Douglas Andrews / December 2, 2022

Our Military Takes a Hit

A new survey confirms a precipitous decline in the American people’s confidence in their military, and wokeness bears much of the blame.

Conservative columnist and talk-show host Dennis Prager has made the point time and again: The Left ruins everything it touches.

We can feel it everywhere, in all of our institutions — the media, medicine, science, government, education, law enforcement, sports, the church, the family, the arts, you name it.

One institution, though, which had seemed to dodge this leftist bullet was our military. Despite the meanness and nastiness of our hyper-politicized world, the American people had largely retained their reverence for our fighting forces. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

The Reagan Foundation’s fifth annual Reagan National Defense Survey reveals once again that Americans “want the United States to lead in the world, act as an arsenal of democracy, and maintain its commitments to global alliances.” At the same time, though, the survey “reflects trust and confidence in the United States military has declined by more than 20 points in recent years.”

The Reagan survey’s findings are aligned with those of left-leaning Pew Research, which this year shared this grim finding: “The share of Americans who say they have a great deal of confidence in the military to act in the public’s best interests has fallen 14 points, from 39% in November 2020 to 25% in the current survey.”

As for the Reagan survey, here are its key takeaways regarding this steep decline:

Just four years ago, 70% of survey respondents said they had a great deal of trust and confidence in the military. However, that percentage steadily declined, and last year, for the first time, a minority of Americans had the highest level of confidence in the military, only 45%. This year, that trend appears to be stabilizing. Now 48% say they have a great deal of trust and confidence in the military.

According to the survey, a variety of factors are decreasing public confidence in the military, including perceptions by 62% of Americans that military leadership are becoming overly politicized. Nearly 60% of respondents say that performance and competence of presidents as commanders-in-chief is decreasing their confidence in the military and 55% say the performance and competence of the military’s civilian leadership is a concern. Half (50%) say so-called “woke” practices undermine military effectiveness and 46% attribute decreasing confidence to so-called far-right or extremist individuals serving in the military.

Meanwhile, only 13% of 18 to 29-year-olds are personally highly willing to join the military, a quarter (25%) are only somewhat willing, 20% are not very willing, and about a quarter (26%) are not willing at all.

This last finding is perhaps the most consequential. As we’ve noted throughout the year, our military’s recruiting efforts have suffered badly under this commander-in-chief, and its leadership seems unwilling to acknowledge the leading role that wokeness is playing in this crisis.

“Wokeness in the military also affects relations between the military and society at large,” warned retired Lieutenant General Thomas Spoehr. “It acts as a disincentive for many young Americans in terms of enlistment. And it undermines wholehearted support for the military by a significant portion of the American public at a time when it is needed the most.”

National security expert Dave Reaboi put it more bluntly: “Maybe it’s better having a country that inspires patriots to defend it, rather than one that makes them want to throw up.”

As for the general perception of the American people, the editorial page editors of The Wall Street Journal point to an erosion of some fundamentally American characteristics: “Many Americans think the military is no longer an institution that runs on excellence, merit and individual submission to a larger cause.”

The editors continue: “The Pentagon denies this is a problem, but it surely is if half the public believes it. The military relies on young Americans to sign up amid many other career opportunities. Fewer are doing so. Americans on the left have their own reasons for declining confidence in the military: 46% cited right-wing extremism, even though this scourge has been wildly overstated.”

Indeed it has. The Biden administration made a grotesque miscalculation earlier this year when its Defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, called for an all-day military-wide stand-down to address the non-issue of extremism in the ranks. The threats to our nation’s military wellness are coming from the Left, not the Right, and those in the rank-and-file know it.

Our military has taken a serious hit in recent years. As have many other great American institutions. But we can’t say we weren’t warned. This is what Barak Obama meant when he talked about “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

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