Retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel wrote in June 2020, An apolitical military is essential to maintaining balance among American institutions (excerpt):
The role of the U.S. military has come under intense scrutiny in light of recent events. Our military has been scrutinized before, and rightly so, but it has also managed to maintain the esteem of the people it serves—the American public. Indeed, in a 2018 Gallup Poll of American confidence in societal institutions, the military came out on top. This is a long-standing position that our military has assiduously strived to protect. The poll results are more than mere platitudes—they speak to the military’s legitimacy within the American system. I believe there are three key reasons our military enjoys this reputation: it respects civilian control of the military; it represents the people it serves; and it remains apolitical. When the military’s nonpartisan nature is called into question, it challenges those reasons, skews the constitutional balance among America’s fundamental institutions, and threatens our democratic governance.
Vice news reports that Mr. “Big Thinker,” Blake Masters Wants to Fire All Generals and Replace Them With Conservatives:
Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, has repeatedly said the U.S. should clean house on the senior ranks of the military, pushing the claim that all the generals and admirals are “woke” and “left-wing” losers who’ve never won a war.
Dude, the U.S. has not “won” a war since World War II, and those guys are all dead and gone for some time now. And what new war exacty does Mr. “Big Thinker” want to wage? (Of course, he will not serve in his war. The only “war” he will serve in is the GQP culture wars).
His solution? Fire them all, and promote “the most conservative colonels.”
I don’t know, it has always been my experience that the most unhinged right-wingers in the military come from Lieutenant Colonels, not “full birds.” I’m just sayin’. You may want to rethink this, Mr. “Big Thinker.”
UPDATE: Ret. Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc winning his nomination in New Hampshire reminded me of this incident. ‘Disturbing and reckless’: Retired brass spread election lie in attack on Biden, Democrats:
A day after 124 retired generals and admirals released a letter spreading the lie that President Joe Biden stole the election, current and former military officers are speaking out, calling the missive a dangerous new sign of the military being dragged into the trenches of partisan warfare.
The open letter on Monday from a group calling itself Flag Officers 4 America advanced the false conspiracy theory that the presidential vote was rigged in Biden’s favor and warned that the nation is “in deep peril” from “a full-blown assault on our Constitutional rights.”
“Under a Democrat Congress and the Current Administration,” they wrote, “our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government which must be countered now by electing congressional and presidential candidates who will always act to defend our Constitutional Republic.”
The group’s website claims that “we are in a fight for our survival as a Constitutional Republic like no other time since our founding in 1776.”
As news of the letter spread, it set off a round of recriminations among current and former military members. One serving Navy officer, who did not want to be identified publicly, called it “disturbing and reckless.”
Jim Golby, an expert in civil-military relations, called it a “shameful effort to use their rank and the military’s reputation for such a gross and blatant partisan attack,” while a retired Air Force colonel who teaches cadets at the Air Force Academy, Marybeth Ulrich, labeled it “anti-democratic.”
“I think it hurts the military and by extension it hurts the country,” said retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describing it as replete with “right-wing Republican talking points.”
The talking points in the letter fall generally in line with die-hard loyalists in Trump’s orbit, who question the results of the election despite the fact that the courts and Trump’s own Justice Department said there was no reason to declare him the winner.
The letter was striking for several reasons. It is not unusual for retired officers to take sides in electoral politics and endorse candidates. But its fiery, even angry, language and conspiracy-mongering struck multiple long-time observers as particularly out of bounds and dangerous. Coming outside the campaign season was also seen as rare if not unprecedented.
This entirely refutes “Big Thinker” Masters’ point:
“Your entire general class, they’re left-wing politicians at this point. [See above.] It’s very hard to become a general without being some kind of left-of-center politician,” he said at an Apache Junction Ladies for President Trump event in August 2021, according to audio obtained by VICE News. “I would love to see all the generals get fired. You take the most conservative colonels, you promote them to general. Not because the ideology is important, but because the conservative colonels will be able to leave the ideology aside. They just care about an effective fighting force.”
This is far from an isolated comment. Masters, who won his primary with major financial help from his former employer and friend Peter Thiel and a key endorsement from former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly suggested that only conservatives can be trusted to set aside ideology and maintain an effective military—and that they’re the ones who should be in charge.
Masters explicitly called for a wholesale firing of the generals at least seven times between August 2021 and March 2022, according to a VICE News review of his remarks, and harshly criticized military leadership numerous other times.
Because a venture capitalist knows all about military organization and discipline. As if. My dog knows more than this guy does.
“I think you probably want to fire most or all the generals and replace them with apolitical colonels, who will probably have conservative politics,” he said during a September 2021 Twitter Spaces event hosted by Josiah Lippincott, whose Twitter account has since been suspended, according to a recording of the event obtained by VICE News.
In November, Masters put out a tweet calling the top generals “woke corporate bozos” and released an accompanying video where he proclaimed “our military leadership is totally incompetent.”
Our top generals have turned into woke corporate bozos, and our troops deserve better. pic.twitter.com/kC4fgSeEZR
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) November 16, 2021
Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, Masters’ opponent and a retired U.S. Navy captain and astronaut, featured that clip in his latest ad that looks to paint Masters, who has not served in the military, as an extremist.
It’s clear that Masters’ campaign video dissing the military’s top brass wasn’t a one-off.
Let me explain this to you, Mr. “Big Thinker.” Arizona is home to a large number of active duty military serving on U.S. bases, and an even larger number of retired military veterans. When a young punk like you who could be serving in the military pisses all over their military service by denigrating the U.S. military, the finest most disciplined fighting force in the world, you are losing votes every time you open your big ignorant mouth.
“We just have to get serious again. And it means purging the military of the left-wing generals,” Masters said on the right-wing podcast Steak for Breakfast in February. “There’s a lot of center-right or apolitical colonels that we can promote.”
.“Basically every general above a two-star at this point is some kind of left-wing politician, and they need to be fired and retired, and you need to promote the apolitical colonels who actually want to be serious about, again, projecting lethality when called upon,” he said in March to Arizona conservative radio host Garret Lewis.
Peter Feaver, a former Navy lieutenant commander who served on the National Security Council during both President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush’s administrations and the author of multiple books on civil-military relations, said Masters and other conservatives were misunderstanding military leadership with their criticism of “woke” leadership.
“The military has to recruit from a diverse society and retain a diverse workforce. What he’s calling ‘woke’ is primarily the military trying to manage a diverse workforce,” he told VICE News.
And he said Masters’ solution—replace supposedly liberal generals with a core of conservatives—would be disastrous, comparing it to the ideological purges of military brass in Russia that weakened the Red Army before WWII as well as before the current debacle in Ukraine.
“If you want to do something that would politicize the force and undermine lethality you could hardly design a more effective tool than to fire all the senior military leaders and then replace them with people chosen solely for their political views and not their professional merit. That is what Masters seems to be proposing,” he said. “That’s close to what Stalin and Putin did. And that didn’t work out well for them. Master’s cure is far worse than the disease.”
Masters and his campaign didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
Much of Masters’ specific ire has been directed at Gen. Mark Milley, who Trump appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in late 2018. Masters and other conservatives were enraged by Milley’s defense of a course at the U.S. Military Academy that included study of critical race theory last summer. (There’s that White Nationalism rearing its ugy head again.)
“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” Milley said during congressional testimony. “So, what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this [Capitol] building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.”
Here is why this matters.
NEW: The DOJ has now charged 50+ current or former military servicemembers in the Capitol riot. Most are vets, a few were in the military on 1/6. They served in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Many have ties to far-right extremist groups. (w/ @EllieCKaufman @HBRabinowitz)
— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) June 16, 2021
Masters has mocked the general as “General ‘White Rage’ Milley.”
And it would be incorrect for Masters to assume that a random draw of colonels would necessarily yield a group that’s nearly exclusively conservative. While military veterans broke for Trump by a 10-point margin in 2020, according to national exit polls, active-duty military personnel actually leaned slightly toward Biden heading into the election, according to a pre-election survey conducted by Military Times and Syracuse University’ Institute for Veterans and Military Families. And the military is roughly as diverse racially as the broader U.S. society.
Masters’ harsh criticism of the military leadership is the latest in a long history of attacks from the right on ostensibly apolitical institutions; the impetus from some corners of the right is to imagine that the administrative state in all its facets must be biased against them. Trump’s long-running (and largely imagined) war against the “deep state” had similar tones. The idea that government bureaucrats are inherently liberal—and an effort to weed that out during Republican administrations—goes back to at least President Richard Nixon’s administration, if not Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt for communists in the State Department in the 1950s.
But Masters goes a step further. First, conservatives usually spare the military from these attacks on government officials, both because it’s a historically conservative institution and because the idea of an apolitical military under civilian control is such a fundamental cornerstone of American democracy. And second, while Masters says he wants to ensure an apolitical leadership, it’s hard to square that with his repeated suggestions to promote conservatives.
Mr. “Big Thinker” is not logically consistent.
And Masters seems to have no issues with Trump’s own overt moves to politicize the military during his presidency, from his attempts to have a massive military parade as a show of force on the 4th of July to his plan to declare martial law and use the military to seize voting machines in the wake of the 2020 election, a plan he only backed off of when top White House attorneys threatened to resign in protest.
Yeah, what about THAT, Mr. “Big Thinker”? You’re OK with a military coup d’état and martial law like we’re some “shithole country” as your “Dear Leader” would say.
And the military isn’t the only national security organization where Masters wants to clean house. He has suggested similar purges should be made in the Justice Department and FBI so that they “aren’t weaponized against us” the next time the GOP wins back the White House.
“I’m really worried about this sort of ‘wokification’ of our military,” he said in a November Twitter Spaces event hosted by former Trump administration official Adam Korzeniewski, a recording of which was obtained by VICE News.
“The general core is rotten. You have to be like a left-wing politician to get promoted above a two-star general now. It’s not going to be an effective lethal fighting force if we’re teaching soldiers about social justice and diversity and inclusion and critical race theory, and we’re naming war ships after gay rights heroes instead of, you know, World War II admirals and stuff,” he continued. “So I think cleaning house in the military, cleaning house in the DOJ, FBI, making sure those institutions aren’t weaponized against us, that’s a huge project.”
Was this moron living in a cave during Donald Trump’s term? Every “insider” book written by Trump administration figures makes clear that Donald Trump sought to corrupt American institutions and to weaponize them into his criminal enterprise. It was all part of Steve Bannon’s deconstructing the administrative state and turning it into a kleptocracy for rich oligarchs like Putin’s Russia.
Back in July, an Associated Press reported on Mr. “Big Thinker,” Fealty to Trump defines Republican Senate primary in Arizona:
An interviewer asked Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters to pick a “subversive thinker” whom people should know more about.
Masters gave it some thought and came up with a risky response for someone running for elected office.
He picked the Unabomber.
“I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this,” Masters responded. “How about, like, Theodore Kaczynski?”
Masters was careful to point out he doesn’t condone the bombings that killed three people and injured dozens between 1978 and 1995 and terrorized the nation until Kaczynski’s arrest in 1996. But Master’s March interview on an obscure podcast is emblematic of the provocative style that has helped the 35-year-old first-time candidate connect with the segment of Republican primary voters eager to confront Democrats, technology companies and other enemies of the right in the midterm elections.
[As] for the Unabomber, Masters said he doesn’t endorse all of Kaczynski’s views, but “there’s a lot of insight there.” Kaczynski’s 35,000-word manifesto, which blames technological progress for societal ills, has found a loyal following.
“He had a lot to say about the political left, about how they all have inferiority complexes and fundamentally hate anything like goodness, truth, beauty, justice,” Masters said.
Despite a venture capital career tied closely with Silicon Valley startups, Masters is running as a critic of Big Tech and is calling for regulating social media giants such as Facebook, which he says is unfair to conservatives.
It’s an interesting position for a candidate who owes virtually his entire professional career to Facebook’s first investor, billionaire Peter Thiel. Masters took a class from Thiel as a Stanford law student and formed an enduring bond. They wrote a book together, Masters worked for Thiel’s investment firm and foundation, and the billionaire is now bankrolling Masters’ run for Senate through a super political action committee to which he’s so far contributed $15 million.
[M]asters was once a strident libertarian whose online posts as a college student have been fodder for his rivals. He called for unrestricted immigration and wrote that “the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a just war in over 140 years,” a period that notably excludes World War II. Masters later told Jewish Insider, which first reported on the comments, that he “went too far.” He’s been critical of his rivals and the media for dwelling on his writings as a teenager.
More recently, he’s an immigration hard-liner who espouses the “ great replacement theory,” accusing Democrats of trying to flood the nation with millions of immigrants “to change the demographics of our country.” [White supremacist Great Replacement theory.] He called Democratic leaders “psychopaths” [that woud be Theodore Kaczynski] and posed with a rifle declaring “this is designed to kill people,” saying the Second Amendment is not about hunting.
Actually, it was about “a well regulated militia” in the states since the U.S. did not have a standing army for self-defense at the time, you know, the part of the Second Amendment that Justice Scalia excised out of the Amendment. It was not about the abiity to overthrow the government, which is what this seditious punk meant.
Alan Elrod is the president and CEO of The Pulaski Institution, writes at the Arizona Mirror, “They Have Come to Take It: Blake Masters, Don Bolduc and the militant right”, https://www.azmirror.com/2022/09/16/they-have-come-to-take-it-blake-masters-don-bolduc-and-the-militant-right/
Cameron Joseph and the team at VICE News have a story out this week documenting the numerous times U.S. Senate candidate from Arizona Blake Masters has argued for the need to install ideologically friendly generals atop the United States military. The VICE report comes on the heels of Joe Biden’s condemnation of the more extreme elements of the Republican party as “semi-fascist,” a label some have already observed is well suited to such a highly politicized view of the military.
Masters has attempted a sort of pivot since winning the nomination, including the removal of his most outrageous language on both abortion and the 2020 election from is campaign website. But the VICE report is damning, noting that “Masters called for the wholesale firing of the generals at least seven times between August 2021 and March 2022…” These instances included tweets, campaign videos and comments made in public forums like Twitter Spaces.
In New Hampshire, Republican voters just nominated the kind of general Masters appears to have in mind as their nominee for the Senate. Don Bolduc has endorsed a range of conspiracies from the Big Lie to the supposed presence of microchips in mRNA covid vaccines.
It’s worth highlighting the fact that Bolduc celebrated his nomination holding a Spartan shield, decorated with arrows stuck into it. Spartan imagery—particularly that associated with the mythologized images made famous by the movie “300”— has become a hallmark of the American far right’s broader fetishization of militarism. At the beginning of her time in Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene wore a face mask embroidered with “Molon Labe,” the ancient Greek phrase attributed to the Spartan King Leonidas that means “come and take them.”
“Come and take it” has been a hallmark of Second Amendment activism for some time — in Texas the reference is more often made, not to Leonidas, but to the 1835 Battle of Gonzales and the now ubiquitous flag that bears the slogan. More recently, the Greek expression of the sentiment has been popularized among QAnon adherents as one of many symbols of their fight against a supposedly menacing state.
Sam Adler-Bell has done an excellent job of highlighting the threat of violence running through Blake Masters’ campaign. Adler-Bell notes that Masters has said that people should consider using “any political power” available to them in their struggle against their political opponents. If there is doubt that “any power” includes that of political violence, Masters had this to say of non-violence: “You can recite an eloquent poem about pacifism right before they line you up against the wall and shoot you.” This is language that conscripts everyone, down to the most everyday rightwing voter, into a fight. It isn’t just that Blake Masters and others like him view the military as something that should, rightfully, be under the control of them and their ideological allies. It is that the whole of politics is militarized.
It is important to stress that this fusion of politics and militarism cuts both ways. Masters’ comments show how many of the far right see the military as something to be subjugated to their political worldview. We can recall Trump’s frequent references to “my generals.” But Bolduc, Greene and others also show how the far-right views itself as engaged in something like warfare and how far-right actors see themselves as warriors in an increasingly less figurative sense. Jan. 6, 2021 offers one such example of where this thinking can lead. As the title of The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert’s review of HBO’s “Four Hours at the Capitol” puts it, “January 6 wasn’t a riot. It was war.”
In his victory speech, Bolduc proclaimed, “we have taken their arrows!” He gestured to the rounded shield, its Spartan lambda displayed upside down, continuing on to say “we are now going to rally around the circle: unity, freedom, liberty.” The implications here are profoundly worrying. They’re barely implications at all.
Part of what has been made clear in the wake of Trump’s attempted subversion of democracy and the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol is that many simply believe that these efforts were thwarted by the presence of too few MAGA loyalists in key positions. Masters’ calls for “purges” and the recklessly confrontational rhetoric of other extremists like Bolduc and Greene suggest that, for them, the key to succeeding next time is to make sure that those positions, from county-level election officials to military brass, are filled with their kind of people — or, as Trump would say, “my generals.”
The Arizona Mirror reports, “Tucson vets slam U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters”, https://www.azmirror.com/2022/09/16/tucson-vets-slam-u-s-senate-candidate-blake-masters/
A group of Tucson veterans fired back at Blake Masters’ incendiary comments on the military this week, saying he isn’t a fit representative for the more than half a million veterans in the state.
“A man like Blake Masters, who has no respect for our service – he has no business representing us anywhere, let alone at the U.S. Senate,” said Air Force veteran Sylvia Gonzalez Andersh, during a press event Thursday afternoon organized by the Arizona Democratic Party.
Andersh is a member of #WeAreCommonDefense, a progressive veterans group, and was part of a group of five veterans who resigned from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s veterans advisory council in protest last year.
During the event Andersh pointed to recently revealed emails Masters wrote about 9/11, and the ensuing Iraq war as proof that he lacks respect for service members. The emails were sent while Masters was in college, and in them he defended the right to disseminate conspiracy theories about 9/11 and questioned the “story we’ve been told” about the tragic event.
“Thousands of Americans lost their lives on that horrible day. And many, too many, of my fellow men and women paid the ultimate price in the conflicts that followed. With his words, Blake Masters dishonors their service and he dishonors their memory,” Andersh said, her voice breaking.
The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate hasn’t confined his inflammatory remarks to college emails, though. Master has several times called for a wholesale firing of military leaders since he began campaigning last year. In November, Masters released a campaign video on Twitter calling military leaders “incompetent” and “woke corporate bozos”.
Don Womack, a former Marine and Vietnam War veteran, said he was in disbelief after hearing the comments. They amount to insults against the rank and file, Womack said, and are especially offensive given Masters himself has never served.
“At the end of the day, what Masters has said is nothing short of disgraceful. His comments are nothing short of a personal attack on me and every other veteran and military family who has sacrificed to serve our country,” he said.
For Sue Ritz, a retired National Guard Master Sergeant with 24 years of service under her belt, the contrast between Masters and the previous men who held the seat he’s vying for is stark. Masters is running against incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, who flew combat missions in the Gulf War, to fill an office previously held by the late Sen. John McCain, who was a naval officer and a prisoner of war for five years during the Vietnam War.
“Listening to a guy like Blake Masters insult our military while running against Mark Kelly, a Navy combat pilot, for the seat once occupied by the great Senator John McCain – well that’s an insult to everyone,” she said.
Ritz allowed that criticism of the military isn’t unwelcome in a country that values the First Amendment right to free speech, but reiterated that Masters, with his lack of a service record and disrespectful comments, isn’t the one to do it. If he really wants to effect change, Ritz said, he should join up.
“He’s still young enough to join. If he’s got so many things he’s going to do to change the military – he’s 35 years old, there’s a recruiting station I can take him to right now and he can join the Army National Guard today,” she said.
-Right on Mst. Sgt. Ritz!