Editor’s Note: In the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot, the Biden administration ordered the U.S. Navy to stand down its global operations and subject all members to what it characterizes as training to recognize and combat”extremism.” The piece below was written by an active duty military member who has about 20 years of service. This member has been deployed overseas in the war on terrorism multiple times. The piece describes the Navy’s “extremism stand-down,” what it includes, and what it leaves out. Ted Mahan is not the member’s real name.
Recently, my Navy unit held an “extremism stand-down” training that was required of all Department of Defense personnel, as mandated by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin here. According to Vice Admiral John B. Nowell, Jr, the purpose of the training was “to ensure service members and civilian personnel clearly understand the damaging effects of extremism and begin developing more effective, sustainable ways to eliminate the corrosive impacts extremist activity can have on our Force.”
That aim, of course, is laudable. Our Navy is diverse, and we are strong, not because of the diversity, but because of the unity we have as Americans regardless of race. When I go to sea or deploy on land, I know that the mission depends on those around me: good men and women of all races committed to defending our nation. Ultimately, they have my back too, and my life depends on them. Any attack on one is an attack on all. Right up to this point, I am 100 percent with the Navy brass’ goal.
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But that’s not actually what the training says. The training we received this month was rushed through in the wake of the Washington, D.C., riot. The course, which was given in a PowerPoint deck, included a slide defining “extremism.” One would expect a broad, catch-all phrase that makes it clear that any radical activity undermining our nation or promoting criminal activity would not be tolerable.
But that would be wrong. Extremism was narrowly defined as “supremacist” beliefs only. That’s it. Nothing else. Nothing about anarchism, nothing about any group that might be found on the left. Everyone in the room – of every race, incidentally – had a collective hush as the chilling effect of this clearly biased definition dawned on our team. As one person on our team put it, “Why does the DoD only care about one kind of extremism? Why do they refuse to talk about antifa? Why is it extremist to attack a Capitol police officer, but not extremist to attack a Portland police officer?”
We were further lectured that “supremacists” were seeking to join the military to gain skills and proficiency with weapons. But, of course, we know that inner-city gangs have been trying this for years, and yet there was no discussion of this. Nor was there any mention of antifa, which explicitly and often openly promotes violent activities. It seems odd that in 2020, when we saw 1,000 riots with varying levels of violence, our training would be centered on the one riot connected to the right and ignore the 999 connected to the left.
Throughout the presentation, the drumbeat was consistent, constant…and chilling. This was a shot across the bow to the right, and deafening silence for the left. As true Americans, committed to our fellow servicemen and women, we should reject all extremism unequivocally from any source. My concern is that this blatantly political training is not only bad, it’s counter-productive. Extremists feed on paranoia, and the Department of Defense just fed them a healthy dose of it.
What do they think these people will do? Quit? Because some admiral made them sit through three hours of lectures? Hardly. They’ll go underground. And they’ll continue to fester. And so too will the left. Only no one will be watching out for them, because the brass’ silence speaks volumes.