Wednesday, 06 December 2023
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joseph.fallonAn explainer by Joseph E. Fallon

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, former Naval Lieutenant and legal advisor to SEAL Team One, stated in a 2023 Memorial Day interview:

"I think the military that I see is different from the military I served in...I see a lot of emphasis now on political ideologies, things like gender pronouns. I see a lot about things like DEI [Diversity Equity and Inclusion programs], and I think that that's caused recruiting to plummet. I think it's driven off a lot of warriors and I think morale is low."



The Governor was referring to "wokeism" and its perceived effects on military readiness, and the relationship between the U.S. military and American society. What's the background to his claims, and do they stand up?

In "The Psychology of 'Wokeism': Hate requires the obliteration of context," Psychology Today, August 9, 2021, Michael Karson, PhD, J.D, defines "wokeism" as "a system of thought and behaviour characterized by intolerance, policing the speech of others, and proving one's own superiority by denouncing others."

In his examination of "wokeism", Dr. Karson quotes Aldous Huxley. "The surest way to work up a crusade in favour of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behaviour 'righteous indignation' - this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats...Nietzsche said it best, perhaps: 'Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.'"

It is claimed that as it manifests in the U.S. military, "wokeism" targets white, Christian, heterosexual men -- their presence and their performance, as well as their political and religious beliefs.


As Thomas Spoehr documented in "The Rise of Wokeness in the Military," The Heritage Foundation, September 30, 2022, "Much of the emphasis of wokeness today is on promoting the idea that America is fatally flawed by systemic racism and white privilege.

"Our fighting men and women are required to sit through indoctrination programs, often with roots in the Marxist tenets of critical race theory, either by Pentagon diktat or through carelessness by senior leaders who delegate their command responsibilities to private Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion instructors. These indoctrination programs...promote discrimination by replacing the American ideal of equality with the progressive ideal of equity—which in practice means unequal treatment based on group identity."

"Wokeism" in the U.S. military attacks constitutional government, separation of powers, and the traditional apolitical nature of the armed forces. In June 2023, a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Space Force used her speech at a Pentagon pride event last week to speak against what she called "anti-LGBTQ+" moves introduced in state legislatures across the country. Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, deputy chief of space operations, declared, "Transformational cultural change requires leadership from the top, and we do not have time to wait."

For the U.S military, "wokeism" is death by a thousand cuts. ""Woke ideology undermines military readiness in various ways. It undermines cohesiveness by emphasizing differences based on race, ethnicity, and sex. It undermines leadership authority by introducing questions about whether promotion is based on merit or quota requirements. It leads to military personnel serving in specialties and areas for which they are not qualified or ready. And it takes time and resources away from training activities and weapons development that contribute to readiness... under fierce pressure from advocacy groups... there is no test to determine whether any soldier can meet the fitness requirements for combat specialties."


The December 2022 National Defense Survey by the Ronald Reagan Foundation found "trust and confidence in the United States military has declined by more than 20 points in recent years. The primary reason for this decline is the perceived politicization of the military... Americans' faith in the military's ability "to act in a professional and nonpolitical manner" dropped from 40% in 2021 to 35% in 2022... Half of Americans believe "so-called 'woke' policies" cause the military to be less effective."

Micaela Burrow reported in the Daily Caller that while "The survey did not define 'woke' for respondents...the Department of Defense has emphasized diversity in race and gender or sexual orientation among the ranks in recent years and doubled down on combating alleged extremism, which some perceive as targeted against majority groups."

The National Defense Survey also found "A little over half of respondents expressed concern about U.S. ability to win wars."

Among the findings of Micaela Burrow in her report "These are the Top 7 times the Military went woke in 2022", "Daily Caller, December 31, 2022:

"The U.S. Air Force Academy reportedly offered programming on 'gender-inclusivity' over recent years, according to teaching materials leaked in the fall of 2022. The Academy promoted a seminar on "Transgender visibility" in September and in 2021 it rolled out a new curriculum instructing cadets to avoid gendered language, including words like 'mom' and 'dad'."

"At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, cadets learned Critical Race Theory as a part of the class curriculum, according to more than 500 pages of documents obtained by Judicial Watch in June. The documents showed lectures titled things like "White Power at West Point" and "Understanding Whiteness and White Rage."

"A 739-page Congressionally-mandated study to devise a "gender-integrated training model" for the U.S. Marine Corps, completed in late 2022, recommends removing gender identifiers like "sir" and "ma'am" for drill instructors and exposing each recruit to both male and female instructors, according to Marine Corps Times. The report found that the Marine Corps implicitly and explicitly appears to favour male Marines."

"The DOD inaugurated its first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisory committee in September. Members, comprised of civilian academics and former military personnel, will provide 'recommendations on matters and policies relating to the improvement of racial/ethnic diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity within the Department with a primary focus on military personnel.'"


As a result of its war on merit, "Wokeness in the military also affects relations between the military and society at large. 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...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".

In a more recent survey, "Addressing the U.S. Military Recruiting Crisis", March 2023, David Barno and Norma Bensahel reported "Only 13 percent of young Americans said they would consider military service before the pandemic, and that already paltry figure shrank to just 9 percent last year. That number is simply not high enough to ensure the stable flow of recruits upon which the all-volunteer force relies."

They went on : "During the last fiscal year, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 active-duty soldiers, or 25 percent of its target. This shortfall forced the Army to cut its planned active-duty end strength from 476,000 to 466,000. And the current fiscal year is likely to be even worse. Army officials project that active end strength could shrink by as much as 20,000 soldiers by September, down to 445,000. That means that the nation's primary land force could plummet by as much as 7 percent in only two years — at a time when its missions are increasing in Europe and even in the Pacific, where the Army provides many of the critical wartime theater enablers without which the other services cannot function."

The crisis in recruitment is compounded by redirection of funds and confusion of purpose. "Wokeness" conflates "the mission of the military with environmental ideology... Biden signed an executive order imposing a massive regime of environmental goals and requirements for the Department of Defense. These goals included transitioning to all electric non-tactical vehicles by 2035, carbon-free electricity for military installations by that same year, and net zero emissions from those installations by 2050. As a result, the Pentagon recently announced it will devote over $3 billion of its already stretched-thin military budget to climate-related initiatives in 2023 alone."


The U.S. has the most advanced military technology of any country on earth. Since 911, its power to deliver mass destruction to any enemy anywhere at any time earned the U.S. the title of a hyperpower. But it is a country whose military cannot wins wars despite such technology. The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945. It has forgotten "war is the continuation of policies by other means." Victory is a military operation that successfully realizes political goals. Without the latter, it is a defeat.

"From 1846 to 1945, the United States had a minuscule peacetime army but won almost every major campaign. After World War II, Washington constructed the most expensive military machine that ever existed and endured seven decades of martial frustration... stalemate, and loss."

Losing foreign wars did not destroy the U.S. military. But this unprecedented untested approach might. Professionalism, performance, preparedness, merit, and non-partisanship are under threat. It makes the U.S. a "paper tiger" ill-equipped in means and morale for war with China, its only serious rival. As Napoleon remarked, in war, "moral power is to physical as three parts out of four."

Two years ago in interviews with Yahoo News, David Ochmanek, senior analyst at RAND Corporation and former deputy assistant secretary of defence for force development stated 'What many Americans don't realize is that years of classified Pentagon war games strongly suggest that the U.S. military would lose that war...Whenever we war-gamed a Taiwan scenario over the years, our Blue Team routinely got its ass handed to it, because in that scenario time is a precious commodity and it plays to China's strength in terms of proximity and capabilities."

Air Force Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, added "At that point the trend in our war games was not just that we were losing, but we were losing faster."

The conclusion appears to be - challenge China and be defeated, quickly and spectacularly, as Ochmanek and Hinote suggest, in a war in which a sizeable portion of the US Navy is sunk and the U.S. military shattered as an effective force for years to come, with global power and influence lost to a rampant China.

How a "woke" and "green" military could prevent this happening remains unclear.

Joseph E Fallon is a Senior Research Associate with the U K Defence Forum



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