During my 40 years as a Marine officer, including nearly four years as commandant of the Marine Corps, I came to believe that one of the military’s most important missions is to lead the fight against hate, inequality, and injustice, both at home and overseas. The factors that divide Americans today pose a greater threat to the country than any foreign adversary does. For this reason, the Pentagon must respond forcefully to alarming evidence that white-supremacist groups and other extremist organizations might be seeping into the armed forces and targeting uniformed service members and veterans for recruitment, coveting their training in weapons and tactical knowledge.
In a survey taken earlier this year, Military Times found that one in three active-duty service members says “they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks in recent months”—a significant increase from surveys conducted the previous year.
One of the poll respondents wrote, “The majority of my co-workers were absolutely outstanding regarding race and work-relations and I credit military service for that. Nevertheless, somehow more racists are slipping through the cracks into the military.” The problem is not solely an American one. Last year, Germany was forced to dismantle an elite special-forces unit after it was compromised by the infiltration of neo-Nazis. This infiltration endangered not just Germany’s military readiness but NATO’s. The United States armed services and their counterparts in allied countries must close off all means by which white supremacists, anarchists, or fascists enter our national institutions and social mainstreams. The members of the U.S. armed forces have an obligation to defend our nation from all enemies, “foreign and domestic”—including those who would divide us from within.