How the government shifted its “Counter-Extremism” strategy to target the mainstream.
The Conservative Case for Cyberbullying America’s Generals
America deserves better than its current military leadership.
On July 22, Major General Patrick Donahoe, the Commanding General of Fort Benning, reported from his official Twitter account that he was seeing a “surge” in ICU visits among young soldiers due to Covid. He reported that he would mandate the vaccine if he had the power to do so.
I replied, pointing out that the DOD has lost a total of 26 out of over 2 million personnel in the last year and a half to the virus. In the fourth quarter of 2020, there was a 25 percent surge in suicides across all services. In those three months alone, 26 additional servicemembers took their lives compared to the prior year.
The military’s response to the Coronavirus is almost certainly to blame for the rise. I exited the service in May of 2020, having had plenty of time to witness these policies firsthand. Deployed troops returning home were forced to quarantine for weeks at a time. Masks were required in all public spaces on base. Gyms were shut down. Commanding officers dramatically reduced liberty limits to within only a few miles of base. Those, like me, who were stationed in Camp Pendleton, were prohibited from traveling just 30 minutes south to San Diego during our off hours.
In light of these draconian policies, it is no wonder that troops experienced a surge in psychological illness and suicidal ideation. Turning barracks into prisons is a recipe for problems. Nor did the catastrophic “outbreaks” of Covid materialize. Virtually all servicemembers known to be infected with the virus recover. The handful of Covid related deaths are sad, but they never rose to the level of a crisis. On average, nearly a thousand military personnel die because of training accidents, suicide, and illness every year.
General Donahoe accused me of engaging in “false equivalency” and of downplaying the vaccine, arguing that it was the path to “normalcy.” As the return of mask mandates for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated in cities like Los Angeles attest, this is clearly not true. The real path to normalcy is for military leadership to adjust their risk tolerance. Treating healthy people like biohazards over an illness that has killed two dozen personnel in a force of millions is insane. Those preventative policies have consequences, too; the surge in depression and suicide among the young is real.
Preventative measures make matters worse. One need only look at the case of Michigan and Sweden. Both territories have an equal population. Yet, Michigan suffered 50 percent more deaths from Covid despite implementing lockdowns, school closures, and mask mandates while Sweden did not. General Donahoe simply brushed these facts aside, deciding instead to call me a member of the “disinformation tinfoil hat team” for pointing them out.
He also tweeted at the university where I am a student, Hillsdale College, and told them to “come get your boy” for questioning the military’s quarantine and lockdown policies. General Donahoe, apparently, thinks the private sector is just like the military, where criticism can be stopped, and careers ended, with a mere snap of the fingers. As the thread attracted more attention, one commenter asked the General “how many wars he’d won.” The General responded by accusing the questioner of “shilling for Putin.” When I asked if Putin was the reason America had lost in Afghanistan, the General blocked me.
My interaction with the General serves as a microcosm of the American military’s cultural rot. Here we have a two-star General who spends his days on social media hyping a vaccine for an illness that poses minimal risk to his troops. When pressed on why America can’t win wars and why he embraces policies that treat healthy people like biohazards, his first response is to accuse his critics of treachery and then block them from view.
This is what $693 billion a year buys you: unbridled arrogance from the leaders of a military that can’t win against third world tribesmen armed with small arms and homemade explosives. A significant portion of our military leaders, like General Donahoe, are totally detached from reality. They face no consequences for losing wars or losing troops to preventable suicides. Many of them don’t really command anything at all. They are so ensconced in layers of bureaucrats, staff, operations and logistics shops, briefs, intelligence reports, public affairs officials, and aides that there is usually no danger of the public uncovering their true character, lack of leadership, or empty careers.
Twitter, for all its many flaws, provides a direct line into the thought process and values of the military’s elite class. Too often, the minds of our great and courageous “warriors” are filled with nothing more than anodyne policy statements, automatic deference to other members of the elite expert class, and received wisdom from the mouths of MSNBC hosts. A painful lesson for patriotic citizens, perhaps, but a necessary one.
As these leaders spend their days scrolling twitter in the twilight of their careers, waiting to secure their pensions and post-retirement defense contractor gigs, they deserve to feel some heat from the people they allegedly serve. Getting “ratio’d” is, for many of them, the worst consequence they’ll ever face for overseeing institutional failure. Still, that discomfort isn’t nothing. Feeling some modicum of pain for the lives lost and the money wasted under their command is a good thing.
The American people need to demand more from their leaders. They need these heroic defenders of freedom to account for their lost wars, failed policies, and ideological radicalism. Twitter gives the people the perfect avenue to do so.
Americans are beginning to realize that their military leaders are failing them. Even if politicians fail to demand better of them, we can and should still make our opinion known. Our generals are, far too often, soft, coddled elites and unthinking ideologues. It is time for the American people to start cyberbullying their generals.
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.
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