Political Litmus Test for US Military Is Unnecessary, Unprecedented, and Dangerous

February 8, 2021 Updated: February 9, 2021

Commentary

Following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a “stand down” by all military units to give commanders time to address “extremism” in their ranks.

He ordered military leaders to discuss “the importance of our oath of office; a description of impermissible behaviors; and procedures for reporting suspected, or actual, extremist behaviors.”

I agree that the attack on the Capitol was unlawful and a direct assault on our democracy, and that the individuals who committed this criminal act—some of whom were active duty and former military personnel—should be prosecuted.

However, I disagree with Austin that our military personnel should “stand down” and be vetted for what he describes as “impermissible behaviors.” This sweeping action is unprecedented, unnecessary, and dangerous.

“The vast majority of men and women who serve in uniform and the military are doing so with honor, integrity, and character, and do not espouse the sorts of beliefs that led to the kind of conduct that can be so detrimental to good order and discipline and, in fact, is criminal,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

If what Kirby says is true, then why subject the entire U.S. military to what I personally see as a political litmus test, not unlike what the former Soviet Communist Party did to their military and what the Chinese Communist Party is doing to their military.

Austin called extremism in the ranks a leadership issue, directly contradicting Kirby’s statement that clearly shows this isn’t a major problem in the military.

Who determines the definition of “impermissible behaviors?” For example, is voicing opposition to a liberal point of view and support for a conservative point of view “impermissible?” Are our troops now going to have to worry about what they say and how they say it to the very men and women they work with and who they must depend on when going into combat?

In all my years serving in the military, I can say that the Department of Defense and all branches of the U.S. military have been models for keeping widespread discrimination, extremism, corruption, and criminal behavior—along with other things that would disrupt the good order and morale of our military—away from the entire chain of command.

Hence, if this is the case—and it is—then why this sweeping order?

The only conclusion I can draw is that this administration is taking the first steps to politicize our military. Steps like this are taken in communist countries via political officers assigned to the ranks. Who will be asking the questions? Evaluating the answers? Reporting “suspected questionable behavior?” What is deemed as “questionable behavior?”

The better path to address issues related to suspected extremists or criminal behavior in the ranks is to investigate each allegation on a case-by-case basis. If our military personnel is going to be subjected to a political litmus test to address “impermissible behavior,” I believe that the same test should be applied to the members of each branch of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.

There’s where the “leadership” problem is, not the ranks of our fine military men and women.

Steven Rogers is a retired U.S. Navy intelligence officer and a former member of the FBI National Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.