By Mike Berry, General Counsel
246 years after the U.S. Army was established, today’s Department of Defense appears to be distracted from its national defense mission. Media commentators and service members alike have lamented the military’s drift toward becoming a testing ground for social policy experimentation.
As perhaps the only conservative participant on the Pentagon’s newly formed Countering Extremism Working Group, I can confirm the Pentagon’s full embrace of “wokeism.”
For starters, President Joe Biden recently declared that white supremacy poses the greatest threat to America’s national security. The Pentagon is taking the commander in chief at his word. Instead of monitoring external threats, the Pentagon is on a mission to identify and remove whomever it labels as extremists from America’s armed forces. Ironically, the CEWG has yet to define what it means by “extremism.” Extremism is usually defined as the threat or use of violence to achieve an ideological agenda. But the Pentagon is now poised to expand upon that definition to include constitutionally protected speech. In other words, sticks and stones may break our bones, but words are the biggest threat.
This should be alarming to everyone, no matter their political persuasion. If the Constitution no longer presents an impediment to appeasing the woke commissars on the far Left, it won’t be long before speech that has always been protected by the First Amendment suddenly becomes criminal. My law firm, First Liberty Institute, is already seeing some disturbing signs.
An Army chaplain used his personal social media account to express support for then-existing policy banning those who identify as transgender from serving in the military. The Army relieved him of duty and accused him of “illegal discrimination.” Meanwhile, service members publicly protested that same policy, in uniform, and nothing happened. If the CEWG does not adequately account for service members’ constitutional rights, we can expect many more struggle sessions to follow.
That’s right, the American government now monitors social media activity in order to ensure service members don’t post, share, or like something “extreme.” If this sounds eerily familiar, it’s because China has been doing it for years.
Eradicating the scourge of actual extremism is a noble undertaking. But instead of focusing on what divides us, the Biden administration should focus on what unites the public. Instead of sending the message that conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics are unwelcome in the military, we should reinforce to America’s young men and women what makes America exceptional. The values that drove me to join the Marine Corps many years ago were love of country, pride in service, and respect for selfless service and sacrifice.
Those are the timeless principles upon which America was built. Or so I thought. Sadly, adherence to those principles is more likely to get me and others labeled as extremists and kicked out of today’s military.
Several years ago, the Department of Defense produced a document that labeled those who believe in “states’ rights, individual liberties, and how to make the world a better place” as potential extremists. Apparently, I was mistaken for thinking those were the things I was defending as a Marine. And despite data showing that religious people are the most likely to serve, we are now declaring them undesirable extremists.
All of this is a recipe for disaster. America has real enemies who seek to harm us, and those enemies are likely giddy with every woke pronouncement that America will continue to pour yet more valuable time, energy, and resources into its cold civil war.
Some have warned me that simply writing this article will likely result in my removal from the CEWG, or possibly even the Marine Corps, in which I continue to proudly serve as a reservist. But I love my country too much not to sound the alarm. And if my love of America is what leads to my removal, then so be it, as long as my discharge papers state “discharged for love of country.”
Note: This article was first published on Washington Examiner and is re-published here with permission. The article presents the main points of an op-ed published in Washington Examiner. This work was authored by Mike Berry. The full article can be found on the Washington Examiner website, here.