Conservatives don’t understand the military

They dragged in a general to testify about critical race theory. They didn’t get the answer they expected.

I suspect that generals are better educated overall than senators (amused that they cut away briefly to Matt Gaetz, shaking his head in…hey, why is that corrupt Floridian still in office anyway?). The enlisted personnel are definitely more diverse than the Senate. It was a real eye-opener for me when I actually visited a couple of army bases, visiting my son, and noticing that the people working there are much more diverse than even at my liberal university.

If the right-wingers, which includes so many chickenhawks, think they can automatically get the support of the military, they better think again. This is not to say liberals do understand the military, or that the army will support the left wing, but that they’re a separate perspective that doesn’t neatly fit into our civilian categories. The best thing to do is leave them out of politics, and encourage them to continue to be independent of that role.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    In Sweden – which has a conscript army, and also contract soldiers for UN missions- the soldiers and officers are seen as “citizens in uniform” and it is seen as important they have the same value systems as the rest of the nation. So there are plenty of children of immigrants working there.

  2. robro says

    I noticed he took the opportunity to take a shot at the January 6th insurrection, and he didn’t mince words about either.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Ditto #2; I was happy that he mentioned the insurrection, the one topic Republicans do not want to talk about.

  4. microraptor says

    “Woke” is just a conservative buzzword anyway. It has no real definition, it just serves as a way of labeling something they dislike.

  5. kome says

    They cut away to Matt Gaetz because Gaetz asked a series of questions – or rather, made a series of comments disguised as questions – and then actively tried to stop Milley from responding. Someone else then opened up the door for Milley to respond.

  6. whheydt says

    The US Army integrated because Eisenhower made them do so. Part of the underlying plot of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is pointing out the idiocy of the US Navy’s policy of limiting job choices for Filipinos to “Steward.” (When pinned down, the protagonist says that the language he spoke at home was Tagalog.)

  7. brucegee1962 says

    I thought that this post was going to be about the Q-bots crazy dreams that the brass would stage a coup to reinstate Trump. Not going to happen — even if there was a general or two who wanted to try it, the others would slap him down so hard.
    An interesting thing in our country is that our officers tend to be less conservative than the rank and file. That isn’t universally true — the Air Force seems particularly likely to be religio-fascist — but broadly true in the Pentagon. Being around DC overall seems to create liberal tendencies — the closer you are to government, the easier it gets to realize how everything is a tradeoff, and the harder it is to see it all in black and white. Unless you keep yourself in a bubble, of course.

  8. nomdeplume says

    So “woke” in this context means what? That the military should treat people of different ethnic background equally? That they should avoid misogyny and racism in its ranks? Be aware of LGBTQ issues? Have concerns about the economic and psychological welfare of the families of its troops? Obey the Geneva rules of war when in conflicts? Refuse to assist Trump in a coup? So, which of those is Gaetz disagreeing with?

  9. robro says

    Incidentally, Gen. Milley appeared briefly at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC with Bill Barr shortly before the protestors were cleared on June 1, 2020…a milestone not resurrected. At the time, it was noted that he left abruptly. He later apologized for his involvement. Apparently he realized what was going on and felt it inappropriate for the US Army to be there. He also opposed Trump’s attempt to call in the Army to quell the protests. Interestingly, so did Bill Barr, at least, if you believe the New York Times.

  10. gijoel says

    “I want to understand white rage. What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the constitution of the United States of America.”

    Wow, Aliens are going to see that burn in the geologic strata.

  11. says

    Yeah. The impression I got is that whatever faults he may have, General Milley takes his oath to defend his country very seriously, and has no time for people who break similar oaths. He is quite correct that January 6th was an attack on the USA itself from ‘enemies domestic’ and it sounds like his opinion on who was responsible, how, and why, would not be too different from our own.

  12. says

    Leaving aside that in his anger he misspoke at one point (he said “three-fourths of a person” when he meant “three-fifths of a person”), you have to remember something critical: All officers of the United States — and not just military officers, members of Congress, etc. too — take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” For commissioned officers, that means we read the blasted thing first. During the commissioning process, there are at least two multi-hour segments devoted to UCMJ Article 92 and its predecessors, emphasizing that officers in particular have independent duty to ensure that the orders that the give and follow are lawful — and further emphasizing that the Constitution is the source of that lawfulness. This makes military officers “social justice warriors” by definition, because we swore to support and defend the Fourteenth Amendment against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Even in the context of the 21st century, that’s a pretty radical 428 words; it was unheard of in the nineteenth-century world. Merely being “woke” is the insult; that accusation — and it’s almost always made as an accusation, sort of like the word “liberal” coming from a Faux News commentator — understates things, if for no other reason than military officers being painfully aware of the causes of “fragging” in Vietnam (also part of the commissioning curriculum).

    General Millay danced around the edges of Article 88 today. I expect some quiet pressure on him from that perspective; he managed to make his contempt more about the inquiry itself than about those making it, but he was responding to… well… since Article 88 no longer applies to me, I can say “someone not worth the time or effort it would take to speak contemptuous words.” Secretary Austin wasn’t a whole lot less angry, but you have to speak the dialect to understand why; the “Hon.” Mr Gaetz clearly doesn’t.

  13. John Morales says

    Jaws, so the military takes an oath to support and defend involuntary servitude (13th amendment).


  14. says

    Umm, John, what part of the 13th Amendment are you saying authorizes “involuntary servitude” aside from “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”? That exception rather swallows anything I can see regarding general authorization. (Whether all of the trials, or chosen punishment regimes, meet the aspirations is another question… and it’s one that I’m not proud of any rationally supported answer.)

    I should also have mentioned that the policies that support social justice are definitely subject to disagreement. By everyone.

  15. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    1- The constitution merely permits it, not requires it. You’re equivocating between the two here, conflating them. Defending the constitution does not mean necessarily fighting for involuntarily servitude of convicted criminals. It does mean that the military does have to stand idly by while it happens, which is unfortunate.

    2- Go fuck yourself.

  16. justanotherjohn says

    @4 – What they dislike is the concept of caring about other people.

  17. consciousness razor says

    Also worth noting that the 14th amendment was adopted more than 50 years before the 19th, for example. So that whole time, it very clearly didn’t do what you might have thought it did by merely reading its text, with regard to its protections for “all persons” in the US. (Not even close to all, in reality. But in a work of mythology, then sure, why not?) The point is, with that, we’re not quite in woke SJW territory just yet. That was going to take a lot more time.

    Also, regarding the 15th amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

    Nothing in there about a person’s current condition of servitude, which is still permitted according to the 13th — certainly a deliberate choice, one which is still relevant to this day. And presumably, that’s not a choice that a woke SJW would make.

  18. John Morales says


    Umm, John, what part of the 13th Amendment are you saying authorizes “involuntary servitude” aside from “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”?

    Isn’t that enough?

    It’s notable that you don’t deny that, as punishment for a crime and after due conviction, involuntary servitude is permitted. As I noted, an oath to support and defend involuntary servitude subject to a particular condition. Very important for you.


    The constitution merely permits it, not requires it.

    Sure. So there’s an oath made to support and defend the permissibility of involuntary servitude. As I noted.

    It does mean that the military does have to stand idly by while it happens, which is unfortunate.

    What Jaws wrote is that the military swears an oath to support and defend it when the condition (crime and conviction) is met.

    (Just as well merely being Black is not (at the moment) a crime, no?)

    Go fuck yourself.

    Heh. Why would I, when I have better options?

    (I don’t have endless libido, or stamina, you know. Fucking other people suffices for me)

  19. hemidactylus says

    Yeah JCS Chair Milley came across well (contrasted with slimeball Gaetz). So there are members of the military who reflect on socially important matters. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Rick Scott (former Governor) are both Navy veterans. DeSantis was a JAG, meaning the Navy helped him hone his framing skills.

    Viewpoint diversity is now law in Florida education and so is knowing Communism is evil. Instead of Critical Race Theory (promoted by godless Commie thugs akin to Che Guevara) we will learn of the brave souls (Republican constituents) who escaped Communism in Cuba and Venezuela. Jorge Mas Canosa and CANF old guard Trump Ibram Kendi and Kimberlé Crenshaw every time.

    Navy JAG Strong:

    “Last week, the Florida Board of Education adopted new rules limiting the teaching of history with a primary focus of banning critical race theory and limiting other race-related discussions from classrooms.

    DeSantis spearheaded the push to ban the academic approach to systemic racism that dates back more than 40 years.

    “We do not want curriculum that is judging students based on their race, and we do not want false history,” DeSantis said.”

    No false history. Just Hillsdale College wholesomeness perhaps.

    “H.B. 5, known as the “Portraits of Patriotism Act,” tasks Florida’s Department of Education to develop civics curriculum that will include lessons on the “evils” of communist and totalitarian regimes.

    DeSantis condemned how some colleges and universities discuss communist leaders and ideologies.

    Mao Zedong, a Chinese communist revolutionary, is spoken of “positively” on college campuses and Che Guevara, a Cuban revolutionary, is celebrated on shirts, he said.

    “This guy was a total communist thug and yet that’s the kind of environment that you see,” DeSantis said. “And so I think by us having this, we’re really going to be, I think pushing back against some of the whitewashing that’s been done.””

    So some deluded idealist or two wears a Che shirt on campus and DeSantis goes looking for a Red Menace Joe McCarthy style. WTF? Could it be…Calle Ocho?

    “S.B. 1108 seeks “to build bridges civics education between our high schools and post-secondary institutions,” DeSantis said.

    State college and university students will be required to take an assessment in addition to a civics literacy course as a graduation requirement. Currently, college students are only required to complete one.”

    I wonder if hating socialists as enemies of the state will be a requirement. Because ideological purity dovetails with the attack on voting rights to ensure Chancellor DeSantis his ilk will continue to run roughshod over Floriduh.

    ““We have a responsibility to teach students how to think for themselves rather than indoctrinating them on what to think,” said Senator Ray Rodrigues. “Without a measurement of intellectual diversity, it is impossible to know if Florida taxpayers are providing an education or an indoctrination. Governor DeSantis understands the difference and I am grateful for his commitment to ensuring viewpoint diversity exists on our campuses.””


    “Today, Governor DeSantis was joined by individuals who escaped persecution from totalitarian regimes in countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, including Ana Margarita Abaunza. Ana came to Florida from Nicaragua when the Sandinista regime took power, then moved to Venezuela with her husband, and had a good life there until Hugo Chavez took power, forcing her to flee again to the United States.”

    And instead of CRT we have:

    “House Bill 5: Civic Education Curriculum

    House Bill 5 requires the Florida Department of Education to create an integrated K-12 civic education curriculum that includes an understanding of citizens’ shared rights and responsibilities under the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It further expands required instruction in high school to include a comparative discussion of political ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States, such as communism and totalitarianism. This bill also provides a library of “Portraits in Patriotism” based on personal stories of diverse individuals who demonstrate civic minded qualities, including those who have moved to this country after being persecuted in nations like Cuba and Venezuela.”


  20. hemidactylus says

    I hope Coyne, Lindsay, and Boghossian are ecstatic over the events in Florida with regard to upholding viewpoint diversity. They have been beating the drums in the culture war against CRT and should be credited with helping DeSantis’s political agenda at least in spirit.

  21. says

    Thank you very much for removing the context of the rest of that paragraph, John, and then reinterpreting what I said without that context to support your own ill-held preconceived notions. That’s precisely what Gaetz was doing… and Millay and Austin were objecting to.

    Aside: Never ascribe the views of the JAGs to the line officers. Just. Don’t. Do. It. You’ll just embarass yourselves, and help the former-JAGs (from whichever service) continue embarassing themselves. JAGs do not represent the line; they’re around 1% of the officer corps. (And overworked, but that’s for another time.) And because JAGs are not in the chain of command, there are aspects of military service (especially relating to command responsibility) that they can at best understand from the near-outside.

  22. John Morales says


    Thank you very much for removing the context of the rest of that paragraph, John, and then reinterpreting what I said without that context to support your own ill-held preconceived notions.

    I removed no context. You merely misread me.

    But, just for you:

    Umm, John, what part of the 13th Amendment are you saying authorizes “involuntary servitude” aside from “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”? That exception rather swallows anything I can see regarding general authorization.

    That “exception”, as you put it, means the general authorisation exists, but is conditional on its application being restricted to a punishment for a convicted crime.

    Again: “As I noted, an oath to support and defend involuntary servitude subject to a particular condition.”

    Aside: Never ascribe the views of the JAGs to the line officers.

    Um, lesee… <clickety-click>

    JAG: Relaxed Australian Women’s & Men’s Fashion

    Hm, top result, but surely that’s not it. Look further, past other ads…

    JAG (TV series) – Wikipedia
    “JAG (U.S. military acronym for Judge Advocate General) is an American legal drama television series with a U.S. Navy theme”

    Maybe? <click>

    “The series follows the exploits of the Washington metropolitan area–based “judge advocates” (i.e. uniformed lawyers) in the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, who in the line of duty can prosecute and defend criminal cases under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (arising from the global presence of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps), conduct informal and formal investigations, and advise on military operational law.”

    Must be it.
    Well, rest assured, I never ever did any such ascription, since I did not even know there was such a TV series, or a Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General. I have no idea what made you add that.

    Anyway, I am ascribing the views of the US military to the US militar, and taking you at your word.

    (Should I not do that?)

  23. John Morales says

    [hm, maybe a change of frame]

    Jaws (not JAGS), are you aware of the saying “the exception that makes the rule”?

    If you see road markings and a sign that says “No Parking Except Sunday 8am to 9am”, you can surely infer that parking is allowed at any other time.

    Same thing with the Constitution and involuntary servitude.

    (You sure that’s worth defending?)

  24. Artor says

    John, since you seem to have strong opinions on the subject, what are you offering as an alternative? Do you want to see what the US would be like if we abandoned the Constitution altogether? I don’t. It sounds like you’re just whining for the pleasure of hearing your own voice. I hope you’re enjoying it, because it’s as annoying as fuck from my perspective.

  25. John Morales says


    John, since you seem to have strong opinions on the subject, what are you offering as an alternative?

    I’m not from the USA, and therefore I’m not subject to this potential involuntary servitude. And it’s not an opinion, it’s a factual claim.

    (Want me to quote the specific words?)

    The alternative, hyper-obviously, is to amend that wording in the Constitution, so that involuntary servitude is no longer acceptable under any circumstances, never mind merely being convicted for a crime. But that would only be done by people who don’t want involuntary servitude to be no longer acceptable under any circumstances, and clearly that’s not the populace of the USA.

    Do you want to see what the US would be like if we abandoned the Constitution altogether? I don’t.

    As noted, I’m not affected by it, not being subject to it.

    Point being, I’m but noting that the constitution that USA armed forced are forced to swear to defend and sustain, their allegedly uttermost top priority, allows for involuntary servitude. So, that’s what’s being defended. And, if you want an explicit opinion, I don’t think that’s a good thing.

    Nothing about scrapping every other provision there.

    It sounds like you’re just whining for the pleasure of hearing your own voice.

    Whining? How so?

    I mean, I’m fucking glad I live in a country where the military does not swear oaths to permit involuntary servitude.
    I mean, we’re as venal as you mob, but at least it’s not constitutional, and we don’t get our armed forces to swear to die to protect the right to impose involuntary servitude on citizens (or anyone else).

    Pleasure of autoauditory indulgence? Not really.
    Pointing out what’s being defended by oath is the right to impose involuntary servitude on citizens of the USA is not just me talking for the sake of talking, nor is it particularly pleasurable, other than I can confront those who advocate for such defence.

    I hope you’re enjoying it, because it’s as annoying as fuck from my perspective.

    Not so much enjoying it as feeling virtuous.

    (My good deed for the day, call it)

  26. IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot says

    You’re acting like an entitled self-righteous asshole, and you should feel bad. That’s not virtue you’re feeling, it’s smug superiority.

    If you have any constructive ideas to contribute then you are welcome to provide them. If, as you say, the populace of the US likes slavery and won’t amend the constitution to fix a particular grievance you have, then how can you change that?

    As is you sound like an ignorant condescending bastard pointing out that clearly the peasants want to be dirty, otherwise why would they spend so much time in muddy fields.

  27. chrislawson says

    In a mature and educated democracy, the army will support the legally elected government whether it is left wing or right wing or Raving Monster Looney wing.

  28. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John the troll
    John, you came in out of nowhere and brought slavery into it. You said that defending the constitution is the moral equivalent of defending slavery. In context, that is patent nonsense. The military are sworn to defend the constitution, and what that really means is to defend the continuation of government under that constitutional framework. It does not mean that the military are sworn to prevent proper alterations to the constitution. Furthermore, the constitution merely permits slavery, and not requires it, and therefore we could change it by simple legislative statute, and again the military is not oath-bound to prevent this. You had jump two giant chasms in order to butt into a conversation out of nowhere to attack someone who was basically innocent. You were being an asshole. You went out of your way to be an asshole. The rest of us are calling you on that. Stop being an asshole.

  29. snarkrates says

    John, It is not just the military who take an oath to support and defend the constitution. Every civil servant–myself included–takes the very same oath. And while I agree that the Constitution is a flawed covenant, the oath to that covenant is the only thing that prevents wannabe tyrants from hijacking the apparatus of government to serve their own agenda. It is the reason why I felt justified in opposing the orange shitgibbon while still drawing a salary from the ebil gummint. The fact that our oath is to the Constitution–to the rule of law–is the real reason why the US system of government, with all it’s flaws, has persisted as long as it has. And while the difficulty of amending the Constitution has the lamentable consequence that iniquitous clauses like the forced servitude of the 13th Amendment remain there long past their sell-by dates, the alternative of having a constitution that can change easily is dangerous as well. It has been exploited by authoritarians repeatedly–in Russia, in Hungary, in Turkey… The fact that we take an oath to the constitution does not mean we support every clause. It means we agree to continue to play by the rules while we work to make the system better.

  30. says

    Overriding principle: It’s a human construct, it is therefore imperfect. In eighteenth-century upper/upper-middle-class propertied-white-male writing, striving toward a “more perfect union” necessarily acknowledges that both the then-present condition and the objective/target condition are and will remain less than perfect.

    Critical point that may not have been clear enough and got buried under troll feces: The US (and, in particular, US military) is distinct from “ordinary” practice because the oath of loyalty required of its officers is to the document and its principles, and not to the head of state and/or head of government. Foreign officers, both civilian and military, have a difficult time understanding this at first, because their own oaths are almost invariably to obey the orders of the head of state and/or head of government. (Aside: The US is unusual in joining the two; compare to the UK, with the Crown as head of state and the Prime Minister as head of government, or to all of those democratic-and-otherwise governments that have both a President and a Prime Minister ranging from Germany to Russia to Israel.) I could spend several hours describing the Stuart experience, the Glorious Revolution, and what the Founders took from that half-century of idiocy together with their humanly-imperfect means to limit or prevent it, but “inability to pay attention to both the details and the context at the same time” seems to be behind this bit of trollery in the first place.

    This is another example of the Fezzini’s Fallacy: “You keep using that [word/phrase]. I do not think it means what you think it does.” Suffice it to say that “condition of involuntary servitude” did not mean, in the 1860s, what someone who learned American English in the 1970s or thereafter (without an apparent legal education) thinks it does. And one does not get closer to understanding by further wrenching from context.

  31. John Morales says

    I remain bemused by the initial reactions to my comment, but I do appreciate the very good comments by Jaws and snarkrates.

  32. unclefrogy says

    fox news has reacted to the testimony as well and it illustrates yet again that as well as not understanding the military they do not really understand democracy very well either.