Transforming the Military to Transform the Country
The Biden administration took Americans on the right by surprise. In the opening weeks of the new administration, very few expected to see the sudden, massive influx of illegal migrants and drugs through open and unsecured borders, the deliberate suspension of the rule of law in the nation’s largest cities, the demonization of the police, and the official tolerance for racially motivated violence.
Americans on the right are no longer surprised. In the minds of conservative Americans there is now real evidence for a political regime in Washington that defines itself in opposition to just about everything the United States stands for.
The White House should feel reassured, however, since very few Americans have challenged the Biden administration’s monopoly of control over the machinery of government in any meaningful way. But doubts clearly linger. The National Guard presence and the barriers of concrete, steel and barbed wire that surround the Capitol building are still a metaphor for an administration that lives in a psychological state of siege, anger, and unease.
In April of this year, the Biden administration appointed Bishop Garrison to be the senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense for diversity and inclusion. In this role, Garrison, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, heads the Defense Department’s new “Countering Extremism” working group. Other than his virulent hatred for anyone who supported President Donald Trump, and his advocacy for Critical Race Theory, not much is known about him.
Whether Garrison’s arrival signals the implementation of a new system inside the U.S. Armed Forces tasked with the responsibility to identify alleged extremists for removal is unclear. Much depends on how the Biden administration and officials like Garrison define their missions, but it would not be a stretch to imagine such a development. It has happened before.
In the aftermath of the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, Communist Party officials called commissars were installed throughout the military to ensure the loyalty and obedience of the officer corps to the orders and directives of Lenin and the new Bolshevik state. The commissar’s duty as explained by Leon Trotsky, the chairman of the Revolutionary Committee, was to “prevent army institutions from becoming nests of conspiracy.” If Russian officers failed to obey orders, the commissars could execute the offending officers and ensure their families would also be executed—a policy Stalin used during the Second World War to compel both officers and soldiers to fight the Germans.
At first glance, concerns that a system on the Soviet model would embed itself in the armed forces seem overwrought. For instance, the notion that anyone could treat tattoos as evidence for extremism is absurd. Thirty-six percent of the U.S. Armed Forces have tattoos. But perhaps the Biden administration thinks tattoos are significant given that the majority of those in uniform with tattoos are white men and women?
The point is, a woke witch hunt will have an impact. It will implant the fear in service members that they could easily lose a career or a pension for expressing an opinion that diverges from the Biden administration’s ideology. As one serving officer quietly put it, “the fear of being censored for simply loving your country is one thing. Wondering when the knock on the door is coming or to what extent officers and soldiers are being monitored is another.”
There is more. Military experience over the last 245 years teaches that to be effective in combat, Americans in uniform must be transformed through ruthless and demanding discipline to endure extreme hardship and deprivation. Soldiers must understand that the needs of the nation come first, that these needs always outweigh their own. There must also be trust up, down, and sideways across the force.
Yet, in a recent Army recruitment video entitled “The Calling” there was nothing to indicate the slightest appreciation for the aforementioned reality. The star of the video, Corporal Emma Malonelord from California, a young woman with two moms, relates how she’s marched and fought for civil rights from an early age; the Department of the Army turned off the comment section for the video on YouTube after it received ridicule and negative reactions.
Fortunately, there is no evidence that the culture, character and beliefs of a great nation can be fundamentally changed according to plan. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union certainly tried to transform Russians, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Finns, Poles, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and a host of other nationalities into an amorphous mass of obedient “Soviet men.” The millions of men, women, and children who resisted were worked to death in hundreds of labor camps, starved or shot before, during, and after the Second World War to guarantee the transformation, all to crush the human soul.
The transformation failed. Today, there are no “Soviet men” in sight anywhere.
It is one thing to temporarily engineer consent through the manipulation of mass media and surveillance systems, but putting affirmative action on steroids to diminish the representation of one race in the hope of benefitting another will cultivate tension and resentment, not equity. Americans long ago embraced equality before the law, but very few Americans buy the argument that equal rights automatically translate into equal ability or outcomes.
The United States, virtually alone among nations, found its identity in shared historical experience, English-speaking culture, and in the dedication to freedom of thought, trade, and belief. American monuments, flags, and traditions honor this classical liberal creed and make it a fundamental element in the cohesion of American society.
If compelled to internalize the Biden administration’s transformational ideology, the U.S. Armed Forces will cease to be a national military establishment. And it is this emphasis on denationalization that leads many Americans to privately harbor the suspicion that the real goal of the Biden administration is to turn the American military into the armed wing of the left or the Democratic Party.
It would be wise for the Biden administration to pause and consider how Americans feel about their transformational efforts—actions to revise or replace U.S. history, culture, and identity with the ideology of globalism and materialism. Feelings of patriotism and nationalism are the lifeblood of every nation’s armed forces. If the administration ignores these feelings, then, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville in the months before the Revolution of 1848, they are “sleeping in a volcano.”
Douglas Macgregor, colonel (ret.) U.S. Army and the former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, is a Ph.D., the author of five books, and a senior fellow at The American Conservative.