The Pentagon Restates Existing Policy With Clarifications For Service Members

Yesterday the Pentagon issue a “new” policy regarding extremism that in almost every way was a re-statement of its long-standing policies regarding service members participating in criminal gangs and extremist organizations and activities. When Secretary of Defense Austin ordered a top to bottom review of this policy, saying combatting extremism was going to be a focus of his tenure as secretary it was widely derided as someone looking for a problem where none really existed.

This review by Austin was prompted in some part by the so-called “Insurrection” at the Capitol that took place on January 6th after President Donald Trump was defeated by former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 general election. Of the more than 700 charged with offenses in connection with the riot at the Capitol on that day, not a single defendant has been charged so far under 18 U.S. Code § 2383, Rebellion or Insurrection. Critics point to this fact as proof that claims of a rebellion led by insurrectionists are just political hyperbole.

Democrats have called for the military to pursue and root out any extremism within its ranks as Congressman Anthony Brown(D-MD) stated during an NPR interview on Monday, “…one extremist in the ranks is just one too many.”

Republicans for their part tend to downplay the presence of extremism in ranks as all but non-existent.  Congressional hearings on extremism in the ranks were called just “political theater” by Congressman Patrick Fallon (R-Texas).

Both points have merit.  The Pentagon has only been able to find 100 service members in recent years that have been discharged in relation to holding extremist views, which suggests it is a very rare occurrence among more than 1.4 million people on active duty from year to year. 100 service members discharged cannot truthfully be called “non-existent.”  But the Pentagon does not have discharge classifications that specify things like “Political Extremism” that would generate actual data on just how many service members might hold extremist views or belong to extremist organizations or criminal gangs.

Among Republicans and Democrats there was little agreement as to what constituted “Political Extremism” and whether naming specific groups service members are barred from joining would do any good since these groups could simply change their name to avoid being singled out. Republicans also pointed out that there was no mention of servicemembers joining communist party groups which hold views that are antithetical to the Constitution or Democracy in general.

In 2019, the Army policy was that service members could be communists and members of the American Communist party, the NAZI Party or the Democratic Socialist Party.  This stemmed from an incident involving Spencer Rappone, who took a photo of himself in his West Point uniform at graduation with a message in his hat that read “Communism Will Win.” He doubled down by then revealing a Che Guevara t-shirt under his tunic.

Spencer Rappone did not get in trouble for being a communist, but for wearing a Che Guevara shirt under his uniform, thereby suggesting his personal support of this infamous killer of homosexuals in revolutionary Cuba was endorsed by the U.S. military. Photo: Army Times of Rappone’s social media postings

Ironically, immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship will be denied entry if they have ever been a member of the communist party in their own country or any other group that spouts a totalitarian ideology.