There are two types of senior military leaders. One always seeks ways to maximize the lethality and readiness of the forces under his command. The other is so sunken in the political swamp that those concepts are nearly forgotten.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin unfortunately falls in the second category. He and President Biden are turning our military into a “woke” force.
Wokeness, an extreme version of political correctness, took root in the Pentagon during the Obama years. Two examples suffice. In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel mandated an “environmental roadmap” mandating deference to environmental concerns when making operational plans. In 2015, the Army issued regulations requiring that commanders balance mission requirements with the needs of breastfeeding mothers. Compromising readiness or operational needs to politics is a stupid move that can cost American lives.
The officers who were converted to that thinking during the Obama years are now the generals and admirals who are most susceptible to wokeness.
Soon after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Mr. Biden asked the intelligence community for an assessment of the threat of domestic terrorism. Because some active duty military members and veterans reportedly participated in the riot, on Feb. 3, Mr. Austin ordered a Defense Department-wide “stand down” over 60 days to have training on extremism at every level down to the smallest unit.
A military stand-down order is an extraordinary remedy intended to solve a manifestly serious problem. Despite the lack of a clear problem of extremism anywhere within the military, Mr. Austin ordered one anyway. According to two sources, many troops are questioning — and disbelieving — the “training” because it focuses only on the Jan. 6 riot and excludes mention of the months-long Antifa and BLM riots.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson riled the woke Pentagon by hotly criticizing new Pentagon regulations that allow more hairstyles for women and allow pregnant aircrew members to wear maternity flight suits while flying missions. Mr. Carlson said, “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military.” He added, “While China’s military becomes more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, ‘more feminine’…”
The Pentagon’s many furious responses to Mr. Carlson’s remarks evidenced the terrible sensitivity that comes only from self-doubt. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Mr. Carlson had demeaned the entire U.S. military, praised the military’s “diversity” and sniffed that the Pentagon wouldn’t take advice from a talk show host or the Chinese military.
Gen. Paul Funk, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, and chimed in, saying that women service members “were beacons of freedom” who prove Mr. Carlson wrong through dedication and determination. The command senior enlisted leader of Space Command, Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Stalker, who should know better, said that serving pregnant women actually increase force readiness.
In response to those rebukes, Mr. Carlson said his supporters were almost rattled. “Then we realized if the woke generals treat us like they’ve treated the Taliban, we’ll be fine. Twenty years later, the Taliban are still here.”
While Mr. Carlson has a good point about the woke generals, his argument about women pilots has some holes in it. Many women can fly any aircraft, even in combat, as well as any man. But a woman who requires a maternity flight suit must be in her second or third trimester. It’s impossible to believe that women so advanced in their pregnancies are up to the physical demands and mental stress of flying even non-combat missions.
In January, Mr. Biden signed an order revoking former President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military. He later issued an order requiring all federal agencies involved with foreign nations to promote and protect the rights of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and intersex (“LGBTQI+”) people. Mr. Austin quickly embraced the new policy.
On March 12, Mr. Austin issued a memorandum effectuating the president’s action. It requires DoD to “lead by example” in such efforts as combating the criminalization by foreign governments of LGBTQI+ status, and expand its engagement with foreign governments to combat discrimination against such people. Mr. Austin’s memorandum further requires DoD to expand its efforts with foreign governments to do such things as promote the human rights of LGBTQI+ people and to consider the impact on programs funded by DoD in that regard when making funding decisions.
Earlier this month, Mr. Biden issued his “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” which must have been written in part by Mr. Austin and his team. You might expect it to address all the serious challenges we face, but you’d be wrong.
In its 24 pages, the “Guidance” mentions climate change more than a dozen times, as well as racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights. It’s little more than a politically correct list of things the president wants to address such as the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice and climate change. It gives us nothing that could qualify as national security strategic guidance other than stating Mr. Biden’s desire to strengthen alliances and use diplomacy instead of military power.
Mr. Biden’s “woke” military will focus on politics, not lethality and readiness. It will excel in virtue signaling and fail at winning battles and wars.
• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”