From The Anti-Woke Military Mailbag
Getting lots of response to my New Woke Model Army post from military vets and at least one current active-duty officer. Take a look below.
This one comes from a veteran of several deployments. A friend of mine knows him personally, and vouches for his courage and experience:
Appreciate the column. Career military (just departed).
Some of your readers have lost the thread. The neocon boogeyman is not the primary threat to US national interests: a woke military is. Today’s military can’t fend off a small unorganized 13thCentury mob (see Kabul, Aug. 2021). We’re going to repel a Taiwan or Ukraine invasion? Credibly deter it? With this president? With this military? Please.
The military has been under attack from feminists (and LGBTQ & BLM & every other social leftist movement) since the days of Bush 41. The GOP has occasionally opposed various wrinkles of it (don’t ask, don’t tell, e.g.), but never reversed the downward trend. It’s barely attempted to.
The untold story of dereliction is of ostensibly conservative chairmen (Reps. Duncan Hunter, Sr., Buck McKeon, Mac Thornberry, Sen. McCain & most egregiously, Sen. Jim Inhofe) letting all these awful developments sail past them on annual authorization after authorization decade after decade (& nominations, in case of Senate). The great Jim Mattis (as SECDEF) allowed all these awful trends to continue unchecked (even opposed Trump’s trans ban). (Only lonely Elaine Donnelly by herself out in the Midwest has stood firm).
Actual hardened warriors rarely reach the top ranks (see Sen. Grassley’s ending a promotion of a SEAL for alleged middling discourteousness to a civilian, one of many examples).
So, the military will resemble the Brown faculty lounge: bloated, entitled, overcompensated, contemptuous of the common man, failing at basics, but well-versed in and subservient to every bad trend under the sun. And will continue to receive $700 bn/ yr. to persist.
Who has the steel, the ability, the will to reverse any of this? Apparently no one. Even noting it is barely done. Thank you for noting it.
Here’s one I have slightly altered to protect the writer’s identity:
I have been reading your articles in TAC on the current state of the US military and you are 100% correct. I am [an active duty military officer] and it is safe to say that while we may not go to the range very often to hone our proficiency with a rifle, we all know which pronouns to use…As a USMA grad, the commissioning source of Spencer Rapone [the Communist graduate — RD], I saw more focus on a divisive ‘woke’ agenda rather than preparing us for battlefield leadership. Your articles reminded me of my former Russian instructor at West Point, Dr. John Pendergast, a former intelligence officer.At USMA, we were supposedly trained to survive and thrive in difficult situations by understanding how others think and working to solve problems despite our differences. but spend more time listening to how white males are the worst people in the world. The aim is to train us to work with other cultures, whether different US militaries, or our allies and partners around the world, and peer competitors, and understand them but without being scornful no matter how odd it may appear to us Americans. Yet USMA has a Russian professor whose job is supposedly to teach empathy and understanding about another country and how that is reflected in its history, culture, religion, and literature, but can’t or does not want to understand how his fellow citizens from certain states see the world, and is full of scorn for them based on how they vote, or might vote, an act that happens once every four years. The irony is lost on him that despite preaching empathy, understand, and tolerance, he doesn’t apply such actions to his fellow countrymen who are not like him politically. This attitude from a professor at an institution which seeks to unite people of various backgrounds into one cohesive group is divisive and threatening to future army officers.I am from one of the states which Dr. Pendergast thinks ‘are dead to me’ based on how their citizens exercised their voting choice. I would not want to be a cadet from one of those states that is ‘dead’ to him. I would be concerned that he would discriminate against them and lower my score based on where they are from, or if we got into a classroom discussion over Putin, US-Russian relations etc.As an officer, my job is to take people of various backgrounds, experiences — which make them see the world differently — and create a cohesive team that is as well trained as possible to defend our nation. (Defend, not go and recreate ourselves half-way around the world or stoke tensions with Russia in their backyard). I may disagree with my peers and subordinates, but the their state of origin or how they vote doesn’t dictate how I ensure their well-being, training, and performance reports. Unfortunately, Dr. Pendergast seems to believe that a USMA cadet’s worth is based on whether they come from a state that isn’t dead to him based on voting choice.I am grateful for my experiences at West Point, but I will only do five years. My father, a career Army officer, and I have advised my two younger siblings not to attend West Point and avoid military service. I’ve had conversations with junior enlisted paratroopers about attending West Point, and I’ve told them not to go if they are the slightest bit Christian, conservative, or demonstrate traits which might be considered as ‘toxic masculinity’ or reinforcing ‘the patriarchy’. And if they do go to USMA, not to take Russian as their foreign language.Another thing: on the annual day to remember violence against transgenders, Dr. Pendergast would send out an obnoxious email from his official work email about the day and an event on West Point. As a member of the LGBT community, Dr. Pendergast was very keen to let us know about this day and push this agenda — despite the fact that most transgenders are killed due to the dangerous nature of their jobs (sex work, drugs etc) rather than for being transgender. But we can’t let facts get in the way of the narrative.The US Army and West Point are more concerned with woke rather than fighting wars. We will not win wars, and it is going to take a lot of dead or badly maimed military personnel in the public view make that clear. I have no wish to die over Taiwan or Ukraine, which is ever more likely given our push to police the world and the lack of warfighting training across the Army.I wish to remain anonymous, especially given the amount of West Point graduates at [my place of deployment]. Feel free to use the contents of my email as you see fit. I hope this provides more anecdotal evidence of what has happened to West Point and the US Army.Also, I think it is likely that within a decade at West Point that Jefferson Library will be renamed, the statue of Patton will come down, and buildings named after Eisenhower will come down, given that he defended Robert E. Lee.Merry Christmas and thank you for articles on what has happened to our military. You are doing fine work letting people know what is going on.
Here’s another one:
I read your article. I attended one of the service academies for one year before being expelled. I was repeatedly told that they did not need geniuses; which is not much of a problem for them. I say that for full disclosure and to give perspective.In my company we had the #1 in the class and one who was in the top five. The #1 was out of the military in the minimum 5 years (like Pompeo). The #5 made it just a little longer.Also in my company was a martinet of marginal college ability. He’s now a 4-star. The academics at the academies are watered down and spoon fed to the degree that people like him can make it through. I’ve heard this guy talk in the news many times and he is still a total moron who speaks in platitudes. He was recently in the new playing political correctness game.I suspect that, if one were to look how long the top academy graduates now stay in the military, the average now is close to the minimum.* * *Congressmen must love hearings where generals and admirals appear. It is the only time they are smarter than the witnesses.One of Trump’s problems was his trust of generals. Hopefully, he has learned from that mistake for 2025.Gen. Milley is a CYA weasel. He may have graduated from Princeton but he was a jock and majored in politics. I wouldn’t trust a guy like him to manage the night shift at a gas station.I put to you that the problem of generals/admirals is one that the U.S. has endured for a long time. We managed to overcome the problem during WWII but since then we have seen a total failure in military leadership. Failure at the general/admiral level is not punished, unless it involves some politically-incorrect offense. Admiral Halsey’s serial failures were never punished because he was politically connected. Admiral Fletcher’s success were downplayed because he was not as connected.After the admirals got rid of training for deck officers (who you can be sure are fully up-to-date on their diversity and inclusion training) and we get a ship collision, the O-5 captain gets nailed; not the admirals.* * * *I saw a show on public television earlier this year about NORAD. They were interviewing a general. I was shocked at how smart he was. It completely undermined my conception of generals. That is until he turned his shoulder and I saw he was Canadian.The only way to clean things up would be for a president to do like Teddy Roosevelt and promote 04 and 05 to general/admiral.Another need is to cut back on the number of generals and admirals. Not too long ago, there were more admirals than ships in the navy (I think now there are slightly more ships than admirals).The way to get ahead is today’s military is to promote the woke agenda. Non-stop war without victory provides medals for advancement.The honor codes at the academies (which have always been a joke) now mean nothing when it’s the football team doing the cheating.The woke army recruiting ads (two of which point out you don’t have to be a genius) illustrate the problem.
There has to be accountability for flag officers, admirals and generals, who lose wars and botch weapons system developments. Right now there isn’t any. That’s why we keep losing.In 1757, British Admiral John Byng was famously executed for not fighting a battle hard enough. Voltaire wrote at the time that the execution was to “encourage the others,” the other admirals. Although Voltaire meant it as a sick joke, it actually worked like that. Britannia ruled the waves from 1757 until 1939.While we don’t need to go that far, there is something the Senate can do to bring accoutability to flag officers who fail. They can refuse to allow them to retire at 3 and 4 star rank. Technically, any promotion beyond 2 stars is temporary. The Senate has to confirm the rank for the flag officer to retire at 3 or 4 stars. They can refuse to do so.General John Lavelle was suspected of ordering unauthorized bombing in Cambodia. After his death, it was shown he was following secret orders from President Nixon. However, at the time, the Senate was very angry at Lavelle. They refused to confirm his 4 star rank. Lavelle retired as a 2 star Major General.The Senate can force any flag officer who fails to retire at reduced rank. I think the Senate should take their responsibility seriously and impose at least this much accountability on flag officers who run losing wars with no complaints, or manage weapons system developments that fail. If nothing else, it will reduce these failed officer’s marketability with defense contractors.
I retired from the Army in 2014. Not surprised at what I read in your post this morning.
Would tend to agree with your reader, Richard, that the leaders are parroting whatever nonsense they think will advance their careers and avoid the possibility of being the most recent person to be “cancelled”. Remember that the military is almost entirely segregated from society at large. These leaders may believe that a large segment of our society is “woke” and are trying to ride the tide. If you watched television for more than a few minutes, you’d think the whole country was woke. These leaders have no idea what is going on within our society at large. They spend no time among average Americans and would not have the foggiest idea what is on the mind of the average person.
Since they are employed by the government and all their needs are taken care of, they have no notion of how our economy works, or how utterly incompetent and corrupt government is at nearly every level in the country.
The thing these guys are worried about is how to get promoted and how to get the billets that will lead to the next promotion. The US military is now just another bloated and incompetent bureaucracy in the federal government.
Anything that advances the interests of the bureaucracy is good, and anything that threatens it is regarded as an existential threat.
We need a different kind of Republican president to get in there and clean house, making enemies in the Pentagon if he has to.
UPDATE: Read this comment from Richard York. Holy cow:
Nice caption, Rod.
My two cents on Spenser Rapone. I knew him slightly at the Academy and went on to serve with people who were with him in Afghanistan or instructed him during his Army education. He’s still a topic of conversation among junior Army officers in my generation, thanks to his flamboyant gestures in support of left-wing causes and the spectacular way in which his military career came to an end.
The Spenser Rapone affair was a much bigger deal than the media made out at the time. It caused a minor crisis in the Army as a whole whose effects are still reverberating today. Rapone’s exposure was the first inkling conservatives had that all was not well in the military hierarchy, although to my mind the legal-cultural changes that came with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal in 2010 were far more important and the effects of integrating women into the services fifty years ago were more important still.
But Rapone was the first highly public sign that the rot in the military was out of the control. A few conservative commentators overreacted and concluded that the Rapone scandal indicated that leftists and communists had taken over the military, but I was at West Point at the same time Rapone was, and I can assure you that this was not the case. The Academy’s treatment of Rapone was motivated by the same moral apathy and intellectual corruption that affects the Army’s entire general officer class. It had nothing to do with ideological sympathy for communism. It had everything to do with the fact that Army senior leaders fundamentally don’t care about the profession of arms or about the country they pretend to serve.
Rapone’s communism was an open secret throughout his time at West Point. He barely bothered to conceal it. But he had some level of protection because he was a rarity among cadets. Rapone is a prior-enlisted Batt Boy, that is, a combat veteran of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, one of the toughest and most selective units in the Army. He’d been deployed downrange and done time overseas before coming up to the Academy the hard way. There are dozens of prior-enlisted cadets in every West Point class, but I knew of only three or four during my entire time at school who came from the Ranger Regiment. There weren’t even that many instructors who came from the Ranger Regiment. He was a legend just by nature of the scroll on his shoulder and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge on his chest. Everyone knew about him and about his outspoken leftist political beliefs.
Furthermore, contrary to your caption, the Academy knew Rapone was a communist well before the public learned about his activities in 2017, after Rapone posted the picture you captioned in support of Colin Kaepernick. In fact, the Academy’s leadership investigated him in 2015 for making overtly political statements about Donald Trump on social media and for an altercation with one of his professors, an old school Infantry officer by the name of Lieutenant Colonel Heffington (everyone hated that guy) who went on to write a scathing letter about the incident addressed to the entire community of West Point alumni. The Academy initially found him guilty of misconduct under the broad latitude permitted by West Point’s special version of the Army’s military regulations, put him on room restriction, and made him participate in the grueling Sandhurst Competition as a squad leader as punishment for his misdeeds, but nothing about him changed. He commissioned totally unrepentant, and the rest is history.
This begs the question of why the Academy didn’t kick him out in 2015 when he was in its crosshairs. I’m not sure for certain. I wasn’t privy to all of the details about the Academy’s investigation of Spenser Rapone. There are legal complexities associated with separating any soldier for any offense, no matter how public it may be. He probably got some leeway because he was a prior enlisted soldier with a combat record.
Which brings up another interesting thing about Rapone that illustrates my point that moral apathy was the operative principle in the Army’s treatment of him. The Army was actually aware of Rapone’s political activities before he even went to West Point. Spenser Rapone describes himself as a combat veteran who saw corruption in Afghanistan, which radicalized him into leaving the Army spectacularly in 2017, after a period of persecution at West Point. See his interview with Chris Hedges on Russia Today. But I served with some of Rapone’s company mates after commissioning, and their account of Rapone’s service contradicts his in ways that indicate that moral apathy, not leftism, is indeed the root of the Army’s corruption problem.
Rapone’s ex-Regiment buddies told me that Rapone never actually went ‘outside the wire’ on combat missions in Afghanistan. He stayed put in his company area because he’d already decided that the war was a futile, corrupt corporate crusade before ever even setting foot in country. He never personally witnessed any atrocities. He got his CIB, I was informed, during a mortar attack–by doing nothing more than hiding in a bunker when the alarm went off. When his company returned from deployment, Rapone was RFS’d–Released for Standards–from the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Getting RFS’d from the Ranger Regiment is the worst nightmare for any Batt Boy. The Regiment kids I went to Ranger School with feared getting RFS’d possibly more than they feared death itself. However, getting RFS’d for failing Ranger School is one thing. Getting RFS’d for the reason Rapone did–refusing to go into combat with his buddies–made him a Blue Falcon, a euphemism for Buddy F*cker to Rapone’s fellow Rangers. Rapone’s ex Ranger comrades were unanimous in the hatred they expressed for him many years later. The few Batt Boys at West Point refused to associate with him because of the nature of his dismissal from Regiment. I don’t know how much of the above description of Rapone’s enlisted career is true. It came from sources who were very biased against him. I was only ever able to verify the RFS piece–which Rapone himself alludes to in one of his interviews with Chris Hedges.
But the story is damning enough. Not long after his RFS, Rapone went to West Point. It wasn’t just West Point’s leadership that failed. The 75th Ranger Regiment, which in theory is led by the most elite, the most hard-charging, and the most battle-hardened officers in the entire American military–has much to answer for about why it permitted him to seek a commission from the United States Military Academy after they had already kicked him out for refusing to discharge his duties as an infantryman. In the end, the Army only got around to separating him after his grandstanding for Colin Kaepernick (and his unhinged personal attacks on Mike Pence and Jim Mattis) became a PR nightmare for the Army. Nothing the Army did in its treatment of Rapone was calculated by a real concern for the country. They don’t care about communists in the ranks. They canned Rapone only because he was inconvenient to them because he jeopardized the brass’s relations with Republican powerbrokers. Nowadays, I’m not so sure they’d kick him out, because the fury they’d get from Democrats would exceed whatever weak-willed moves Republicans made to counteract them. It’s all smoke-and-mirrors, fun and games for these generals. Everyone is going to get promoted and get a job at Raytheon after retirement.
Which brings us to the matter of Rapone himself. Conservatives throw a lot of sludge at Spenser Rapone, but, they are badly misjudging him and badly misreading the movement he is a part of.
I like Spenser Rapone. In my few conversations with him as a cadet, he came across as a bright, articulate, intelligent guy who is totally dedicated to his political beliefs. He is an interesting conversationalist. He will not, ever, say what you expect him to say on any issue. I disagree with him on many things, but he is not a grifter. He is an idealistic young man who genuinely believes in utopian leftism.
And, what is more, he developed his beliefs in reaction to a festering source of corruption in our nation that conservatives have so far utterly refused to face, because we are also involved in it. There is no way to sugarcoat this. The War on Terror has been a total catastrophe for the American people. It has been a monstrous crime out of all proportion to the terrorist attack on 9/11 that started it. Our country has killed, maimed, and destroyed the lives of millions of people across the the Middle East and Africa in the pursuit of a utopian, messianic political ideology just as dangerous for the world as communism. The War on Terror was built on lies from beginning to end–Iraq especially so, but even Afghanistan was, too. Libya was an atrocity. Our destruction of Syria in cahoots with the Saudis was the greatest crime of this century.
And conservatives were involved in it from the beginning. We refused to repudiate George W. Bush even after thousands of Americans came home in caskets from Iraq. We refused to question the lies our intelligence agencies told us to justify the continuation of the war–especially those about Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, about which I can explain in more detail some other time. We refused to look in the face the atrocities we perpetrated through our drones, our missiles, and our bombs. We killed thousands upon thousands of innocent people throughout the world in the name of eliminating terror. Every word Rapone says about Afghanistan, whether he went into combat there or not, is true. The wars were the crucible that forged Rapone’s commitment to utopian communism. The conservative failure to critique the wars and to seriously engage with what we have spent the last two decades doing in the Middle East wrought incalculable damage to our own country, a fact which is only just becoming apparent to conservatives as the rotten general officer class who owned those wars takes over the country’s military apparatus.
And that’s what makes Rapone’s utopian idealism so scary. Yes, most of wokeness is just grifting. There are powerful corporate interests who promote it and pay off the people who subscribe to it. To some degree, the people who believe in it are indeed bought and sold. But they are bought and sold at the behest of people like Spenser Rapone, the few thousand messianic true believers who write for newspapers like the Jacobin and who can be found all over the country’s university campuses and think tanks and NGOs. Rapone is a scary motherfu*ker. He is a trained killer. Unlike some of his lefty friends, he’s not a pansy. He copes well with stress. He had a 4.0 GPA at West Point. He stayed true to his beliefs despite relentless pressure from the Academy to conform to their program of indoctrination. He is a highly proficient infantryman, with an abundance of physical courage and the drive to impose his will on others under pressure. And the guy ultimately does not care about the consequences for ordinary human beings if our country adopts his utopian program. The real tragedy of communism is the damage that it does to human beings, to the bonds that make it possible to live in society, but Rapone and his fellow communists are totally blind to them. I’ve heard him sing Stalin’s praises. He wouldn’t let a few starving million people deter him from attaining the Kingdom of Heaven.
The loss of faith of young men like Spenser Rapone in our country is setting us up for a catastrophic future. Conservatives have desperately got to man up and fight the corruption, the lies, and the incompetence that are killing our country. America will cease to exist if we don’t.