Has Wokeness Weakened the U.S. Military?

Has Wokeness Weakened the U.S. Military?
(Grant Newsham, October 13, 2023)

Transcript available below

About the speaker

Col. (Ret.) Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy. He is also a Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, focusing on Asia/Pacific defense, political, and economic matters. He is a retired U.S. Marine Colonel and was the first U.S. Marine Liaison Officer to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

He also served as reserve head of intelligence for Marine Forces Pacific and was the U.S. Marine attaché, US Embassy Tokyo on two occasions. Grant Newsham has more than 20 years of experience in Japan and elsewhere in Asia so he is well able to offer the Asian perspective on the strategic challenges China presents to Japan and Taiwan, and how the two of them may face that threat.


Robert R. Reilly:

Hello and welcome to the Westminster Institute. I am Robert Reilly, its director. Today I am delighted to welcome back to our program Grant Newsham, who is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy. He is also a Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, focusing on Asia/Pacific defense, political, and economic matters. Grant Newsham is a retired U.S. Marine Colonel and was the first U.S. Marine Liaison Officer to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

He also served as reserve head of intelligence for Marine Forces Pacific and was the U.S. Marine attaché, US Embassy Tokyo on two occasions. Grant Newsham has more than well over 20 years’ experience in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. He is also the author of a bestseller, about which we had a program with him, titled When China Attacks: A Warning to America, a bestseller published by Regnery.

Today we are going to talk about: “Are We Ready for China” and the other perspective enemy militaries that we may face, perhaps including Russia, North Korea, and Iran. But the big one is: are we ready for China and has the issue of wokeness weakened the U.S. military? We can look at that topic within the broader context of overall military readiness of the United States as compared to our most likely enemies. Grant, welcome back to the program. It is good to have you here.

Grant Newsham:

I am glad to be here. Thank you very much.

Robert R. Reilly:

He is a target of opportunity since he spends most of his time in Asia, so this is wonderful to have you in our reading room studio. Grant, this is an enormous topic. We could, of course, because of your extensive experience in Asia, we can perhaps begin with that rather pointed question: are we ready for China militarily speaking?

Grant Newsham:

It depends. There would be a huge problem for us if China picks its spot, picks its time, and goes after us. We just might lose, and by that what I am thinking of is, say, a scenario, an incident, in the South China Sea where you are well within range of China’s land-based missiles, all of the weaponry that they can deploy from there, and they have got us overmatched and overpowered, actually, in certain scenarios.

So you could find yourself, say, for example, if you are an American Destroyer Skipper, you are in the South China Sea, and suddenly you have got 12 anti-ship missiles coming at you at supersonic speed. What are you going to do? You have got about 12 seconds to respond and there is not much you can do, but the Chinese have built up a military in the last 20 years that has been intended for one purpose only, and that is to defeat the United States, to defeat the U.S. military.

So they have actually built up a force that is going to come after us. That is what it is intended for, and for now in certain circumstances they could probably defeat us, and we are not ready for that. But the farther away you get from China, away from the Chinese mainland, the harder it gets for the Chinese to project power, so say 1,500 miles away from the mainland then we still have a huge advantage over the Chinese.

But as I said, they have built up a military that is formidable. Their navy is much bigger than ours now. Their air force is getting better. They have realized they had a huge problem with their army, their ground forces, so they shrunk it and turned it into something that is trying to be more mobile and able to conduct combined arms operations. It used to be a very heavy, ponderous force and actually, the Chinese Army actually used to be largely a business enterprise until about 2000 or so when they tried to clean it up a bit.

But the point is that by now the Chinese military is something that nobody is laughing about anymore. They were laughing for some, say, 20 years ago. You would find the U.S. military would laugh and experts as well. They used to joke about, in fact, China’s prospects for going after Taiwan as a million-man swim, the idea being, well, they would have to swim across the strait. Well, they have got plenty of ships, plenty of transport to get themselves across the strait, and if it came to a fight over Taiwan, I think it would be a very difficult thing for us. I think for a few more years we have still got the ability to cause the Chinese no end of trouble, but the trends are not favorable in terms of where the Chinese are going and where we are going.

Robert R. Reilly:

Well, we want to get to the topic of how our military readiness and effectiveness is affected by the wokeness, the DEI programs, etc. that have been so heavily practiced inside the U.S. military, as well as other U.S. government institutions. But you mentioned the Chinese military, and in that period in which it still could be laughed at we know there was a great deal of corruption, just as Russia’s attack on Ukraine revealed the extent of unreadiness, some of which could be attributed to corruption, due to the condition in which their vehicles were kept and so forth; the tires were rotten and other such things.

That was also true of China. I think, as you pointed out, if you wanted to be a colonel or a flag officer in China, it would cost you so much, and you would pay that amount because you would expect to get it back and more. And when Xi Jinping came into power, he emphasized an anti-corruption program, which as many people have commented was used to remove political opponents more, perhaps, than it was meant to address corruption, which appeared to be an issue about which the Chinese people were concerned as much as anyone can rely on polls regarding what does concern them.

To what extent has that been cleaned up? And we know the startling disappearances of, first, the foreign minister of China, and next the defense minister, with no explanations other than something along the line that they have bad headaches or something. So how do you interpret this kind of thing as a reflection on the state of readiness of the Chinese military?

Grant Newsham:

I think the Chinese know the problem and they have gone about trying to correct it. You never get it quite right, but the Chinese military today is not what it was 20 years ago. It still has problems, but as I said, they have understood their weaknesses and they have gone about training to fix them, to get better, and we would really be underestimating Chinese capabilities at our own peril.

Corruption is, as you said, a huge, huge problem in China, and the Chinese communist leadership knows very well that it was corruption that was one of the big things that brought down the old KMT in the civil war. And they know that is a problem, but it has been very hard for them to clean it up.

But they have made some real efforts, and you have only got to be good enough, as I see it. You have only got to have enough success at that, and in terms of the Chinese military, as I said, with a military you have only got to be good enough to do a certain thing at a certain time at a certain place.

And if you think of the war in the Falklands, where the Argentinians just about beat the British even though the British outclassed them in every respect, but the Argentines almost won because they had a force that could do a certain thing, a certain time, and a certain place. And if it was not for Mrs. Thatcher, the Argentinians probably would have seized the Falklands and kept them. So with the Chinese military they still have problems, and the Chinese leadership even talks about it.

Now, one thing they talk about is the need to be able to operate under combat conditions, and they talk about something called the peace disease. They mean a military that has not fought a war, a real war, for an awfully long time, and as a result it is lacking in some of the skills and capabilities that you need. So they still talk about this, so there is a problem within the Chinese military. It is not 10 ft tall, but it is a lot, a lot better than it was not long ago and it probably does have the capability to at least think that it could conduct a successful attack on Taiwan.

Robert R. Reilly:

I mean, the only action I can think of recently was the struggle between Chinese troops on the border with the Indian troops up in the Himalayas.

Grant Newsham:

Well, that is about it. But if you look at all the activity around Taiwan, for example, this is excellent training for an actual war, and that is what they are they are doing. They get the Air Force, the Rocket Force, the Navy, and even the Army able to do amphibious operations and they are putting the pieces together the way a baseball team, for example, [would]. You might have the pitchers and catchers practice. You would have the outfielders, the infielders, and they would each do their bit, and then they would come together as a team, get on the field, and actually play together, and that is what the Chinese are doing.

Robert R. Reilly:

So they are capable of combined arms operations?

Grant Newsham:

Yeah. Unfortunately, yes.

Robert R. Reilly:

But not perfect?

Grant Newsham:

They have not mastered it, but they are able to do this, and they have shown us around Taiwan that they are able to combine the air, sea, and ground components and also, you throw in the Rocket Force, cyber, now there is a space part of this as well, and they put it all together, and it just has to – if you are thinking of Taiwan, all you have to do is to be able to take Taiwan, bring it into submission, and at the same time you have to get the Americans to stand back, and they are trying to do that.

They have got, for example, long range hypersonic missiles and other missiles that they claim are carrier killers that have been developed to sink U.S. carriers, so if they can keep the American carriers at a distance, they have got an advantage. But also, they have a nuclear force that is actually much bigger than all the experts said it was just a couple years ago, and anyone who said it was bigger than [that] was ridiculed and humiliated.

And then one day about a year ago, the experts said, well, they seem to have twice as many as we thought they did, and they are on target to have, you know, this many by 2030, which means they have probably already got that many and will have more. But they could throw that in. You see, it is all part of a sort of a combined effort if you are going after Taiwan, and part of that is to convince the Americans that it is not worth nuclear war to intercede on Taiwan’s behalf.

But unfortunately, this military has gotten a lot better, and it keeps getting better, and also, it keeps getting bigger, which is another thing. The Chinese have been pumping out about five ships for every one the Americans have, and their ship building capabilities are impressive, while ours have dwindled.

Robert R. Reilly:

…well beyond what American shipyards can do. We only, what, have two shipyards that will take how long to build a new submarine? Well over a year. Well, it is interesting, I mean I do not know if this is the proper moment in the program to interject this particular issue about our diminished industrial capacity, which has been revealed by the supplies and support we have been giving Ukraine, where we now have an acute shortage of weapons and munitions that will take us years to replenish because of the diminishment of our industrial base, and it simply takes a long time for some of these defense industries to add a new production line. And of course, they need contracts to make it worthwhile for them to add that extra line.

And of course, it is not just the United States but Europe and our NATO allies. It has come as sort of a revelation to them that their industrial base is close to non-existent, that they do not have enough of what Ukraine needs to give it to them because they are bare bones and they do not have the industrial capacity to produce these weapons or these munitions as Russia does. Russia keeps cranking them out.

Now, China in that respect, as you pointed out in terms of shipping, eclipses the capacity of the United States, but how about in other areas?

Grant Newsham:

They seem to be able to produce all sorts of hardware, and ammunition, and weaponry, as well. And the Chinese do know how to make things, we have seen that in a commercial perspective, but militarily, as well. And they make good enough stuff.

And as I said, we have spent 20 years and sort of squandered the chance to maintain our lead. We almost let our capability, industrial capabilities, atrophy, or we have sort of focused our military on fighting these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of big wars against enemies like China. And in the meantime, the Chinese took advantage of that and have just gone all out.

It is unfortunate, but you have to hand it to them because they have done pretty well with the opportunity that we have given them. And of course, the irony is that we have funded a huge amount of it and a lot of our technology is in these Chinese systems. So once again, the game is not over, it is not guaranteed that we would lose, but in certain circumstances we would have a very hard time.

And the Chinese are looking to have a global military, one that can operate around the world just like ours can, and they are well on their way towards that, and they are setting up the infrastructure around the globe. It looks like commercial infrastructure, with ports and airfields, etc. on every continent. And when the time comes, you will find that those work just as well for the Chinese military.

Their commercial shipping is much more [than ours]. It is a lot bigger than ours, and those, too, also have a military use to them. Commercial shipping is an economic strength for a country. We have allowed ours to lapse much more than we should have.

Robert R. Reilly:

And we have other disadvantages which we can address now in this [discussion on the] effect of wokeness and DEI programs on the U.S. military. So I was looking at a report recently that said the Air Force is 10 percent behind on its recruitment and last year the Army missed its recruiting goal by 25 percent, and they expect this year to even be worse. The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps began the new fiscal year in October 50 percent below their normal recruiting numbers. This is quite disturbing. We know the Chinese, as you said, are increasing their military, and they do not seem to have any recruitment problems.

Some commentaries make the point that this reflects the youth unemployment in China, and therefore they find the military an attractive proposition. Of course, that is true in the United States, too. When there is high unemployment among the youth, they look at the military more readily than they might otherwise. But nonetheless, they do not have a recruitment problem and we do. Now, to what degree do you account this problem to the reaction against the wokeness to which they would be exposed if they do go in?

Grant Newsham:

I think that is part of it. It is easy to dismiss it, and I have seen the top brass on the news, saying ah, there nothing to it, no, no, no. Well, if you served in the military, and you sort of stay abreast of things, and you even talk to people in the military now, you know, people who are in, clearly it has had an effect. If you have people like me, for example, who would have to think if a youngster asked them should they join the military, if I would even have to think about answering that question, it gives you some idea of just how things have gotten.

And it, as I say, it has had an effect, particularly, I think, when you have top leadership, civilian and military, who basically suggest that, well, they do not like the kind of the people who join the military in the largest numbers, they think they are extremists, violent extremists. And when you have things like a force-wide standdown in order to understand violent extremism, which everyone knows is directed towards a certain political persuasion, a certain people, why would you join the military and go die on behalf of people who do not like you, who think you are deplorable, you are from flyover country?

And especially if you have this demographic, these people, who died at twice their numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq? And now you are being implicitly told we do not trust [you] and also, we are going to be very on the alert for people who have incorrect thoughts. This is something that will kill a military just as much as it will any organization.

And it is really unfortunate, I think, that you had our top leadership a couple years ago, remember when this was raised, this idea of violent extremism, and you had the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff saying, well, I want to study about this white rage and this, I have got to know what it is. Well, if he has lived his life so that he does not understand that he has treated people decently throughout it, he ought not to talk about how others have lived their lives.

He should have batted this away instantly and pointed out that the U.S. military is the one organization that is a meritocracy, and it is absolutely colorblind. It provides upward mobility opportunities for any American and it always has. And he should have pointed this out and, as I say, batted away these charges. Instead, he was dumbfounded and suggested there was something to it and that he was going to get to the bottom of it.

This was just breathtaking to see that happen, and at the time keep in mind that he also had probably had the intelligence reports of what the Russians were going to do in Ukraine, but he said the biggest problem that he saw was white rage and violent extremism. This is something that I suppose makes you understand why we did not do so well in Afghanistan and Iraq, with that kind of leadership.

And I am not being mean here, but you really have to be very careful about the psychology of a force, and once you start to break it down and you suggest that some part of your unit, some part of the force, is not trusted, it is unreliable, they are bad people, and that other parts deserve special treatment for whatever, you will tear it apart. And tribalism is never a good thing, and certainly not in the military.

Robert R. Reilly:

Well, I mean, just from my own limited experience of serving in the military many years ago when it was still a draft situation in the late 1960s, where obviously the thing most on everyone’s mind was Vietnam, I experienced exactly what you describe.

I want to mention, Grant, because you do, that one of the books that the Chairman or someone at the top recommended or said he was reading, was by [Ibram X.] Kendi. The ideology that Kendi is promoting is a racist ideology. It is racist anti-racism, and as you said, it is a form of neo tribalism, which is destructive of the principal tenant of American life, that all men are created equal.

We are an anti-tribal regime founded on principles inimical to those [ideas], so that the leaders of our military would promote or recommend these ideas is very shocking in the extreme, and is hard to account for, except that they themselves have been subjected to graduate studies and universities that have, let us say, educated them beyond their intelligence so that they are able to say these nonsensical things and not have the critical perspective to see what is so profoundly wrong with them.

Grant Newsham:

Yeah, I believe the chief of naval operations, Admiral [Michael M.] Gilday, actually put that book on the recommended reading list for Navy officers, and it is really just distressing that these guys did not, as I say, bat these ideas away, bat these claims away. And if somebody has a charge that the military is racist, that it is unfair, well, make the case, let us have some specifics. Instead, they had the top officers absolutely flummoxed when presented with a charge like this.

And as you mentioned, if you have ever seen, say, a marine platoon, it has probably got eight different nationalities in it. There are probably 12 different languages that people speak, and it is just the way it is, and nobody cares. In fact, if there an officer or staff NCO who was a racist, he would not last for five minutes. You could not do this.

But what you are going to find now if this plays out is you are going to have a situation where, really, the dirt bag in any unit now, all he has to do is claim racism, cry, you know, say the first sergeant is a racist, the lieutenants are racist, the captain is [a racist], and everything stops. And this is not what you want. [This is not] how you fight a war and win, and the Chinese must absolutely love what they are seeing.

And I hope we can get out of this, but also, it is worth remembering that this is nothing new. At the end of Vietnam and into the 70s, this sort of social engineering/social justice ideas were prevalent in the military. And partly as a result of Robert McNamara’s so-called Project 100,000, which thought that they could help American society and help the military by allowing 100,000 recruits from the lowest mental categories to join the military.

And all this was trouble, and one of the things that was done to try to address it was this program called human relations. And you would have what amounted to communist struggle sessions where everyone would sit around, including officers and the people, and basically the enlisted would tell them what they thought of them. And it was crazy, and it really did break down the military, almost destroyed it. Few people remember it these days.

You had gangs, you had race riots, drug dealing was rife, absolute lack of discipline in the military of that time. It is a miracle that it survived, and that was only because some decent officers and NCOs stuck around so that when there was a chance to fix it, they were able to do it. And it did not really get fixed until Mr. Reagan came around in the early 80s, and that is how bad it was, so this is nothing – what we are seeing today, you can see as I say it is nothing new and you can see where it can lead us if it is allowed to.

Robert R. Reilly:

Well, I was on active duty in the late 60s, in an army cavalry unit, and we did not experience really a lot of that. It was Fort Lewis’ major jumping off and return point to Vietnam, and so we received in our unit a young man from from the Kentucky hills. He had just done his duty in Vietnam so he was in our our tank platoon, and he was part of this 100,000, which I always thought was just a cannon fodder program. ‘You cannot get enough people to feed into Vietnam? Well, take ones who are at the bottom of the education ladder,’ and they are bodies, send them in. That was sort of the disdain with which I regarded the program.

So here I have a person from it. We got into a tank and I started showing him how it worked and what everything was for, and I said to him, ‘now if you have any trouble remembering what I have just said, here is the tank manual and you see, open up, here is the index, and, you know, gun control system. Go to page 35 and here it tells you exactly [what to do].’ So I was talking like this, I was looking at the book, and then I looked at him.

And of course, I discovered he was functionally illiterate, but there was a program I could put him in to help him. I said, you know, Corporal, you have served your country. Now your country is going to serve you. You are going to get the help so that you can read. So that is what we did, but that was an example of the very thing about which you were speaking. Fortunately, in our unit we did not experience, you know, racial tension, gangs, or drugs. It was still pretty cohesive.

But one thing that did distress me, and I will stop reminiscing, that is not all to the point is I saw the finest officers leaving. I saw the West Point guys, who had been in Vietnam, getting fabulous offers from corporate America and saying, well, you know, the heck with this. You know, we are not being treated well here, so off they go for a much better deal. And it is not as if these men were not patriots and had not done some tough stuff, but I thought if you are losing your academy officers, you are in trouble for the future.

Now this pertains. I will get back to current affairs. And we see that in our military academies today, applications to the Air Force Academy dropped by 28% for the class of 2026, 28%. The Navy Academy dropped by 20% and West Point by 10%.

Grant Newsham:

You know, in a country of 330 million, we have got enough people to fill up the military, and when it is coming this short, you know something is wrong beyond the usual excuses (Well, the economy is good, the economy is bad), and part of this is, and I say I have seen this, and if it plays out as it is, of course, anecdotal, but I have just seen that so many people, that I know and that I have heard of, who just have this bad feeling about things.

So, I say I would end up recommending someone join the military, but there are plenty of people who would say no, and particularly, you know, if you are say youngsters are going to join, say, the infantry, the enlisted, why should they, you know? If all you know is, well, the top guy said he does not like like my son or my daughter because of what they look like, or he suspects them of something, well, I would probably have them sit out. That would be my thinking.

And it is such a delicate thing that one has to to be very careful about that.

It is really unfortunate that the top dogs blew it like this, and they are not pushing back on this, and they have not been for a long time. Actually, this is nothing new. In one of the services, I was talking to a young officer just a few years ago, and I told him about the OCS, and I suggested well, how many people passed? It was about 50% when I went to OCS. And he says, well, everybody passes unless they get hurt physically, get injured.

And I could not believe it. I was just really kind of aghast at it because, particularly when it comes to officers, if people are entrusting their children to their care, they have to know that the officers are the best there is, and by winnowing out about half of a candidate pool, that is how you end up about where you want to be.

And I asked a friend about this who follows this stuff, and he says, well, yeah, it was a few years ago that the service got tired of Congress criticizing it for being racist so they just let everybody, basically everyone, pass. And he said that they have never had as many double signed fitness reports. When you sign a fitness report twice, it is because you are acknowledging you got a bad fitness report. And he said, you know, I hope too many people did not get killed because of this, and so this is not something that just happened. It has been in the works for a while.

Robert R. Reilly:

So it has lowered standards for political reasons?

Grant Newsham:

Unfortunately, [yes], and if you are, say, the Chinese and you are going to fight us, or anyone who is going to fight us, what would you rather have, a military where people are allowed to move along, to get places because of what they look like, or people who are actually good at fighting, the most lethal?

Well, the answer is obvious. And we used to joke about the old communist military that had commissars, these political officers who would watch what the fighters were doing, and we would say yeah, could you have more of them, please, because it weakens the ability to fight? And we can talk all we want about how magnificent the U.S. military is, but I am not so sure we are still there. We are in some ways running off of the momentum of some generations which have come in the past, and it is unfortunate.

It is really something that has has been a psychological breakdown in our leadership. And instead of really standing up for the military and for what it is, as you said, I think it is the only, probably the only, government program that has actually done something good in terms of social advancement for everybody. And instead of standing up for that, they allowed themselves to be whipsawed by basically race hustlers and charlatans.

And this Kendi fellow has been in the news recently because the center he stood up, I think it was at Boston University, and the many, many, many millions of dollars he was given for this, there seems to be some small scandals as to where the money actually went and what the center actually produced. As I said, we have seen this sort of thing before, but it is unfortunate and I think it has hurt our military.

Another thing which has hurt, and it is a little more subtle, is over a period of time, particularly as academia has gone left, and even down into the elementary schools, the military, perhaps, is not being presented with the respect it should have, or as a really decent and good career opportunity for a lot of people.

Combine that with things like, you know, the lack of physical education programs in schools, but also the fentanyl assault on America. I think, it was about 77,000 Americans died this last 12 months and it has just gone up and up. Many of these are in that 15 to 44 cohort of people, of that age where you would join the military, and that is like taking a couple divisions off the battlefield, if you are the Chinese. And all the fentanyl comes from China.

And you have, as the figures say, about 22% of Americans who would be eligible to join the military are actually physically and mentally qualified. And of those [people, that 22%], the ones who would actually want to serve is a tiny percentage of that, and so there have been a few things at work. But the latest thing that has gotten the attention, I think, has been this so-called woke assault. And unfortunately, the gentlemen who were in the driver’s seat did not respond to it very well at all, but there are all sorts of excuses for why this has nothing to do with it, etc., etc. Well, get down and talk to the military, talk to the people in the military, and ask them what they think.

And the last thing I will say is if you are, say, expected to go die for your country, if you are expected to send young men to go die, to give them orders where you know that it is not going to be a happy ending, and you are expected to die, [you ought to be treated with respect]. First of all, actually, it is an absolute insult for somebody to say I do not trust you, I think you are a racist, I think you do not have the decency to treat people the way that you would like to be treated, so we are going to watch you very closely, but now go die for us.

And the people saying that, the people pushing those policies, I would imagine that almost none of them have children or relatives in the military. A country cannot survive this, a military cannot survive it, so like a lot of people having watched this over the last couple years, it is distressing to say the least, not least because the charges leveled are so wrong, they are just so false, and the people who should have taken it on did not.

Robert R. Reilly:

In my experience of observing these trends, I first found that, well, the American military, of course a few years back, was the most admired institution in the United States, and for good reason. It had standards that had endured for a very long time. Now, as the ideological program progressed, it took other institutions, the educational institutions, the business institutions, the boards, the other social institutions.

As you know, the military, I believe it was under President Clinton, arrived at a kind of compromise that actually seemed fairly reasonable, don’t ask, don’t tell, just that is not part of the program so just no one will ask you and you do not tell [them], so if the military is number one for you, that this could be handled that way.

But that was not acceptable because the purpose of the ideology was to make the institution conform to the ideology at whatever cost. The point was never the military mission and being capable to perform it, it was to have the military bend the knee. And at that time, you, Grant, have spoken at this vacuum, this absence of any senior officer flag officer, saying this is wrong, this is hurting military readiness, we will not be able to defend our country as we ought to if this is allowed to continue. At the cost of his career, he says that, and of course, he would be disciplined and removed.

I was a close friend of a former Admiral at the time that Panetta was Secretary of Defense and was pushing this agenda further into the military, and I watched online the presentations in the auditorium in the Pentagon, a room I know very well as I am sure you do, and it was shocking. And this Admiral was fulminating that no flag officer objected. Same thing!

And why not? Well, they have their own career so it could just be from a selfish perspective, I am going to stay in because I am senior and I just have a few years, or this other explanation that, yeah, this is a bad thing, but it will be worse if I leave. At least if I stay in I could possibly, you know, have it not be as damaging as it otherwise might be. That is usually just a rationalization because I do not think they end up offering any resistance. So the capsize of the senior officer corps in the light of this is one of the great achievements of the ideology.

I am just going to point out that I am talking here about a Heritage Foundation recent poll, and also I have been referring to statistics throughout this program from the report of the National Independent Panel on Military Service and Readiness. So this poll said over two-thirds of active-duty military surveyed said they witnessed politicization in the military, and 65% of active-duty personnel are concerned about growing politicization of the military.

Their most selected areas for concern were, “An overemphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.” That was 41% concerned about that, what you have just spoken to, reduction of physical fitness standards to promote equity, 41% concerned, and requirement for the military to pay for abortion related travel, 40%. Over half the non-active-duty military personnel also said they believe that the military has become too politicized,

Let me just refer to these and have you comment. This is active military members’ concerns about politicization. “To what degree have you witnessed a growing politicization (defined as becoming political in character as opposed to neutral) of the military?” Combined total of significantly or somewhat, 68%. “To what degree are you concerned about the growing politicization of the military?” 65%. “To what extent would politicization of the military impact your decision to encourage your children to join the military?” 68%, that is shocking.

Grant Newsham:

Yeah, it is. You know, there is no question about it. I think what the response will, of course, be. Well, that is a bogus survey, it is not true, these people do not know what they are talking about. That will be the response, but it is, of course, wrong. This is a problem that tends to play out over time, and you do not quite see the effects of it until a little time has passed, but certainly now I think we are. And whether it will continue or not, I do not know.

But it is also important, I think, to look at this.

If you, say, step back a bit, the military is one of those pillars of American society, of our system. It is the military. You have the churches, you have the political system, academia, the courts, etc., and the media, and if you can pick these off one by one and sort of get them to sort of buy this notion that America is a bad country, it is evil, it needs to be torn down, needs to be transformed in a way that we will not recognize, the military is one part of this just as it was in the old Tsarist Russia, and it is under attack. You know, one may not easily recognize that or understand it, but I think it genuinely is under attack by ideologues who want to bring it to heel.

And once you have got that, you look at all the other things you have got. You got a lot of the pieces, and so this is not just, you know, this sort of well-intentioned people who want opportunity and equality for all.

Well, if they did, they would like the military as it was, but there is an intention, I say, to bring the thinking and the leadership and the military around to where it is in line with what we have seen, some of these other institutions that I have mentioned.

Robert R. Reilly:

I could not agree more. The military was the last man standing, so they had to affect it.

I just want to mention these other issues, a poll impacting active military members trust in the military. “What are those events that have decreased your trust in the military?” is the question they were asked. Changing of policy to allow unrestricted service by transgender individuals in the military, 80%, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, 71%, reduction of physical fitness standards to “even the playing field,” 70%. This is one we have not discussed yet: focus on climate change as the top national security threat, 70%, critical race theory, 69%, etc. Embracement of goal to pursue all all electric military vehicles, 64%.

I forget whether it was the Secretary of Defense or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who said the number one national security threat to the United States is climate change. The Chinese had to be happy about that.

Grant Newsham:

Oh, they must look at us with, I think, a mixture of delight and contempt. One, there is no evidence that this is the biggest threat facing us, and if it is, it is not a military threat. It is a religion, of course, but that is it. When you have officers, senior officers will go along with that and not say, hey, this is stupid, or I disagree with this, put it that way, that you have really got it. It shows you, I think, the depth of the problem with that.

I do not quite know how we are going to get out of that, but I would note the military does, for all the problems it has, it is still able to hurt somebody if it wants to. We are still able to cause, for example, the Chinese some considerable problems if they make a move, at least for the next few years, so it does still have plenty of capability, but this does not last forever. And if you apply enough pressure over time, you can find yourself where you cannot really fight very well.

Whenever I hear, as you touched on, somebody say, well, we need more diversity in the military, as I said, look at a marine platoon or any platoon you have got. It is almost more complex than the United Nations.

Robert R. Reilly:

It was always diverse.

Grant Newsham:

It always is, just the nature of things, but it is being accused of not being enough, therefore you have to apply affirmative action in the military. And I would love to have our opponents do those sorts of things, so you know, we will see. As I say we will see how it plays out. I do not know how much time we will have, but you know, if some of these ideas that they say are so wonderful, you know, Yugoslavia or Rwanda would have had the best military because they have plenty of diversity to them. There is far more to it than just looking at skin colors and ethnic backgrounds, etc.

Robert R. Reilly:

Well, you mentioned the contempt with which China would regard this program. Can we, before we run out of time, include the other militaries that are potential battlefield competitors with the United States? And of course, Russia is the one in the news because they are fighting Ukraine, and NATO members are extremely nervous, especially Poland and the Baltic states, about what Russia might do next, because historically speaking, they have been very active in those countries, which for long periods of time they claimed as their own.

Now, what do you think? It seemed the Russian military displayed extraordinary ineptness in their attempted blitzkrieg. And what was really surprising, Grant, to me is that they did not seem to demonstrate any competence at combined arms activities, so as worried as these European countries are, as much so that President Biden sent over 13,500 American troops to sort of reassure them, what is your take on the state of the Russian military vis-á-vis the state of our military?

Grant Newsham:

I think the Russian military is not the first one to have stumbled at the beginning of a fight, and then you kind of regroup, catch your breath, and you figure it out and you get better. And they did that, obviously, in World War II, and so they are not the first one to make mistakes. The United States military at the beginning of World War II when it was fighting in North Africa [had] huge problems, but it learned its lessons, figured it out, then fought the way they are good at. And the Russians fight a certain way, and it is not necessarily the way we do, but they are good in defense. And also, they do have the ability to conduct offensive operations in sort of a grinding way.

And the prospects for them, I say I would not dismiss them. There is a tendency to do that. Fortunately, I think the Finns and the Swedes are going to join NATO, if they have not already. It is nice to have them up north, but the Europeans are no longer going to have the luxury of thinking that they have no enemies, they have nothing to worry about defense-wise. The Russians are still capable of causing a lot of trouble. They do have good special forces, fifth column activities, and they are good at political subversion, so I would not rule out them making a move in the future sometime.

So I say they look bad at the beginning, but I think they have gotten better, and I am afraid that when the Ukrainians, who have done all the dying, when they had their opportunity about nine months ago, when they broke through, I think we did not capitalize on that quick enough and that window might have shut. So now it is this grinding fight against Russian defenses, so they are not bad.

You hesitate. They have their strengths, they have their shortcomings, and if you know what they are and you fight a certain way, and you get your enemy to go along with that so that he is not willing to do what is necessary to fend you off, you can still be a really potent force. You have to, say, pick your spots, pick your times, and stick with your capabilities, what you are good at. And you know, unfortunately, the Russians are intelligent as well, and same, you know, you have the Iranians, the North Koreans, as well. There are things that they can do that would cause their neighbors a lot of trouble, and the North Koreans, as well.

And unfortunately, again, you do have this, you know, Axis of Evil. You have the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, and a few other little ones that are capable of operating in ways that are mutually supportive. For example, if Taiwan comes under attack, if North Korea does anything, makes a move, that is going to distract a lot of attention, a lot of resources. If Russia just s sails its navy out to the north, Japan is going to be occupied with that and cannot devote their resources, their attention, down south, so they are capable, as I said, of mutually supporting activities.

And you have only got to be good enough to do a certain thing at a certain time at a certain place.

Robert R. Reilly:

Perhaps the recent Naval joint operations between China and Russia were sending that message subliminally to Japan.

Grant Newsham:

I think it was pretty in your face and the Japanese got the message. They are worried about this. They have followed it very closely, of course, and they see. They know what the threats are. We know it as well, so it is not as if the U.S. does not recognize it, but you know for all of threats we face, you have to ask yourself, are our pilots getting enough flight time to stay current so that they can fight well, and do we have enough aircraft?

How about our ships? Do we have enough ships? Do we have enough long-range missiles that are better than what the enemy has? Do we have enough of those? Do we have enough places from which we can operate in the Pacific? Do we have the war stocks like you were talking about? You know, if there is a fight, how long can we fight for, and what if our partners, what if our allies ask us for our ammunition, for our weaponry? Can we do it? Are we able to actually fight alongside and in a coherent way with our partners, with our allies, say, the Japanese, Australia, and some of the Europeans? Can we do this well?

Those are the questions that one needs to ask in my opinion, to make sure that the answers are good. Unfortunately, most of them are not good yet, and everything else when it comes to sort of chasing racist boogey men in a military is a distraction and it is something that makes us less able to win and prevail.

Robert R. Reilly:

I believe I saw recently, if I recall correctly, a statistic that if there were a war with Russia and NATO, we would have enough ammunition for a week.

Grant Newsham:

Could be, you know, I do not know, but it could be.

Robert R. Reilly:

Yes, I would you definitely have to double check that, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to at least have had a refreshing impact on the Europeans, that this is serious, that they now have to do something, they have to see to their own defense. They took their membership in NATO as a kind of get out of jail free card, that we do not have to maintain our military establishment because the United States is obligated to defend us so they will defend us, so we eliminate, you know, half our Air Force, we reduce our tank force to almost nothing and keep it in storage.

Great Britain has disarmed. It is really shocking when you look at the size of the militaries of our NATO forces, which makes you wonder, why do we need to send 13,500 troops? You have a population larger than the United States. I do not know whether in Germany this will pass from their consciousness in a year’s time or whether they are going to seriously rebuild their military, which used to be very impressive. Otherwise, as many critics say, NATO really is not a serious operation. I mean, they certainly pat themselves on the back often enough, saying this is the most successful military alliance in history. Well, why and what has your contribution been to it?

I mean, you mentioned it is good to have Finland in NATO now because Finland has always taken its own defense seriously, and that is why they performed so brilliantly in the Winter War against the Soviet Union, which was remarkable, for that tiny country to bloody Stalin’s nose the way they did. The Russians, as you say, learned and went back in there and took part of Finland for themselves as a result.

But unless they remilitarize and unless they increase their industrial base to supply themselves with munitions and weapons, what is left there? Has the shock of Ukraine been sufficient that they are actually going to do something?

Grant Newsham:

I do not know. I would not bet a whole lot of money that it has been enough of a shock. I think in parts of Europe it has been enough, and they were they were worried already, the Eastern Europeans, some/most of them, but I do not know. And it looks like the Germans are wavering in some pretty significant ways now.

And as you said, the British military, as professional as it is, my goodness it has shrunk. You could probably fit the entire British Navy in the Tidal Basin down in D.C. (half joking). But they have reduced their military so much and that is the British, who are as game as they come, but that reflects Europe pretty much. And I do not know that this is going to be enough of a shock, and I think that they may find that there is more coming from the Russians in the future.

The Japanese as well [may not have felt enough of a shock when Russia invaded Ukraine]. They have sort of woken up, but I think it is fairer to say they have gotten serious about getting serious. One funny data point is they might have enough air-to-air missiles to put on all of their fighters for one sortie. Patriot missiles, they had better hope the other side does not fire twice.

So they have got an opportunity to excel, but this is something that the free nations often do, allow their defenses to languish, and hopefully we have some time to get things back in order. You know, we are moving, but you wonder where the Henry Kaiser, the industrialists who built the Liberty ships, for example, in World War II, these guys who came along and said yeah, this is what the country needs, yeah, we will build them. And they were turning out like one Liberty ship a day, or something like that. It was just immense what these guys achieved. And I am not so sure what we can do today.

You like to think that when really pressed, Americans will come through, as will the other free nations. I still have not given up on the Europeans in general, but hopefully we do not wait too much longer.

Robert R. Reilly:

I have the production statistics from American industry in World War II, and in those Liberty ships and aircraft carriers and destroyers, etc., of aircraft, of tanks, of other military vehicles, and they are beyond astonishing. We not only provisioned the American military but provisioned the Soviet Union, without which they would not have had any success against Hitler, and of course, Great Britain and our other allies. It was simply an extraordinary performance.

From between the summer of 1940 and the summer of 1945, American shipyards produced 141 aircraft carriers, eight battleships, 807 cruisers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts, and 203 submarines. American auto manufacturers and other industries converted their assembly lines to produce 88,410 tanks and self-propelled guns, 257,000 artillery pieces, 2.4 million trucks, 2.6 million machine guns, and 41 billion rounds of ammunition.

The American aviation industry eventually produced 170 aircraft per day for a total of 324,000 over the course of the war. Staggering! Oh, I would just say in addition to that, we could not even come close to doing this today. As I think, Grant, we mentioned, our shipyards would take more than a year, or maybe two years, to turn out more than one submarine.

North Korea

One other adversary, since it is close to Japan and of course it is not far from Taiwan, is North Korea, the nuclear bad boy. Now, they have a rather significant conventional military, [and] on top of it [they have] a very large army. They have huge amounts of artillery that are dug in, and just with artillery most of it can reach Seoul. At a decent fire rate, they could reduce Seoul to rubble within, I think, 12 hours or so, not even speaking of their nuclear capabilities.

However, I mean, it is a Hermit Kingdom. No one knows a great deal about North Korea except when you have these funny incidents when one of their border guards along the DMZ defects, and those are supposed to be elite troops. And they are given physical examinations, and they find out they are full of worms and vitamin deficiencies, and are suffering from all kinds of physical deprivations and ills, so how are they going to fight? I mean, if those are elite troops and they are in that kind of physical condition, what would be expected of North Korea?

Grant Newsham:

Well, they just have to do a certain thing. And what they are capable of, as you have just said, is they could cause a lot of trouble in South Korea, particularly just going after Seoul. That is the economic and just psychological center of South Korea. You take that under direct fire, and you have got chaos on the peninsula. Then in any sort of a fight, even sort of malnourished, sick people can sometimes fight, cause you more trouble than you would want.

As I say, I would not underestimate their offensive capability. I doubt they could take the peninsula. They think they could. They genuinely might believe that, but I do not think they could, but that would cause so much trouble that it would be hugely disruptive to everything, to our economies, not least, result in tens of thousands of deaths on both sides, but particularly South Korean.

And it would be something that would, as I say, distract our attention from other places like Taiwan, other places China could make a move. And the way that it works is the Americans still think that ‘the Chinese will help us, the Chinese want to help us rein in North Korea,’ and that has been the belief for a long, long time. And there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that they do. In fact, the Chinese like having North Korea around as a potential troublemaker up there. It distracts us, distorts resources that otherwise could be applied directly to China.

The North Koreans have, of course, been providing resupply to the Russians since early on in the war in Ukraine, and now they are even providing more things more openly than they were, and it is believed that the Chinese are restocking the North Koreans. China, if it wanted, could sort of turn off North Korea in an afternoon if it just cut off oil, cut off food, and cut off everything else with the country. It could not survive without it, but they do not want to.

Robert R. Reilly:

No, they do not.

Grant Newsham:

No, so North Korea is a huge problem. And with the nuclear part of it, North Korea’s nuclear weapons that have been steadily growing in capabilities, getting better and better, they can make them smaller and smaller, fit them onto missiles, and the ranges and the accuracy are increasing. And this is just an engineering problem at this stage. The Chinese have, of course, helped the North Koreans develop all of these, and we have not done anything much about it.

North Korea, you know, one could have laughed at it at one point, you know, this nation of dwarfs, you know, malnourished dwarfs is what you used to hear, but, well, maybe, but they also will have missiles that can hit Washington, D.C. with nuclear weapons on them (not yet, but that will be coming over time as once again, if the trends play out, and they do not always, but it does require some effort on our side to make sure that these trends do not keep going in a way that is to our disadvantage).

But you say North Korea is a problem easily solved if we could cut them off and enforce real sanctions. But to do that, you have got to get the Chinese to cooperate. They have no incentive to do that, and so I have always wished that we would pull the People’s Bank of China’s license to operate in the United States. That would get China’s attention.

Say, well, here is your choice: do business with U.S. dollars and with us, or do business with North Korea, what is it going to be? It is up to you. But we do not do that, and if we are not doing that, we are just overlooking intentionally one of the most powerful levers that we have got. But there has been a lot of talk and fretting about China and North Korea, and we have not really done much to address the problem effectively.

Robert R. Reilly:

I could not agree with you more that North Korea is as much of a problem as China wants it to be and to have this view that China is our partner in trying to restrain North Korea is just an illusion that is shocking. But of course, it is one promoted by China.

I was there on a small delegation sponsored by the Central Committee of the Communist Party Foreign Affairs Division. And at one think tank as the meeting closed, this Chinese chap had the audacity to say you have all the influence over North Korea, we do not have any. And you know we were supposed to behave politely, but the question was easily, isn’t the country that supplies them with food and other essentials the one that has the most leverage over them? And that is not the United States, it is you. I mean, the audacity. Well, we know how bold the Chinese are in stating the opposite of reality as if it were true, without even blinking, and that was another case. What is shocking is that some Americans actually believe that statement.


Well, I am afraid we are out of time now, and I would like to express my thanks to Grant Newsham, who is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, for joining me to discuss the topic of: “The Effect of Wokeness on the U.S. Military” and on military readiness, especially compared to the most likely enemies the United States is facing or will face, and not surprisingly we have spent most of our time discussing about the U.S. military vis-á-vis the Chinese, and secondarily the Russians.

I want to thank Colonel Newsham for coming and you for watching, and I invite you to go to the Westminster Institute website or our YouTube channel to see other programs that we offer on the subject of China, Ukraine, Russia, and many other things, as well as the program we did about six to eight months ago when Colonel Newsham’s book was issued, and that was When China Attacks: A Warning to America. Well, again, thanks for joining us. I am Robert Reilly.