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Politicization of US Military

Published April 10, 2021. Updated September 20, 2021.


Historically, the United States Military has been apolitical, staying aloof from partisan disputes. This has fostered professionalism and public trust. A 2017 Gallup poll found that military officers were the second most trusted profession in the US, behind only nurses.(1)  71% rated the honesty and ethical standards of military officers as “high” or “very high,” whereas only 3% rated them as “low” or “very low.” In contrast, politicization of the military has typically been associated with undemocratic authoritarian states.


Diversity and equal opportunity in the U.S. military are important and commendable.  Women serve an essential role in the contemporary armed forces, as do LGBTQ persons. Individuals should be included and accommodated for all roles for which they are qualified and able, regardless of gender or gender identity, race, ethnicity, or religion. Medical and safety issues for pregnant women serving in combat roles warrant careful study. However, we are deeply concerned by the increasing politicization of the U.S. military.


Incompetence and Politicization

The bungled withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan following multiple failed assurances exposed the increasing incompetence of US military leadership, eliciting outrage and alarm from human rights advocates and US allies worldwide.  For the first time in history, the Parliament of the United Kingdom held a U.S. president in contempt, condemning Joe Biden and labeling his conduct "catastrophic" and "shameful."(2)


The U.S. Pentagon had repeatedly praised the Afghan army.(3) Prior to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul on August 15, 2021, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley stated in a press conference on July 21, 2021, that “The Afghan Security Forces have the capacity to sufficiently fight and defend their country, and we will continue to support the Afghan Security Forces when necessary in accordance with the guidance from the president and the secretary of defense.”(4)  The subsequent debacle exposed the extent to which the US military has been lying to the public for twenty years, projecting the illusion of progress to mask failure and incompetence.(5)


During Joe Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, thirteen U.S. service members were among more than ninety killed by a suicide bomber at the Kabul Afghanistan airport on August 26, 2021,(6) constituting the deadliest incident for U.S. forces in the country since 2011. Critics have noted that this episode reflects a pattern of US military malfeasance, including US abandonment of  Bagram air base in the dead of night in July 2021 without telling the Afghan commander:(7) a move that surrendered a more defensible evacuation zone as well as sapping the morale of the Afghan army.


A subsequent drone strike on “ISIS-K planners” was announced by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley as a “righteous strike.” The Pentagon later acknowledged that no terrorists had been killed in the attack, which instead killed an aid worker, seven of his children, and others.(8) Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen told ABC News that there “absolutely” should be accountability for the drone strike as well as the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, although the Biden administration had previously stated that there would be no accountability among senior military leaders. 


Critics noted that tragedy was fueled by political pressure for the military to be seen as responding without appropriate due diligence.(9)  Previously, Joe Biden had pressured the Afghan president to lie to support the administration’s false narrative.


“I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things are not going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban And there is a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.” (10) 


Unlike Trump’s phone call to the president of Ukraine, Biden’s phone call did not evoke impeachment action from the Democrat-controlled congress, notwithstanding the egregious and consequential nature of his misconduct.


Subverting Democracy

The bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was merely the latest act in a long pattern of corruption, mismanagement, and malfeasance.  While the longstanding U.S. war in Afghanistan was ironically titled “Operation Enduring Freedom,” the Pentagon actively subverted the democratic hopes of the Afghan people. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman and ideological extremist Mark Milley and other Pentagon officials(11) actively derailed the US administration’s 2020 peace deal in Afghanistan with flagrant violations of the ceasefire,(12) contributing to the subsequent “crushing defeat” of the coalition and collapse of Afghan democracy


The BBC noted the United States’ loss of credibility in Afghanistan because of its disregard for human rights and the rule of law.(13)  Afghans saw how little the lives of their own people meant to the American “liberators.” The erroneous killing of a large family rather than terrorists by a drone strike during the US withdrawal was only the latest in a long string of extensive civilian “collateral damage” and even erroneous targeting altogether from US strikes.


The Economist observed that in Afghanistan, the US military served as a implement of corruption, distributing cash payments to mafia-like patronage networks of warlords rather than building institutions of civil society:


"Such corruption creates patronage networks that threaten the state’s integrity. Officials’ main goal is not carrying out their agency’s mission, but extorting revenue to distribute to their families and cronies...Yet instead of dismantling [patronage] networks, America strengthened them by paying warlords to keep the peace...Afghans soon grew furious at government corruption and more welcoming towards the Taliban. A study in 2015 by Transparency International cited one policymaker’s epiphany: 'The guys at the bottom are sending money to the top of the system and the guys at the top are sending protection downwards, which is how a mafia runs.'”(14)


Insubordination and Treason

Washington Post investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported that U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley made unauthorized secret calls to Chinese military leadership promising advanced warning of any military action during the Trump presidency.(15) The Acting Secretary of Defense at the time stated that he did not authorize these calls,(16) which critics have noted to constitute insubordination and treason.  Former Assistant Secretary of the Army E. Casey Wardynski noted that he personally observed a "stunning...pattern of behavior” of military leaders defying civilian authority.(17)  Wardynski observed:


"These kind of behaviors and this willingness for military leaders to exceed their authorities and ignore authorities of the civilian officials appointed over them … positions under the Constitution and laws of the country was not something that came to them on Jan. 8. It was something that they had done for a while."


This important story received little coverage on some left-leaning news networks or was whitewashed. Even CNN’s far-left Peter Bergen defends Milley’s actions as “reasonable,” while acknowledging that Milley’s actions “were the culmination of a long spell of disenchantment between Trump and senior US military officers” and “could set a dangerous precedent.”(18) 


Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is an eccentric partisan loyalist who instigated the Trump impeachment in collusion with congressional Democrats. In August 2021, Vindman bizarrely blamed Trump for all of the 600,000 US Covid-19 deaths to date.(19) Vindman’s anti-scientific assertion that there would have been virtually no deaths under other leadership while disregarding the travel bans, lockdowns, infection control measures, and vaccine development efforts implemented by the prior administration demonstrates his delusional partisanship. Yet even Vindman found Milley’s conduct to constitute an egregious violation:


"If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that."(20)


Milley largely acknowledged the allegations regarding his unauthorized calls with China as accurate, stating that the calls were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.(21) Kirby also defended General Mark Milley’s conduct, noting that he saw “nothing in what [he] read that would cause any concern.”(22) Subverting democracy, engaging in insubordination to civilian leadership, and colluding with America’s geopolitical enemies are apparently the “new normal” for the US military. Milley’s conduct highlights his status as a paranoid partisan conspiracy theorist. There was never any basis for believing that Trump would start a war with China. 


A More Dangerous World

Commentators have long warned of the diminishing competency of the US military due to its increasing politicization. On March 27, 2021, Australian Sky News host James Morrow observed (selections from transcript below):


“On Friday, Chinese forces committed their largest ever incursion into Taiwanese airspace, as worries grow by the day of a Chinese invasion of the Democratic island republic. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Iran is on the march with its rebel militias, now attacking Saudi oil fields and building up a stockpile of missiles that has Israeli planners increasingly nervous about a potentially devastating conflict happening sooner rather than later.

Here in Australia, officials are now also worried that with the U.S. seemingly in retreat under Joe Biden, they need to dramatically up defense preparations to counter threats from the North, i.e. China. So why are things getting so hot so fast?...”

“The US military is increasingly going woke and falling for PC fads and identity politics and narratives that come straight out of the hard progressive left. And that means America’s enemies from Beijing to Tehran, are not just laughing, but planning. These are dangerous times and thanks to Joe Biden, they’re getting a lot more dangerous.”(23)


Enforcers of the Left

Morrow continued:


“[I]nstead of being on alert to fight foreign enemies, the US military is now being used to ferret out domestic foes, i.e. anyone to the right of the Biden administration.

“It started with the militarization of the U.S. Capitol by the National Guard due to the supposed-to-now-widely debunked threat of some further alt-right, ‘insurrection’, after Joe Biden’s inauguration. It moved on to National Guard troops marching down the halls of Congress to criticize a Republican congresswoman after she made comments they didn’t agree with.”(23)


Political Propaganda Officers

Morrow noted that official indoctrination rationalized violence from the left while instructing servicemen and women to inform on each other if they expressed “wrong think on the right:”


“Then the Pentagon ordered a one day stand down of military forces across the globe to deal with the supposed problem extremism in the ranks, though those who participated in the training say that while the sessions were supposedly all about going after the alt-right, anyone who talked about antifa or Black Lives Matter and brought up the violence done in the names of those organizations, was quickly shut down. The sessions instead, many who participated report, were really about ferreting out anyone guilty of wrong think on the right. And here’s the sinister bit, it also encouraged servicemen and women to report one another to higher ups if they caught them saying or expressing the wrong things or ideas or opinions. I mean, really, how long is it until the U.S. military goes down the road of the old Soviet Union where political officers were always on hand to check everyone’s thinking and overrule commanders on the ground?”(23)


Attacks on Private Citizens

Morrow observed:


“But it’s not only those within their own ranks, the Pentagon is also going after private citizens. After Fox News’s Tucker Carlson slammed America’s increasingly feminized woke military, the Pentagon and many of its top generals launched a full court press on social media to denounce Tucker Carlson, a private citizen.”


In early March 2021, Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized Joe Biden for military policy focused, in Biden’s words, on “creating maternity flight suits,” rather than on military readiness in regard to China or other potential adversaries.(24)  Carlson noted the need for research to support the move. He had previously expressed dismay at “woke” Pentagon initiatives promoting ideological theories including intersectionality.


Almost immediately, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby rushed to criticize Carlson.(25)  The government-run Department of Defense (DoD) press wrote that Kirby verbally attacked the host, “smiting” him as if a military adversary. The DoD release reduces him with a dehumanizing pronoun (“that” instead of “who,”) and using a slur (“dissing”) to describe his viewpoint instead of responding to specific objections in a professional manner.  This is the same John Kirby who subsequently lied to the public in claiming that Kabul wasn’t in ‘imminent’ danger of falling to the Taliban,(26) whitewashed the bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and defended General Mark Milley violating the chain of command and colluding with China. In contrast, assaulting civilians, both physically as in the case of the civilian drone strike and in the press, is apparently par for the course in the politicized DoD.


The Deseret News noted that the Department of Defense’s attack on a private citizen was unprecedented and characterized it with the title: “DOD declares cold war with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.”(27) Subsequently, the U.S. Marines joined the fray, using an official account to attack a civilian, and later apologized for the breach of professionalism after backlash.(28)


The Department of Defense, Deseret News, Yahoo!, and some other media falsely construed Carlson’s statements as objecting to women and diversity in the armed forces generally. Weingarten observed that “the DoD’s response...completely mischaracterized Carlson’s argument as an attack on women rather than on identity politics, and a defense of merit—replete with images of female soldiers of varying backgrounds—proved his point.”(29) He noted examples of politicization of military during the Obama years and “insubordination, obstruction, and worse” during the Trump administration. Carlson also responded, noting that “The US military has gone full woke, waging war on those who disagree with them,” and provided additional examples.(30)


Such conduct is beneath the dignity and professionalism expected of the United State military, and violates the obligation for political neutrality.  The Pentagon has issued no apology for its inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.

Downplaying Threats

In contrast, the Department of Defense has not spoken out against critics of its military actions against known terrorists to keep Americans safe, such as the strike against Iranian terrorist General Qassem Solemaini, which sparked an uproar with more than seventy protests in the United States and many abroad.(31)


The worst mass murder at a military installation in US history was the rampage by Major Nidal Malak Hasan, who fatally shot thirteen people (and an unborn child) and wounded more than thirty during a rampage on Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009.(32) Hasan was an Islamic supremacist who cited religious motives and shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the shootings. Earlier warning signs and concern by Malak’s colleagues were ignored.(33)


Weingarten noted that Hasan remained in the military due to Obama-era policies, even though his radicalism disturbed colleagues and “drew the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s notice.”(29)  He wrote that the Obama administration “systematically downplayed the threat of Islamic terror, and fired those in the military who presented competing opinions about the size, scope, and nature of the threat. It purged training materials on the jihadist’s threat doctrine, and even related law enforcement records.”


Far-left propagandists tasks with military indoctrination have similarly downplayed violence and murders committed by Antifa and other leftist rioters, refusing to characterize them as extremists.


Political Agendas

During the Biden administration, the US military has secretly engaged in the transport of illegal immigrants on military aircraft to resettle across the country, notwithstanding the violation of established immigration law and lack of authorization by immigration judges or established legal process.(34)  Lt. Col. Matthew Burrows instructed military service members to observe strict silence regarding the flights: “Do not take photographs and refrain from posting anything on social media. If anyone asks you about it, refer them to public affairs.”  This unprecedented abuse was revealed by a whistleblower.  The Pentagon has confirmed that these flights were part of a “non-citizen movement” program involving “resettlement” of illegal immigrants within the United States. While the military refused any role in immigration enforcement during the Trump administration, it has been a willing accomplice to the Biden administration’s systematic violations of U.S. immigration law.


Extremists in Command

The Biden administration appointed Richard Torres Estrada to oversee “Diversity and Inclusion” in the Special Forces. Morrow noted:


“And speaking of generals, have a look at the US Special Operations Command’s new chief of diversity and inclusion. Yes, you heard me right, Special Ops has a diversity and inclusion chief and his name is Richard Torres Estrada. Now, where have we heard that name before? Oh, yeah. Here’s that same Richard Torres Estrada on Twitter, comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler.”(23)


Carlson stated:


“Who exactly is Richard Torres-Estrada? His Facebook page gives us some indication of who he is. On it, you’ll find an attack on the police, you’ll find crude BLM propaganda, you’ll find a picture of Donald Trump holding a Bible in front of a church. Next to Trump is a photograph of Adolf Hitler. The point is, they’re the same. So, this is the guy who now oversees hiring for the SEALs.”(30)


Many have wondered how crude propaganda and bigoted extremism promote “diversity and inclusion.”


Political Purges

Following the playbook of authoritarian states, Biden and Austin’s military has engaged in purges of competent, dedicated officers who express contrary opinions. Regulations allow US service members to express political opinions when not in uniform. Yet Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lohmeier was removed from his post as commander of 11th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base Colorado for criticizing the direction of the Biden Pentagon in May 2021.(35)  Lohmeier recently published the book "Irresistible Revolution: Marxism's Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military.” The book’s description states that it explores the "impact of a neo-Marxist agenda" on US national security.   Lohmeier told the Washington Examiner:


“What you see happening in the U.S. military at the moment is that if you're a conservative, then you're lumped into a group of people who are labeled extremists, if you're willing to voice your views. And if you're aligned with the Left, then it's OK to be an activist online because no one's gonna hold you accountable.”


In September 2021, Joe Biden further politicized the military by purging conservative appointees from military academy advisory boards.  General Jack Keane observed of the prior board that included both Obama and Trump appointees: 


"I thought the board was excellent.  Having appointees from two administrations working together for the interests of that one institution. And I think, you know, President Biden, to use a military term, is kind of taking a hand grenade to that and just blew it up, unfortunately. You serve for three years by law and this decision by President Biden is being challenged because of that, because some people see it as a violation of the law."(36)


Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller called out the lack of accountability of top military leaders for the catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal. Scheller stated:


“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up. I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, ‘Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone’? Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say, ‘We completely messed this up?'”(37)


In response, Scheller was promptly relieved of duty, whereas the White House confirmed that none of the nation’s top military leaders would be held accountable.


Commentators had previously warned of anti-conservative purges following express statements from the Biden Defense Department.(38)  The U.S. Defense Department’s increasing politicization should be of concern to all citizens, regardless of their political viewpoints. Citizens, media hosts, and off-duty military personnel have a First Amendment right to be able to freely critique public policy and share opinions and perspectives.  


Biden’s military purges serve two purposes: they remove individuals who do not support the “party line” of political ideology, and they intimidate others to engage in self-censorship to avoid potentially career-ending consequences.


Interference and intimidation from the US military against free speech, and promotion of ideology instead of maintaining political neutrality, violate human rights and represent grave abuses of power. The U.S. Defense Department’s increasing politicization and attacks against members of the press should be of concern to all citizens, regardless of their political viewpoints. 



1. Brenan, Megan. "Nurses Keep Healthy Lead as Most Honest, Ethical Profession." Gallup, December 26, 2017. 

2. Riley-Smith, Ben. "Parliament holds Joe Biden in contempt over Afghanistan." The Telegraph (UK), August 18, 2021. 

3. Blitzer, Ronn. “Pentagon leaders repeatedly praised Afghan army that collapsed in days.” MSN, August 16, 2021 

4. Garamone, Jim. "Afghan Forces Have Capacity to Fight, Defend Country, Milley Says." DOD News, July 21, 2021. 

5. Carlson, Tucker. “Our military has been lying to us for 20 years.” Fox News, September 4, 2021. 

6. “What We Know About The 13 U.S. Service Members Killed In The Kabul Airport Attack.” National Public Radio, August 31, 2021. 

7. Gannon, Kathy. "US left Afghan airfield at night, didn’t tell new commander." AP News, July 5, 2021. 

8. Morris, Janae. "Pentagon's drone strike acknowledgement was the correct response: Mullen." ABC News, September 19, 2021. 

9. Kaplan, Talia. "Pompeo slams Biden admin for ‘failed’ Kabul strike, says military was under 'enormous' political pressure." Fox News, September 19, 2021. 

10. Roston, Aram and Nandita Bose. "Exclusive: Before Afghan collapse, Biden pressed Ghani to ‘change perception.’" Reuters, August 31, 2021. 

11. Gardner, Frank. "Afghanistan crisis: Five lessons learned (or not) since 9/11." BBC News, September 9, 2021. 

12. “Why America keeps building corrupt client states.” The Economist, August 22, 2021.

13.  Carlson, Tucker. “The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be fired.” Fox News, July 15, 2021. 

14. Porter, Gareth. "How the US military subverted the Afghan peace agreement to prolong an unpopular war." The Grayzone, March 16, 2021. 

15. Stanley-Becker, Isaac. "Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war with China that he made secret calls to his counterpart in Beijing, new book says." Washington Post, September 14, 2021. 

16. Brest, Mike. "Trump acting defense secretary says he ‘did not’ authorize Milley’s calls to China: Report." Washington Examiner, September 15, 2021. 

17. Morris, Kyle. "Milley, Army chief displayed 'pattern of behavior' defying authority: former senior military official." Fox News, September 20, 2021. 

18. Bergen, Peter. "Milley's reasonable actions raise a serious question." CNN, September 17, 2021. 

19.Hains, Tim. "Vindman Blames Trump For COVID: If He Had Been Removed, 'We Would Have 600,000 More Americans.'" Real Clear Politics, August 3, 2021. 

20.  Mastrangelo, Dominick.  "Vindman calls for Milley's resignation: 'He usurped civilian authority.'" The Hill, September 15, 2021. 

21. Baldor, Lolita C. "Milley: Calls to China were ‘perfectly’ within scope of job." AP News, September 17, 2021. 

22. Miller, Andrew Mark. "Pentagon dodges questions on Milley phone calls: 'I can't speak to specifics.'" Fox News, September 15, 2021. 

23. “US Military ‘go woke’ as Chinese commit serious incursion into Taiwan airspace.” Sky News (Australia), March 27, 2021. 

24. Carlson, Tucker. "Is the military more concerned with wokeness than winning the next war?" Fox News, March 12, 2021. 

25. Garamone, Jim. “Press Secretary Smites Fox Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military.” DOD News, March 11, 2021. 

26. Schultz, Marisa. “Pentagon spokesman defends remarks that Kabul wasn't in 'imminent' danger of falling to Taliban.” Fox News, August 21, 2021. 

27. Parrott, Jeff.  "DOD declares cold war with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson after host’s put down of women in military." Deseret News, March 12, 2021. 

28. 'We are human and we messed up': U.S. Marine account apologizes for comments defending female service members." USA Today, March 14, 2021. 

29. Weingarten, Benjamin. “Tucker Carlson-Military Spat Shows Left’s Long March Reaching Dangerous Apex.” Epoch Times, March 18, 2021. 

30. Carlson, Tucker. “US military has gone full woke, waging war on those who disagree with them.” Fox News, March 27, 2020. 

31. Axelrod, Tal. "More than 70 protests planned across US against Soleimani strike." The Hill, January 4, 2020. 

32. Kenber, Bill. “Nidal Hasan sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting rampage.” Washington Post, August 28, 2013. 

33. “10 minutes of gunfire 10 years ago left 13 dead, more than 30 injured.” KWTX News, November 4, 2019.  

34. Carlson, Tucker. “Pentagon leaders are trying to hide truth about illegal immigration from Americans.” Fox News, July 15, 2021. 

35. Ortiz-Lytle, Carly. "Space Force officer relieved of post after denouncing Marxist ideology and critical race theory in military: Report." Washington Examiner, May 15, 2021.

36. Warren, Alicia. "Gen. Keane responds to Biden admin ousting Trump appointees from military advisory board." Fox Business, September 9, 2021. 

37. Chamberlain, Samuel. "Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller relieved of duty for calling out brass over Afghanistan." New York Post, August 28, 2021. 

38. “Breaking down Biden's plan to purge military of conservatives.” Fox News, February 4, 2021. 

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