Salvo 05.19.2021 10 minutes

Hollowed Out

M10 Achilles IIC on tank cemetery

The armed forces are now a vehicle for the advancement of an agenda of social justice.

With a culture built on the tenet of good order and discipline, our armed forces have always been respected for their capability in defending freedom and our national interests. However, we haven’t gone toe to toe in a conflict with a state actor in the 30 years since the Gulf War and, in that time, our Department of Defense has changed dramatically, transforming into just another failing government organization preoccupied with advancing progressive ideology.  

Military servicemembers operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which means they are subject to a system of law that is stricter than average citizens are governed by. For example, while adultery is generally not illegal for civilians, adulterous servicemembers may be punished by fines and jail time. Likewise, the rules and regulations that determine what constitutes “good order and discipline” can simply be altered by executive order or with the stroke of a pen. And, unless the order is deemed unlawful or immoral, our troops are required to carry on without insubordination.  

As such, the uniformed services are subject to top-down changes in mores. For instance, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2010. Before then, a servicemember’s sexual orientation was irrelevant as long as it didn’t adversely affect good order and discipline. With this change, a non-heterosexual soldier was permitted to serve openly, regardless of its effect on the mission. Shortly thereafter in 2015, it became illegal for states not to recognize same-sex marriage. In 2019, limits were placed on transgender individuals’ ability to serve in the military. In 2021, this policy was not only reversed, but transgender soldiers were given access to transition-related medical services at taxpayer expense—a benefit that exceeds what is offered in most states.  

We see that the military, which is subject to top-down imposition of new social norms, is now the proving grounds of cultural overhaul. Troops must comply with these advances as a matter of discipline. And once these norms are instituted, the argument is then made that the rest of society just needs to catch up to the example set forth by our most-respected organization, albeit involuntarily. Our ruling class has turned our military into a coercive gateway to enact broader cultural change as it attempts to force it into our lives; and now they’ve corrupted it with their racial agenda, as well.  

In 2010, US Air Force Captain Jeff Haney died in a fatal F-22 crash in Alaska. While the Air Force initially deemed it “pilot error,” two other pilots, Major Jeremy Gordon and Captain Josh Wilson, refused to continue piloting the aircraft, citing its faulty oxygen system. The following year these two officers conducted an interview with 60 Minutes as whistleblowers. Though the Air Force eventually reversed its initial findings of pilot error and addressed the oxygen problem, the two whistleblowing officers were given letters of reprimand, faced board hearings to strip them of their wings, and their careers were jeopardized for breaking ranks and airing complaints to the media.  

This year, Major Daniel Walker, a black F-22 pilot, conducted an interview with 60 Minutes to discuss how he had been discriminated against due to racial bias. But a pilot of the F-22 Raptor, the premier air-dominance stealth fighter in the world, has risen to the apex of the Air Force hierarchy. To attain that position is to have demonstrated the highest degree of excellence imaginable, and to have gained the trust of the entire military pyramid, which invests millions of dollars in training its elite pilots. For Walker to say he was racially discriminated against is simply preposterous. Will Major Walker be admonished for his interview with 60 Minutes, as Gordon and Wilson were? Of course not. Regardless of UCMJ restrictions against it, our troops have learned that speaking out—including making political statements in uniform on social media—is acceptable when informed by the “correct” politics. Top military brass is happy to accept responsibility for obviously absurd allegations of racial bias and trailblaze re-education training of our troops ahead of this next cultural push by activists.  

These politics don’t just affect culture, but degrade our military capabilities. In 2020, a memo was leaked to the media that the USS Theodore Roosevelt needed assistance and was rendered inoperable due to a Covid outbreak. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly then relieved the carrier’s Captain Crozier of command, stating that he had allowed the situation to compromise his judgment and, worse, our national security. Two weeks later, Secretary Modly resigned amid public outrage. In that moment, our national leadership explicitly telegraphed that good order and discipline – and our national security – were less important than optics and kowtowing to the criticism of political activists.  

There is no other explanation for the increasingly socially progressive, fiscally irresponsible, and effectively impotent Department of Defense other than that its leadership is more interested in cultural politics than maintaining global dominance. Many within its upper echelons now publicly boast of executing their duties as they see fit, regardless of the will of civilian leadership, as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman made clear during the 2019 impeachment hearing. The Defense Department from being the most respected combat-capable force in the world to being nearly unrecognizable from any other government organization where success is punished, failure is rewarded, career progression is divorced from performance, and our tax dollars are frivolously burned through at the end of every fiscal year just to prevent future budgetary reductions.  

It is not clear that our military is presently capable of responding to a major global conflict. In fact, confidence is low that our military would succeed against China in a full-on military engagement. We have allowed our ruling class to divide us over a novel coronavirus and fabricated racial animus rather than holding them accountable for the destruction they’ve actually wrought: sacrificing our humanity, freedom, and security in pursuit of their unending lust for power and control. Time is running out and if we don’t stand against this corrosion, we may find ourselves in a fight we can’t win.  

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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