Who Is Our Military’s Enemy?

The U.S. military has now turned its wrath inward on Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

The new secretary of defense relayed his “revulsion” for Carlson’s questioning the role of women in combat—a position that had been the military’s centuries-long orthodoxy until about seven years ago.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby even compared Carlson to the Communist Chinese military: “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military.” 

The now-cocky Department of Defense website further boasted, “Press Secretary Smites Fox Host.”  

So what was the biblically “smitten” Carlson’s crime? 

He objected to the military’s fixation on race and gender in high-profile appointments—and questioned whether standards were relaxed to permit women in combat units.

Carlson objected that the Capitol is currently domestically militarized. More troops are on guard against purported American “insurrectionists” than are currently serving in war zones in Afghanistan. 

He noted far too many defense secretaries—he singled out the current secretary, retired General Lloyd Austin—revolve in and out from corporate defense contractor boards and billets. 

His subtext is that too many of our retired top brass virtue signal their wokeness, while otherwise seeking to make a great deal of corporate money from their prior and often future government service and contacts. 

Aside from the fact that the military usually does not use its top officials to react to journalists, the Pentagon should try to refute Carlson rather than comparing him to the hostile Communist Chinese. 

The Pentagon might instead seek to reassure the public that no physical standards for combat troops have been lowered to accommodate front-line soldiers of any sex.

Kirby also could attempt to reassure the public that defense secretaries and top-ranking Pentagon officials have not recently served on defense contractor boards before or after their tenures. He might object that defense budgets are not soaring in part due to administrative bloat and social welfare costs. 

The Pentagon might also explain the ubiquitous barbed wire and troop presence in Washington—the greatest militarization of the nation’s capital since Confederate general Jubal Early marched on Washington in July 1864. 

No one arrested in the January 6 violent Capitol assault was found to have possessed or used a firearm. No ringleaders were discovered planning a coup. Instead, the dangerous riot was more likely a one-time assault than an ongoing “armed insurrection.”

Last summer during the nationwide Antifa and Black Lives Matter civil unrest, more than 280 retired top-ranking officers and security officials signed a letter blasting President Trump’s consideration of sending in federal troops to restore calm. They claimed the mere idea “risks sullying the reputation of our men and women in uniform in the eyes of their fellow Americans and of the world.”

OK—yet none of those signees voiced objections when the Pentagon recently oversaw 30,000 National Guard troops within the borders of our capital.  

The military has announced it is now conducting internal audits to root out American soldiers suspected of harboring supposedly dangerous ideas. What is going on?

One, the Left now dotes on what it envisions will soon be a woke military. It believes the chain of command can green-light progressive social changes—from women in combat units to subsidies for transgender transition surgeries to timely displays of massive force on the streets of Washington—without bureaucratic red tape or opposition from Congress.

Two, federal agencies in therapeutic fashion often dilute their traditional missions to accommodate social awareness agendas. 

Under Barack Obama, NASA director Charles Bolden, a retired Marine major general, sought to reset the space agency: “Perhaps foremost, he [Obama] wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering.” 

“Feel good” does not ensure rockets reach outer space.

Three, there grows a new class rift between the rank-and-file military and the Pentagon’s top current and retired brass. 

Increasingly, some brass spend extended tenures inside the Pentagon or within the beltway attached to the White House or Congress. They master the contours of the military-industrial complex, and profit from them upon retirement. Many acquiesce to now-orthodox progressive ideology omnipresent among federal bureaucracies and much of the Congress.  

Whereas all administrations used to prioritize traditional military preparedness, now leftist administrations see the military foremost as a tool for accelerating their own progressive domestic changes. 

The elite military echelon adjusts—given that careers and promotions are either enhanced or sidetracked accordingly.

As a result, many of our top brass often are far more politicized than in the past, and can grow more ideologically distant from their own lower-ranking officer corps and enlisted personnel.

This recent extraordinary, thin-skinned Pentagon effort to lump Tucker Carlson in with critics like the Communist Chinese military is one more illustration of this far larger—and increasingly dangerous—pathology.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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