Home/Rod Dreher/Is There A Military Double Standard For Whites?

Is There A Military Double Standard For Whites?

I have been receiving e-mails occasionally from readers in the armed services who are concerned about the increasing influence of wokeness on military culture. This one arrived this week, and is typical:

I am a [age] white man with [number] kids and an Active Duty [service branch] Officer stationed in [base].  The bombardment against White America has been relentless since 2008.  My wife, family and friends, who are white, all express the same frustrations of racial libel when none of us are racist.  I would even add my coworkers, who are black and conservative-leaning, recognize the hypocrisy as well.  If the double standard was bad in 2018 when the article was written, it has taken on gargantuan proportions in 2020/2021.
I recently attended a mandatory “Diversity, Inclusion, and Extremism” training and was struck by the timing of the order to receive this training.  While the world watched BLM burn down our cities and make attempts to erase our history, the DOD was essentially silent.  In fact, we received correspondence addressing the need to be even more tolerant, accepting, and inclusive. No “extremism” training was mandated at that time.
Following the riots at the Capital building, the DOD apparently had deemed that occasion sufficiently “extreme” as to direct training and further indoctrination.  For the record, I do not, in any way, condone the breach of the Capital.  But it paled in comparison to the loss of life and property perpetuated by the BLM and ANTIFA mobs.
During that training, we were asked to express our thoughts about inclusiveness and I remained silent, fearful that any comment I made about how I feel as a white person would be perceived as me being “out of touch,” “suffering from white privilege,” or worse “racist.”
We were assured it was a “safe place” but I remained silent, believing there is no safe place for a white man to express his views about the disgusting double standard I must constantly swallow, or how I am to address this double standard with my children in order to prepare them for the work they are entering.
Because I am Active Duty, I ask that my name not be included in any correspondence or writings you do in the future.  Anonymity is a new normal I fear I must get used to for the foreseeable future.
This story from Task & Purpose is about the military deciding that it needs to crack down on white supremacy and other forms of radical right extremism in the ranks. If the military is finding things like this among its personnel, then of course it has to fight them, no doubt about it. But how? To what extent is the military’s training using Critical Race Theory and adjacent categories? I completely understand this officer’s unwillingness to say anything in this training. I’ve been through these sorts of things in corporate America, and you would have to be a fool to say what you really think, no matter how benign, if it in any way contradicts the official narrative.
If the armed forces become racially conscious in the same way institutions in civilian society are becoming, what does that do to cohesion? If white service members believe that the US Armed Forces considers them all to be racist by virtue of their skin color, and/or in need to being held to a double standard because of their race, why would they want to stay in the service? Why would any white person want to join?

A few weeks ago, you mentioned a Twitter contrasting the styles of a Chinese military propaganda video and a U.S. Army recruiting advertisement.

Well, Tucker Carlson addressed the elephant in the room. His entire monologue is worth watching, but below are the key points:

What are the consequences of this kind of thinking? Over time, identity politics will destroy our country. No nation can remain unified for long if people are encouraged to think of themselves as members of competing ethnic groups first and citizens second. Countries need a reason to hang together; unity doesn’t happen by accident. The fixation on race that has seized our leadership class guarantees permanent disunity. It’s terrifying if you think about it, but it could be much worse.

The hatred for Tucker Carlson is mystifying. Is it because he’s really a spiteful demagogue? Or is it, I think, because he’s willing to point out distressing, yet blatantly obvious truths about our world? The fact is, America’s already at the stage described by Carlson, it’s just that most people are in denial. I love what he said about needing reason to hang together, because it’s so true. This country can remain a nation only so long as the number of people who think it’s worth fighting for and, if necessary, dying or killing for, outnumber those who either don’t care one way or the other or seek to dismantle and “transform” it.

[Carlson:] The U.S. military, for the record, has a very long history of treating everyone with respect and dignity because it was a meritocracy and a meritocracy is designed to treat people with respect and dignity on the basis of how they behave, not on the basis of how they look.

I’ll push back on this slightly, because the military is far from a perfect institution. It didn’t always treat everyone with respect and dignity and it still fails to do so today. However, it’s probably done as good a job as any institution out there could’ve done. This is beyond the scope of what we’re talking about here, but the U.S. military is somewhat unusual in its development compared to the professional militaries of say, Europe. But, I can attest from personal experience, that the military is by-and-large a meritocracy and that veterans themselves are largely proud of their service and say that it’s given them a leg up on life.

Part of the reason why the U.S. military is imperfect, however, is that it’s increasingly become a battlefield for the culture wars. Conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. military is often at the forefront of social change in this country and, in many ways, it’s true – Blacks and other racial minorities achieved equality in the services long before they achieved true equality in society. Unfortunately, this has translated into more radically-inclined forces into using the military almost exclusively as a vehicle for social change. I say exclusively, because they’re not in the least bit willing to entertain any other points of view or consider that the military may not be the best place for such practices. Unfortunately, many of these radicals serve in uniform or in a civilian capacity in national security. Perhaps they target the military because, unlike the rest of us, the military can’t really say, “no.”

In an essay for the Army War College in 1992, an Air Force lawyer named Charles Dunlap (you can read his blog here) wrote a controversial paper in which he described America 20 years from then as under the control of a military junta, but the military, ironically, “can’t fight,” in his words. This wasn’t a prediction on his part, but merely a crafty way of arguing against diverting the armed forces from its primary area of competency, which is warfighting, towards civilian functions better suited for non-martial institutions.

If only Charles Dunlap knew then that Wokeness, not civilian duties, would be what ailed the military over two decades down the road. While I don’t want to go as far as to say the military has lost all capability to fulfill its primary task (I have no way of knowing that), I can’t imagine that it’d be an effective fighting force if the same level of demoralization which ails American society afflicted the armed services also. Not only would the military be unable to fight, it’d be incapable of even enforcing a military dictatorship! Like the militaries of the ex-Communist countries, it’d collapse like a house of cards.

The conspiracy theorist in me says this is exactly what’s intended – weaken the institutions that defend and legitimize the country and make it easier to take down the country. But the more likely answer is that the Woke are merely doing what they feel to be justice. Once they take down the military or take over it, there isn’t much left for them to go after, except maybe religious institutions.

This is from the Tucker monologue the reader referenced:

This summer, the U.S. Army’s so-called Operation Inclusion instructed soldiers that the phrase “Make America Great Again” was a form of socially acceptable “covert White supremacy.” According to the Army, a presidential campaign slogan was White supremacy. No one did anything about that.

Now, according to the Army’s Equity and Inclusion Agency (yes, they have one), the phrase, “all lives matter”, American exceptionalism, and the celebration of Columbus Day are racist. Over the summer, the now-retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, encouraged his employees to read the lunatic tract “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, a book that is both inherently bigoted and very stupid. Over the summer, Kaleth Wright, then the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, proclaimed on Twitter that his greatest fear was that one of his airmen might be killed by a racist cop. Not killed by the Chinese military, but by American racism.

I would like to hear from readers of this blog who are in the military, or who have recently been in the military, to get your perspectives on this issue. I won’t use your name unless you specifically ask me to. As you know, I have strong views about the “Diversity, Inclusion, Equity” ideology, and I am confident that those views color the way I regard strategies for awakening the military. Am I wrong? Tell me about it. Am I right? Half-right? I want to know that too. Please answer in the comments, or write me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com. Note well: All e-mails will be considered publishable unless you specifically say this is only on background. 

UPDATE: A reader writes, asking me to keep his name, rank, and branch of the service out of it:

It is worse that you reported.

The push is for whites to recognize that we can’t recognize systemic racism. Since it is systemic, it cannot be named, identified, or clarified. It just is and it is in all of us. We must accept it.

My current organization has gone one step further. In addition to the myriad of race-based programs already in the military (equal opportunity, every intersectional group month, endless online training) we now have “Operation Diversity.” This is an actual named operation meaning it has manpower and funding, Like Battle of the Bulge. It is an actual organizational operation. This is a slap in the face to every Equal Opportunity Non-Commissioned Officer, almost always a position filled by a minority personnel, who does the day-to-day work to ensure that rules and regulations are applied fairly to all people. It makes the Equal Opportunity program obsolete. The same could be said of the Inspector General Corps.

The new Secretary of Defense’s “Stand Down” for extremism is one sided and farcical. Although an imperfect group, one is far more likely to find support for the militant wing of the Democrat party (Antifa/BLM) in the DoD than the type that Secretary Austin mentions in press releases. There will be no mention of Antifa or BLM during these meetings. It will all be about bad white people.

Another active duty reader e-mailed requesting anonymity, and said:

There is no doubt that “woke” ideologies are starting to trickle down into the military. If you weren’t already aware, the Navy formed a “Task Force 1” following the “racial awakening” this summer and recently published their recommendations for the Navy moving forward. Among their recommendations is that sailors make a pledge to respect intersectional identities. Embedded in that article is a link to the actual research by “Task Force 1” as well. Who knows if we will actually be asked to sign such a document. My instincts tell me it won’t go that far, but who knows, this has been a wild year. We were forced to sign a document last year that I never could have imagined signing; basically taking away all of our rights, before the Navy deemed the document illegal but the order itself legal.

Just a few weeks ago nearly every Navy unit in San Diego was visited by PACFLT (4 star Admiral) to discuss “extremism” in the military. This was of course in response to the riots at the Capitol building and a couple other incidents in San Diego this year. This obviously came directly from the new SecDef and the Biden administration. The meeting was extremely vague about what was considered “extreme”. The meeting seemed to vaguely hint at White Supremacist organizations and their link the the Capital riots. In my 10 years in the Navy, I can tell you that I have never met anyone that I would suspect was in the KKK, Proud Boys or any other “extreme” right wing organization. So why are we talking about it? Leadership kept emphasizing at the meeting that the military is apolitical and that we swear an oath to the constitution, not a party or ideology. This is absolutely true! But then why did the meetings feel so political? Throughout the meeting I was thinking about your book LNBL and Yuri Slezkine’s book House of Government. What happens when Catholicism becomes “too extreme”? As a believing Catholic, I already know that I have many views that if I shared publicly at work, I would be labeled extreme or bigoted.

I’m with you 100% that the election was not stolen and that the way Trump comported himself post election proved all the Never Trumpers right. I think it needs to be acknowledged that there are still many people, including those in the military, who believe those lies. However, it is becoming more and more evident that the military brass is supporting “right ways” and “wrong ways” of thinking. My biggest concern is the military’s full embrace of the LGBTQ lobby. If you don’t support Biden’s order to allow “transitioning” or “trans” service members, you are a bigot (or worst case, if you are too vocal you may be processed out of the military).

Like you say, the biggest shame in all of this is that China is probably laughing about it all day long. They don’t give two hoots about “equity” or “diversity” in their ranks. When I joined the Navy, I understood that our job was to blow stuff up and kill people when necessary to defend this nation. People forget that. Politicians especially. The military has become another political arena and that is to our adversaries’ gain.

While saying all this, I think you are mostly right. I don’t feel like there is a double standard for whites in the military currently. I actually think that the Navy does a pretty good job (at the moment) of promoting those that deserve it, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religion. I am however concerned, like you, of a hyperfocus on race and gender by the new regime. If “Task Force 1” has their way and we have de facto, if not de jure, affirmative action in the military, we are in for a world of hurt.

Another reader:

Been meaning to write about moral confusion on your blog recently.They reflect the how disordered the moral prerogatives within contemporary conservative Christianity are. This is not different from the world at large; but, to me, this suggests that conservative Christianity is more influenced by the world (at least in its elite spheres) than it would like to think.
    This confusion is reflected in your recent posts relating to Christians, whites and military service. For instance, you write:
If white service members believe that the US Armed Forces considers them all to be racist by virtue of their skin color, and/or in need to being held to a double standard because of their race, why would they want to stay in the service? Why would any white person want to join?
    While I can’t claim to represent all white service members, as a former white service member myself, I can say the reason I joined was because serving is simply something that must be done. It isn’t something that everyone has to do, but it’s something that some people have to do. Someone has to respond to hurricanes, confront terrorism and protect liberal order.
    The Medievals and Renaissance writers, such as Edmund Spenser, understood that part of courage was courage in the face of moral hazard. But the sort of moral hazards you conceptualize demonstrate your unseriousness. Having to call a transgender officer “Sir”? Seriously? The more pressing moral hazards you have to deal with in the service are whether to send a combat team into a situation which may turn out to be an ambush, whether to fire a missile at a 13-year-old planting a roadside bomb, whether to beat the tar out of a respected tribal elder who molests children. These are the types of questions whose outcomes can end up sitting uneasily with you either way, but someone will always have to volunteer to make them; those that make them do so because the realize that you can’t abscond from responsibility while still being the authority (or at least the adult) in the room. It is unfortunate that conservative Christian authors are telling them otherwise.
    Regarding other questions raised in your piece:
     Is white supremacy (or white racism more broadly) widespread in the military? Absolutely. I have, in fact, had many fellow servicemembers tell me that they are prejudiced against African American servicemembers. This isn’t because they don’t want African Americans to serve with them; it’s because African Americans don’t serve with them enough. In numerous combat infantry and special forces companies, African American members are nowhere in sight. This issue is something the military has been scratching its head over for a long time. I doubt there is a way to fix it.
   Furthermore, the US Army is going to be unsuccessful at confronting white prejudice, particularly under commands like SOCOM. While I understand its instinct to do so, I don’t think it’s worth it. I’m sure there will be plenty of Democratic politicians who will issue statements expressing “grave concern” about this or that, but the thing is that just training one special operator costs millions of dollars. A single green beret’s ammunition for their annual training courses might cost in the mid five-figures.
    I doubt that the US Army will be very successful in giving African American Soldiers an edge over white Soldiers either. One thing I learned scampering up the ranks was that being an effective Soldier wasn’t the only thing that mattered. Being an effective politician and an effective IT user is also important. It matters if you can advertise yourself as someone that they want to send to professional development schools, if you do your online certifications, if you can impress your chain of command, etc. While there are plenty of African American Soldiers who are perfectly capable of doing this, it is something at which whites are demographically advantaged (in terms of their likelihood to complete their education, have basic technical and writing skills and so on.)
One parting thought: If you are wondering why white Soldiers would want to serve in the military in a nation where they were disenfranchised, you might consider asking African American veterans of World War II, the Korean War, etc. They probably have thoughts.
Well, they were drafted. If I were in their shoes back then, I expect that I would have found it difficult to serve a nation whose laws mandated treating me like a second-class citizen.
Another reader:
I am a younger officer. I read your blog regularly, posting as [name] in the comments. I trend a lot more pro-Trump than you, but I think you have an excellent eye as a moral and cultural critic. My perspective on the Military is new and limited.
Where I’m located, diversity training is limited to occasional briefs on the military’s equal opportunity policy and quarterly speaking circles, where a group of the permanent party are brought together to just “discuss their feelings” on racial issues. With your evaluator sitting in. When there’s a block on your evaluation for “Fully Supports Equal Opportunity Policy”. We did have more of these sessions within our Companies after George Floyd died, but it doesn’t feel like much came of it. The Armed forces also observe a variety of heritage months (gay, Hispanic, Pacific, etc), but it’s a sideshow.

Beyond that, I would say my branch is very serious about its policies when it wants to be. I have performed multiple investigations into young black men saying the N word to other young black men, to the point of taking statements under oath from multiple third parties over one person saying a word. Discipline is necessary, but this level of concern for every instance/rigid policy has eaten into my other duties. I do know that when the military occasionally goes on the warpath over some social issue, it often produces more fear in the ranks than good. I will say I’ve never received a brief on far right extremism myself, but I’ve seen peers taking training that equates opposing mass immigration to owning a copy of the Turner Diaries as an indicator of extremism; That’s patently absurd and would mark the very founder of AmCon as a dangerous radical, demonstrably false.

I think the thing that I have to emphasize over everything else is this: THE MILITARY IS NOT SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE, OR A BASTION FOR SUCH PEOPLE. Most soldiers have a respectable patriotic impulse, yes, but not social conservatism. Part of this is due to the meritocratic nature. Once gays became a protected class, for instance, the knee-jerk reaction of soldiers seems to have been to discard all private misgivings about gay acts on the altar of meritocracy. Soldiers themselves caroused famously for centuries, and the US Armed forces are no exception. Porn use, hookups, heavy drinking is as or more rampant than civilian society.

In online communities for service members, the squeaky wheels feel free to gripe about social justice issues and defame their forebears in the 18th and 19th centuries as racist. Another part that comes into play here is the raw number of recruits who join primarily for the material incentives. I cannot overstate the quantity who love the benefits more than America, even if they’re otherwise decent people. Every service member like myself who took that oath just for love of country has been asked for our “real reason” more than once. THESE AREN’T BAD PEOPLE, but they’re deeply ordinary, with all the scars of the times that carries. There are parts of military culture that will never change, but the parts rising now that concern you are intrinsically tied to the reigning post-modern, post-national take on liberalism. The state will enforce the state ideology, which is currently a missionary brand of what Burke called “license” rather than liberty for all the globe, carrying the very ironic name of “Democratic Values”, which one might take to mean the non-values democratically chosen by the mob if they were a detached observer.

You need to pay more attention to Special Operations Forces than people like me, Rod, that being said. Normal military assets like myself are pieces for international relations and holding down strategic locations, etc. We are the auxiliaries sitting at the wall while they are the Legionaries that do the real legwork. Dreams of armor and Battalions fail to grasp that the USA is just the UK driving the speed limit, we’re in the stage of managing our sphere of influence and opposing intrusion in an Afro-Eurasian Great Game.

I’m proud of my service. I love my country deeply and I’ve grown to care so indescribably for the people around me I would never have crossed paths with in civilian life. I don’t plan on sticking around for too long. My goals and other political issues weigh more heavily, but the zeitgeist of wokeness has touched the Force.

God Bless America.

These are my opinions alone and do not reflect the views of my branch or any government agency.

A Canadian soldier writes:
Please do not hesitate to call out the military for allowing itself to succumb to the disease of wokeness.  Your use of Tucker Carlson’s prescient observation, that we have to deliberately foster cohesion to keep us from tearing each other apart is totally on point.  In the military and in the combat arms of the army, where we actually have to get into the face of the enemy to destroy them, there is nothing more dangerous to the accomplishment of the mission than a lack of unit cohesion.  If you trace the arc of western history from the Greeks to the Romans to the Swiss lineman to the English beef eater to the modern infantry in the West.  Those units’ operational effectiveness is totally predicated on their cohesion.  It is so because they must be able to rely on each other to the extent of trusting their very lives to their brothers.  That is why Western militaries have been so overwhelmingly successful against non Western militaries.  We fight hard, we fight together.  That style of fighting is entirely dependent on cohesion.
Wokeness is a threat to that cohesion, pure and simple.  The disease is just as bad in Canada.  We may be less passionate as a people but we’re equally divided.  Or maybe more aptly put, the wokerati already won here and most on the right are too afraid of losing their creature comforts to fight back.
Another reader:

I like a lot of your writing and wanted to talk to you about the article about “diversity” in the military. I am a civilian physicist in the Navy. Somehow, not only is diversity a number one priority (you can look up former Chief of Naval Operations Gary Roughead on the subject https://blog.usni.org/posts/2009/12/03/from-the-deckplates-navy-diversity-is-off-course ) even though there is absolutely no evidence of any relationship between diversity and military strength (beyond a few limited examples such as ethnically correct spies and Apache code speakers). If there was a strong relationship between diversity and military strength, Austria-Hungary should have kicked butt in World War One over the less diverse militaries. The British Empire with their Indians, Malays, Burmese, Africans, French-Canadians, Irish, Scots, and English should have easily defeated Japan (zero diversity) in World War 2. China, lacking diversity, should be one of the weakest militaries on Earth, hardly competitive with the highly diverse Brazilians. Yet this nonsense gets shoved down everyone’s throats. In the words of that politically correct Admiral in H M S Pinafore, ” it is one of the happiest characteristics of this glorious country that official utterances are invariably regarded as unanswerable.” ( https://gsarchive.net/pinafore/web_opera/pin16d.html ).

Of course, this is not only true in the military but also in the sciences where educational-physics in the 1980’s were forecasting great shortages of physicists (total nonsense – see https://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/10/science/amid-shortage-young-physicists-see-few-jobs.html ) as a rationale to recruit “Aleutian Islander physicists” and other official hooey like that. My co-worker who is highly skilled at aligning lasers is from Mexico but I am hard pressed to state that Mexican laser alignment is more accurate than Greek laser alignment or Vietnamese laser alignment — yet this sort of “need” for diversity is supposedly essential for science. Amazingly, in spite of their lack of diversity, Japan manages to perform admirably in engineering and science.

Naturally, there WAS one nation that did officially correlate science with ethnicity with the result that both quantum mechanics and relativity were denounced as “Jewish physics” and even non-Jews like Werner Heisenberg faced serious political trouble for doing “Jewish physics” (https://physicsworld.com/a/werner-heisenberg-controversial-scientist/ ). Actually, the laws of physics should not require Jewish, Aleutian-Islander, Aryan, or even human observers and should, in fact, be completely independent of the ethnicity, sexual preference, color, religion, legs vs antlers, etc. of the observer. Regrettably, apparently even mathematics is inherently RACIST ( https://nypost.com/2021/02/12/adding-wokeness-oregon-promotes-teacher-program-to-subtract-racism-in-mathematics/ ) as this nation begins to enter a new Dark Ages of politically correct (non-) science. Presumably, in the name of diversity, 2+2 = 5 is at least as good an answer as 2 + 2 = 4.

A reader who identifies himself by name, and says he is an officer, writes:

The military is only a couple years behind corporate America in embracing wokeness.  The senior leadership is infatuated with imitating Google, Facebook, Tesla, and the rest of Big Tech.
The services are just as interested in “racial equity” as any university or corporation.  It’s just that a big bureaucracy, hampered by due process protections, will take a little longer to get going.
It’s no coincidence that this (https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2499406/all-services-including-department-of-the-air-force-to-furnish-adverse-informati/) came out shortly after the new administration took office.  Historically, the Air Force has gone to great lengths to keep outside information from boards.  Officers are judged based solely on performance reports and medal citations, with decisions rendered in an average review of only a minute or two.  A clean, uninteresting record gets promoted.  Anything conflicting causes concern (and likely getting passed over and eventually forced out), and anything negative is the kiss of (career) death.
This allows the scope of behavior under review to expand from things like job performance or criminal behavior to anything attracting negative attention on social media.  So Twitter mobs are now a factor in promotion.  The careers of officers can now be derailed by adverse social media attention.  I know some, inside and outside the service, will use this for settling scores.
Review Tim Snyder’s rules for surviving Trump.  Ironically, most of them hold just as true for a Biden administration.
  • 4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
Both sides are eager to point out how the other is on the verge of establishing totalitarianism.  But the simple fact is the military is led by politicians, both civilian and military.  Generals confirmed by the Senate are just as much political figures as cabinet secretaries.
We’ve been “at war” for two decades, but no one after Dick Cheney thinks Iraq or Afghanistan are truly national security risks.  Will all of this wokeness harm combat capability or strategy?  Probably.  Will anyone care?  Probably not.  The idea that the military is most concerned with combat capability is just as naive as thinking that Google only cares about making money.  The acceptance of elites by their elite peers is far more important.  Would the Episcopal bishops of 2005 rather preserve their Church or the esteem of their liberal neighbors?
Institutions do self-destructive things all the time.  The fact that the military is just about the last respected institution in the country is a very, very bad sign.  I’ll be able to keep my head down until retirement, but I actively discourage young people from joining.
A liberal active duty service member writes:
I’m an active duty enlisted soldier who has been in a little over four years. I may have a different perspective than your readers, both because I am liberal and in my early twenties.
Over the summer, I peacefully took part in protests against police brutality. Had I done something to get myself arrested, there would have been hell to pay. Any perceived gap between the Army’s response to unrest over the summer and the Capitol Hill protest can be boiled down to the fact that one was a PR nightmare for the institution while the other was not. Nearly 1 in 5 people charged in connection to the Capitol Hill unrest had some sort of military background. I challenge you to find a single riot over the summer with similar statistics. To whatever extent that service members engage in violent extremism, it tends to lean heavily right.
I catch a lot of flak from my peers for being liberal. I am at any given point in time faulted for the perceived sins of my side’s leaders, pigeonholed into policies or acts that I disagree with, or the target of snide comments. In my three-and-a-half years of being with my unit, I can count on one hand the number of open liberals I have met. Conservatives are the cultural norm. I have never seen them discriminated against. MilTwitter is not reality. Your side has the advantage.
To whatever extent an officer complains to you about the treachery of the EO and SHARP programs, assume that as an indictment of the officer corps. I have plenty of stories from junior and mid-level officers about the sort of office politics and backstabbing that regularly takes place in the officer world. While I have met plenty of fine conservatives in the Army, I’ve met a lot of bad officers who are happy to throw their colleagues and soldiers under the bus to make themselves look good. Maybe paranoia from some Army leaders stems less from an impending takeover of PC culture and more so from the reality that the majority of service academy grads are morally corrupt bureaucrats who only care about looking good on paper. That will exist whether we have EO and SHARP or not because the culture of the officer corps is fundamentally broken. It’s all about good evaluations, not effective leadership.
The view and integrity from the junior enlisted world, on the other hand, looks pretty good. I spent nine months in Iraq and Syria with a deeply conservative NCO who spent his off time watching Ben Shapiro and PragerU videos on YouTube. We’re still good friends and got the mission done.
As an active duty service member, I ask that my comments be kept anonymous.
Another reader:

I referred to Charles Dunlap once before and I’m going to do so again. He wrote a blog post a week-and-a-half ago about the Pentagon’s “stand-down” order to address “extremism” in its ranks. While he certainly agrees that stamping out extremism is certainly a worthwhile effort, he spots a problem in the way the military defines extremism:

Reliable data is hard to find—and what data is available looks questionable.  For example, one frequently quoted statistic comes from a Military Times poll conducted last July.  Just last week Times reporter Meghann Myers asserted “Military Times’ own polling has shown that, anecdotally, more than one-third of active-duty troops, and more than half of minority service members, have witnessed signs of white supremacy in their colleagues.”

Ms. Myers said the figures represented the percentage of service members who “witnessed signs of white supremacy.”  But how could that be?  The Times report shows a single question asked on this topic: it queried both “white supremacy” and “racism” generally. If the Times is accurately reporting their own poll, it wasn’t possible to differentiate between “white supremacy” and “racism”.

As you can see, the question Military Times actually asked was whether an individual had “personally witnessed white nationalism or racism within the ranks of the military.”  31.3% of the polled group responded “yes” (and 57.2% for minorities also answered in the affirmative).  But you can’t tell if the poll respondents were addressing “white nationalism,” or “racism,” or possibly both.  Are “white supremacy” and “racism” the same?  Evidently Military Times didn’t think so, since they included both in their question.

The inclusion of “racism” in the same question with “white supremacy” clouds the calibration of the response.  After all, I’d bet that many if not most civilian Americans have “personally witnessed” racism in their community at some point.  But have they witnessed white supremacy?  And aren’t there varieties of racism that don’t necessarily take the form of white supremacy, like racism against Arabs or Asians by both whites and people of color alike?

If you look at the Military Times article that reports on the poll results, there’s one passage that stands out to me:

Poll respondents reported examples such as peers displaying white nationalist tattoos, making racist statements or participating in online forums linked to hate groups.

If the people described above are knowingly displaying White nationalist tattoos, making racist statements, and posting in online forums linked to hate groups, this is obviously problematic and indefensible. However, the “extremists in our midst” narrative loses steam with things like:

“I’ve seen multiple soldiers online disrespecting the Black Lives Matter movement and the plight of people of color in our nation,” wrote one poll respondent. “I have seen leadership on multiple occasions say that the protesters should be shot, that our president should be more violent when dealing with the protesters. I’m disgusted.”

Others said they heard frequent use of racial slurs from white peers, both in conversations where they thought minorities weren’t present or in loud, public comments which seemed to invite confrontation.

“Peers have been very vocal on how they believe that George Floyd deserved his death and are quick to point out black on black crime,” wrote another poll participant. “They complain that every ethnicity has an observance month but have nothing to celebrate ‘white pride.’”

BLM is a political movement that has serious problems of its own. You, Rod, have been critical of BLM. I’ve been critical of them. Are we racists and White nationalists for doing so? If we’ve reached a point where criticizing a far left political movement constitutes extremism, then the extremism problem extends all across the spectrum within the military, not just on the Right, and is a sure sign of how politicized the military has become. I think many of us also thought a harder line should’ve been taken against violent protesters and rioters who were assaulting, destroying, killing, and terrorizing. A poll showed Hispanics were in favoring of deploying the military to our streets to restore order. Are Hispanic-Americans extremists and White nationalists? Are those who thought the military should’ve been unleashed on the 1/6 insurrectionists extremists, also?

In other words, none of this means what military leadership and the media think it means, appalling as these remarks might be to their ears. They’ve just decided to throw their lot in with one set of extremists, the ones who possess cultural and institutional power.

The use of racial slurs is also problematic and indefensible. However, this seems less like a problem unique to the military and more of a problem across society. On the one hand, people understand racial slurs shouldn’t be used in public, but we also know people of all races use them behind closed doors or when they don’t think anyone cares to listen. We also know people make off-color comments or jokes, especially those who work in a more working- or middle-class job environment, like the military. When you’re stressed out, like military personnel often are, you blow off steam. Couple that with youth, immaturity, a feeling of invincibility, and the general rambunctiousness that characterizes servicemembers, you sometimes do and say things you know are wrong. Is it okay? Of course not. But does this mean there exists an extremism problem in our military? Maybe an immaturity problem, but I don’t know if it’s an extremism problem.

And how ironic – the military has apparently decided to battle extremism with left-wing extremism, which it rather blatantly tolerates. The military’s unofficial embrace of BLM, CRT, Wokism, the number of veterans (some active-duty, many in leadership positions, in academia, or now in the media) on social media who espouse blatantly left-wing political views, some of which you and I would consider “extremist,” this is all okay, all while repeating the dishonest mantra of “It’s not political, it’s moral.”

Finally, you might appreciate this bit from Charles Dunlap, as it concerns abortion:

Another problematic situation is the Command-in-Chief’s views on key aspects of Catholic doctrine.  For example, President Biden has declared that abortion is a “constitutional right.,” That’s important because AFI 51-508 threatens “disciplinary action” for any military member who “engage[s] in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.”

Of course, Catholic doctrine  is very clear that abortion is not any sort of moral “right.”  To the contrary, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) explains:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.  This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.  Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

 This view is not exclusive to the Catholic Church and is, in fact, shared by other major faith traditions (see here).  Though a significant majority of Americans support the legality of abortion in at least some circumstances, the Gallup Poll reported last September that “Americans are also closely divided when viewing abortion from a moral perspective: 44% consider it morally acceptable and 47% call it morally wrong.”  (Emphasis added).

 Thus, it is quite possible that a servicemember could recognize that current law establishes what the President considers to be a “constitutional right,” yet still strongly advocate that any such “right” is seriously wrong morally, or that the most important “right” is that of the unborn to live. Consequently, if a servicemember takes action in a private capacity to change the law to “deprive individuals” of what is today considered a “civil right” but also one which religious leaders like Pope Francis call murder, does that place them in violation of military directives?

Who’s the extremist here? The servicemember who holds a view held by many both inside and outside the military? Or is it Joe Biden and the military leadership, who are putting those in uniform between a rock and a hard place by declaring anything inconsistent with his values as extremism and supremacy?

If the military is serious about eliminating extremism in the military, it can do so by enforcing true professionalism that involves something more than adherence to a set of abstract values. Medieval European knights adhered to chivalry, the Japanese Samurai to Bushido. I’m not expecting U.S. servicemembers to emulate ancient warriors, but the point is that our soldiers should be forced to conduct themselves in a manner that transcends politics. Quit trying to make the military look like America, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Maybe get involved in a few less wars and overseas adventures so we don’t need so many recruits. I understand we don’t want the military to become a society apart, but we shouldn’t be surprised when the ugliness that infects our society affects the services also. Militaries that win wars do so when its fighters are willing to die for each other without question. Kind of hard to do that when you think everyone around you is a White nationalist, isn’t it?

Another reader, recently retired from the service, writes (I edited out parts of this letter to protect his ID]:
Charlie Dunlap is sort of a legendary AF JAG.  He was recognized as brilliant, but was a bit polarizing, which led to him making it to Deputy Judge Advocate General (2 stars) but never to The Judge Advocate General (3 stars) position.  I think it was his personality that was polarizing and not his politics.  I’m not really sure I know what his politics are.  I would guess either a more centrist Republican or a centrist Democrat.  Gen Jack Rives, who was the three star while Dunlap was still around was probably more aligned with the Democrats although he wasn’t outspoken during the Bush years.  He’s the head of the left-wing American Bar Association now.  But Dunlap was a brilliant attorney and military officer who was fully conversant in both the law and military strategy.  I was fortunate to meet him a couple times.
[In my branch of the service,] I was never privy to much of the Washington political scene.  But my sense at the time was that the military leadership stayed out of politics during the Clinton and Bush years.  There was some quiet dissent and internal struggles about Gitmo and terrorism policies during the Bush years but generally people didn’t speak out publicly while in uniform.   From what I saw during the Obama years, there was some effort to promote people who were more open to the progressive line.   And I think that showed itself during the Trump years.
I was not always a Trump fan, but it shocked me how DoD personnel could basically disregard Trump orders to pull out of Afghanistan.  And I think there was a lot of slow rolling of his moves on transgender policy.  And now we see the DoD fast tracking the Biden reversal of the Trump policies.   And there appears to be a fast-tracking of the Secretary’s moves on “fighting extremism” etc.   Basically, the Pentagon has become similar to the DoJ or other agencies – the bureaucrats will stall Republican policies while fast-tracking Democrat policies.  There may be legitimate reasons to oppose Trump’s desire to pull out of Afghanistan but if that’s his order, it should have been followed.
I will admit that the conversations I have had are with white [service members].  We may be blind to what black [service members] have experienced or what their concerns are.  In my 21 years, I never saw cases of white nationalism, although I did work on cases that involved racist behavior towards minority groups.  I handled sexual harassment cases and sexual assault cases as well.  These problems obviously exist in the military.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are people associate with white nationalist groups.  When you include Guard and Reserve members, the DoD has a large number of people so you find all kinds.  I understand the Army has discovered people associated with gangs as well.
I also know that, prior to my retirement, my unit had some issues with a small group of Black [service members] posting and sharing some BLM type of material that went beyond calls for addressing racism and promoted riotous behavior. I also know that this small group of [service members] engaged in behavior that would constitute a hostile work environment for those not in their little group.    This was addressed by leadership in the unit, including more senior black [service members].  I believe most black [service members] support efforts to combat racism but balk at some of the more extreme rhetoric and behavior.  But I am unaware of any white nationalism.
I think most people in the military want to serve their country and want to be in an environment where they can strive to improve themselves and be rewarded for their performance and their character.  They like being in a team environment and one that is mostly color blind.  The military has always had the same problems as society, so racial injustice has been a part of its history and is still something to address where it surfaces.  But it’s also been a place that was ahead of other parts of society when it came to progress in those areas in the last 75 years.
While I think rank and file military members want to escape some of what’s going on in society, the promotion system for senior officers and even for senior enlisted members encourages being attuned to the politics of our time.  I think much of the senior leadership in the Services are happy to engage in the social justice practices, as a way to help their own careers.  I do believe the Pentagon is losing sight of what is important.  I think there is a risk that military readiness is degrading because of the focus on social policies.  It was a common refrain to hear “old school” [service] members saying they wish they could just go back to doing their jobs and go back to focusing on the mission.  There were always too many briefings on social policies; this was even before Biden took office.
Another reader, who identified himself, his rank, and the rest, but who asked me to redact it, writes:
I have read many, many stories of the D&I ridiculousness the military has forced on Active Duty troops since 2009 (not a coincidence it coincides with, in my opinion, our most extreme left wing Commander in Chief being in office) and can verify it definitely makes its way into the Reserves, as well. From my perspective, this all REALLY started around 2010 with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I remember reading lots of stories in the following years how acceptance of homosexuality had grown in the military but in my community that’s because a lot of people who could have stayed decided to get out. I can assure you almost everyone I knew was against it at the time and while I can say my most recent superior was an open lesbian I still don’t support open homosexuals serving because I think it’s grossly immoral (and sodomy is still punishable by the UCMJ) but the military often turns a blind eye to all of the marital infidelity that happens on deployments, so to be fair sexual morality — much like our society — was abandoned by the military a long time ago.
What I like about my community is that there has been pushback during these trainings, always from the enlisted members, and it has been significant enough to seriously surprise the facilitators.  I am specifically thinking about two briefings in 2010 and 2015 regarding sexual assault, enlisted members (mostly men, but a few women) had no problem pointing out the SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator — who was a civilian) was basically saying that women had no responsibility in the positions they might find themselves in should they be inebriated. To be clear, I am not condoning any crimes happening to anyone and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the UCMJ, but let’s just say I won’t be teaching my daughter that she can get drunk and not expect bad things to happen to her.
Then there was the transgender restrictions being lifted by Obama and his Secretary of the Navy, left-wing partisan hack and frequent MSNBC guest Ray Mabus, deciding the Navy needed to remove the word “man” from all enlisted ratings (such as Yeoman, Hospital Corpsman, etc.) that eventually turned into the Navy just removing enlisted rating titles all together.  In my TRIAD delivered transgender training, someone posed a question about separate shower hours for so-called transgendered Sailors (the military will have separate shower-hours for males and females when using the same shower facility in the field) and it was made abundantly clear that was not allowed as it wouldn’t be inclusive.  In other words, women would be forced to shower with men who still had all their plumbing intact. Not a single person in the room was happy with this and when you hear the media talk about how the Joint Chiefs briefed Congress on there being no problems with transgenderism in the military don’t you believe it, because there aren’t allowed to be problems with it. Oh, and by the way women don’t have to shave, which is how we found out one Sailor new to a command who presented as a man was indeed a woman, she was told to shave but it turned out she didn’t have to!
As far as removing the word “man” from enlisted ratings and just getting rid of them entirely, the pushback was so significant that we won and got our ratings back. We were not even allowed to refer to people as their old ratings when the order was instituted. If you are not in the Navy, you just can’t possibly understand how utterly not accepted this order was by enlisted men and women, and the pushback was so extreme it was basically a service-wide mutiny, especially by the Chief’s Mess (of course, there were Chiefs who disagreed with the greater mess pushing back pretty heavily behind the scenes).  Anyway, this is an instance of woke-ness being defeated (and it was defeated within a couple of weeks of Trump being elected and I have no idea if that’s a coincidence or not).
As for myself, I haven’t yet bended the knee, and I hope I never will. I don’t refer to legal spouses of people in same-sex relationships as “husband” or “wife” — I just ask what their name is and always refer to them as that when in conversation with the Sailor. And I am steeling myself for when the day comes and I refuse to refer to a male officer who wears women clothing as “ma’am” or vice versa. I just won’t do it and I pray that the good Lord Jesus will give me the strength to deal with the consequences. Even though I’m only a few years away from retirement I would get out, but the reality is that Obama cared has so utterly screwed premiums and deductibles for health insurance (I’m all in $13,000 with my civilian insurance before it kicks in) that to provide for my family (my wife stays home with the kids) I basically feel forced to stick with the Navy and the sweet, sweet Tricare (max out of pocket for a Reservist’s whole family is a little more than $1,000).  How messed up is that? I know a guy who wants to retire for many of the same (and other reasons) but health insurance is keeping him in!
Anyway, I have gone on long enough. I hope this gives you and your readers a greater perspective.  Please redact that which I have asked you to redact and keep doing what you’re doing.
Another reader:

Good afternoon, sir.  I reference your blog “Is There a Military Double Standard for Whites?” dated 17FEB21.  This was shared with me by another reader of yours who thought, based on our recent conversations, the content would interest me.  It did.  I noted at the end of your blog, you asked for feedback from those who are military or recently been in the military.  I would fall into the ‘recently been in the military’ category as I retired in 2017.  I offer my perspective below.

As I briefly stated in my opening, I recently retired from 30 years and 30 days of active duty in the United States Navy.  I entered military service in 1987 at the ripe age of 17 (my parents had to sign the papers for me) and continued uninterrupted service until USC Title X statutory retirement in 2017.  I was enlisted when I first began my career and progressed through the enlisted ranks to Senior Chief Petty Officer.  I spent 22 years enlisted before transitioning to a Chief Warrant Officer where I served the remainder of my time until retirement.  I have completed 12 deployments and my sea counter reads 17 years, one month, and one day at sea.  I served under every Commander in Chief from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.  And I saw many changes throughout those years.

When I first entered service, our nation was still embroiled in the Cold War with Russia.  I was young and we were focused on not letting Russia get the upper hand.  I do recall quite a bit of training in both basic and follow-on training that there was no room for racism in our service.  We were told there was zero tolerance for such behavior and any perceived transgressions would be investigated and dealt with swiftly.  But to be frank, this wasn’t a new concept to us.  Rather than be concerned about the color of one’s skin, we were more concerned about whether you could get the job done or at least pull your own weight.  But I understood why the Navy was conducting that training in Boot Camp.  They were taking people from all walks of life and backgrounds and instructing and molding us to what was expected of us.

In 1993, President Clinton issued Defense Directive 1304.26.  This was the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy.  Before I entered service, my recruiter (while reading questions from an entrance processing document) asked if I was gay.  I answered in the negative and we continued.  From 1987 to 1993 I knew I served with people who were gay.  We just didn’t talk about it.  Why?  Because it didn’t matter.  If you were doing your job and pulling your own weight, it didn’t matter what your sexual preference was.  Many of us took the philosophy of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t care.’  There was plenty of documented opposition at the time by Pentagon officers who were concerned that just the presence of gay people on ships would erode morale.  But where the rubber met the road, we didn’t care.  Again, we had known for quite some time that gay people were serving right alongside us.  It would take another 17 years for the military brass to come to the same conclusion that we didn’t care and repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

Fast forward with me to 1994.  I specifically recall standing on the missile deck of my guided missile cruiser listening to my commanding officer tell us women were going to start being assigned to combatant ships.  Up until this point, women were only allowed to serve on non-combatant ships like tenders and oilers and some prime non-combatant shore duty.  I can recall some grumbling about how women were going to upset the balance of the crew; how they would be distractions from men doing their jobs; how Seaman Timmy would never be able to close the hatch on Fireman Mary should he have to in order to prevent progressive flooding.  But while we did have to upset the balance by assigning separate berthing compartments to men and women, deal with the occasional fraternization cases (fraternization rules didn’t change, the propensity for it to happen did because of the male/female relationship), and find reliefs for Sailors who became pregnant on or just before deployment, none of that really distracted from the mission.  The majority of Sailors I dealt with didn’t care whether you were a man or a woman.  They only cared if you could do the job and pull your own weight.

There have been numerous studies on diversity within the ranks over the years.  I was never really sure from where those who pulled the data received their data.  Some reports showed there were a number of service members who felt there were issues which needed to be addressed.  But it wasn’t my experience there was ever pervasive racism, misogyny, or sexual preference discrimination within the service.  Did we deal with isolated cases from time to time?  Sure.  We also had our fair share of standdowns to address such issues.  The biggest issue I ever had with such problems was when they were substantiated, I didn’t think the Navy did enough to hold those idiots to account.  If sexual harassment and/or assault was to be stomped out (as the saying went) then the Navy needed to quit sending the culprits to NJP (Non Judicial Punishment or Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice) where rules of evidence don’t apply and commanders are limited in their scope of punishment.  Rather, they needed to be sent to a Courts Martial and dealt with as civilians would have been dealt with in a court of law with appropriate levels of punishment.  In retrospect, I honestly don’t think I didn’t experience many of these issues because I had my head in the sand.  Rather, I think I didn’t experience many of these issues because I made it known I wouldn’t tolerate it and would hold people to account.

The transgender issue that was being rammed down our throats towards the end of my tenure in the military seemed…misplaced…to me.  That is to say, I still didn’t care what uniform you preferred to wear or by what pronoun you preferred to be addressed.  I still put more weight on whether you could do the job and pull your own weight.  My bigger concern was a fiscal one.  I knew the percentage of transgendered personnel in the military was small.  I only knew one in all the people I knew in the military.  And I would consider myself fairly qualified to recognize transgendered folks as I had (past tense used because they have passed away) them in my own family.  Time spent on training and training materials costs money.  Hormone treatment costs money.  Gender correction surgery costs money.  Why should the taxpayers have to foot the bill for what the insurance companies were calling gender dysphoria?  I used the phrase rammed down our throats because at this point in my career, I was a department head and considered the job my department had to do, the budget I had to manage, and the time in which we had to do it more pressing than having to dedicate time to what amounted to telling our people to treat everyone with dignity and respect.  If you create a culture of doing just that, you shouldn’t have to spend days laser focused on it.

Over the course of a 30-year career, there were many hot-button topics and issues we were told we needed to address.  We were told we had pervasive problems within our ranks, and we needed to take decisive action to eradicate it.  Again, I don’t know precisely from where this data was drawn as it wasn’t my experience that these issues were rampant.  Rather, I saw politicians trying to make a name for themselves by making a mountain out of a mole hill or creating a problem where there wasn’t one.  I’ve had to tell senior leaders that creating goals of completely eradicating things like racism, misogyny, or sexual preference discrimination are unachievable goals.  When you recruit your personnel from the general populace of a nation, you get a small percentage of the very same problems that general populace has.  The difference is you have better opportunities and resources to deal with them as they come up.  But you’ll never fully get rid of them and maintain the ability for any Sailor to make their own decisions.  The ability for Sailors to make their own decisions is a cornerstone to the concept of decentralized command structure.  A decentralized command structure is one of the things that makes our military such a formidable fighting force.  It is at this point that you must weigh the risk vs reward of dealing with the problems listed above or winning battles.

To the main thrust of your article.  I perceive the biggest related issue the military has today is the woke movement is gaining confidence in that when victimhood becomes a currency, you’ll find many people doing their level best to cash in.  We’ve allowed victimhood to gain a foothold.  Instead of telling folks to quit their whining and pull their weight, we’ve stepped in and taken up their slack while they complain about how we treat them.  I was never concerned about what color I was in the military because I never treated anyone differently based on their color and I required the same treatment back.  If I treated you like a dirtbag, it was because you earned that treatment through your action or inaction…not because of your race, gender, or sexual preference.

The timing of this extremism standdown in the Navy was poor at best.  If extremism is truly an issue, where was this standdown guidance while our cities were burning down, stores being looted, and when CHAZ was being established and taking over city blocks and police stations?  If one doesn’t think there are far left extremists within the military but allow the idea that there are only far right extremists, then I submit those folks are only believing what their media is feeding them.  If the DoJ had investigated those far left extremist events of the summer like they did the Capitol building event, I’m sure they would have found plenty of vets within the ranks of those groups too.  If the military is a microcosm of our society, then logic would dictate there are extremists on both sides of the ideological fence within the military.  The trouble is, such questions are asked and investigated during security clearance background investigations.  If there were such a pervasive problem, it should have been rooted out during the initial investigations.

I have a different theory about the roots of this so-called rampant extremism in our military and vets.  I believe the coyotes are trying to make the sheep fear the sheepdog.  Who better knows the contents and meaning of the U.S. Constitution than those who swore an oath to defend it against foreign and domestic enemies with their very lives than the active military and vets?  Who would better know when the politicians are overstepping the bounds the Constitution placed on them?  If the politicians and their media proxies can make the people fear their protectors by sewing seeds of distrust in making them believe that all vets are far right extremists, then that large body of people who actually know what the Constitution says will be distrusted, discredited, and their dissent silenced.  How long before “Thank you for your service” becomes taboo?

I will gladly avail myself to you should you have any questions about my response.  But I do respectfully request that if you decide to use any of my points made here that my name is left out of it.

Keep writing — especially if you are a racial minority in the service, or retired from the service. Anonymity is guaranteed.

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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