The Left’s interest in historically conservative institutions, such as the military, is in direct proportion to its ability to exploit them. Members of the Left enjoy nothing more than hijacking a conservative institution and transforming it into an instrument of liberal propaganda. The Catholic Church under Pope Francis is Exhibit A of that phenomenon. Severe critics of the papacy turned into cheerleaders for it once a useful leftist assumed the office. We see a similar phenomenon in the military. The same liberals who once struck pacifist notes and criticized hidebound generals suddenly gush over them now that they have become tribunes for political correctness.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, noncommissioned officers of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else, because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” says Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley knows perfectly well that Joe Biden’s military is not just studying wokeness but implementing it. Milley has been auditioning for the woke ruling class since the days of the Trump administration. Keenly aware of changes in the zeitgeist, he played to the anti-Trump prejudices of that class from the start and is now serving as its proxy within the military.
Milley conforms perfectly to the Left’s idea of a good general, one who places the politics of the moment over the mission of the military. Through Milley and other like-minded generals, the Left is enlisting the military in the culture war at the expense of its effectiveness. The Left wants a military full of Milleys who prioritize political correctness over the preservation of its traditional culture.
The Left applauds Milley for “standing up” to Trump, but it wouldn’t tolerate him for a second if he subverted Biden. And so Milley and the other politicized generals are busy turning the military into a social laboratory of “nondiscrimination” at Biden’s direction. Its organizing principle is no longer winning wars but fulfilling the frivolous demands of domestic politics.
For the sake of effectiveness, the military used to discriminate unapologetically in favor of the physically strongest and most capable candidates. Now that is forbidden. Exacting standards have been replaced by increasingly vague ones. Imagine how the great generals of the past would have responded if told that recruitment should turn not on military considerations but on political and sociological ones. The incorporation of transgenderism into the military is a measure of its deterioration at the hands of unserious politicians.
By fostering a nonmilitary atmosphere in the military, Biden is alienating the best soldiers and boosting the worst ones. The fatuousness of it all is breathtaking. Senate Democrats, citing “fairness,” are now pressing for a law that would require all women to register for the draft. Feminism, normally so worried about violence against women, doesn’t mind exposing them to it in war, whether they like it or not.
It is surely not lost on America’s enemies that the Left treats the U.S. military like an EEOC-run jobs program. While those enemies recruit the deadliest soldiers, the U.S. military expends resources on sensitivity training, proper pronoun use, and the like. This erosion of a hardheaded military culture will cost America dearly in the future. Gibbonian historians will see it as a vivid symbol of American decline.
Given the choice between maximum effectiveness and lowered standards, the Left unhesitatingly selects the latter. Liberals reshape the military in their own image and call that progress. But not so long ago liberals used to extol draft-dodgers. They chided the military for its strictness and callousness. They even elected a president, Bill Clinton, who defended draft-dodging. They have gone from scorning the draft to demanding that all Americans, including unwilling women, submit to it.
The “extremism” task force Biden has foisted on the military seeks to turn it into an appendage of liberalism. It targets the very patriotic, religious soldiers who have the strongest motive to defend the country. Meanwhile, Biden’s politicized generals are sapping the motive to fight by encouraging soldiers to embrace unpatriotic critical race theory. How could opening the military up to Black Lives Matter–supported ideologies possibly strengthen it? That is a formula for destroying patriotic morale within the ranks.
What would once have been called the anti-American Left now controls the Democratic Party. The military has fallen into its hands — a revolutionary turn, historians will note, that happened not in spite of generals like Milley but largely because of them.