The US Military is Going Woke Thanks to ‘Elite’ Education

I enlisted in the Navy in 1981 during President Ronald Reagan’s campaign to restore US military dominance in the face of Soviet totalitarianism’s global resurgence. It’s hard for veterans of my age cohort to stomach the latest news. The Associated Press recently reported that “the US military faces what a top general called ‘unprecedented challenges’ in bringing in recruits.” Earlier this week, a watchdog group south of the Pentagon for teaching critical race theory to naval recruits.

For over 40 years, I served our nation. I saw plenty. Most of it great. Some of it, not so great. I had never witnessed, however, the leadership of our armed forces determined to blow up the best elements of America’s most worthy of institutions. Yet it’s happening today, and the tool being used to demolish the US military is society’s most venomous and exploitative force: wokeism. How did this happen?

Virtually every challenge has a life cycle. The military itself gave birth to this one by building a system that miseducates our officers. Over the course of decades, Pentagon luminaries convinced themselves that non-military education forges better practitioners of the arts and sciences of warfare. So in terms of instruction, military officers are on par with their civil-servant and academic counterparts. You might think that’s fantastic. It’s not. This ruinous and disorienting requirement has left our military leaders as far afield from their war-fighting forebears of the previous centuries as one could possibly imagine.

Our officers are politically and socially indoctrinated right alongside the population that passes through our colleges and universities. We send our officers to Ivy League schools and other elite institutions of “higher learning” to supposedly round out their educations. They complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in the humanities, most of which have little, if any, connection to warfare (or even reality). While I would hope to make the exception with STEM-related programs, they too have succumbed to the pull of woke indoctrination.

Our nation’s official war colleges offer little solace. They seem suicidally determined to out-progressive their rabidly progressive civilian counterparts. Whatever the case, without advanced degrees from these institutions, officers can turn in their resignation letters at the 10-year mark. Their careers will go no further.

Eager to fit in on campus, many officers seek to demonstrate that they are not quite so bad as their civilian colleagues think. They want to be thoughtful and understanding, politically correct in ways that make them less distasteful to their temporary peers. The ideologies they absorb—to be fair, sometimes out of survival—flow back to base, out to sea, onto the field, and straight into the Pentagon, where woke mantras are now fostered, promoted, and enshrined into policy with evangelical zeal.

Many find it difficult to shake the woke indoctrination of their campus experience. Back on duty in Arlington, officers are wholly dependent upon the approval of their civilian bosses. Uniformed “leaders” in the five-sided building may be physically brave, but too many are moral cowards.

US soldiers stand to attention at the United States Army military training base in Grafenwoehr, southern Germany, on July 13, 2022.
Christopher STACHE / AFP/Getty Images

Some are embarrassments, such as the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who can’t seem to apologize enough for having accepted his appointment from the prior commander in chief. Mark Milley couldn’t care less about white rage or social justice. But he’s been educated and conditioned his entire career to say and do whatever he must to please his boss, and his boss’s boss, for the all-powerful Officer Evaluation Report, which determines whether careers sink or soar. Milley expects his subordinates to mirror his choices. This is a supremely pathetic mark on the epic story of our military.

Weekeness is a sickness. It’s preferable. It’s the rule. And it’s destroying our military.

I have seen more than my share of smart, committed military tacticians and strategists return from post-grad programs eager to put all their “new” knowledge to the test. The results usually resemble lab work. Let’s try a social science approach picked up at UPenn or Georgetown that, executed under just the right conditions whereby the Taliban are responsible statesmen and partners, allows us to bypass the distasteful work of defeating them using the effective, but ugly, method of total warfare . As with most lab work, the “just-right” conditions exist only in the classroom and, sadly, never on the battlefield.

To Carl Von Clausewitz, it was the period of total war that eventually created the conditions for peace. Conversely, in the 1960s (from whence college campuses have yet to emerge) it was “make love, not war.” In the disoriented mind of the modern, educated warrior, it is a confusing “make love other war” hybrid. Well, the results are in. Just look at Afghanistan.

The realities of warfare are unpalatable to classmates at Harvard or American University. Service members have to watch what they say, write, and think. Yet by doing so, they separate themselves even further from what should be the point of their continuing education: operational superiority on the battlefield.

The military need not look to the outside world for affirmation of its methods, nor for advice on the grave work required to defeat our nation’s enemies. The only advance knowledge our nation’s military needs is that which fosters and enables superiority on any field of battle. Everything else is a fatal distraction.

Recruitment problems are a symptom of the failure to educate and cultivate genuine military leaders. The young and service-ready of our nation still want to stand out as elite guardians of their society against foreign threats and domestic ruin. Unfortunately, if what they are being asked to join is no longer discernible from the disorientation of modern civil society, and they are smart enough to notice, then the question understandably becomes, “what’s the point?”

Frank Wuco is a retired Naval Intelligence Officer with 23 years of active-duty service, including multiple sea and wartime deployments. He also served as a senior advisor in the Trump administration to the US Department of Homeland Security, the US State Department Arms Control Bureau, and the US Agency for Global Media. Follow him on Twitter @FrankWuco (https://twitter.com/frankwuco)

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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