Mark Milley's performance in the House--and make no mistake, it was a performance--has drawn a fair amount of commentary. Yesterday Glenn Greenwald offered some observations. He rightly focuses on the highly political stance that has been adopted by our active duty professional military--perhaps unprecedented in our time. Some excerpts follow. You may not agree with everything Greenwald--a liberal--has to say, but he does place developments within a coherent, largish picture perspective. I will note that it's surprising that a liberal like Greenwald--while rightly focusing on the military's participation in a campaign of demonization of a fairly specific demographic within the American populace--fails to note the pretty clear class and religious markers of the demonized demographic:
For two hundred forty years, American generals have not exactly been defined by adamant public advocacy for left-wing cultural dogma. Yet there appeared to be a great awakening at the Pentagon on Wednesday when Gen. Mark Milley, the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a House hearing. The Chairman vehemently defended the teaching of critical race theory at West Point and, referencing the January 6 Capitol riot, said, “it is important that we train and we understand ... and I want to understand white rage. And I'm white."
In response to conservative criticisms that top military officials should not be weighing in on inflammatory and polarizing cultural debates, liberals were ecstatic to have found such an empathetic, racially aware, and humanitarian general sitting atop the U.S. imperial war machine. Overnight, Gen. Milley became a new hero for U.S. liberalism, a noble military leader which — like former FBI Director Robert Mueller before him — no patriotic, decent American would question let alone mock. Some prominent liberal commentators warned that conservatives are now anti-military and even seek to defund the Pentagon.
It is, of course, possible that the top brass of the U.S. military has suddenly become supremely enlightened on questions of racial strife and racial identity in the U.S., and thus genuinely embraced theories that, until very recently, were the exclusive province of left-wing scholars at elite academic institutions. Given that all U.S. wars in the post-World War II era have been directed at predominantly non-white countries, which — like all wars — required a sustained demonization campaign of those enemy populations, having top Pentagon officials become leading anti-racism warriors would be quite a remarkable transformation indeed. But stranger things have happened, I suppose.
But perhaps there is another explanation other than righteous, earnest transformation as to why the top U.S. General has suddenly expressed such keen interest in studying and exploring "white rage”. Note that Gen. Milley's justification for the military's sudden immersion in the study of modern race theories is the January 6 Capitol riot — which, in the lexicon of the U.S. security state and American liberalism, is called The Insurrection. When explaining why it is so vital to study "white rage,” Gen. Milley argued:
What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it.
The post-WW2 military posture of the U.S. has been endless war. To enable that, there must always be an existential threat, a new and fresh enemy that can scare a large enough portion of the population with sufficient intensity to make them accept, even plead for, greater military spending, surveillance powers, and continuation of permanent war footing. Starring in that war-justifying role of villain have been the Communists, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Russia, and an assortment of other fleeting foreign threats.
According to the Pentagon, the U.S. intelligence community, and President Zhou Baiden, none of those is the greatest national security threat to the United States any longer. Instead, they all say explicitly and in unison, the gravest menace to American national security is now domestic in nature. Specifically, it is "domestic extremists” in general — and far-right white supremacist groups in particular — that now pose the greatest threat to the safety of the homeland and to the people who reside in it.
In other words, to justify the current domestic War on Terror that has already provoked billions more in military spending and intensified domestic surveillance, the Pentagon must ratify the narrative that those they are fighting, those against whom they are fighting to defend the homeland, are white supremacist domestic terrorists. That will not work if white supremacists are small in number or weak and isolated in their organizing capabilities. To serve the war machine's agenda, they must pose a grave, pervasive and systemic threat.
Again, here I believe Greenwald misses part of the bigger picture. Terroristic white supremacists--even simple armchair white supremacists--will never constitute a significant part of the American population. Greenwald is absolutely correct about the need to "grow the threat." And the way that's being done is to expand the category of "white supremacists" far beyond any remotely rational bounds. The most obvious way of doing this is to expand the category to all Trump supporters. If many tens of millions of Americans can be placed in that category then you really do have a serious threat. But that category has, as I say, obvious class and religious characteristics that should be noted. What's even more remarkable--and gives away the Leftist ideological slant of our General Staff--is that this demonization of fully half or more of the voting population of America as "domestic enemies" is being done in a time of peace, when the only serious violence that's political or racial in nature is being perpetrated not by whites but by the Left. Unfortunately Greenwald is perceiving this through older anti-war Left lenses. He needs to get outside that box.
Viewed through that lens, it makes perfect sense that Gen. Milley is spouting the theories and viewpoints that underlie this war framework and which depicts white supremacy and "white rage” as a foundational threat to the American homeland. A new domestic War on Terror against white supremacists and right-wing extremists is far more justifiable if, as Gen. Milley strongly suggested, it was "white rage” that fueled an armed insurrection that, in the words of President Biden, is the greatest assault on American democracy since the Civil War.
Within that domestic War on Terror framework, Gen. Milley, by pontificating on race, is not providing cultural commentary but military dogma. Just as it was central to the job of a top Cold War general to embrace theories depicting Communism as a grave threat, and an equally central part of the job of a top general during the first War on Terror to do the same for Muslim extremists, embracing theories of systemic racism and the perils posed to domestic order by “white rage” is absolutely necessary to justify the U.S. Government's current posture about what war it is fighting and why that war is so imperative.