In early February, in the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol “riot,” Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, ordered a 60-day stand-down within all the military branches in order to address extremism in the ranks. Despite an October 2020 Pentagon report commissioned by Congress that concluded extremist views were not widespread and identified “a low number of cases in absolute terms,” this was an urgent matter that needed to be addressed immediately.
In the weeks following, the Pentagon released training materials to guide military units in conducting their stand-down events. Appropriately, within this guidance were examples of unacceptable and impermissible extremist activities. The only problem? All were examples of white supremacy as if that’s the only form extremism takes. There was no mention of ANTIFA anarchists who assaulted federal facilities, from ICE facilities to courthouses for a year. And the subject of Black Lives Matter (BLM) was described as an acceptable discussion of a social policy issue although BLM was responsible for 90% of the “protest” violence that occurred during the summer of 2020. And let’s not forget Major Nidal Hasan, the Islamic extremist who killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in a Fort Hood killing spree.
Are there people serving or who have served in the military who hold extremist views? Certainly. We’re an all-volunteer force, so the military is a reflection of society. However, narrowing the definition of extremism to that of white nationalism without including or ignoring outright its other manifestations, demonstrates the Pentagon’s and Secretary Austin’s lack of seriousness in truly addressing this issue.
Pictured in the cover art: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin