By: Christopher Skaluba, Leah Scheunemann, and Clementine Starling
What is the kernel of the issue?
The ongoing DoD Global Posture Review (GPR) will necessarily be focused on how the US military footprint globally is aligned to the Department’s strategy goals with respect to defense and deterrence. However, posture reviews traditionally have overlooked the deployed experiences of women and men in uniform that in aggregate make up the US global footprint. Those experiences—deployed abroad and in the homeland—matter to the worldviews of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardians, including the possibility of whether or how they can contribute to extremism in the ranks.
Why is the issue important?
Knowing that current and former military members participated in the January 6th insurrection and that there are concerns about whether baseless conspiracy theories have taken root in military circles, the Department has ordered unprecedented “stand down” days for civilian and military organizations. These are designed to address extremism in the ranks, including whether lived experiences of military personnel might contribute to extremist perspectives. For many in the military, those lived experiences are dictated by where and how often they are deployed and the types of mission they are asked to perform. It is plausible that twenty years of deployments to hostile environments like Iraq and Afghanistan and the conduct of dangerous counterterrorism and counterinsurgency missions have contributed to extremism in the ranks.
What is the recommendation?
The Biden administration should ensure that the Global Posture Review investigate the degree of correlation between the deployed experiences of military personnel and extremism in the ranks. Understanding whether and how deployments—including homeland assignments—affect the attitudes of our uniformed personnel will have implications for future decisions about forward basing and the US military footprint globally. A survey of current and former military personnel might make sense to comprehend how different types of assignments—to friendly or hostile places for instance—contribute to moderating or radicalizing worldviews. Measuring historical data from WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, and the post-9/11 era could make this a particularly telling exercise.