Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas told Fox News yesterday that the military should reflect American diversity, but "it's not something that our military needs to constantly obsess about." According to the network's transcript, the Arkansan added:
"[D]o you think those Chinese pilots that are flying into Taiwanese airspace are getting hammered for hours and hours of training about structural racism or diversity? Do think those Russian troops on Ukraine's border are going to have to stop and take lectures on climate change? Something tells me not. We need our military to be focused 100 percent on protecting America."
As a rule, it's odd when Americans in positions of power suggest the United States should follow Russia's and China's example, but this was the GOP senator's pitch, and he appeared unembarrassed by it.
What's more, Cotton also appears to have some intra-party company. Last week, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida told Fox Business, "[O]ur military has become the woke military, not the lethal military."
A few months ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News, "[O]ur military is focused on woke-ism instead of defeating and winning war."
In May, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz promoted a Russian military video via social media, adding, "Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea." The same day, the Texan added that Democrats and journalists intend to turn American troops "into pansies."
Part of what makes this so notable is the degree to which the rhetoric breaks with traditional political norms. Politicians in the United States are certainly allowed to criticize the military, its leaders, and/or rank-and-file troops, but few do so. There's no great mystery as to why: American politicians who disparage their own country's military risk facing questions about their patriotism.
And yet, here we are, watching the dawn of a new era in which prominent Republicans feel few qualms about deriding those in uniform.
But just as notable is the nature of the complaints: To hear these GOP politicians tell it, the military cares too much about respect for diversity. It's therefore less "lethal" than it needs to be.
First, I suspect the United States' enemies would disagree. And second, there was some polling in 2020 showing troops' votes shifting a bit in Democrats' direction. I don't imagine Republicans' recent rhetoric will help reverse the trend.