From soft-drink companies instructing their employees to be less white, to the cancellation of children’s books that, until two minutes ago, were completely benign fixtures in the libraries of many, a powerful segment of the American public seems intent on sending every inch of public life careening over a cliff’s edge in the ill-begotten quest to please the most extreme elements of the Left. Over the past several weeks, it has become quite apparent that the United States Navy is no exception to the relentless onslaught of “woke” politicking.
On February 23, the chief of naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday released an updated version of the Navy’s Professional Reading Program. The program, a long-standing tradition that curates suggested readings for all members of the Navy, has a stated aim of educating and training the sailors that compose this branch of the Armed Forces. According to the Navy’s official website on this program, Admiral Gilday believes that in order to “outthink our competitors, we must study and apply lessons we’ve learned from the past.” He further holds that “one of the very best ways to do that is to foster an environment where every Sailor deepens their level of understanding and learning.” Many of the 48 books listed in the newly released reading checklist cover topics relevant to the Navy’s overall mission of becoming a more lethal fighting force: naval strategy, deep-dives into future world superpowers, leadership development, technology changes in the domain of warfighting, etc.
However, the checklist also included several books that are overtly political in nature, threatening what should be the apolitical nature of our nation’s fighting forces. As just one example, Ibram X. Kendi’s overly wrought screed How to Be an Antiracist somehow landed on the admiral’s book list. Writings in a similar vein appear on the list as well, including Jason Pierceson’s Sexual Minorities and Politics, as well as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The inclusion of these books, especially given the hot-button topics they cover (and the controversial takes they provide) seems to place the Navy squarely into the realm of politics, which it has stridently attempted to avoid in the 200-plus years of its existence.
The inclusion of these books on an official DoD website is an embrace of partisan politics by a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. One need only look at the contents of these pieces of literature (“literature” being used loosely) to understand just how true this statement is. Kendi’s book argues that capitalism is a racist construct. Alexander’s obfuscates real issues of violent crime in order to argue that incarceration rates for minorities are predominately, if not exclusively, based on race. Perhaps most egregious of the three, the openly partisan nature of Pierceson’s “textbook” practically hits the reader over the head with its agenda. Each piece of writing offers its own particular viewpoint; it just so happens that each is of the woke, left-leaning variety.
Including these works as part of naval instruction threatens the apolitical nature of the U.S. military. The Armed Forces of the United States have long presented themselves as an apolitical institution that serves no one except the American people and the Constitution. Even with missteps over the years, this institution has maintained its apolitical veneer far more often than not. This belief in the apolitical nature of the institution is not merely a time-honored tradition for those who serve; it’s the law. In particular, a Department of Defense Directive (entitled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces”) articulates the on-the-books stance that the Department has concerning members’ participation in political activities. It states that active-duty service members “should not engage in partisan political activity” and that those members not on…