If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for War. – George Washington

During the January 2021 Senate confirmation hearing of Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin III, the former four-star general vowed to rid the U.S. military of the many “racists and extremists” he suggested have infiltrated it. “The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of the enemies lie within our own ranks.”

Coming from a nominee about to be confirmed head of the U.S. Armed Forces, second-in-command only to the President, this was a disturbing statement. Enemies within our ranks? It was especially alarming because his catch-all term “extremists” referred not to Islamic fundamentalists, the Communist revolutionaries of the Black Lives Matter movement, or Antifa anarchists – none of whom the political left and its media enablers ever define as extremist – but to ideological opponents of the Biden administration, i.e., supporters of former President Donald Trump. Anyone not onboard with the radical left’s racially-divisive agenda, including its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training programs which Austin fully intended to implement in the military, was now a potential “enemy within.”

What kind of threatening message did this send to the more than 1.3 million active-duty service members about to be under his command? How could such a message accomplish anything but to sow widespread, debilitating fear and divisive suspicion in an organization in which lives and national security depend on mutual trust, troop cohesion, and unity of purpose?

A couple of months after his confirmation Austin acted on his promise, establishing the Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG) to root out “enemies within.” He tasked Bishop Garrison, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense for Human Capital and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, with eradicating “extremism” in the ranks.

In a panel presentation to the Center for a New American Security in early February about the “necessity” to strive for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Garrison stated, “I would hope that as many leaders and members of the total force as possible see [DEI] efforts as a force multiplier.” The theory is that recruits from diverse backgrounds bring more innovative solutions to problems facing national security today. “I want people to see [DEI] as another tool in the toolkit and another way of solving these problems,” Garrison added. “It’s not just something that has to be done because of some type of cultural ideology or culture wars that are going on — that’s not the case at all.”

Yes, it is the case. It is exactly the case that a culture war is going on, and Bishop Garrison is a social justice activist in that offensive. A supporter of Black Lives Matter and of the widely-debunked, alternative history fantasy known as the 1619 Project, which posits that America’s founding was grounded not in liberty but in slavery, Garrison believes that “the threat of systemic racism is one of our greatest national security threats.” He believes that support for former President Trump is indistinguishable from racism, and that “anti-government” attitudes are a marker of extremism.

In a devastating profile of Garrison in the David Horowitz Freedom Center booklet titled, Disloyal: How the Military Brass is Betraying Our Country, Daniel Greenfield writes that the Biden administration “is plotting to transform the military by making national security inseparable from the leftist agenda,” and that “Biden’s hit man for the military” has made it clear he is “out to purge ideology” and “eliminate political wrongthink.”

Shortly after creating the CEWG, SecDef Austin ordered an extremism “stand-down” day on which all commanders in the Armed Forces spoke to their troops about extremism and DEI training, including the racial essentialism of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is the neo-Marxist indoctrination currently metastasizing in our schools to inculcate a racial consciousness in impressionable young minds, and to pit “oppressed” minority victims against their white “oppressors.” According to Department of Defense data, the stand-down day cost our military a jaw-dropping six million man-hours.

“We face real threats across the world, yet the Biden administration is more focused on promoting its leftist social agenda in the military instead of countering China, Russia and Iran or creating an effective counterterrorism plan,” wrote a handful of Republican senators in a statement in response to the stand-down day training. “Our military is not an extremist organization, and our service members, by and large all good people, are dedicated, faithful patriots.”

They added, “We are alarmed that so much training time and taxpayer money was devoted to a partisan, political agenda instead of recruiting, training and equipping the lethal force we need to defend this country.”

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked to justify the introduction of Critical Race Theory to the troops. Milley, who is white, had already established his support for Black Lives Matter and his firm belief in such leftist concepts as systemic racism and “unconscious bias in the military.” He defended CRT as a legitimate academic field and expressed his own desire “to understand white rage.” Again, what message does it send to our Armed Forces warriors when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declares that the military is a toxic cauldron of “unconscious” racism and boiling white rage?

In a 2021 book titled Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military, Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier of the U.S. Space Force warned of the insidious mix of cultural Marxism and postmodernism that had been infecting the U.S. military, from the top down, ever since the administration of Barack Obama. He noted that the DEI industry “appears to be seeking to actively ‘shape compliance’ of our men and women in uniform – ensuring patterns of ‘confessor behavior’ are established for our young military service members.” Why are we allowing this, Lohmeier asks? Because

[s]ome senior military leaders are becoming the leading practitioners of this deception, this grand fraud, which seeks to unravel the moral fabric of America that once knit us together in unity… As a result, we are seeing increased division and resentment within the ranks. We are seeing good order and discipline undermined. We are eroding the confidence military professionals place in their oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

“This narrative of white nationalist extremists plaguing the ranks… is wrecking young people’s motivation to serve in the US military, regardless of their political leanings,” Lohmeier concluded. He was later relieved from his post as a Space Force commander for comments that may have “constituted prohibited partisan political activity.”

“Growing DEI bureaucracy inside the military is the same woke commissariat that has put an ideological straitjacket on America’s elite educational institutions,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel at a recent address to Hillsdale College. “Woke,” of course, refers to a state of enlightenment about social justice issues. “It should alarm us that the same military leaders we trust to train our sons and daughters for war are building their DEI agenda upon a foundation of fringe history and shoddy social science.”

Douglas Macgregor, retired Army colonel and former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, agrees. “Today, Americans in uniform confront an extremist ideology that is unapologetic in its hatred of all things Western, white, and Christian in America,” he wrote in The American Conservative. He concludes that the American people should be worried about our military being compromised if “the senior leaders of the armed forces do not halt the radical attempt to de-nationalize the American military and weaponize it for the use of the American Left.”

Last summer Republican Senator Tom Cotton released a list of 28 written complaints from troops about woke indoctrination sessions that service members say paint the military as fundamentally racist. But those 28 represent only a fraction of the hundreds received from the public whistleblower site launched by Cotton and another Republican, Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

Among the complainants was one service member who pointed out that the training focused on right-wing extremist groups, not organizations like Black Lives Matter or Antifa. “Anyone who has been face to face with them during the riots will tell you they are in fact well organized militant hate groups,” the service member wrote. “However, we are encouraged to stand with them, but not groups that stand for the Constitution.”

“Many had questions about groups like Antifa not being discussed during our extremism presentation,” another service member wrote. Yet another complained after hearing a senior leader advocate for Black Lives Matter, saying she “told us that we all need to support this cause because it is morally right.”

Another complainant stated that a “forced” discussion session on racism occurred only after “the baseline assumption that systemic racism is real and an existing problem we have to face was locked in as fact.” 

“If you’re wondering whether our military leadership has gone woke, consider that question settled for good. The Pentagon is now the Yale faculty lounge, but with cruise missiles. That should concern you,” the Fox News Channel’s fearless Tucker Carlson said on his show in early 2021. “What you’re seeing is not an attempt to make the military better. What you’re seeing is a political purge of the military.”

It is a purge – of the conservatives who traditionally are the most patriotic and devoted to the military. Another means of ridding the ranks of Trump-voting deplorables is through the Biden administration’s mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, which weed out the noncompliant who are most likely to be politically conservative. As of March 1, 2022, the military has discharged nearly 1,500 service members over this vaccine mandate. That does not even include figures from the Army, which has not released discharge numbers as of this writing. Tens of thousands more service members have refused to take the vaccine and may be subject to discharge as well.

“The impact of these sorts of losses on the units involved can be devastating,” reads a statement from StopVaxPassports.org about how the vaccine mandates are “destroying the military.” “Especially problematic is the attrition of highly trained and skilled individuals impacting not just their outfits’ ability to perform assigned missions in the near-term. It can translate into a protracted lack of readiness and enduring blow to the remaining troops’ morale and cohesion.”

In addition to squeezing out the noncompliant and inculcating racial tension among the troops, our military leadership has also undertaken a campaign to push another front of social engineering – gender equity, thrusting young women to the forefront of its marketing. A U.S. Army tweet from January 22, 2022, featured a clearly posed photo of a blonde female soldier in a braided ponytail crawling under the barbed wire of a boot camp obstacle course. It was accompanied by the quote, “Being brave means knowing that when you fail, you don’t fail forever” – lyrics from the pop singer Lana Del Rey (apparently the Army ran out of inspirational quotes about bravery from traditional wartime leaders like George Washington, George Patton, or Winston Churchill). There are many opportunities in the military for women to serve their country, but the left’s pretense that boots-on-the-ground combat is one of them flies in the face of the ugly reality of war.

Last year the Army released a cartoon recruitment video centered on the personal aspirations of a young, female social justice activist identified as Emma. She repeatedly mentions how inspired by and proud she is of the “two moms” who raised her with a political consciousness. After some dorm room chats with sister feminists, she decides to enlist in the military to “find her own inner strength and shatter some stereotypes along the way.” There is not a word in the video about service to her country, bonding with her fellow soldiers, or engaging in combat. There is not a weapon seen anywhere, only the smoky trail of missiles which aren’t actually shown. The boot camp Emma breezes through looks less rigorous than a corporate team-building weekend in Cabo.

In sharp contrast, a Chinese army recruitment video from a year or two earlier brims with fierce, masculine warrior energy and emphasizes unity, focus, purpose, and national pride. Another one highlights traditional family, sacrifice, discipline, and service. The men featured in it are shown training for war to protect the homes and the women they’ve left behind. Both videos feature high-tech weaponry and explosions and gunfire galore. Lesbian moms and cartoon characters are absent.

In even starker contrast, this Russian army recruitment video bursting with testosterone looks like a remake of the Spartan movie 300. It depicts a laser-focused brotherhood of pumped warriors training to fight, kill, and win. They run obstacle courses in the desert. They parachute into snowy tundra. They fire sniper rifles. It is unclear whether they have been inspired by lesbian moms or lyrics about failure by Lana Del Rey, because the video does not mention any.

This de facto emasculation of the military is an extension of the emasculation of the Western world more generally. Only the West embraces the gender lunacy that cultural Marxism has weaponized to subvert traditional families and demonize masculinity. Only the West openly denigrates traditional manhood while chanting “the future is female.” Only the West has elevated drag queens and trans celebrities into cultural heroes. Meanwhile, our enemies around the world see no value in condemning masculinity as “toxic” or erasing gender distinctions altogether; they correctly see such a fundamentally unserious worldview as civilizational weakness.

Our enemies are not actively deconstructing their shameful masculinity. Islamists do not wring their hands over their “toxic” manhood. Vladimir Putin’s own shrewdly-constructed personal image of heterosexual virility has led a Russian resurgence of masculinity. As for the Chinese, they actually are wrestling with a masculinity crisis, but they rightly recognize that it is a serious cultural and national security concern, and they’re taking steps to reverse it.

What are we doing to reverse ours? We’re educating our troops to update their understanding of pronoun usage. This February a mandatory presentation titled “Policy on the Military Service of Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria” was given to officers along with instructions for them to train all subordinates on the material by September 30, 2022.

“A telling phrase in the presentation—’assigned (male or female) at birth’—reveals that whoever developed the presentation material, and the policy being implemented, accepts the argument that gender is an artificial construct rather than a biological reality,” said Dakota Wood, a Marine Corps veteran who specializes in defense issues at the Heritage Foundation. Wood adds that forcing soldiers “to accept the premise—that one can choose their gender and therefore change how they are to be treated—creates frictions within organizations that are dependent on unity and cohesion to be successful in combat.”

None of this is to suggest that the typical American soldier is weak or emasculated. The issue, again, is the agenda of leadership at the most senior level, where neo-Marxist ideologues are accelerating their social justice indoctrination, absolutely none of which will make our warriors more effective and safer on the battlefield.

* * *

With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine triggering concerns about a potential world war, and with globalist elites like the Biden administration and their media collaborators agitating for a hawkish response to Vladimir Putin’s imperialist aims, Americans are beginning to ask themselves a very unsettling question: is the U.S. military capable of engaging a hostile world power like Russia and/or China in war – and winning?

There was a time when such a question would never even have occurred to us. The United States once had an undefeated record in wartime and unquestionably the best-trained, best-equipped, best-led fighting force in the world. But the Vietnam War rocked our confidence – at least, in our political leadership and their will to win, and in the public’s support for our soldiers. Later came then-President Bill Clinton’s humiliating withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia after the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle in Mogadishu, in response to which no less an enemy than al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden publicly dismissed the American soldier as a “paper tiger” – a toothless threat.

Much more recently, the Biden administration unceremoniously packed up our forces in Afghanistan and shipped out after a colossal expenditure of blood and treasure in a failed 20-year effort to turn the forsaken territory nicknamed “the Graveyard of Empires” into a modern liberal democracy. The public perception of our lengthy military ventures there and in Iraq is that they were not exactly rousing successes.

Now we face the sobering possibility that we may have to face off against a nuclear-armed Russia and a hyper-militarized Communist regime in China lusting for world domination. As the military formula states, “Deterrence = capability x will,” and American pundits and politicians are now openly questioning both our capability and our will to wage war.  That essentially gives a green light to our enemies to seize geopolitical opportunities.

In a no-nonsense February 2022 op-ed, Greg Newbold, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General and former Director of Operations for the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, addressed what he called the current “confusion or denial about the essential ingredients of a competent military force.” He pointed out the stark reality that the U.S. military has two main purposes: “to deter our enemies from engaging us in warfare, and if that fails, to defeat them in combat. Deterrence is only possible if the opposing force believes it will be defeated. Respect is not good enough; fear and certainty are required.” The fact that Vladimir Putin felt empowered by America’s weak, social justice-obsessed leadership to launch an invasion of Ukraine is ample proof that he felt little or no fear or certainty that the United States would step in; or that even if it did, its military would prove to be a “paper tiger.”

Newbold continued, addressing the social engineering that is muddling the military mission:

There is only one overriding standard for military capability: lethality. Those officeholders who dilute this core truth with civil society’s often appropriate priorities (diversity, gender focus, etc.) undermine the military’s chances of success in combat. Reduced chances for success mean more casualties, which makes defeat more likely. Combat is the harshest meritocracy that exists, and nothing but ruthless adherence to this principle contributes to deterrence and combat effectiveness.  

And finally:

A military force’s greatest strengths are cohesion and discipline. Individuality or group identity is corrosive and a centrifugal force… The tenets of Critical Race Theory – a cross-disciplinary intellectual and social movement that seeks to examine the intersection of race and law in the United States, but which has the unfortunate effect of dividing people along racial lines – undermine our military’s unity and diminish our warfighting capabilities.

That message is the kind of clear-eyed realism American soldiers need and want to hear from their commanders. It unifies the troops and clarifies purpose. It inspires confidence and reassures our warriors that their commanders have their back and are not focused instead on an ideological agenda or career advancement in the lucrative military-industrial bureaucracy. 

Any objective observer of what is happening to America’s military would have to conclude that it is being undermined by a top-down subversion led by Critical Race Theory enthusiasts SecDef Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley, whose push for racial “equity” is corroding cohesion in the ranks, inculcating racial resentment, and eroding patriotism in our troops. This is the extremism in the ranks we should be combating: the cultural Marxism whose very purpose is subversion.

We must take immediate steps to restore the military’s reputation for capability and will. If we don’t reject the social justice agenda that has poisoned our military culture (not to mention the culture at large); if we don’t as a society support a superior military force whose troops are free from political agendas; if we don’t cultivate a warrior pride grounded in moral masculinity and love of nation; if we don’t put God-fearing patriots in positions of leadership over our courageous, skilled service members; then, like Vladimir Putin, our enemies will continue to see America as a paper tiger and be undeterred in their imperialistic designs.


Headshot of Mark Tapson

Mark Tapson is a writer, screenwriter, culture critic, and political commentator. The Shillman Fellow on Popular Culture for the David Horowitz Freedom Center, he has written nearly a thousand articles about the intersection of culture and politics for FrontPage Magazine, Breitbart News, PJ Media, National Review, The New Criterion, and elsewhere. Among the numerous films Mark has worked on are The Path to 9/11 and the award-winning documentary Jihad in America: The Grand Deception. He is currently adapting Peter Schweizer and Caspar Weinberger’s book The Next War for the big screen. Mark is also the author of a forthcoming book on the war on masculinity from Templeton Press.