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Tucker Vs. The Pentagon

Tucker Carlson laid into the woke Pentagon last night. This is well worth watching:

President Biden said we are building combat body armor for women, and maternity flight suits. The Defense Department will now pay for sex change operations. And so on.

This is more “hypernormalization.”

The word hypernormalization was coined by Alexei Yurchak, a professor of anthropology who was born in Leningrad and later went to teach in the United States. He introduced the word in his book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (2006), which describes paradoxes of Soviet life during the 1970s and 1980s. He says that everyone in the Soviet Union knew the system was failing, but no one could imagine an alternative to the status quo, and politicians and citizens alike were resigned to maintaining the pretense of a functioning society. Over time, this delusion became a self-fulfilling prophecy and the fakeness was accepted by everyone as real, an effect that Yurchak termed hypernormalization.

At Georgetown Law School, you are not permitted to notice that black students are at the bottom of law classes; if you notice it and say so, you will lose your job. If someone who has noticed it and tells you so, and you fail to report that thought criminal, your job will be at risk too.

Hypernormalization. 

And now Tucker is noticing the hypernormalization of the Defense Department. Bizarrely, the Pentagon are unleashing a public relations barrage against him. In a normal country, the media would be concerned about the Pentagon — the greatest war-making institution in the history of the world! — turning its top guns on a cable news show host. But in our hypernormalized country, they support the defense establishment.

Tells you something about where we are as a country, doesn’t it?

A reader writes:

I’m old enough to recall when you once said something to the effect of, “If you think the fact the only people Americans trust are those entrusted to exercise violence on our behalf isn’t a sign our social fabric has come undone, you’re ineducable.”

But what happens when even those entrusted to exercise violence on our behalf also lose the trust of the public? We don’t know, because we’re not there yet. But we’re getting there. Take a look at this latest poll on Americans’ trust in the military:

About 56 percent of Americans surveyed said they have “great deal of trust and confidence” in the military, down from 70 percent in 2018. The poll includes views of more than 2,500 individuals who were asked questions in early February 2021.

This is startling stuff. A 14% drop inside of three years is pretty steep, considering how consistently high the public’s trust of the military has been for at least 20 years. Nor should it come as a surprise to anyone. As journalist Kristina Wong tweets:

Some people are surprised military leaders are weighing in on political commentary from a media figure. As someone who has covered the military for 10+ years, I am not. Twitter has lowered the threshold for leaders (and anyone in the military) to express their views abt [sic] anything.

This was the logical and predictable outcome of a military that has become increasingly politicized, in accelerated fashion over the last decade. Yes, a lot of that was Trump’s fault. He often placed the military in the political line of fire, often in impossible positions the military should never be placed in. But it also goes back to Obama, who made clear his intention was to radically transform the service to more reflect left-wing sentiments and values. He was more successful than he realized.

This poll comes out just as another Tucker Carlson-involved controversy has erupted over his remarks on women serving in the military and how Wokeness has seemingly taken over the military as well. Predictably, military leadership and the Twitter intelligentsia have erupted in fury. One of the less-furious responses tried to spin their reaction as non-partisan:

The @DeptofDefense and the U.S. military is always political, but it can’t be partisan. Their response isn’t partisan. Senior leaders are not attacking @TuckerCarlson. They’re defending the women who have been fighting, sacrificing, and killing in our wars.

Before overviewing their reactions, it’s important to note – Tucker Carlson didn’t say what they said he said. Feel free to watch the whole video, but these are the remarks that caused the uproar:

So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military. While China’s military become more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become — as Joe Biden says, more feminine, whatever feminine means anymore, since men and women no longer exist. The bottom line is, it’s out of control, and the Pentagon is going along with this. Again, this is a mockery of the U.S. military and its core mission, which is winning wars.

Carlson was responding to President Biden’s assertion that “We’re making good progress designing body armor that fits women properly, tailoring combat uniforms for women, creating maternity flight suits, updating requirements for their hairstyles. And some of it’s going to take an intensity of purpose and mission to really change the culture and habits that cause women to leave the military.”

Carlson may have extrapolated too much, though “maternity flight suits” implies women are going to be permitted to fly in the military while pregnant. I’ve read studies that say there the medical risks are low, even when it comes to flying in a high-G environment, such as in a fighter plane, and I have no choice but to defer to their judgment. Again, context is critical here – Carlson contrasted this with China’s plan to “cultivate masculinity” and massive military build-up to challenge U.S. supremacy in the Asia-Pacific. It’s all happening at a time when national security leaders, many of whom will support or have supported the Biden administration, are sounding the alarm about the threat posed by China.

So, how did the military leadership respond to Carlson’s remarks?

Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on.

Last I checked, everyone was complaining not enough women lead our “most lethal units.” Moving on:

Let’s be clear…women make our military stronger.

This sounds like typical propaganda from our college campuses and media. The irony is that the leftists are right – women are like men. Good women make the military stronger, bad women make the military weaker, just like the men. But being a woman alone doesn’t make the military stronger. Sorry, but the truth hurts. Again, Carlson never condemned women serving in the military. He condemned the fact the military is focusing far too much of its bandwidth trying to accommodate everyone in an arena that punishes those who need lots of accommodations. He was also condemning the fact that the military keeps pursuing policies that actually sow division by indulging in differences rather than cultivating a unified identity.

“Non-partisan?” Please.

I’m skeptical that China really poses the threat as described by our corrupt and politicized national security community. However, if they really think China can do the kind of damage they say China’s capable of inflicting (and they can still inflict quite a bit), then I’m not only skeptical the U.S. can meet the threat, but I also think the U.S. will endure a level of loss that it hasn’t seen in a long time. And all this “Girl Power” spirit might evaporate very quickly in the face of significant bloodshed. After all, a 2016 poll showed only 38% of female respondents supported women registering for Selective Service, despite the fact it would symbolically place women on the same level as men in terms of national obligations. Again, women are like men – they want to serve in the military if they choose to, but they don’t want to be forced to serve. Yet men can be. Who’s privileged here?

Or, major bloodshed may not sway the American public, to say nothing of the media or our politicians. I used to believe seeing the faces of large numbers of women killed in war would actually appall the public, but I feel like they would actually exploit this. “See? Women ARE brave and dying on the battlefield and are as good warriors as men.” Or, “Three in ten combat deaths are women. We need to change that.” America has become so brainwashed and demoralized we just might go along with this.

In the Woke World, the deaths of hundreds or thousands of Americans is glorious as long as it’s overrepresented by females and people of color. I truly believe we’re there.

I consider myself a patriotic conservative, but if I have anything to do with it, none of my kids — male or female — are going to put their lives on the line to defend what this country is becoming.

UPDATE: A reader comments:

I’m a career military officer. While there are some real issues here, Carlson gets some things wrong:

-Joe Biden has been President for less than two months. The development of maternity uniforms was already in motion, and has nothing to do with the Biden White House. If women are going to be in the military, there will be a demand for maternity versions of uniforms. We’ve have maternity versions of fatigues for years (and at least in the Marine Corps, of the service dress uniform)…this just expands the principle.

-Obviously having women in combat requires body armor fitted to women. Female Marines have conducted training in body armor for decades and just put up with any fit issues. There’s a real argument to be made about the merits of putting women in all combat arms fields, but that decision was already made…and *not* by the armed services but by our political leadership. This is merely a necessary consequence.

-Maternity flight suits do NOT mean having pregnant women fly. Aviators and related personnel in multiple services wear flight suits as a convenient everyday work uniform. Flight suits were originally designed to be worn while flying, just as camouflage fatigues were originally designed to be worn in ground combat. Both are now used as general work uniforms as often as for their original purpose.

-This is important: the military is SUPPOSED to be responsive to the direction of political leadership. We’re not a timocracy, the armed services are constitutionally obligated to carry out the lawful orders and direction of our civilian bosses–the President, Defense Secretary, service Secretaries, etc. Anyone angry that the military isn’t resisting decisions made by civilian leadership empowered to make them isn’t appreciating that. If you don’t think we should put women in combat situations, or think we spent too much bandwidth enabling that transition, that’s totally fair…but take it up with the President’s appointees and Congress, whose wheelhouse those questions of force structure are. The uniformed military advises, but political leadership decides what the force looks like and what its priorities are. That’s how our system is supposed to work.

Look, in 2015 the Marine Corps concluded a massive study finding that mixed-gender teams underperformed all-male teams, which found a fairly dim reception with the political leadership at the time. I can complain about what the political leadership should have done or should be doing all I want, but at the end of the day when the decision is made I have to carry it out, because part of military discipline is obedience to civilian leadership. The solution to civilian leadership being wrong is better civilian leadership, not the military trying to actively resist. That’s a door we shouldn’t want to open.

-I have concerns about mixed-gender combat units and women in combat roles. I have sympathy with a lot of Tucker Carlson’s priors and concerns on this. But…I personally know a lot of women who have served diligently and effectively, including women who have served successful in combat. Carlson’s commentary, regardless of his intent, came across as insulting. That’s why you see a lot of angry military voices being raised, even those belonging to people who share a lot of Carlson’s concerns. We’re all human here, and we’re all sensitive on behalf of our friends and colleagues. If you have an argument that the entire military should be all-male, I’ll listen and honestly I think there’s a reasonable case there. But I’ll also react negatively if it feels like you’re belittling the service of fellow Marines I personally know and respect. Right or wrong, how Carlson constructed his segment is a big part of this.

(Should go without saying but these views are mine rather than those of the DOD or any of the services)

UPDATE.2: Another reader comments:

Although the leftist revolution (Bolshevism?) that we are watching unfold in real time is disheartening on so many levels, this particular ship sailed several decades ago.

I suppose the pun is intended. Before becoming an academic, I served six years in the Navy during the early-to-mid-eighties and then fourteen more years on and off again in the Navy Reserve (finally retiring in 2010). I have plenty of first-hand experience with women in the military.

To begin, it is undeniable that without so-called gender-norming (i.e., different standards for males and females), the vast majority of women cannot make the grade in all kinds of military roles. For instance, when we had fires onboard and had to do any heavy lifting, like carrying things up steep, narrow ladder-wells from deck to deck, the women had to step aside; there was nothing de jure about it, they simply couldn’t physically do such things. And I am not even talking about the limitations that inhibit them from actually performing in combat arms, the Seals, the Rangers, etc. This argument alone should be nearly sufficient to end the bulk of this discussion.

But focusing on that overlooks other–and I believe more–important considerations regarding morale and combat efficiency that are themselves predicated on so many realities about human nature (as found in its two forms, male and female), but realities that we are now pretty determined to ignore. In my experience–one of the ships that I was on during the 80s was a research vessel that was one of very few at the time that allowed males and females to serve together–let’s just say that all kinds of shenanigans and drama took place that should not have been taking place. You simply cannot put young men and women at sea together for long periods of time and not expect such things as I experienced to not occur–regardless of how much forced education and training they put you through (and I sat through plenty and eventually just had to shut my mouth). And that goes even more so for submarines and tanks and living out in the field. You need to be focused on the mission–whatever it is–and bringing women into the mix seriously detracted from it.

None of this is to say that I didn’t encounter some women with fine character who were simply trying to get along in the world. But that is really kind of irrelevant, in my view, though the successful wedge issue centered on promotion and the argument that women who were denied the same experiences as men could not move up in the ranks. Of course, that begged all kinds of questions and missed an important point, a point people were making even back then but to no avail: the military should not be viewed primarily in terms of a career (though, in fairness, within a society reliant upon an all-volunteer military it has to get pitched that way to folks, and so, as society changed, so did the military–reality, common-sense, and combat efficiency be damned–and so plenty of young women signed up).

If I recall, part of the historical explanation/blame comes from the Bush I administration; Bush I ignored Elaine Donnely’s committee that recommended against women in combat and on combat vessels, and the Pentagon hasn’t looked back. To be sure, there were quantum leaps under both Clinton and Obama, but, to mix metaphors, the horse has sailed and it’s more than a little late trying to close the barn door now. I suppose I take some satisfaction in venting here–and hearing Carlson do so–but the long march through our institutions isn’t stopping.

We are living in/through a stunning ontological revolution regarding human nature, and what is happening in the military is as emblematic of it as anything. We simply do not want there to be limiting difference between males and females. Of course, we’re not even sure we want males and females–consumer capitalism, and the military needed to defend it, needs interchangeable androgynous parts. Christian churches had better get their anthropology as clearly articulated as possible in order to make it possible for females to conscientiously object–assuming the free exercise clause will continue protect the religious.

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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