act, it’s too late. As a prepper, well, we stay prepared. I choose not to be scared, but to be informed and ready at a moment’s notice to act in the best interest of myself, my family, and my community.
I’d love to get your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below. Are you concerned about martial law? Do you think there’s a possibility in the near future for events to unfold allowing the government to overreach and take rights away from the citizens?
If you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media, and as always, be safe out there.