Marxism in the Military!

W.J. Astore

A friend sent along an article on a certain lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who is being disciplined because he wrote a book warning about Marxism in the U.S. military. Apparently this officer is deeply concerned about “critical race theory,” which he connects to Marxism, and how the military is being contaminated by an emphasis on diversity and other “liberal” ideas. In short, by stressing inclusion, diversity, and tolerance, (neo)Marxism is unmaking the U.S. military, or perhaps remaking it in a revolutionary way that excludes conservative views espoused by white men like this Lt Col.

And I thought Marxism was about class conflict, about seizing the means of production from the rich capitalists and ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth to the workers. Marxism is supposed to witness a withering away of the state as societal hierarchies are flattened or leveled in the cause of creating a more equitable and just society. Nowadays, Marxism has become a bogeyman term of great elasticity, associated with anything somebody doesn’t like that can be further tarred with labels like “liberal” or “leftist.”

Too much diversity isn’t exactly the biggest problem facing the U.S. Air Force today. Consider the under-performing F-35 jet fighter that’s 10 years behind schedule and $200 billion over budget. Consider a new and unneeded B-21 stealth bomber that will cost at least $100 billion (I think you can double or triple that price, based on cost overruns for previous AF projects). Consider the plan to spend at least $100 billion on new land-based ICBMs, an obsolete concept that is also dangerously escalatory. Indeed, so-called nuclear modernization, meaning more megatons of explosives and deadly radiation with which we can destroy all life on planet earth, may cost more than a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. I’d say these issues are a bit more disconcerting than rumors of Marxism in the ranks.

Another concern this lieutenant colonel had was with the politicization of the military, which he associates with contamination by liberal agendas that are neo-Marxist. I think the good colonel should realize the U.S. military is already politicized, but not in the way he imagines. The brass may be willing to pay lip service to diversity and LGBTQ empowerment and so on, but what they really care about is budgetary authority, pure power and influence.

The U.S. military isn’t being undone by neo-Marxist agendas: it’s being undone by unwinnable wars and wasteful spending on unnecessary or ineffective weaponry.

Unwinnable (and unnecessary) wars have cost the American taxpayer more than $6 trillion since 9/11. We’ve lost thousands of troops killed with tens of thousands seriously injured. Profligate spending on prodigal weapon systems is further driving America into debt, even as more nuclear weapons threaten our planet with destruction.

The problem isn’t Karl Marx invading our military. The problem is greed and stupidity, threat inflation and dereliction of duty.

We really could use more diversity in the U.S. military, as in diversity of ideas, of strategy. How about some “diverse” leaders who have the courage to challenge and change the militaristic and imperial path we’re on?

Karl Marx. No, he’s not a problem for the U.S. military, but unwinnable wars and more nuclear weapons are

25 thoughts on “Marxism in the Military!

    1. I’m sorry. I cannot translate into Spanish, but programs exist on the Internet to translate English into Spanish. Gracias.

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    2. Hola Amigo. I used Microsoft Word to translate my article into Spanish, Hope this helps.

      Un amigo envió un artículo sobre un teniente coronel de la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos que está siendo disciplinado porque escribió un libro advirtiendo sobre el marxismo en el ejército estadounidense. Aparentemente este oficial está profundamente preocupado por la “teoría crítica de la raza”, que conecta con el marxismo, y cómo los militares están siendo contaminados por un énfasis en la diversidad y otras ideas “liberales”. En resumen, al enfatizar la inclusión, la diversidad y la tolerancia, (neo)el marxismo está desvinponiendo a las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses, o tal vez rehaciéndolo de una manera revolucionaria que excluye las opiniones conservadoras defendidas por hombres blancos como este teniente coronel.
      Y pensé que el marxismo se trataba de conflictos de clases, de tomar los medios de producción de los capitalistas ricos y asegurar una distribución equitativa de la riqueza a los trabajadores. Se supone que el marxismo es testigo de una marchitación del Estado a medida que las jerarquías sociales se aplanan o nivelan en la causa de crear una sociedad más equitativa y justa. Hoy en día, el marxismo se ha convertido en un término bogeyman de gran elasticidad, asociado con cualquier cosa que a alguien no le guste que pueda ser empañada aún más con etiquetas como “liberal” o “izquierdista”.
      Demasiada diversidad no es exactamente el mayor problema al que se enfrenta la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos hoy en día. Consideremos el caza a reacción F-35 de bajo rendimiento que tiene 10 años de retraso y 200.000 millones de dólares sobre el presupuesto. Considere un bombardero furtivo B-21 nuevo y sinneed que costará al menos $ 100 mil millones (creo que se puede duplicar o triplicar ese precio, basado en sobrecostes para proyectos anteriores de AF). Consideremos el plan de gastar al menos 100.000 millones de dólares en nuevos ICBMs terrestres, un concepto obsoleto que también es peligrosamente escalatorio. De hecho, la llamada modernización nuclear, que significa más megatones de explosivos y radiación mortal con la que podemos destruir toda la vida en el planeta Tierra, puede costar más de un billón de dólares en los próximos 30 años. Yo diría que estos temas son un poco más desconcertantes que los rumores de marxismo en las filas.
      Otra preocupación que tenía este teniente coronel era la politización de los militares, que asocia con la contaminación por las agendas liberales que son neomarxistas. Creo que el buen coronel debería darse cuenta de que el ejército estadounidense ya está politizado, pero no de la manera que imagina. Los jefes pueden estar dispuestos a prestar atención a la diversidad y al empoderamiento LGBTQ, etc., pero lo que realmente les importa es la autoridad presupuestaria, el poder puro y la influencia.
      El ejército estadounidense no está siendo deshecho por las agendas neomarxistas: se está deshaciendo de guerras sin ganar y gastando despilfarro en armamento innecesario o ineficaz.
      Las guerras no ganables (e innecesarias) le han costado al contribuyente estadounidense más de 6 billones de dólares desde el 11-S. Hemos perdido miles de soldados muertos y decenas de miles de heridos graves. El gasto despilfarrador en sistemas de armas pródigos está llevando aún más a Estados Unidos a endeudarse, incluso a medida que más armas nucleares amenazan nuestro planeta con la destrucción.
      El problema no es que Karl Marx invada nuestras fuerzas armadas. El problema es la codicia y la estupidez,la inflación de amenazas y el abandono deldeber.
      Realmente podríamos usar más diversidad en las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses, como en la diversidad de ideas, de la estrategia. ¿Qué tal algunos líderes “diversos” que tienen el valor de desafiar y cambiar el camino militarista e imperial en el que estamos?

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  1. Thank You for this–Hope it gets included in a TomDispatch article & to NY Times, to widen its
    readership. Keep chipping away at the travesty of the DoD/MIC; would appreciate your thoughts on the current US Diplomatic and DoD policies (if any) in the endless Israeli/Palestinian war.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Professore, the reason you think those (old skool/back in the day/obviously wrong) things about Marxism is because you are still tethered to the (old skool/back in the day/obviously wrong) “Universe Where Things Remain True To Their Original Meaning.” Time you got on the beam and embraced The Universe Where Words Mean Whatever We Want Them to Mean Until the Next Time We Need Them to Mean Something Else.

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  3. “How about some ‘diverse’ leaders who have the courage to challenge and change the militaristic and imperial path we’re on?”

    Not having served in the military, I obviously can’t speak from personal experience. It’s my understanding, though, that the chain-of-command structure permits little or no variance from institutional norms. If that is indeed the case, would it not be nigh-on impossible for diverse leaders to arise in real time? In other words, no currently serving military leader is going to buck the system to any great extent. In rare cases when the mindset might be there to do so, regulations prevent speaking out. For instance, the things that Ike saw during his service showed him that the U.S. military was headed down a dangerous path, but he not only waited until he had retired from the Army, he waited until he was leaving the White House to warn against the MIC.

    All this to say that, as far as I can tell, people who want to change the military’s M.O. must wait until they no longer serve, and then their influence is lessened. What would happen, for instance, if 20 years ago, Mark Milley had taken a vehement, public stand against the war in Afghanistan? Not that he would have, but just say, for the sake of argument, he had? Would he have remained in the command structure’s good graces? Would he have accomplished anything?

    I guess my point is that, if an entity is as rigid as the military, is it even possible to be critical from the inside and be effective? Certainly, those on the inside have much more information, but I’m wondering if, inevitably, change must be forced from the outside?

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    1. You’re right, Denise. And it’s not just a military problem. Consider my old church, i.e. the Catholic hierarchy. True believers are promoted; critics are sidelined. Reformers rarely get ahead, unless reform is needed for survival, as in the Reformation. Then it’s carefully controlled so it doesn’t get out of hand.

      Many reformers and critics within the military end up getting out when they find their path to promotion blocked.

      (An aside: This doesn’t apply to me. I knew 20 years in the AF was enough for me. I hit my target rank and decided it was time to leave.)

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      1. Actually, the example of the Catholic Church had occurred to me, as well, but then I thought of Pope Francis. From what I can tell, he seems to be a genuine reformer. Then again, he could fall under the caveat you mentioned: reform only in terms of survival.

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      2. my nephew, who graduated from annapolis, then the pensacola air craft carrier flight training program in the late 1980’s, became so profoundly depressed, despite regular promotions, that after only 10 years in naval aviation [whch included his 4 years at annapolis], he quit, leaving years of assured medical care and potential pensions behind. yet he had a wife and 3 young sons to support. he and his wife never regretted that decision. he accepted a gag order on his naval machinations, but his wife refused, and is now an outspoken anti-US military advocate, for which i admire her immensely. there is hope, even among post-military ranks.

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  4. If the main argument you cite is about Marxism, NeoMarxism, or Cultural Marxism invading the U.S. military, you have replied with whataboutism. That’s OK, because the boondoggle the U.S. military has become is worth pointing out at every opportunity, though the truism about repeating the same failed approach and expecting different results applies. Diverting a giant portion of economic output and taxes to the military is well established, and shining light on that basic, longstanding injustice is having no effect.

    But to the main argument you cite. Words, phases, and ideologies have diverse meanings and usages. Add in historical usage and one finds dynamic shifts in meaning are lost on uncritical, unsubtle (non-)thinkers anchored only to the most routine, current, jingoistic meanings. Naomi Wolf famously ran aground over a failure to recognize historical usage of the term “death recorded” in Victorian England.

    If Marxism was originally a critique of capitalism and recognition of inherent class conflict in hierarchical societies, the ideology has shifted over time to include anything associated with failed political and government experiments that bear any resemblance to Marxism. Further, because the way power (i.e., fascism) is deployed under the aegis of those mixed ideologies, the entire original Marxist ideology has been sloppily redefined as any sort of collectivist ideology that would challenge hierarchical imbalances and to invalidate them. Lots of people are buffaloed under these dynamics into believing false dichotomies and binaries, though ironically, they often argue for diversity and inclusion. Sorting it all out is the subject of multiple courses of study in higher ed, which usually confound more than elucidate.

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    1. Yes. So many terms now are thrown around as epithets without any context. Socialist, communist, fascist, Marxist. Many times, it’s just a way of saying “I don’t like you and your ideas.”

      Then there are those who simply equate liberals and leftists and Marxists, as if these terms are interchangeable. Again, they often simply mean “scary un-American” to the person shouting or writing them.

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      1. That’s what I’ve always noticed too. If anyone proposes an idea, opponents immediately dismiss it as x-ism and end the discussion. People act like these economic and governing concepts are discreet little boxes, if you take an idea from one box, you are stuck with that box forever and can’t take anything from any of the other boxes. I wish we could drop the -isms and just talk about the ideas.

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    2. The Civil Rights movement was “communism.” Minimum wage was “communism.” Everything that pisses off right-wingers, from uppity brown people to uppity poor people, is “communism.” they have no ideas of their own, just screeching at the world as it changes.

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      1. plocb, your comment is so vascularizing, it catalyzes a sudden ‘coup de foudre’ for my being a proud member of the human race… a rare sentiment indeed.

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  5. “…the entire original Marxist ideology has been sloppily redefined as any sort of collectivist ideology that would challenge hierarchical imbalances and to invalidate them.”

    Point well taken, Brutus. You speak the truth on all counts, says I.

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  6. I wouldn’t know about anything like “Marxism” in the U.S. Military — unless one has in mind Groucho Marx, who once said: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others” Whatever Orwellian euphemisms you can imagine for “gimme more, gimme more, gimme more …”, these you will hear repeated endlessly from those at or near the top of the bureaucratic greasy pole.

    About those rumors of “thinking” going on somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, I can only relate to my first day of Basic Training in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club where our re-education instructors told us: “Nobody gives a rat’s ass what you think. If the Navy wants to know what you think, the Navy will tell you what you think.” That sort of thing. It goes right up the chain of command until you get to those who never had an original thought to begin with, as Smedley Butler said of his own thirty years as a Marine “racketeer for Capitalism.”

    Most to the point, given the most recent U.S. Commander-in-Chief who thought he could issue directives and have them competently and expeditiously followed by those having taken “oaths” to do that very thing, rank insubordination seems the operative impulse of those ticket-punching, fuck-up-and-move-up “brass” who imagine they have “thoughts about stuff” — like the nation’s foreign and domestic policy — which, of rights, have nothing to do with them. “More” doesn’t constitute a policy. It means nothing more than self-interested pillage.

    Anyway, for something of a recap of the final days in office of the easily rolled President Donald Trump who thought that nepotism and tweeting meant the same thing as “administration,” see: “Trump’s war with his generals”, Axios (May 16, 2021). Not so much about “thinking” in the U.S. Military but rather: cunning careerist “conniving” of the sort David Halberstam chronicled so masterfully in The Best and the Brightest (1969). The U.S. Military became Vietnam many decades ago and — by deliberate design — never recovered.

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  7. I’m no expert, though I learned to think for myself from an early age, and this I have discovered led to a lot of difficulties. For years, I didn’t understand why. In the university, in some jobs, in a career, it was there. What I’ve come to understand, what is being done is this: if you’re not them, you will be left out, pushed out, or discontinued.

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