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Extremism and violent extremism, in the US Military and greater National Security community.
Yes, this includes most LE/ Law Enforcement too.
Wishing y’all the very best for your Thursday. Just wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow is wrist surgery. Despite my penchant for often not listening to post-surgery, recovery instructions, the Doc, warns that recovery will not be as fast as I anticipate. I do plan to return to the keyboard, as soon as possible. While that I see mid to late next week, Doc says up to 3 months. Let’s see how my normal stubbornness about returning to mission, plays out. I’m betting on far sooner ;).
In the meantime, today I want to return to my national security roots and talk a bit about extremism and violent extremism in the US Military and Law Enforcement as well. This should provide a great deal of thought-provoking insights for tax-paying citizens, military leadership, and congressional oversight. When we hand over our tax dollars, no thinks that they are funding extremism in the ranks but sadly, we are at a notably higher rate these past few years. As we can see from the FOX News debacle against Dominion voting machines, extremist media plays a role in expanding, enabling and directing violent and non-violent extremism.
In the case of the Trump era, violent extremism upset our nation of laws and turned the phenomenon of MAGA, into an armed insurrection against the United States. For servicemembers and LE, this means that those with mil and LE backgrounds or employment not only broke the law but violated their oath of service. All across the nation, a bunch of LE are members of something called, “Constitutional Sheriff’s” that refuse to enforce the laws of our nation and impose their own law quite often. They are as far from being patriots as you can get and should be fired immediately. Their so-called, “stated positions” are nothing but authoritarian, anti-American drivel.
Of course, SECDEF Lloyd Austin, like his predecessors is investigating extremism within DoD but the last few years, they don’t have a great track record on resolving issues like this, sexual harassment, and other types of discriminatory practices and trends. In some ways, DoD has historically been the most progressive element of the USG (US Gov) but lately… not so much. Let’s take a closer look so that we can better understand the threat and possible solutions.
Here’s my disclaimer; I retired from the US Army and like family before me and my son after, am intensely grateful for my opportunity to have served our nation. The majority of the national security community, I consider family. Like most families, there are always those who don’t represent the family well or are an embarrassing side-show, devoid of the best family traits. It’s up to other family members to call out and attempt course corrections, in order to herd those on the wrong track, back towards a better path. This is what today’s TAT is about, tough love for DoD and the rest of our national security community. After all, it’s their job to protect us from threats, not become part of the threat landscape.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
There were at least 151 military or former military that were involved and charged in the January 6th, 2021, assault on the Capital. This number accounts for 17.1% of those charged in the coup attempt. This is more than double the percentage of Americans who serve or have served in the US military and Coast Guard.
Documented case of military or former military who have acted on their extremist beliefs has seen a trend of increased criminal acts, since roughly 2015, with a dramatic peak beginning in 2020 through 2021. The ideology mapped to the extremism is as indicated in the chart below from START at the University of Md. START, the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism or as I call them, the best open-source site for peer-reviewed studies on terrorism and related issues. The data in the included START graphics, comes from their PIRIUS, (Profiles of Individual Radicalization in the United States) data base. PIRIUS is also an interactive research tool to assist LE in-formulating strategies to manage the ongoing uptick in violent extremism.
The RWE/ right-wing-extremist movements associated with January 6th, included most of the so-called, big-name organizations like, the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Three Percenters, Q and a wide variety of other organizations with less infamy.
The percentages of percentages in the data roughly correlate to the size of each individual service but all are represented. We’ve been here before over the decades since I first put on a uniform in 1974. There has been plenty of social upheaval since then and the last 8 years of Trump turbulence, supported by Russian exploitation of our social divisions has turned the type of extremism upside down.
In the late 60s and early 70s, most such violent extremism was on the left, from non-racial violent extremism. Added together, both left and right played significant roles in such violence. Now, the overwhelming majority of such activity has slid the scale so far to the right, that RWE is easily the most severe threat, with no close second. When it comes to dealing with extremism against our fellow citizens, facts matter and at the moment the facts are that RWE has gotten to the point that it’s a national security threat, not just a world class humiliation.
The reason that RWE is far worse than just a national problem is that US RWE, is closely aligned with global violent, RWE, with its core, quite often centered in Russia. Synchronizing global violent extremism, their false, motivational narratives and dissemination cooperation, makes our home version of RWE exceptionally dangerous. Global, linked RWE, like our war with Islamic extremism means that there are vast networks working against our allies as well as our homeland.
So many of our nation’s finest experts on terrorism have been writing on the topic of ascending trends in extremist activity in the US military and LE, for years, some decades. I have written on this topic myself, for Homeland Security Today Magazine. In 2021, top-tier expert, Seth Jones, PhD led a team through a research project for CSIS, Center for Strategic and International Studies which focused explicitly on military and LE extremism. Like all other serious experts on the topic of domestic extremism, the findings haven’t found outlets in programs that make the difference required to reset our domestic landscape.
The severity of the uptick and the motivations behind the extremism can be seen in the graphics below, from the CSIS report noted above.
After 9-11, the nation rallied together to address one specific form of violent extremism. We fought a two-decade war, with allies and partners alongside. The FBI and DHS spent long hours on our TV screens, in print and online, talking with Americans about only one type of extremist threat. They were engaged with us, and we collectively supported the military and LE. Americans united across the entire spectrum of belief systems, religions, political party etc. This was the right answer. It’s also the answer eluding us now and for some very disturbing reasons.
When Russia boldly and overtly assaulted us during the 2016 election cycle, one major party, the one now controlled by the MAGA movement refused to rally behind our nation. They rallied behind the extremism of the Trump campaign. They used tactics and techniques often supplied by Russian influence operators, sometimes wittingly and sometimes not. It is the same violent extremism that Putin exports all around the world and uses enormous resources to sell. Not only did half of America’s voters choose to ignore the Russian attack but allowed themselves to ignore and support other attacks.
This violent extremist ideology carefully aligns with the global, Putin model. It was and still is powerful. Some of it is, tragically, homegrown, as with anti-government thugs, white supremacist morons etc. That the Putin model and our homegrown RWE operate on parallel tracks, this makes the threat even more severe.
There are a lot of types of programs to deal with extremism, both government and private. We need a strategy that employs the best, experienced practitioners and academics, backed by LE and intelligence. It’s twenty years too late to start over with this resurgent threat, but it’s not too late to get serious about it. How to go about it will require a great collaborative effort. In the meantime, though, we all can make simple but important contributions to success.
To meet our local and national security standards, we must continue to back honorable LE that is doing their best, to root out those dangerous adherents of all these extremist ideologies. Those who serve in leadership positions within DoD must lay down the law to those in their charge that extremist values are not only illegal, but they are the exact opposite of the values they are sworn to uphold.
In a saying made famous after 9-11, most participated in the, “if you see something, say something,” campaign. RWE is every bit as lethal to US military and LE as the type we fought overseas for twenty years. The same thing applies here at home. No one should tolerate the anti-patriotic extremism in a position of authority. No one should be afraid to work for the removal of those, refusing to honor their oaths. No servicemember should tolerate fellow servicemembers, unwilling to honor their oaths. If the nation cannot depend on members honoring their oath, we are in far worse shape than I thought.
As noted previously, I wholeheartedly believe in the overwhelming majority of our military members and LE. Still, when the facts say that this type of cancerous extremism is growing and metastasizing, it’s time to get the scalpel or other remedies. This is where we are lagging behind on a national scale. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but we cannot exclude ourselves. It is every citizen’s duty to protect our democracy, so… if you see something, say something.
Best for everyone’s weekend,