At the end of presidential administrations, it is not uncommon for former officials to comment on and in some cases criticize the actions of outgoing presidents to journalists, authors, and other opportunists looking to cash in on previously unknown information. Typically, however, members of the U.S. military refrain from open rebukes of former Commanders-in-Chief. But since President Trump left office – and in some cases even before – Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has broken with that precedent. As Milley has undergone a transformation from loyal advisor to full-throated purveyor of progressive politics, several of his comments have left observers concerned that a mysterious figure or figures may have undue influence over the country’s top general.
In recent weeks, Milley has emerged as a major subject in the latest wave of “tell-all” books purporting to give the inside scoop on the final days of the Trump administration. According to one of these books, the General was apparently actively preparing for the possibility that Trump would refuse to leave office and attempt a coup d’état if he lost the election. While Milley admits that he had no proof of any kind that even remotely suggested the former President was planning such a move, the fact that he was planning for such a contingency has raised concerns.
Ironically, Milley first drew controversy for his support of President Trump rather than his criticism of him. On June 1, 2020, Milley stood by the President’s side as Trump visited nearby St. John’s Church, which had recently been torched by vandals. The square had recently been cleared by law enforcement—an action that the Department of Interior Inspector General recently reported had been planned long before the President’s impromptu walk, was fully justified by the circumstances, and did not involve tear gas, despite the relentless false narrative to the contrary.
The most senior member of the American military, standing by the side of his direct superior whom he is sworn to protect, after rioters vandalized and set multiple fires in the nation’s capital, would normally be an understandable action. However, as was the case any time someone stood by President Trump, the media attacked the General. They accused him, as well as Trump, of turning the military loose on the American people – despite the fact that later investigations discredited this fake storyline.
But, rather than affirm that he had acted appropriately, the General almost immediately changed his tune and sought to appease the media and the left. He distanced himself from the event, claiming it caught him by surprise, even saying that he had considered resigning over the incident. Less than two weeks after the controversy began, General Milley apologized for, quite literally, standing by the President’s side, stating:
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics…As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I’ve learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
However, later statements revealed that these acts of contrition may not have arisen from Milley’s own allegedly beleaguered conscience. A spokesperson for Milley explicitly noted that Milley met with “several of his longstanding mentors to discuss his situation.” Who they were and what specifically they discussed, he refused to say.
Despite the fact that Americans have no idea who these shadowy “mentor” figures were, these conversations appear to have had a profound effect on Milley’s priorities as Chairman. Specifically, Milley thereafter seemed to develop a preoccupation with liberal social policies. For example, shortly following the visit to St. John’s Church, he gave the keynote speech to the National Defense University in which the majority of his comments were focused on issues of diversity and inclusion, saying “our military has a mixed record on equality.”
Now, Milley also appears to have bought into the left’s agenda on Critical Race Theory (CRT), including encouraging cadets to read CRT texts that, among other things, teach that America, the very country they are risking their lives to serve, is an inherently racist and evil nation. When asked by Congressional legislators about the spread of Critical Race Theory in the military, Milley replied:
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it…So 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.”
Milley’s newfound focus on understanding “white rage” and promoting concepts like “equity” rather than strengthening the country’s defense posture has undoubtedly won him favor with the new administration. In President Biden’s first speech to Department of Defense Personnel, outlining his priorities for our military, he stated:
“There is no aspect of our agenda of the 21st century leadership where the women and men of the Defense Department do not have a role — whether it’s helping curb the pandemic here at home and around the world; or addressing the real threats of climate change that already is costing us billions in impacts on our bases, on our national security; or being part of an ongoing fight for racial justice.”
While Biden also noted that he was prioritizing an end to ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as focusing on curbing the threat China poses to the free world, it’s unclear how forcing members of the military to digest radical ideologies like CRT would help achieve those goals. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has made similar comments to Biden’s. While many point to this focus on race as a sign that our military is being overtaken by woke culture, it’s possible the answer is far simpler.
President Biden has made it clear that all American military personnel will be out of Afghanistan by September 11. As the withdraw continues, a majority of experts agree that the collapse of the Afghan government is all but certain. Neither Biden, nor Austin, nor Milley have any answer as to what this means for the future of our military or the damage it will do to America’s international reputation. It’s possible that this aggressive focus on race may simply be a deflection. A smokescreen by which our military may hide the extent of yet another costly strategic blunder. As for who or what General Milley’s shadow mentors think of this embarrassing international humiliation, it remains unclear.
For now, Milley seems insistent that the future of our nation’s military revolves around diversity and equity as opposed to defending the country and protecting our allies. While Americans may never know who Milley’s woke confessors are, it is evident that they have an unsettling amount of influence over the priorities of a man entrusted to keep our country safe, and who has done more to politicize the military than anyone in living memory.