Since your Beliefnet days, I have been reading you with great interest. Your insights have always been appreciated, even though I sometimes disagree with them. I also generally share your outlook and sensibilities. However, I feel the need to share a perspective that you may not have had. I am perplexed by what you describe as the seemingly awakening U.S. Military.
I am an active-duty military officer. I have served in various positions at home and abroad, including as a division-level chief and higher, in special operations teams and in the Pentagon. Although I am not a policymaker or important, I have the ability to see the entire world from the top of the military hierarchy. In fact, I have seen the evolution of the military over the past few years from the bottom, middle and top.
The woke-ization and militarization you keep describing just don’t happen.
You can build on certain facts, such as the existence of trans servicemembers. You can also find the DOD’s language regarding pronouns and DEI, which is similar to what you would find elsewhere in American culture. The overall narrative is…off.
This is not about me disagreeing or claiming that the changes you are describing are bad or good. I don’t see the kind of massive transformation you describe. You can forgive me for saying that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the military was undergoing a wake revolution.
Trans people, DEI languages, and others can be found in the military, as I mentioned. Any cultural trend will be seen in the armed forces, especially in an open democracy such as ours. All of these trends are far behind those in corporate America, the state and local governments, as well as American culture generally. Your recent description of this doesn’t reflect what is actually happening here.
Here’s what I see from your posts:
The first is that you get a lot of comments and emails about your outlook and writing. This creates a feeling of an approaching cultural torrent or an avalanche. Anecdotes and outliers become compelling stories.
You also hear from a lot of former service personnel or people with one-degree removed experience from the current military. Their impressions are largely based on what they see in conservative media. They interpret decontextualized or outlier events using what they “know.” This can even be true for active-duty military personnel. For example, a soldier at Fort Hood may hear about an advisory about pronoun usage and gendered language at Air Force Academy. He has no knowledge about the Air Force Academy’s situation but it seems like he is an insider if he speaks about it.
Third, incidents and situations are often misinterpreted. What sparked me to write was your recent post here: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/diversity-is-our-strength-they-lied/. It’s simply not true when you claim that the Pentagon talks about recruiting and promoting for other characteristics than the ability to wage wars. The Military Times article you cite is closer to the opposite. A Special Operations community that promotes a subset of skills that are less pertinent now than it meant that a LESS capable force will be able to handle special operations that are less dynamic. These are the quotes:
“Part of that might look more like a focus on civil affairs, and psychological operations parts SOCOM. These organizations do more “hearts & minds” work before a conflict reaches the point that operators are going after high-value targets in the middle of the night.
“When someone takes time from the deployment churn for further education or to take a job outside of the prescribed pipeline, “it just doesn’t compute somehow [in this selection and promotion] boards.”
It is saying that special ops’ door-kicking and nighttime raid aspects have been prioritized over all other areas of the military. But this must change if we are to achieve the kind of hearts and minds, foreign civil, and military-to-military engagement that is also critical to special operations. These are exactly the types of mission sets that we failed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In context, the phrase “It’s okay if things don’t go as planned” refers to being OK with any friction that occurs during this cultural shift. The key cultural shift is between prioritization for different roles in traditional special operations. The trans/DEI stuff was merely an aside.
If I may, however, I would say that you only saw trans/DEI stuff. The entire story was interpreted by you (mistakenly) as if SOCOM had mandated a certain number of trans SEALs. It caused you to miss the whole story. This is an example of how a military command can become MORE competent by identifying and addressing gaps in its proficiency.
To put it mildly, the U.S. military’s record in Afghanistan and Iraq is mixed. This story is about a course change to that, which would in other circumstances be one of the first to approve.
A fourth reason your coverage of this issue is exaggerated is that you fall for stories that didn’t occur or didn’t take place the way you presented them. You published an account of a JAG Corps Major reservist who posted a photo on Facebook of a Jan 6th man in the Capitol holding a Confederate flag. His comment could have been interpreted as supportive. I don’t know what the Major meant, but it could have been. His account of being reprimanded and being told by his superiors that he was being watched over was published. Many of his stories are false to anyone who is familiar with the Army JAG Corps and the military in general. His descriptions of the severity of his punishment were misleading and his account of it was quite unbelievable. A story that seems unbelievable can be plausible if you don’t know much about the military or aren’t familiar with it.
The U.S. military has had a lot of trouble with strategy and the most important “why” questions: why are we fighting here? Why are we fighting the way that we are fighting? The military is still very skilled at tactical engagement. You linked a Chinese recruitment ad to demonstrate how China still values martial virtue, not our awake military. You did the same with a Russian recruitment ad a while back. Recent events in Ukraine show how unreliable the country’s recruiting ads can be as a measure of any other than advertising skills. Look up the battle at Kasham 2018, where a small US military force defeated a larger Russian Wagner Group force. While I’m not trying to be too confident here, as I’m well aware of the risks and capabilities gaps we face, it is impossible to deny the fact that the U.S. military has an incomparable advantage over the Russians on any battlefield metric.
The essence of much of the woke stuff we hear boils down to this: We want every American to be able *and not feel like an imposter while serving. I don’t pretend the balance is perfect or that all units and commands are always right. The overall narrative you present in your posts about this is not accurate. It’s as if someone was regularly posting stories about serious crimes in New Orleans, and portraying New Orleans as a crime-ridden city where it is difficult to walk down the street unassisted or robbed. The overall narrative is false, even if the stories are true.
Let me add one thing about Russia’s warmongering: Everyone is well aware of the risks. Russia’s actions have left us with no other options than vice, and virtue without any good options. Either we can leave Ukraine alone and let the entire post-WWII international law settlement be discarded and return to a world in which wars of conquest are acceptable, or we could risk further escalation. We should remember that we tried option 1 in 2014 with Crimea and relied on Ukraine to de-escalate and not cause a wider conflict. It clearly didn’t turn out the way we hoped. While reasonable minds might differ on this point, we may be wrong now. However, no one is blind to the dangers or ignorant of the situation. Everyone is doing their best. To be honest, I am a little surprised that you would recommend Tucker Carlson to people looking for the truth about this issue, especially after his scandalous hype-up of the Biolabs-chimera. Carlson was an insightful voice on domestic politics.
Sincere thanks for your constructive criticism. I will keep it in mind going forward. Thank you, Reader.
If you have any comments on this topic, but cannot post them below, please email me at rod –at — amconmag –dot — com. I will post the best letters I get. Ahead warning: I am overwhelmed with mail. If you want to ensure that I receive it, please put “WOKE MILITARY” in your subject line.