A Green Beret’s perspective on defunding the police and answer to America’s growing polarization.
Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not represent an official position of the US Army, DoD, or the US government.
Bad actors are tearing our country apart. And no, I am not referring to the Hollywood actors that feel the need to politicize everything (though they certainly play a role). Enemies of America, foreign and domestic, are working behind the scenes to undermine the US government. How do I know? As a Green Beret I was trained to do the exact same thing to our nation’s geopolitical adversaries.
Green Berets are proficient at identifying and exploiting the internal weaknesses of hostile foreign governments. As I watch social activists around the country call for action against the police, it strikes me as behavior that I would encourage if I was working to overthrow an oppressive regime. America’s internal weakness in this case is its growing racial divide.
America’s diversity is one of its greatest strengths, but it is also an avenue of attack for our enemies. Rival powers are capitalizing on this by reinforcing US social divisions and amplifying racial tensions. The methods they employ vary, but range from social media troll armies pushing fringe ideas to clandestine support to extremist groups through proxies. Unless US leaders take action, the likes of China and Russia will continue to exploit these growing divisions to further destabilize the country.
One of the most dangerous manifestations of this social exploitation has been the “defund the police” movement. Our adversaries are keenly aware that one of the most effective methods to destabilize a country is to convince its citizens that their government is incapable of keeping them safe. As the police are the primary instrument for maintaining order and peace, they are a prime target for subversion.
One of the most effective methods to destabilize a country is to convince its citizens that their government is incapable of keeping them safe.
All effective propaganda contains partial truths in order to mislead. Many suggest that defunding the police would allow those funds to be used to support black communities and alternative emergency response models. Additional funding for community resources is something everyone should get behind, right? In reality, police funding and community funding are not mutually exclusive. A more constructive and honest campaign would encourage positive reforms and support for communities without implying that they must come at the expense of the police.
Activist groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) almost always originate from benevolent intentions. However, as these groups gain prominence and influence, it becomes more likely that bad actors will attempt to co-opt the original noble objectives with self-serving agendas.
It is quite telling that China’s public support for BLM came at the heels of the organization’s advocacy for defunding the police. Whenever China or Russia express support for anything or anyone in the US, it is a good indicator that the object of their support somehow serves their interests, and often at the expense of the interests of the US. For those who follow China, such support is incredibly hypocritical considering the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighurs and its support for the heavy handed response to protests in Hong Kong.
Whenever China or Russia express support for anything or anyone in the US, it is a good indicator that the object of their support somehow serves their interests, and often at the expense of the interests of the US.
Overall, China has been relatively effective at hiding its efforts to stoke America’s internal divisions. This is consistent with its strategy to overtake the US as the next global superpower. In his book The Hundred-Year Marathon, Michael Pillsbury describes nine principle elements of Chinese strategy. The three elements most applicable to this discussion include concealing China’s intentions and actions to avoid provoking the US until the right moment, exploiting US weaknesses rather than directly challenging its military might, and manipulating US leaders to turn them against each other. Check, check, and check.
Russia has been more brazen in its attempts to meddle in US affairs. Russia aggressively leverages social media platforms and state-backed news organizations to inflame racial tensions in the US and attack its reputation abroad. This includes encouraging both white and black extremist groups to commit acts of violence, spreading the narrative of systemic racism within US police departments, and highlighting racism within the US military, just to name a few. This is not new. Russia has been attempting to create internal divisions within the US going back to the 1920s. It has simply improved its methods and adapted to new technologies over time.
As Green Berets are trained to exploit weaknesses, they also understand how to counter those who would do the same. This expertise is shared with friendly foreign governments so they can better protect themselves from internal threats to their national security. Most of my experience is in this area as I spent years focused on strengthening our Eastern European allies’ resilience to Russian meddling.
It is difficult to restrict much of the subversion underway against America without infringing on the freedoms that the country was founded on. Therefore, American leaders must attempt to remedy the underlying conditions that the subversion relies on to be effective. The most prominent condition being exploited at the moment is racism. Due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, the next condition likely to take the forefront is America’s rising socioeconomic disparity.
One of the most promising long-term answers to the growing polarization is to encourage all young Americans to complete some form of service to the nation. In March, the National Commission on Service reported its findings after two and a half years of research on this subject. Enticing the majority of Americans to leave their insulated social bubbles and uniting them behind a shared purpose could greatly reduce prejudice within the US. The National Service GI Bill, introduced in February by Congressman Michael Waltz (R-FL) — also a Green Beret — is an example of bipartisan legislation that supports this idea by expanding incentives like in-state college tuition to additional forms of service.
One of the most promising long-term answers to the growing polarization is to encourage all young Americans to complete some form of service to the nation.
America is facing intense challenges, both at home and abroad. Foreign adversaries understand that a direct confrontation with the US is still a losing proposition. The divisions in America along the lines of race, ideology, gender, and socioeconomic status have become the battlegrounds they are navigating to undermine the US without appearing as a direct threat. We must be vigilant against those who would tear us apart and search for ways to unify the country. In doing so, we can eliminate the conditions that give rise to these battlegrounds in the first place.