124 retired flag officers sign an open letter bemoaning the state of the U.S. and its radical turn towards socialism and Marxism. Space Force Commander Matthew Lohmeier is removed from his post for self-publishing a book about Marxism in the military. It’s 2021 – should the U.S. military be afraid of Karl Marx? I talk with retired Army officer and The Havok Journal writer Christopher Otero about the threat – or lack thereof – that Marx plays in today’s military.
We talked about Critical Race Theory and it’s Marxist origins, we talk about the Constitution, the Civil War, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, we talk about America. I asked Charlie for a guest I could play tennis with, and Chris was that guest. It was a pleasure and I think you’re going to hear just about the best arguments that can be made from both the right and the left.
I had never met Chris before, but I had read a lot of his writing. He’s unknowingly been my touchstone at The Havok Journal for many of the arguments I don’t agree with. So I looked forward to this a lot and he was a complete gentleman. We found things to agree on, we found things to disagree on and we reminded ourselves that you can talk about delicate political issues honestly and with conviction when you’re aware that we are all more than our politics and that our discussion isn’t more important than our common civic bond.
Have a listen here.
I sometimes take it for granted that everyone listening knows who I’m talking about when I refer to “Charlie.” Previous listeners should know by now that I’m talking about Charlie Faint, the owner of Havok Journal.
So why didn’t Charlie ride shotgun with me this week? There are times when the subject matter cuts a little too close to the bone for an active duty officer at West Point and this was one of those times. It’s always nice to have Charlie on, but with him absent, I had the opportunity to poke fun at his calculated, political stance of radical neutrality. Just wait until he’s retired and he can let the expletives fly (or not, as the case may be).
Chris professionally steered us back on topic at the end of the episode and I’m glad at least one of us was fulfilling the obligation to our listeners to actually talk about our subject. So I can’t blame him for not also helping us dive further into the open letter from the 124 flag officers. I don’t know when I’ll have the chance to rant about it again, so let me make one point about one of the complaints #milTwitter had regarding the letter. #milTwitter incessantly ridiculed the hypocrisy of flag officers who made their living in a “socialist utopia” only to bash it after they retired – a bit of pro-socialist smart-assery that doesn’t exactly refute the signatories’ concern about socialism’s growing influence in the ranks. This reheated troll of an argument – it got really popular with a certain type of wavetops-level intellectual circa 2014 when Jacob Siegal wrote a piece for The Daily Beast called “Troops of the Uniform Unite! The Military Is a Socialist Paradise!” – seems to have been repeated enough to be taken seriously, so it is worth taking a moment to let the air out of its tires.
It does not make one a hypocrite to condemn socialism while serving (or having served) in the military any more than it makes one a hypocrite to condemn communism after being raised in, you know, a family, since all families are essentially communist in practice (that whole, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” thing. Or did your parents make you pay for everything you ate as a baby?)
Not satisfied? Want to dive deeper? It’s not that the U.S. military is socialist (Siegal really means “collectivist,” but whatever) – it’s that all militaries are collectivist in varying degrees because all militaries exist for the one general purpose of national defense. It’s worth noting that those socialist/collectivist traits – low pay, inefficient procurement process, zero-sum opportunities, living at the mercy of a large, impersonal, incompetent bureaucracy – are actually the worst things about the military. Far from showing the universal applicability of collectivism, military examples show that one cannot replicate military-style collectivism for a civilian population because civilians are not unified in purpose the way a military is. Another problem, as Siegal himself noted, is that the U.S. military is voluntary, which is a big speed bump in the way of his conclusion. And then there’s also the issue that, to the extent that the military has an economy, it only functions (in the U.S.) because it is subsidized by capitalism. The U.S. military is also (and hopefully will remain) rooted in the concept of meritocracy, which every socialist on Twitter is quick to pair with capitalism (and white supremacy, of course), since it runs counter to the old chestnut “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” again. I’ll leave it there before this alibi section becomes a novella (“too late” – Charlie), but you get the idea.
Today’s Internet Star: Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier by Christopher Otero