Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in June that he wanted to understand “white rage,” why “thousands of people” tried “to assault this building and … overturn the Constitution of the United States of America.”
If Milley really wants to understand the “rage” of the American people he should start by asking why he and his fellow generals can’t win any wars. As a Marine Corps officer who served at the tail end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw firsthand the rapid ideological transformation pervading the military in the wake of these disasters in the Middle East.
Unable to win wars overseas, the military’s leaders went “woke.” Currying ideological favor is easier than trying to end insurgencies. It is also necessary if military leaders want to keep the gravy train of taxpayer funding. Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy and his devastating critique of George Bush and Barack Obama in the run-up to the 2016 election put the military-industrial complex on high alert. Trump was pushing the American right-wing away from the expensive and unending foreign interventions the military-industrial complex needed in order to justify its existence.
For too long, America’s generals have relied on a “stab in the back” thesis to justify their failure on the battlefield. The narrative set in after Vietnam and has calcified today. Former national security adviser and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster tweeted on July 8 in regards to the sweeping march of the Taliban that the “US media is finally reporting on the transformation of Afghanistan after their disinterest and defeatism helped set conditions for capitulation and a humanitarian catastrophe.”
McMaster’s attempt to deflect blame for military failure on an insufficiently obsequious media is unacceptable. He and his fellow generals knew full well that Afghanistan was unstable and that our strategy wasn’t working. Instead of speaking up, they lied to the public and then jumped into the private sector to reap the reward of misbegotten trust.
Milley and his fellow generals deserve, richly, to feel the full weight of the American people’s anger. For 20 years, these leaders lied consistently to the American people and their political masters about the wars in the Middle East. In December 2019, Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post published a devastating series of articles on America’s failure in Afghanistan. Using 600 “lessons learned” interviews with top military staff and diplomatic personnel collected by the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Whitlock illustrated just how pervasive the gut rot in America’s military really was.