No, There Is No 'Woke Military'

No, There Is No 'Woke Military'
Sleep disorders mean poorer health, less-resilient Soldiers ...

Right now, as it concerns Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the American Right is in the "throwing shit up on the wall to see what sticks" phase. For the most part they've landed on a narrative involving Joe Biden cruelly ignoring Vladmir Putin's "legitimate security concerns" by forcing the sovereign nation of Ukraine to join NATO, even though Putin explicitly said he didn't want them to do that, basically forcing him to invade the country and maybe detonate some nuclear weapons on them.

But there is another they've taken a liking to, and which may be more likely to stick, given that the more one thinks about the "legitimate security concerns" narrative, the faster it falls apart — The Legend of the Woke Military.

This narrative, which dovetails with some other long-term goals involving getting to be shitty to other people without consequence, is that because of a couple army recruitment commercials focused on diversity (one imagines for the purpose of encouraging even more people to enlist), and also a TikTok video of a comedian pretending to be a White House intern that they've been obsessed with for the last year, Putin has decided that the American military is no longer super macho and therefore not a threat.

"How could Putin do this? Doesn't he know that western countries have the most diverse, equitable, and trans-inclusive militaries in the history of the world? And he's still messing with us? Wow," tweeted professional bigot Matt Walsh, as part of the usual 23 hours a day he spends Gargamel-ing about the existence of trans people.

Jake Bequette, a former Patriots tight-end and current Republican candidate for the US Senate in Arkansas, whined, "Our enemies see the pronouns-in-bio, 'diversity is our strength,' face-shield types leading our military," on Twitter. He added, "The U.S. never seeks war, but a good way to avoid it is to have Patton, Halsey, MacArthur, Grant, and Jackson types leading us."

Rudely, he did not add "That's what this country needs, more Nathan Hales!"

In a statement, QAnon heart throb Michael Flynn boldly suggested that all of the collective wokeness in all of the United States was perhaps to blame for Russia invading Ukraine:

Describing America as a systemically racist nation, the appointment of Marxists and other radical ideologues to positions of power, allowing millions to surge across our southern border, attempts to federalize and take over our election systems and processes, implementing racist CRT in our schools, our military and across our government, all along, raising the national debt closing in on $30 Trillion dollars, spending us toward extinction, all for left-wing causes.

There were also about 10,000 randos making super clever jokes about a they/them army, because of course there were.

Now, this all might then make one question why Putin would then have "legitimate security concerns" about Ukraine joining NATO, but that would require one being too smart to fall for this shit in the first place.

Since Bush II, at least, conservatives have been obsessed with the idea that only way to truly gain the world's respect and intimidate our enemies into behaving is by electing a raging buffoon with a serious toxic masculinity problem. While that has never actually worked out, per se, it has also never dissuaded them from getting their "No one's got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston" on about it.

As a world class expert in machismo (see surname — some cultural stereotypes are real), I have some good news for these folks — our military is still a shining beacon of toxic masculinity. It is not now, nor has it ever been, "woke." The mere existence of our military, the amount we spend on it and what it does could not possibly be further from any semblance of "woke." Sure, they can put out ads recruiting diverse candidates, trying to push the idea that there is more to do in the military than help kill people; they can be minutely less shitty to transgender people and all women; they can even teach some enlightened courses at the military academy — all of that is absolutely nothing compared to some other shit. Particularly if we're talking about spending.

Machismo, by my own definition, is the spirit of doing incredibly pointless shit and having weird hang-ups because you think those things make you appear tougher and more manly, due to how incredibly insecure you are.

Thus, I can think of absolutely nothing more "macho" than the fact that the United States has spent $1.7 trillion on F-35 stealth planes that do not work — while millions of Americans across the country can't afford health care, can't afford child care, and nine million American children are living below the poverty line, 3.7 million of whom just dropped back there because the child tax credit expired. Because it was too expensive. Because starving children are not as important or as super cool as non-functioning stealth bombers.

In fact, you may recall that we could not manage to pass even the $1.7 trillion (over 10 years!) version of Build Back Better, despite the fact that studies showed it would actually result in a net profit by 2027. Because we need all of that money right the hell now for military stuff. Possibly for more nonfunctioning stealth planes.

Oh! Or so the military can pay $215,000 for 149 “non-vehicular clutch discs” that normally only cost $32 each. That is a $210,000 price difference. What's more macho than that? Oh, maybe the $84 million a year they spend a year on erectile dysfunction drugs? The $136 million they once spent sponsoring Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Or the other millions and millions they spent on NASCAR and other sports-related nonsense. A $100 billion bill for 600 nuclear missiles that experts say could "trigger an accidental nuclear war"? Oh, or just the $1 trillion we'll be spending on our nuclear force alone over the next three decades?

We spend more on our military than the next 11 countries combined — Russia only coming in third on that list. One reason we can do that is because unlike all of those other countries, including Russia, we don't have universal healthcare to pay for.

Graph showing us spending more than next 11 countries combined.

Perhaps if we really want to scare Putin, these are things we should advertise. Nothing says "fearless" quite like "We really don't care if any of our citizens live or die, we just want to win wars and have super big bombs and cool looking stealth planes that maybe don't work. And boners!" It's a little crazy, but it's the way we do things here, in America.

If that's not "not woke" enough for you, these macho, macho men can sleep better at night knowing that sexual assault is still a massive, massive problem in the armed forces. Nearly one in four servicewomen report having been sexually assaulted in the military. The GAO reports that women are 28 percent more likely to leave military service than are men, with most citing "family planning, lack of dependent care, sexism and sexual assault" as their reason for leaving.

And racism? Oh boy is there ever still racism. Just last year, a report on the Virginia Military Institute found widespread racism (and sexual assault) issues on campus, with one (white) cadet saying that he hears the "n-word" spoken by other white cadets “10 times a day from various people, that’s not an exaggeration.”

PBS reported last year that "numerous studies, including a report last year from the Government Accountability Office, show Black and Hispanic service members were disproportionately investigated and court-martialed. A recent Naval Postgraduate School study found that Black Marines were convicted and punished at courts-martial at a rate five times higher than other races across the Marine Corps."

Another report, this one conducted by Blue Star Families, found that 42 percent of service members of color had turned down assignments due to concerns about racism.

As for LGBTQ rights, sure — gay people and trans people are now allowed to serve openly in the military — but as of a 2020 study, 59 percent of LGBTQ servicemembers stay in the closet at work, for fear of repercussions.

Oh, and let's not even get started on the problem of white supremacist extremism in the military, what with many of our own homegrown terrorists joining up so they can learn how to kill us all better.

The entire purpose of the military is to kill people, usually poor people (on both sides), in unjust wars where we don't really know why we're there to begin with, but which apparently make very macho people feel super good. I don't think that's particularly "woke" either.

If not being "woke" is what makes a military intimidating, Putin must be terrified of us. Unless that's not actually a thing, as I suspect might be the case. It's almost as if none of this has anything to do with anything and all these people really want is to find a way to blame Joe Biden and a cultural zeitgeist they resent for the actions of a power-hungry dictator.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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