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US Military & Liberal Society

Can a military that looks too much like America defend America?
Soldier holding machine gun with flag on background series - LGBT people

A reader writes:

I want to address one aspect of your blog entry titled “The Tyranny Of Tech & Trans,” specifically concerning the permitting of transgenders to serve in the military.

Before going any further, it’s important to note that the U.S. has been something of an outlier when it comes to LGBT service in the military. Most Western European countries permit transgenders to serve openly, though this isn’t the same as the “unwritten rules” that dictate military life on a day-to-day basis. Also, based on available, the presence of transgenders alone hasn’t proven to be much of a problem according to the data, though one could argue that transgenders, already a minority among minorities in society, probably aren’t joining the military en masse to begin with. Though, there might be more of them in the military than you think – a 2016 survey revealed 9,000 servicemembers considered themselves transgender, but, again, 9,000 over well north of a million servicemembers is still a negligible percentage.

The concern, of course, is that lifting the ban would encourage more transgenders to serve in the military, but, again, given how few of them there are in society, I don’t see a huge increase coming to the point that it’d cause a major disruption. I’d venture to guess most transgenders would prefer to serve quietly and not rock the boat, though there are always drama kings and queens in every lot.

However, the military’s push for diversity and inclusiveness gets at something deeper and more problematic about the military – a lack of professionalism. Now, by professionalism, I’m going by the late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s definition of it, which comes down to expertise, responsibility, and corporateness. It’s corporateness I want to focus on. Basically, it’s an identity and in Huntington’s mind, a professional military doesn’t just have full-time soldiers, but they live an entirely different lifestyle from the society they serve. In some cases, they live apart from said society, basically out of necessity, given the nature of the profession of arms.

Huntington’s thesis was controversial in 1957 when it first came out and it still is, now. I think a part of this is because today’s “professional,” standing U.S. military is still a recent creation, whose legacy and lineage really began in 1945. Prior to then, however, the U.S. never adhered to Huntington’s standard of military professionalism, which was more European in character. To put it charitably, the U.S. is still figuring out what “military professionalism” means to itself.

I think what you’ve seen since 1945 is a gradual de-professionalization of the military, in large part by eroding the military’s corporateness. Yes, servicemembers still wear uniform, live by a different culture, are judged by a different legal system, and still have less freedom than the average citizen. But, instead of allowing the military to forge its own distinct identity, the military has been forced to become more like the liberal society it defends.

The reasons for doing this aren’t entirely nefarious. For one, the military is under civilian control. Ensuring the military has a healthy relationship with its civilian masters means the military can’t feel like it exists in a separate world. Going with that is that the military should never feel “above” or “superior” to the society it defends. One way to do that is to make sure the military not only adopts values similar to civil society, but also comes to look like society. This is where “diversity” and “inclusion” enter the picture.

The trade-off, however, has been that the military’s become an arena for fixing America’s social problems. I guess this is what happens when the U.S. spends 20 years waging counter-insurgencies and half-hearted wars around the world, because in a war where troops are face high-intensity combat against a determined, skilled, and well-armed adversary, while operating in conditions more austere than the forward operating bases of Afghanistan and Iraq, you can’t really worry about all these extraneous issues. The brave and strong really do survive and no accommodation will be given, because it can’t be given. This means that people who have more “complicated” or special needs will suffer even more in a high-intensity war, or find that they’re actually in the wrong line of work.

Another example of the military’s loss of identity can be seen in how the nature of the profession has changed. As a civil-military scholar I once posed the question to explained, there isn’t a distinct “military professional,” but they all fall under a broader umbrella of “national security professional.” Many of these people are civilians, but they work so closely alongside uniformed personnel, so the lines between the two have become more blurred. A large number of these civilians and servicemembers, at least the ones active on social media, are also very left-leaning and openly ascribe to Woke ideology.

Finally, this civil-military scholar told me:

Virtually all professions have become more specialized and diverse over time. I don’t think this increased inclusiveness necessarily indicates a loss of corporateness except among the most inflexible personnel.

I disagree with this. Having a distinct identity isn’t just about outward appearances. It’s also about culture and values. If the U.S. military is basically civilian society with uniforms, a different legal system, and a chain-of-command, then it’s merely functionally distinct. If the military is expected to reflect America’s liberal values, then the military has no distinct identity and it’s questionable that it’s a military at all, since a military is, by its nature, an illiberal institution.

I expect this trend to accelerate under the Biden administration, just as it did under the Obama administration. The question is, will the dominance of Woke ideology prevent open and frank debate to take place regarding this issue? During the Obama years, people like Jim Mattis expressed concerns about the “liberalization” of the military and he continued to raise these concerns as Secretary of Defense. Now, I’m not sure even he has the space to say such things.

My dark and dreary prediction is that the U.S. military will become something akin to a Communist military – large and unable to fight, but good at getting a diverse range of Americans killed. Oh yeah, and protect the Biden-Harris administration.

Thoughts, readers?