Political Editors / March 25, 2021

In Brief: Slandering the U.S. Military

Allegations of rampant white supremacy undermine trust in our Armed Forces.

Mackubin Thomas Owens is a Marine Corps infantry veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also a professor at the U.S. Naval War College for nearly 30 years and is a senior national security fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. In other words, he understands the military, but he isn’t a career high-ranking political animal.

Thus, his fears of the politicization of the military carry a lot of weight. In an outstanding recent article for National Review, he explains the history of slandering the U.S. military going all the way back to the Vietnam era. He then explains the difference between racism and racial prejudice while discussing the pervasive leftist view that the military is somehow overrun with white supremacists.

After that setup, he gets to the core issue — undermining trust:

The claim that extremism and white supremacy are widespread in the military undermines trust on two levels: First, between the American people and the military as an institution; and second, between the military rank-and-file on the one hand and their leaders on the other.

Americans hold the military in high regard, perhaps too high. But if civilians have tended to place members of the military on a pedestal, implying that extremism and white supremacy are rampant in the military can only engender civilian disrespect for the armed forces and lead to unjust condemnation. This, needless to say, does not bode well for healthy civil-military relations.

Regarding trust within the force, what is the rank-and-file soldier to think when both politicians and especially senior officers seem to suggest that supporting President Trump or traditionally conservative ideas such as gun rights and smaller, less intrusive government might make him or her a threat to the country? What will be the consequences for morale and discipline if the ranks believe that senior leaders have sold them out by their apparent willingness to go along with such accusations?

I am personally aware of increasing disillusionment on the part of service members who feel betrayed by their senior leadership. Individuals join the military for a variety of reasons, but a dominant one is a sense of patriotism, which is undermined if service members believe that senior officers are willing to sacrifice them to trendy political ideas.

It is disheartening to note that no senior officer to my knowledge has stepped forward to denounce this latest slander against the American soldier. While real instances of extremism and white supremacy must be identified and perpetrators separated from the service, as has been the practice in the past, suggesting that white supremacy and extremism are rampant in the military is a disservice to the force. Both political leaders and senior officers owe it to the country in general and the military in particular to define extremism, identify actual cases, and provide data supporting their claim that a real problem does in fact exist. To do otherwise is to contribute to a calumny against those they claim to lead.

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