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Is The Military Woke? More From Readers

Veteran: 'We are in dire straits as a country.  Pray that we do not go to war soon' 
Screen Shot 2022-10-26 at 12.25.13 PM

That image above is a screenshot from the "Emma" recruitment ad by the US Army. It tells the story of a young recruit raised by lesbian moms, who likens her military service to protesting for gay rights. It's the kind of thing people who fear that the military has become woke point to to bolster their case. The point is certainly not that gay soldiers can't fight. The point is that the US military has become so concerned with fighting the culture war (from the Left) that it is compromising its ability to fight an actual war.

The other day, I posted here a long letter from a military officer serving in a senior capacity. He says that my fears that the US military is compromised by wokeness are overblown, and explains why.


I asked readers to respond, and posted them as an update. Because that original post has gone down a bit in the queue, I am going to post today's updates below. You can go to the original post to read the officer's defense of the military, and the initial letters from readers pushing back. These came in overnight:

I never served in the military (I work for the military as a civilian, however), so my opinion, according to your dissenting military officer, is probably worthless. I’m going to share it anyway, because as a taxpayer, that military belongs, ultimately, to Americans like myself and, without our consent, they have no mandate nor mission.

First, I have a serious problem with what he says here:

Especially in an open democracy like ours, any cultural trend is going to be reflected in the armed forces.

Later, he says:

Much of the woke stuff that exists comes down to this: we want any American to be able to serve *and not feel like an interloper while doing so.*

I’m guessing he thinks this is either a good thing or entirely neutral, but it’s not. Qualification for military service isn’t just about the physical, it’s also about the mental and the moral. Forget the LGBTQ stuff for a second – I can tell you, from firsthand experience, the military is staffed with people in uniform who hold very hard feelings towards this country and many of their fellow Americans. Millions of Americans share the same sentiments. Is this really a cultural trend that ought to be permitted in the military?

Something that’s been true of the military in the post-draft era is that most Americans, if given the choice, would rather not serve in uniform. I’d wager that at least 60% of those serving today didn’t grow up wanting to join the military. Most of them had to be literally recruited or encouraged to and, only then, did they decide military service was something worth pursuing. There exists evidence that this is the case. My point here is the military is just a job. You wear a uniform, you have to obey lots of rules, you don’t have much of your own freedom. But, beyond that, it doesn’t really matter what you do or think, as long as you show up for work, do as you’re told, and stay out of trouble. Even on that latter point, I can tell you that military discipline is enforced nowhere near as strictly as people think. The military has become a credential, a status symbol, something for people to put on their resumes, especially for the officer corps. Because service tends to be of great benefit to most, if not all, who serve, to deny anyone the opportunity violates our sense of equality and fair play.

If service didn’t have its benefits, as is the case in so many countries around the world, I don’t know if the military would be as fierce a culture war battleground as it is today. There’s a reason why day-laboring, forestry, and mining haven’t become Wokeified, as critical these industries are to our national survival.

The idea that the perception of Wokeification of the military is simply the services reflecting American culture at large is actually a bad sign. When we fully professionalized the services beginning in 1973, part of the reason is because we saw that drafting from the entire population brought with it all sorts of problems the military could ill-afford. If this officer thinks it’s not a big deal that the military is bringing in elements of society that shouldn’t be defending the country, then why not just go back to drafting our troops? Then the military can indulge in all the cultural trends society has to offer. Imagine spending decades and untold sums of money to professionalize the services and get society’s ills out of the ranks and, in the end, concluding what we need is for the military to adopt civilian cultural norms in the ranks. Mind you, many join the military precisely to get away from civilian society. This phenomenon was highlighted in Thomas Ricks’ 1995 book Making the Corps.

Of course, your dissenting officer would never agree to bringing back the draft, because he thinks he believes only the best should serve. But again, it’s not just about being good at your job. Staff the military with people who don’t like this country and don’t like the people they’re ostensibly protecting, then as the country fails, so will the military. After all, the military’s a microcosm of American society. There are valid concerns to the military being too divergent from the society it’s intended to protect, but it’s also dangerous for a military to become too much like society. It’s a scary thought, I know, but institutions like the armed forces really are the first and last line of defense for a country. If we don’t want to trust law-abiding Americans with guns to hold it all together, then that really leaves only the military to do the job. But if those in power don’t like the idea of the military becoming too far removed culturally and socially from society, I guess you can only shift to the other extreme. After all, balances are among the most difficult things to strike.

If I can say one more thing, on a different but related topic, of our warmongering in Russia:

I promise you everyone is aware of the nuclear risks.  Vice leaves virtue with no good options, and Russia's actions leave us with none likewise.  We can either leave Ukraine to its fate and allow the entire post-WWII settlement in international law to be cast aside and return to a world where wars of conquest are accepted, or risk further escalation.

He then tries to reassure us all the U.S. military still is fully capable of fighting and winning wars:

I don't mean to be overconfident here--I'm very familiar with risks and capability gaps we face as well--but it's impossible to deny that the U.S. military is incomparably superior to the Russian at any battlefield metric, no matter how un-woke and manly the latter might present itself as.

I’m a bit of an outlier on the Right in the sense I haven’t given up faith in the military’s competence. Like him, I look at Russia’s performance in Ukraine and I’m not blown away. Nor do I think the Chinese would fare much better. However, U.S. tactical competency needs to be placed in context. First, the ranks of those who do the shooting, no matter the service, are still comprised of the very people the military is attempting to decrease the proportion of: White Middle American males. There’s an 80/20 rule in effect here, where 80% of the fighting is done by 20% of the force (not literally, but figuratively). Those who serve will tell you, at least on the enlisted side, there exists a distinct cultural divide between the “tooth” that does the fighting and most of the dying and the “tail” who supports them. So claiming that Wokeness hasn’t eroded combat effectiveness is something of a non-sequitur since the people who win the tactical engagements aren’t Woke and least receptive to the message. If the military is still good at warfighting, it’s because, even in 2022, a certain kind of person is still doing the fighting and it’s the kind of person our culture, media, military, and political leadership regards as deplorable. Thank goodness they’re still filling the ranks, for now, anyway.

Your reader leaves us with his foreign policy views:

If I can say one more thing, on a different but related topic, of our warmongering in Russia: I promise you everyone is aware of the nuclear risks.  Vice leaves virtue with no good options, and Russia's actions leave us with none likewise.  We can either leave Ukraine to its fate and allow the entire post-WWII settlement in international law to be cast aside and return to a world where wars of conquest are accepted, or risk further escalation.

If they’re aware of the nuclear risks, but still choose to go down this path, that’s not courage, that’s stupidity. As he himself suggests, what happens in Ukraine affects Ukraine the most, not the U.S. We risk nuclear war when it means preserving our civilization and way of life, not to preserve the “post-WWII settlement in international law.” I wonder what he’d say about using the military to guard the U.S.-Mexico border? There’s nothing unprecedented about that mission, but I feel like he wouldn’t consider that an appropriate use of our military and “against our values.” It sure sounds to me he’s a loyal institutionalist who’s swallowed a heavy dose of the Kool-Aid, but that seems a bit lowbrow on my part, so I’ll just leave it by saying he’s saying what he’d be expected to say to have a successful career in uniform.

Another one:

I'm not going to comment on the conditions in the military, as your follow-up guest emails totally obliterated the denials from the military person you quoted so extensively. Instead, I just want to make a brief comment on her general cluelessness, which spills over from the existence of wokeness in the military to the actions of the US military itself. 

Her whitewashing of the tragic and unprovoked US invasions of Irag and Afghanistan as "mission sets we tended to fail horribly" is supposed to draw a distinction between an invading US military and an invading Russian military. But the US is thousands of miles away from both Iraq and Afghanistan, and doesn't have NATO weapons pointed at it. There was no existential reason for the US to invade either of those countries, and to excuse them as mistakes or mission errors is disingenuous. 

Her claim that the US "leaned on Ukraine to de-escalate and not provoke a wider war," is just BS. NATO did everything it could to stop Ukraine from abiding by the Minsk accords, and this was admitted by the former Ukrainian president himself. This woman is clearly an apologist of the rankest order. First for the senseless violence the US military has unleashed around the world, and second for her denial--or outright lies--about the woke infestation of the military. 


I don't know your correspondent, but that letter is so egregiously off-base that I couldn't help chiming in on it with the rest of the folks piling on.  I am a Ranger-qualified former infantry captain recently stationed in Europe; I commissioned from West Point near the top of my class and only just left the service, so I have *plenty* of firsthand experience with the new model woke military.   

I would like to focus on his point that your writing on the woke military is 'off-key'.  In a way, this is true.  The military isn't completely woke--not yet.  But it is getting there rapidly.  And it is doing so because wokeness is a symptom of total, bottomless ideological corruption on the part of America's military leadership.  These people don't care about winning wars.  They don't care about national defense.  They don't care about the American people.  The only thing that matters to them are sinecures at Raytheon and Lockheed after retirement.  Ideological corruption, not wokeness, will put paid to the American military when we next fight another war. 

But wokeness is the un-missable sign that this will *surely* happen.  Your correspondent's attempts to dismiss these truths are yet another sign that the rot at the upper echelons of the military is out of control.  Your correspondent's claim that the American military is superior to the Russian armed forces in every conceivable metric is laughable.  I spent years training with Army units in Europe--the forces theoretically responsible for deterring Russian aggression--and I claim that our conventional, line infantry and armor units are nowhere near proficient enough to take on the Russian Army fighting for its life on its own terrain.  Corrupt leadership has demoralized our troops.  Training is unrealistic and does not simulate the conditions American soldiers will face against the Russians.  The exercises are always fixed so that we win and the Russian enemy loses.  We've never fought a war against an enemy with similar attack aviation, ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance), artillery, rocket artillery, electronic warfare, signals, and other assets that the Russians possess.  We've performed quite badly in the two wars we have recently fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we possessed immeasurably more combat power in every conceivable metric against poorly armed, poorly trained, poorly organized guerrillas who eventually defeated us. 

The 101st Airborne's publicity stunt in Romania this week is a case in point.  The 101st Airborne would get rolled in the event of an actual fight with the Russians.  It simply does not have the organic artillery assets, armored units, or even ammunition and other weaponry, to survive a pitched fight against even one Russian Battalion Tactical Group, let alone the combined weight of the Russian Army.  The United States is *playing with fire* in the way that it has chosen to antagonize the Russians over Ukraine.  We are writing a check that we can't cash.  When the Russians come to collect, there will be hell to pay for our allies in the Baltics and in Poland who are counting on our security guarantees.  God in heaven forbid, *we* may even be forced to use nuclear weapons to protect our interests in Europe from the Russians (not the other way round!). 

It blows my mind that the American public is so ignorant of the sheer dangerousness of the Biden Regime's foreign policy in Ukraine.  The Pentagon's insistent focus on wokeness and its fear of offending progressives has totally evaporated its ability to effectively advise and assist the Congress and the American people in military affairs.  We are in dire straits as a country.  Pray that we do not go to war soon.  When we do, the loss of life on the part of American soldiery will be immense. 

That possibility may seem inconceivable now, but it will rapidly come to fruition if we do not seek a settlement with the Russians *immediately*. 


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Sigh. Once again the definition of "woke" is being expanded until it's almost meaningless. It seems to mean now "anyone who is not a hardcore SoCon". So of course most of the country qualifies. And that being the case the military will be woke as will just about every other large institution.
The term "woke" is becoming useless.
Also, the one letter above veers far out of its lane to litigate the Ukrainian war. But our military is not fighting in Ukraine and that whole business has zilch to do with these issues in our military-- it's a political and foreign policy issue and we should argue it on its own threads.
schedule 1 year ago
    Rod Dreher
    Rod Dreher
    Our military is not fighting in Ukraine? Come on, Jon.
    schedule 1 year ago
      Rod, seriously, are you in an alternate reality now too? We have no troops on the ground fighting the Russian army and no fighter planes in the air above it. Our naval ships are not conducting operations against the Russian navy. We are backing Ukraine (duh), but not with troops. We are providing political, economic and logistical support and of course armaments. But we are not actually in the fray-- and yes that matters, crucially. It would be profoundly dangerous to directly engage with Russia in that manner (see: nuclear war). But it would also dangerous, albeit somewhat more long-term, to sit on our hands and do nothing. Bullies must be stood up to-- even bullies packing nukes-- lest worse befall.
      And this is an example of why I think your self-imposed Hungarian exile is bad for you, even though Budapest is no doubt a delightful place in many ways. But you seem out of touch with your own country. Outside certain fever swamps sentiment in this country is largely in favor of support for Ukraine, and that's not at all limited to the left. No, not at all! I've had people I know are fairly conservative and some who seldom weigh in on matters of politics, opine that we must indeed oppose this invasion for reasons that seem quite obvious to most people. In fact some people even dismiss my concerns about nuclear war as rather scaredy-cattish.
      I wish you well and pray for you and your family often, but I do wish you could have found some nice modest town or city (maybe even something like Savannah, the South's-- heck, America's-- most beautiful city) to dwell in and that you could spend less time online and more time with real people, not internet hotheads. The internet is a fun house mirror, and these days it seems to be giving everyone horns, a tail and cloven hoofs.
      schedule 1 year ago
        Peter Kurilecz
        Peter Kurilecz
        "We have no troops on the ground fighting the Russian army and no fighter planes in the air above it. "
        but we have been supplying them with artillery and anti-aircraft weaponry (missiles), and anti-tank missiles
        we are drawing our munitions down to a dangerous level
        schedule 1 year ago
          JON FRAZIER
          JON FRAZIER
          And I believe I acknowledged that we are providing Ukraine with arms. Our role is similar to the Soviet Union's in the Vietnam War: they were supplying Ho Chih Minh with weapons, intelligence and economic aid, even some military advisors, but not engaging with the US on the ground or in the air.
          schedule 1 year ago
        Zenos Alexandrovitch
        Zenos Alexandrovitch
        There are spec ops on the ground in Ukraine as we speak.
        schedule 1 year ago
Lloyd Conway
Lloyd Conway
I am retired military, have two children who served and come from a several generations of vets. None of that makes me current on what's happening, but my volunteer work with several local Guard/Reserve units, as well as memberships in organizations that encompass active/reserve/veteran populations does give me a window into what's going on. it's a small, moving snapshot of a larger picture, but it's one I can compare against a military background going back, personally, to the Carter Administration for reference and comparison.
In short; I don't see a woke revolution in my corner of the military universe. there is, doubtless, some drift along in the currents that form the mainstream of American life, but I'd regard the military, from my current exposure to Army and Marine reserve component troops, as being a cultural reservoir of more conservative values than is the general population. Wokeness, per se, as described in TAC articles isn't, to this charter subscriber, something that's a visible issue in the rank-and-file company/battalion level formations. That's my two cents,
schedule 1 year ago
Bogdán Emil
Bogdán Emil

We're not fighting a war, we're just having a "military operation," that's all. Sounds familiar, since Putin also insisted on something similar.

Does a military operation involve the military? What does a military do, anyway? Well, the military definitely gets involved, but whatever it is they do, don't call it war-fighting!

Aren't we helping the Ukrainians directly with targeting? And even if we are "only" helping with supplies, training and logistics, winning all those battles is an important component of the final victory.

But we're just having a "military operation" in Ukraine, complete with its own command structure.

We're not having a war. The military is involved. It's activacted and it has a mission. It has an arena of conflict. It has an endgame. Just don't call it war.
schedule 1 year ago
    Bogdán Emil
    Bogdán Emil
    schedule 1 year ago