uring the 1990s, the American military became more aligned with the Republican Party and many people in Government expressed legitimate concerns about this development. The pendulum swung-back after George W. Bush’s disastrous performance in Iraq and things became mostly balanced out by the time Obama took the reins.
Trump proved to be a catalyst for a new type of friction as Washington D.C. was allergic to Trump from the very beginning. His style, his goals, and his contempt for the government class’s all rankled the permanent bureaucracy.
Every government institution resisted him: the Department of Justice, the courts, the intelligence community, low-level staffers and even the military leadership. The last part was unusual; however for them, it appeared to be a situation not of complete rejection of civilian control, but rather of military careerists choosing to endear themselves to the Congress and the permanent bureaucracy over a temporary occupant of the Oval Office.
This was most visible in the case of outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman, Mark Milley.
Military Leadership Assimilated Into The DC Hivemind
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are supposed to provide the president reliable advice on military matters. While Milley has a background that suggests intelligence, I’ve never personally heard him say anything insightful or interesting. Even so, when he made it to the top, he had delusions of grandeur. As a uniformed military man, he thought he could circumvent the chain of command by making it his duty to resist President Trump’s deviations from the Washington D.C. orthodoxy.
This was totally inappropriate. While the military often uses the phrase “civilian control,” the controller is one civilian, the commander-in-chief. There is no rule by committee for reasons the Constitution’s framers made very clear. Perhaps the many ex-generals who broke with tradition and openly criticized President Trump during the BLM race riots inspired Milley: however in the process, he and they did a lot of damage to civil-military relations.
Milley later admitted to establishing a back channel of communication to China during the transition and bragged about how he undermined the ordinary chain of command for the use of nuclear weapons. After the Biden Administration’s crackdown on extremists in the military, he testified in 2021 how he wanted to understand “white rage,” as if his countrymen were some faction of al Qaeda.
High-level military people routinely spend a lot of time in Washington D.C. It is a government town in which a distinct managerial class culture has emerged. Not only is D.C. a highly partisan place for Democrats (the district voted 93% for Biden in 2020), but it is also on the leading edge of woke workplaces, with very visible pride celebrations and accommodations for sexual and other minorities.
The office culture of the Pentagon, which has a small army of civilians working alongside career military personnel, encourages the melding of cultures, beliefs and perception between bureaucrats and senior military leaders. Because of their permanence, the career civilians often have more influence than many of the uniformed officers passing through.
I suspect this has a lot to do with Milley and other generals’ mechanical recitation of the latest “woke” conventional wisdom. He went native. No one in the military leadership was talking like this even 10 years ago.
From Amoral Careerists To Angry True Believers
Now President Biden has nominated Charles “CQ” Brown to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs after having previously served as the top general in the Air Force. While very qualified on paper, Brown appears to be more extreme and worse ideologically than Milley. If Milley was an amoral phony, who would say anything to advance his career, Brown is a true believer, an angry black man determined to rid the military of its excessive number of white male leaders. For those about to be sacrificed: “No thanks for your service.”
Brown has made this clear in numerous statements before and since his nomination. In addition to a self-pitying discussion of race during the 2020 BLM riots, he signed off on a memo that recommended explicit, race-based goals for the composition of Air Force officers. Senator Eric Schmitt (R-MO) pointedly noted in a recent hearing that Brown’s talk of diversity is really code for anti-white, which requires the removal of qualified, patriotic, and experienced white men. Instead of defending his extremism, Brown bobbed and weaved and avoided most of the questions.
Brown hails from a successful military family. His father was a full-bird colonel in the U.S. Army. He is now a four-star general. In other words, America’s allegedly endemic racism did not hold him or his father back in their military careers in any way. Even with these accomplishments, Brown seems to have an enormous racial chip on his shoulder. He complains that his mentors did not look like him, neglecting to thank them for the help they provided to propel him to the highest rank in the U.S. military.
Back in the 1960s, when the WASP elite of university presidents and CEOs first adopted affirmative action, it came from the spirit of noblesse oblige, the generous act of a society with a surplus of social capital. The America that put a man on the Moon could trade away some efficiency for the sake of social harmony.
This is quite different from today’s minority beneficiaries of affirmative action who are several generations removed from anti-black discrimination, announcing that they’re going to impose policies that discriminate against whites, who will soon form a minority themselves. Far from generous, this is merely mean-spirited revenge fueled by envy and resentment.
When the beneficiary seeking special privileges in the zero-sum game of college admissions and workplace advancement demands affirmative action, “it hits different,” as the kids say.
While corporate America and the Deep State make it seem as American as apple pie, affirmative action has always been profoundly contradictory and unpopular. It lost on a ballot initiative in liberal California as recently as 2020, has recently been found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is not particularly popular even among minorities. The reasons are obvious.
First, it is unfair on its face. Second, it leads to weaker organizations, where excellence becomes a lower priority than representation at the cost of merit. And finally, it stigmatizes beneficiaries, some percentage of whom could have and would have succeeded in a race-blind regime.
Woke Leaders Are Hurting Military Recruitment
The military is currently in the midst of an epic recruiting crisis. The declining collective health of our youth, the military’s recently-acquired reputation for wokeness and the lack of any relationship between our overseas empire and the tangible interests of the American people are having a negative effect. No one wants to join and be part of a losing organization, which is not being used to protect the country or where one will face obvious discrimination if they attempt to advance in their career.
Will Brown improve things? With his openly stated objective of reducing the number of white men in the leadership billets, it is doubtful.
White men, particularly white men from certain rural and “old stock” parts of the country, have made up the backbone of the combat arms and the special forces since the advent of the all-volunteer force. Like the Red Army’s string of defeats after Stalin’s purge, removing people with talent, experience and capability from the military will create significant and foreseeable problems down the line.
If Charles Brown gets this job, the office will shift from a cynical careerist to an angry true believer. This does not bode well for reversing the military’s recent string of failures, its descent into wokeness and the all-volunteer forces’ recruiting collapse. It does not bode well for America’s national security or ability to defend herself. ✪