As the world grows increasingly unstable, America’s military appears dangerously misguided.
The year 2023 sees the United States proverbially “backed into a corner,” facing a growing list of international rivals and hostile powers. Though Russia, America’s historic adversary since the end of World War II, finds itself bogged down in its power grab in Ukraine, other international foes such as China, Iran and North Korea grow more powerful every day.
Despite alliances, America as a nation must largely fend for itself in a hostile world. At no time in its history has the nation been more dependent on a strong military, yet the evidence is mounting that the state of America’s armed forces is weakening, and the trend is worsening.
While still in absolute terms the most powerful military on earth, America’s armed forces face almost unprecedented challenges. From growing difficulty in recruiting to uncertainty and a blurred vision of main defense priorities, and apparent inability to face the reality of the growing strength of adversaries, U.S. military planners seem to be losing their way.
What is America’s greatest national threat?
Through the centuries, nations have recognized that national security is the primary responsibility of any government. Few have been the times in history when even powerful nations have been able to rest and relax inside secure borders. Even the mighty Roman Empire faced constant threats from hostile tribes on its frontiers. The same can be said of the United States, which from the time of its emergence as a world power early in the 20th century has always faced threats from hostile foreign powers.
Yet in spite of these obvious threats, the current Defense Department establishment seems to have lost its focus. Current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin shocked many with his 2021 pronouncement that “global warming,” not global adversaries, was America’s greatest security challenge.
Speaking to hundreds at the 2021 Leaders Summit on Climate, Austin said: “Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does. Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act” (“Defense Secretary Calls Climate Change Existential Threat,” DoD News, April 22, 2021).
Austin went on to discuss melting Arctic ice, allegedly rising sea levels, and competition among nations for resources in terms formerly used to describe growing nuclear stockpiles among our adversaries and saber-rattling of rogue nations. One wonders if he was paying attention to China’s rapidly growing military power or the fact that North Korea has grown increasing aggressive in its missile tests or that Iran continues its determined pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Recruiting: lowered standards are still not enough
America adopted an all-volunteer army policy 50 years ago, toward the end of the Vietnam War. Until recently military recruiters found large numbers of healthy, able, mostly working-class young men and women to fill the ranks. Large numbers of young Americans believed in national service and took pride in wearing the uniform of the United States.
Little reported is that Army recruiting plummeted in 2022. The respected military journal Army Times reported in October 2022 that the Army missed its 2022 fiscal year recruiting goal by almost 15,000 soldiers, roughly 25 percent short of its aim. While the Army’s situation was the worst, the other military services only barely managed to meet their goals, with the Marine Corps going into the new fiscal year at only 30 percent of its recruiting target versus the 50 percent they normally enjoy. The Air Force normally starts the year at 25 percent but stood at only 10 percent as the new fiscal year began.
Military recruiters placed the blame mostly on the tight labor market, citing rising wages, salaries and benefits in the private sector for even entry-level jobs. No doubt these play a role in limiting the appeal of a military career. But there are other, more worrisome recruitment problems.
One is the deteriorating physical condition of America’s young men. Recruiters report that obesity, drug use and other physical shortcomings render most applicants unable to meet fitness standards. Too many potential recruits also lack the education, even the basic intelligence, to become soldiers in today’s more technologically advanced armed forces.
This has forced the military branches to lower fitness and education standards in a desperate attempt to meet recruiting goals. For example, the Army has done away with running requirements during the first two weeks of basic training. Revised Navy recruitment guidelines will allow up to 20 percent of new recruits, some 7,500 new sailors, from the lowest acceptable aptitude level (“How the Military Dropped Its Standards in 2022 to Meet a Recruiting Crisis,” Daily Caller, Dec. 29, 2022).
A recent Washington Post survey found that today only 9 percent of young Americans are willing to serve in the armed forces. One must wonder if normally patriotic young Americans balk at serving in a military where the focus on defending the nation has been replaced with one on social experimentation and leftist ideology.
U.S military: laboratory for social experimentation
Further contributing to the hollowing out of U.S. armed forces is a growing focus on “woke” social matters totally unrelated to national defense. Not long after the current Washington administration took office, the Defense Department’s education office appointed Kelisa Wing to the newly created office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Almost immediately she began railing against what she termed racial discrimination in professional development training of military officers and high-level staff.
Our sense of decorum prevents exact reporting of her remarks, but suffice it to say that she took offense at what she described as too great an emphasis on traditional military values and advancement procedures. Her incessant tweets about pushback on DEI priorities prompted a strong backlash from those in Congress already worried about the decline in recruitment, readiness and morale.
“Americans are exhausted with this administration’s continued use of the Department of Defense for its woke garbage,” Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, said in a recent statement. “That includes using our tax dollars to hire people who hate millions of Americans they’re supposed to serve and empowering them to indoctrinate our children with their racist message of division.”
Valuable time and resources that should be used to make our troops better in combat strategy and tactics are now being wasted on discussions of such topics as gender studies, racial issues and critical race theory.
Growing strength of America’s adversaries
Most Americans are concerned about the growing power and nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran. Not as widely reported is China’s steady advance in building its armed forces. China’s defense spending has risen to second in the world, behind the United States. The number of active-duty troops in the People’s Liberation Army now far exceeds that of the United States. China is working to close a technological gap with the U.S military by 2027.
What’s more, China is working to develop an army of “supermen,” soldiers able to endure hunger, pain and deprivation far better than troops of any other nation. “China is developing an army of genetically engineered ‘super soldiers’ of the type we have only seen in science fiction,” former Director of National Intelligence John Ratliff told Congress more than two years ago. He told lawmakers how China is using gene-editing tools to breed soldiers capable of fighting harder, longer and more efficiently.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s commitment to supply arms and equipment to Ukraine in its war with Russia is rapidly depleting America’s own military supplies at an unsustainable pace. According to a report published last fall by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, U.S. supplies of high-tech munitions are already so low due to shipments to Ukraine that at current production rates it could take literally years to rebuild critical inventories.
“I will break the pride of your power”
It was not that long ago that America took pride in being the world’s dominant national power. Americans were willing to shoulder the burdens of helping police the world, contributing billions of dollars to relief from natural disasters, and generally making the world a better place.
But those days have passed. The idea of restoring American greatness is met with mostly scorn and contempt. Americans today have grown tired of the concept of national greatness and the responsibilities that come with it.
This is not by accident. It was foretold to happen to the ancient nation of Israel and its descendants, the major part of whom became today’s English-speaking peoples. “I will break the pride of your power,” God warned a rebellious people should they refuse to humble themselves before Him (Leviticus 26:19). With America’s military in rapid decline, could the same thing be happening to the nation today?