by Bob Barr
As the Biden administration nears the end of its first year, the focus of its Department of Defense appears not to be on meeting our military’s ability to defeat real and potential foes. Instead, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin continues his high-priority campaign to chase “extremism” within the ranks.
Austin relentlessly pursues this boogeyman notwithstanding that the most recent Defense Department report on “extremism,” published just last month, conceded that over the course of its nearly year-long study, it could find “less than 100” incidents of such behavior among active duty and reserve personnel (which totals some 2,145,900 men and women across all military branches).
The current administration’s apparent obsession with ferreting out “extremism” among active duty and reserve personnel, including civilian military contract personnel and the many more millions of veterans, comes even as recent evaluations of America’s military readiness shows serious deficiencies. Despite this, non-governmental groups to which Austin’s Defense Department continues to turn for data and approval – including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – lament that even more is not being done to ensure a fully “woke” military.
The term “woke” is not used in either the December 2021 Defense Department report, or in a lengthy investigative analysis of “extremism” in the military published by The Associated Press just last week. “Wokeness,” however, is the clear goal of this crusade to identify and rid the armed forces of those with views disfavored by the like of both the SPLC and the Biden administration.
The new definition of “Extremist Activities” now to govern backgrounds and activities of military personnel as well as those civilians working with the armed forces, includes espousing “unlawful discrimination” based not only on traditionally understood — and already against military law — categories such as “race, color, national origin, religion, [and] sex” but now, “pregnancy.”
Given the administration’s strident support for abortion (a procedure that is, after all, terminating a “pregnancy”), it is not unreasonable to foresee the administration using this as a pretext to punish a service member or recruit who is or in the past has been pro-life, insofar as such advocacy could be considered discriminatory against “pregnancy.” Viewed in this light, the truly insidious nature of the new rules becomes clear.
The Defense Department’s new regulations do not stop there. They now subject a service member to discipline or discharge if he or she displays – “whether on or off a military installation” — any form of “paraphernalia” that might be considered supportive of a group or organization engaged in the aforementioned and wide-ranging “extremist activities.” These verboten displays includes not only “bumper stickers,” but “words, symbols, . . . clothing” and even “tattoos.”
How the military ultimately determines whether one of its own (or a prospective recruit) gave a “symbol” in support of an “extremist” group, or at some point in their life “knowingly displayed” a tattoo with such intent, is murky; but the new regulations allow that lists and databases maintained by the FBI and other government agencies may be accessed for such purpose.
Austin’s directives are designed explicitly to encourage snitches, not only from within the active military, but from veterans as well. Moreover, veterans who engage in prohibited “extremist activities” may see their veterans benefits denied or cut off under the terms of these new draconian policies.
The fact of the matter is, the truly and demonstrably violent extremist behavior by those in the military is already illegal and incidents of such have in the past been successfully prosecuted. From this perspective, and viewed most charitably, these new regulations could be considered designing a new baseball bat to swat a fly.
The results of Austin’s first-year jeremiad – and further studies already in the works — are in fact much more than simply a new way of attacking a problem that already has been addressed.
Austin, reflecting the leftist views of his boss, has designed a blueprint to ensure wokeness will prevail throughout current and coming generations of our military. It appears that to him, this is more important than addressing clear evidence that the readiness of our armed forces — as articulated just this past year by both non-governmental studies and the Government Accountability Office itself – is seriously deficient.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.