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DoD Decline Into Wokeness

Tucker Carlson is the military's culture-war target (Source)

If you missed my colleague Shaun Rieley’s defense of Tucker Carlson’s criticism of the military, I urge you to read it. Rieley, for what it’s worth, is a veteran of the Iraq War. Excerpt:

This seems to be the rationale, for example, behind the Pentagon’s official press release responding to Carlson, which asserts that “the American military works best when it represents all the American people.” On this account, the military is, first and foremost, an egalitarian and representative body, rather than an exclusive and hierarchical one.

But we are entitled to ask: Is this true? Could viewing the military as a representative body, and members of the military as representatives of their respective identity group, make for a more effective service? The short answer is: No. An effective military is not identical with a representative one, and neither does the military exist to be a representative institution. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.

Carlson’s comments effectively highlight the tension between the social requirements of an effective military and the democratic social ideals of inclusion and equality. He was attacked for comments drawing attention back to the military’s purpose for existing: to defend the country and its citizens from existential threats. When this end is subverted in favor of ideological pursuits disconnected from the realities of warfare and statecraft, the military does risk becoming less effective, because priorities are being assigned based on a rationale other than the fighting and winning of wars.

On this issue, I heard from someone who is deeply embedded in the national security establishment, who has particular insights that this person would prefer not to be attached to his/her name, so I’m not going to say it. I have even agreed to paraphrase this person’s communication for their protection. What follows is not a direct quote, but the agreed-upon paraphrase:

The US military is transitioning into decadence. The top cadre of military leaders are willing to manage the decline as long as they don’t have to suffer for it. In the coming decades, most military activity will center on the effects of the decline of American global hegemony. Military leaders will likely choose to engage in direct fights only when they can be sure of victory (usually against non-state actors). The Iraq catastrophe probably means that the US will not engage in “pre-emptive” warfare, but will instead try to change regimes by fomenting revolutions.

We are not likely to fight China. War with China would be opposed by US-based global corporations, because it would be too costly for them. (On the culture war front, US corporate relationships with China is why the Chinese can run a police state with concentration camps, with no complaints, but the real threat is Russia and former Soviet bloc democracies and their anti-LGBT legislation.)

If the only actual adversaries that US military is likely to engage in the decades to come are non-state actors, they will be fairly easy to defeat (unless these adversaries figure out how to counter American drones). This is why the leadership class of the military doesn’t care as much as it should about the US losing its military edge.

And we are doing exactly that. This has been well-documented for some time:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-military-edge-has-eroded-to-a-dangerous-degree-study-for-congress-finds/2018/11/13/ea83fd96-e7bc-11e8-bd89-eecf3b178206_story.html

https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-national-defense-study-20181114-story.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/china-s-military-capabilities-are-gaining-u-s-pentagon-needs-ncna1234383

So, the national security elites surely know this, and don’t intend to start a war with either Russia or China. What does this have to do with the top brass advancing wokeness in the military? Because they don’t actually think America is going to have to fight a real war, so this is one way they can advance professionally. The US military leadership understands that the Republican Party is never going to act against any agency or department of the military under any circumstances, so the military would do well to appease the Democrats.

Again, this is not my opinion, but the opinion of my interlocutor, who goes on:

Regarding purging outspoken conservatives, everyone should think of social media as an information-gathering system for the secret police. Practice ketman or some other form of hiding within your organization. You may choose to sacrifice yourself by being a profile in courage, but once the activists and partisans who praise you move on, how will you feed your family? These are the economic realities of today’s America. If you are not being asked to renounce your faith, then consider that you can probably put up with a lot to protect your job.

The thing you ought to be asking is: what are you biding your time for? This is also what political conservatives should be asking to prepare for regaining power. The problem is that the GOP is controlled by the corporate donor class, which hates cultural conservatism, and the “Trump cult” is too strong within the party to allow for any effective challengers to rise. Overall, most conservatives are so powerless that they satisfy themselves with performative libs-owning, while the libs steadily gain power over institutions.

Ross Douthat’s column about ways things could go wrong for Biden is spot on (and if anything, Douthat overestimates Biden’s strength). Even so, the broader culture is still going to decline because nobody on the Right has a vision for how to roll back wokeness. The best the Right manages to do is to block the worst of the Left’s excesses, but it never actually conserves anything socially or culturally. Controlling elite institutions and exercising their powers to promote and punish, and to serve as gatekeepers, is an extremely effective way of implementing an ideology. We are living through that now.

The ugly truth is that anyone who expects the Pentagon to do anything more than manage decline is living in La-La Land, a utopia where America succeeded in the Iraq War, is not about to leave Afghanistan in defeat, and marched confidently through two John McCain presidential terms instead of back to back Obama administrations.

I repeat: this is not my opinion, but one from my correspondent, whom I can’t identify, but who is in a position to know what he/she is talking about.

UPDATE: Let me clarify that last sentence. This person is in a position to make an informed judgment. Doesn’t mean that judgment will be correct, but it will be informed. Well informed.

 

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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