Despite new leadership in the House, 2023 has unfortunately turned out as expected so far. DirectTV dropped Newsmax, removing yet another non-woke news agency from their lineup. Despite congressional protests, the streaming TV service is content to hold its ground in the grand woke assault on freedom of speech. The progressive long game to dominate the 2024 elections is already in full effect. DoD covid vaccine mandates are gone – due to legislative decree, not due to SECDEF enlightenment. On the contrary, SECDEF Austin fought the move bitterly and last week LTG Gilland at West Point allegedly reinstated the vindictive unvaccinated cadet travel ban despite zero covid deaths amongst active duty servicemembers in the past few months and zero at West Point in three years. The AMA and other large medical organizations continue to push for censorship in medicine under the guise of ‘misinformation’ protection for patients. Simultaneously, California’s Governor Newsom has not backed down on his ‘progressive’ party’s plan to eliminate patient informed consent despite a federal court ordering the law to be placed on hold for now.
Woke/progressive ideologies have become so ingrained that they are now considered to be consensus by those who wield the real power in the country – educators, medical leadership, executive branch leadership, mass media executives, and social media billionaires. As the years go by, their grip tightens and the ability to find a platform to wage a meaningful protest gets more and more difficult. Many find it frustrating that the disciples of wokeness can constantly bombard America with often incorrect information while defenders of American freedoms must tread carefully as one questionable word uttered publicly can lead to immediate cancellation and/or professional punishment. Politicians such as Congressman Pat Ryan (D-NY) are growing so bold as to give interviews that headline as “West Point Congressman Says He Has ‘Zero Time’ for Complaints About Woke Military, Focused on China.” On his campaign website, he sums up the woke spirit by splitting the country into 2 camps – those who support him and those who attack the Constitution. He brags he is going to “stand up to [such] domestic extremists.” His words, not mine.
Many professions, such as medicine and soldiering have closed their ranks to ‘un-woke’ members. As evidenced by the DoD vaccine mandate, change and restoration of Constitutional freedoms are no longer possible by working from within organizations. Dissent is viewed as ‘partisan’ by politicians and editors of medical journals. This has forced many to seek the undesired course of public speaking and political influencing to highlight egregious actions and effect change. Even with Elon Musk’s directives to expose unethical and in many cases illegal censorship at Twitter under the prior regime, little has changed. Damning internal emails and other documents are released with little to no societal introspection at large. Instead, progressives suppress what is released and are attacking Musk’s business empire in retaliation for betraying the ‘liberal code’ where the ends justify the means.
2023 will be a long year. Next year will be even worse as 2024’s election becomes more pivotal to decide if the great Constitutional experiment will survive in the 21st century.
John Hughes, MD
Veteran of Iraq/Afghanistan
Co-chair of www.americanism24.com SUPERPAC
Guest post by Thomas Klocek, USNA '69
The current climate of being “woke” is all about oneself. It is political correctness on steroids. It rewards conformity to ideological perspectives rather than real performance. It does not look at others, their needs (except when “virtue signaling” – trying to make yourself appear to be taking the moral high ground), or how to work with them. Some of the basic principles of being “woke” include lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions, the need for safe spaces when there is a hint of adversity, and the right to be offended at the slightest trigger.
The youth of today are indoctrinated into being afraid to think for themselves. The idea of self-sacrifice is foreign to them. Today’s counterculture and the tyranny of moral relativism have twisted their development. This culture pushes them to believe that their nation, their upbringing, their families, and their history are all based on hate. It is divisive and works to set them apart and isolate one group from another based on all the biases the elites can think of. You cannot build an effective team if the members are in conflict with each other. Teamwork requires unity, not divisiveness. Recognizing that divisiveness is prejudicial to good order and discipling, the military services have led the way in fighting racism and fostering equality of opportunity. For decades, the military has provided equal pay for equal service.
A major characteristic of military service is self-sacrifice. Military members give up time with their families to deploy for months at a time, even more in crisis situations. They put their lives on the line. One doesn’t have to be in a combat zone to be in dangerous situations. For example, just going to sea is a hazardous situation.
A friend recently sent me a picture of a famed New England lighthouse being assaulted by the towering waves of an early winter storm. Needless to say, the lighthouse, despite having withstood the ravages of the sea for over two hundred years, suffered some damage. The photographer who caught the awesome picture noted that he was in awe of the power of nature. Given time, just about anything manmade will succumb to nature. The world, beautiful and awesome as it is, can be a very harsh and dangerous place. Talk to any sailor who has weathered a storm at sea (or just the daily conditions in the North Atlantic in fall/winter). Think about WWII when the illustrious Bull Halsey ran into a typhoon and lost 3 ships with several others significantly damaged and numerous sailors washed overboard. The ships were there when the sun went down but could not be found the next morning. Having spent over two years at the Oceanography Center in Guam, I can attest to the power of these tropical storms.
This is the stuff of songs, even in the inland seas known as the Great Lakes, such as the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The sea is not a place for wimps. You don’t get a participation trophy – you survive, or you don’t. And to survive, you need courage, teamwork (unity), and perseverance. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in the face of fear and danger, not turning your back on it. Hardly characteristics of “wokeness.”
Think of the men who signed our Declaration of Independence. They certainly were not looking for a “safe space.” The Constitution of the United States guarantees to protect every state against invasion (i.e., individually or collectively) and empowers congress to “raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a navy.” Our founding fathers knew the hostility of the world at large and thus provided for protection of the nation. Following the woke agenda results in weakening the defense of our constitution and the nation as a whole by changing the priorities of the services intended to protect the country to those of catering to individuals within the services themselves. It diverts attention from issues of readiness and leadership to catering to the whims of individual members.
An organization that relies on the ability and merit cannot function effectively in an environment of equity or equal outcomes. Military service is not the subject of attendance awards but rather one of performance. The mediocre pilot is not going to fare well against an enemy who has honed his flight and dogfight skills against difficult opponents. We don’t want our fighters to be passable, we want them to be better than the enemy. A fighting unit cannot be effective in a cancel-culture environment.
Other than working to better oneself in competition with one’s peers, to advance and build a better force, the military, to be effective, is not a self-serving organization. Although there will always be a few who try to advance at the expense of others, most successful military career personnel acknowledge that their success would not have been possible without the help of others. At the Naval Academy we were introduced into the naval history of those who sacrificed themselves for others, such as Chaplain George Rentz giving his life jacket to a seaman during the sinking of the USS Houston during WWII, and telling him, “Take it, lad, you need it more than I do.” Or Lieutenant Anthony Tortoras, USMC at Guadalcanal, who wrote, “Always pray, not that I shall come back, but that I will have the courage to do my duty.”
The motto of the American Legion, the largest veterans’ organization, is “God and Country.” Military service is truly service in that it involves sacrifice. Most people who join the military do so because they believe there is something greater than themselves, not exactly a concept of wokeness. Even in the days of the draft (conscription) the underlying concept was service to the nation and to others as a necessary aspect of citizenship. Individualism had to take a back seat.
“It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.” —Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC.
The Consequences of Lowering Military Recruiting Standards, from a former Commander’s Perspective
The American military in which I served for twenty-eight years continues to struggle to meet recruiting goals. I am not surprised. The Biden administration’s ongoing pursuit of ‘progressive’ (regressive) policies comes at a hefty price that cannot be ignored. The problem is so bad they are resorting to lowering recruiting standards to meet the need. This is abnormal for an American military that is not at war. The last time the military’s standards were reduced like this was at the height of the dual conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had a front-row seat to the consequences of lowered standards, both as a commander in combat zones and as a trainer.
Are We at War?
Again, we are not at war; or are we? I would say we are in a war, but an internal one over the future of our own country. The military is part of that war, and we should not be experimenting with readiness, but we are, to our shame. The military serves one purpose, to win our nation’s wars. It should not serve as a giant laboratory for ideological indoctrination. The price of failure is too high.
America’s military is a cultural microcosm of our society. Big city kids from Los Angeles, farm kids from the mid-west, black-brown-red-white, each with their own motivations for joining. Some join for college money, some for adventure, others to escape a previous reality, and many to fulfill a desire to serve the nation they love. The attacks on servicemembers by their own chain of command seem to be intentional and designed to reduce our readiness as a nation. This is part of the internal war.
Who willnot join?
The kind of recruits the military needs are the same kind who have no desire to sit in a classroom and be told they are racist, sexist, misogynist, or any other kind of ‘ist. Our military needs people who are physically fit and mentally capable of combat in harsh environments. They should not be filling out paperwork identifying their pronouns. These are the kind of recruits who love this country and cannot see enlisting in this environment. I cannot blame them.
Who will join?
There are great people still joining the military. They keep their heads down and focus on the mission while waiting for a leadership climate more focused on readiness and excellence. They pray for something new in 2024. This also means there are many joining who are willing to take part in the indoctrination and might even embrace it. Those who embrace the woke culture are typically not your warfighters. This causes problems for commanders who are tasked with training their people for combat and building the best team they can in a political environment focused on pronouns, diversity, equity, inclusion, and the apparent targeting of patriotic people for removal.
How Does Lowering Recruiting Standards Impact Readiness?
1. Every time standards are lowered recruits who otherwise could not join flood the recruiting centers, fill basic training slots, then move out to active, reserve, or national guard units. Here they often cause more problems because the issues they had prior to enlistment are magnified in the high-paced and stressful military environment.
2. Commanders tasked with building combat-ready teams spend much of their time dealing with those problems. They spend a lot less time on training and readiness as a result.
3. The recruits who have the problems get waivers to join because those tasked with meeting recruiting numbers are only responsible for signing them to a contract and rarely deal with that same recruit a year later. In recruiting command, the goal is quantity over quality.
4. Commanders who would rather have eighty percent of their units filled with high-quality servicemembers are forced into accepting new recruits with problems. Their units look like they are one hundred percent filled on paper, but the reality is commanders are forced to spend eighty percent of their time on the twenty percent with the greatest number of problems. This is time-consuming, and the eighty percent see the command focused on the biggest problems, not the biggest contributors. The same twenty percent usually end up being removed from service for a variety of reasons and it can take a long time. All these factors kill the morale of the unit and cause the quality to leave rather than re-enlist. In the worst case, something I have personally experienced, the unit is scheduled to deploy, and the same twenty percent must stay home. The American taxpayer just spent thousands of dollars training somebody who cannot do their job. Commanders seek quality over quantity, the opposite of the recruiting mentality.
What can be done?
1. Elect a different Commander in Chief, one who respects the military and understands its importance.
2. Eliminate the vaccine mandate for all servicemembers. No, the most recently signed NDAA did not accomplish that for all.
3. Eliminate all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training requirements and offices/positions.
4. Raise recruiting standards, don’t lower them. Quality often matters more than quantity. Quality builds great teams, quantity builds a stack of paperwork and wastes time and money.
5. Diversify incentives. Servicemembers join for many reasons, not always financial.
6. Teach the meaning of the oath and the U.S. Constitution, as originally written and intended.
The military needs to be an organization recognized for having the highest standards. This creates a culture of excellence where servicemembers know they are part of the elite and are expected to perform that way. Lowering standards does not work, it creates more and bigger problems.
Lt Col (ret), US Army, Darin Gaub is Co-founder of Restore Liberty, an international military strategist and foreign policy analyst, an executive leadership coach, and serves on the boards of multiple volunteer national and state level organizations. The views presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or its components.