Fixing the Woke Pentagon Starts Now

Our armed forces are being led by people not tethered to reality.  In testimony before Congress recently, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Critical Race Theory.  He said he wants to understand white rage.  He thinks he is a well-read critical thinker.  If General Milley genuinely wants to understand himself better, I recommend White Guilt by Shelby Steele.

Critical Race Theory, diversity ideology, radical feminism, and other woke nonsense are devastating military lethality and readiness.  Even though the beginnings of this trend go back decades, the denial of the differences between the sexes, and the more radical outgrowths of those false ideas, have become more intense than ever.  As the army of Communist China seeks to make its soldiers more masculine, our army seeks to attract more women and fewer men.  This trend has been chronicled, and its grave damage explained, by Brian Mitchell (Women in the Military, 1998), Stephanie Gutmann (The Kinder, Gentler Military, 2000), Kingsley Browne (Co-Ed Combat, 2007), Robert L. Maginnis (Deadly Consequences, 2013), and James Hasson (Stand Down, 2019).  The argument against women in combat roles, and in-theater combat support roles, is simply overwhelming.

We can no longer be squeamish about identifying those parts of the armed forces where the presence of women damages unit cohesion, lethality, and readiness.  The Defense Department should be led by people who understand this and will push back on policies that have no factual basis but are grounded in pure leftist ideology.  The White House legislative operation needs that kind of wisdom as well. 

Prospective appointees for 2025 must be committed to rooting out Critical Race Theory (CRT) wherever it exists in the federal government.  Any program that uses terms like diversity, inclusion, or equity is derived from Marxist critical theory and is intended to bring division by replacing individual excellence with identity group "equity."  As with the term infrastructure, the left has tried to redefine equity as something quite different from the longstanding definition.

This year, Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier of the U.S. Space Force wrote an incredible, concise book that manages to trace the history of CRT from its Marxist, and pre-Marxist, origins; contrast it with the American ideal; and disclose how it is spreading through the Defense Department along with the rest of American culture.  He gives us the chilling similarities, although muted, to the Cultural Revolution in Communist China in the 1960s.  His book, Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest and the Unmaking of the American Military, should be read by every person appointed in the next administration.

The Trump campaign transition planning in 2016 and the subsequent White House personnel operation had many problems.  It recruited too many "content-free Republicans" and made other critical mistakes.  The story was told well last December by Rachel Bovard at the American Conservative.  As a conservative Trump appointee in the Pentagon, I can say Rachel's account is consistent with my experience.  I will leave it at that.  That President Trump had one of the two most successful presidencies since Theodore Roosevelt is a testament to his ability to drive policy despite a shortage of loyal appointees.

It is often said that "personnel is policy."  Now is the time to start identifying the people who will faithfully and competently serve the next president.  And not just Senate-confirmed personnel, but all the approximately 4,000 people who serve at the pleasure of the president (300–400 at the Pentagon).  They should all be aligned with the next president's policy.  One way to vet personnel for manpower and personnel appointments at the Pentagon is familiarity and agreement with the conclusions of the books mentioned here.

Early, serious personnel planning for the next presidential administration is urgent.  By the end of 2024, the United States may be close to being in extremis.  The next administration will have to move quickly to avert disaster.  If there is any silver lining in the present national crisis, it is we have the time and understanding to avoid the personnel mistakes of 2017.  Although very competent and credentialed people were appointed to Cabinet, sub-Cabinet, and lesser positions, many did not pursue President Trump's policy with enthusiasm or zeal.  Some actively worked to frustrate it.  Some were deceitfully disloyal.  We do not have to go through the list.

In Wellington, Ohio, President Trump distinguished between the real generals and the woke generals.  The Defense Department needs the kind of shake-up the War Department got in the years prior to Pearl Harbor.  Legislation may be required to give the next administration the authority to elevate the real officers over the woke officers so we are able to deter, or win, a war against a peer adversary.  The issues are different, but the changes needed are as dramatic as George C. Marshall rising in three years from a colonel in command of a brigade on September 1, 1936, to the four-star chief of staff of the Army on September 1, 1939, and the transformational changes he immediately set forth to bring to the Army.  (See the Army War College publication Senior Officer Talent Management for a good, short description of that time.)

As Lt. Col. Lohmeier warns, a defense leadership, military and civilian, that not only becomes political, but, wittingly or unwittingly, comes under the spell of Marxism, is an existential danger to the survival of freedom.  Or as the late Professor Samuel P. Huntington wrote in 1957 (The Soldier and the State, p. 464):

A political officer corps, rent with faction, subordinated to ulterior ends, lacking prestige but sensitive to the appeals of popularity, would endanger the security of the state.  A strong, integrated, highly professional officer corps, on the other hand, immune to politics and respected for its military character, would be a steadying balance wheel in the conduct of policy.

Now is the time to start assembling the team to help the next president save American freedom and national security.  We do not have a moment to lose.

Peter Knickerbocker served in the Trump administration at the Department of Defense.

Image via the Department of Defense.

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