TSC IntelBrief: Order of the Day: Tolerance
Bottom Line Up Front
• According to a recent poll by Military Times, one in four U.S. troops have been exposed to white nationalism by fellow soldiers.
• A significant percentage of service men and women told pollsters white nationalism and racism were greater threats to the U.S. than other foreign or terrorist concerns.
• The results should not be surprising, as the military is a microcosm of a U.S. society still deeply divided by race.
• Recent political and social trends have emboldened some white supremacist groups who prefer to be labeled white nationalist.
A recent poll by the journal Military Times reaffirms that the U.S. military is not exempt from the racial divisions that plague the country’s politics and society at large. According to the poll, one in four U.S. service men and women responded that they had seen examples of ‘white nationalism’ in the service. (‘White nationalism’ is the term favored by some white supremacist and racist groups, in an effort to mainstream their abhorrent beliefs.) That includes 42% of non-white respondents who said they had experienced white nationalism in the service themselves – an extremely high number. The poll also shows that nearly a third of service members viewed white nationalists as greater threats to national security than problems coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq.
For several months, senior military officials have publicly denounced sexism, racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia as going against the values of the armed services. The comments followed August’s violent white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia that saw one counter-protestor killed, and President Donald Trump’s Twitter comment ‘banning’ transgender persons from serving or enlisting in the military — which led to the unusual spectacle of military leaders walking back the President’s policy.
Another incident, involving racial slurs posted at a U.S. Air Force preparatory school on the Air Force Academy campus, saw Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria give a passionate address supporting ‘the power of diversity.’ Speaking to thousands of Academy cadets and staff, General Silveria said, ‘If you can’t treat someone from another gender with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another race, or different color skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.’
Meanwhile, the Marine Corp continues to deal with a widespread issue of its own. For the past several years, Marines have been found posting ‘revenge porn’ and other nude photographs of female Marines on Facebook — and the reaction of many, on being called out for their posts, was to double down on their misogyny. The Corps’ leadership, under pressure from Congress and its constituents, has court-martialed Marines for sharing nude photos, and the Marine Commandant forcefully denounced the behavior in a March 2017 speech. Still, as in the larger U.S. society, the issue continues to persist.
According to a Pew Research Center report, minorities make up 40% of the U.S. military; up from 25% in 1990. The numbers reflect decades of demographic shifts in the country overall. While some critics bemoan the notion of the U.S. military serving as a wide-scale social experiment, it has always been so as a microcosm of one of the largest social experiment’s in history: a free democratic pluralist society and government. President Harry Truman began desegregating the military with an executive order in 1948. The military’s de-segregation efforts followed, despite opponents insisting it would somehow harm the armed services fighting capability. The exact same — and equally wrong argument — has been made regarding the inclusion of women in combat, as well as LGBT troops in the armed services. Including all of those willing to serve their country in the military serves to strengthen the country. Claims that allowing minorities to serve will damage ‘unit cohesion’ and only benefits ‘social experiments’ are historically and morally without merit.
The recent Military Times poll should be of concern. Recent racist marches have included a number of self-identified military veterans and some troops on active duty; although it is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (USMJ) for service members to belong to hate groups of any sort. The Military Times poll mirrors assessments by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice that anti-government and white supremacist groups are actually a greater domestic terror threat than foreign jihadist-inspired terrorism. Congressional and military leadership must take new steps, as they have in the past, to ensure racism and anti-government sentiment and behavior has no place in the U.S. Armed Forces.
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