SSI

US Army War College

On “The Alt-Right Movement and US National Security” Review and Reply

Released 30 March 2022.

This commentary responds to Matthew Valasik and Shannon E. Reid’s article “The Alt-Right Movement and US National Security” published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Parameters (vol. 51, no. 3).

Click here to read the article.

Episode Transcript:

 

Stephanie Crider (Host)

Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs.

The guests in speaking order on this episode are:

(Guest 1 Dr. Shannon Reid)

 

(Host)
Decisive Point welcomes Dr. Shannon Reid, coauthor of “The Alt-Right Movement and National Security” by Dr. Reid and Dr. Matthew Valasik, featured in Parameters’ Autumn (Fall) 2021 issue. Retired US Air Force Major General Charles J. Dunlop replied, disagreeing with Reid and Valasik’s articles. His thoughts as well as Reid and Valasik’s reply are in the Parameters Spring 2022 issue.

 

Reid is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is the lead author of Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White. Valasik is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Louisiana State University. He’s the coauthor of Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White. Dunlap retired from the Air Force in 2010, after more than 34 years of service. He currently teaches at Duke Law School and is the executive director of its Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security. His 1992 essay “The Origins of the Military Coup of 2012” was selected for Parameters’ 40th Anniversary Edition. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, the US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.

 

Shannon, thanks for joining us. I’m glad you’re here. Your article talks about the white-power movement and its history with the military from the Civil War to today. What was the overarching goal of your original article?

 

(Reid)
So the overarching goal of the main article is to really bring attention to the fact that we have a white-power/far-right issue in the military, and it’s not a new problem. As you mentioned, we go back all the way to the Civil War. But it is an area of focus that needs attention and cannot continue to be pushed out of the way as something we don’t want to focus on.

 

(Host)

Military-affiliated citizens supporting DVEs (that’s domestic violent extremists)—how bad is it?

 

(Reid)

Part of the problem is we really don’t have any idea. The issue with not studying something is that we only have anecdotes and guesses. While Major General Dunlap said we’re overestimating, the truth of the matter is we really don’t know if it’s an overestimation or underestimation because all we’re seeing is when somebody either commits a violent crime or gets in trouble for supporting white-power messaging and is removed from the military. So all we are seeing is a very tail end of what the problem is. But if we continue to say either (a) we don’t want to look at this because we feel like it does a disservice to the image of the troops or (b) assuming that we’re overestimating, because it’s only a proportion of the individuals who are part of these groups really does not allow us to tackle the actual problem, but rather allows it to continue fairly unfettered. Because they know that no one is really interested in looking into it in a more in-depth way.

 

(Host)

Dunlap, in his reply to you, gave an example illustrating how, he says, the numbers are small. And he also notes that exaggerating the problem beyond what data shows dangerously erodes public confidence in the armed forces. It diminishes the propensity of minorities to join, and it gives succor to America’s enemies around the world. You say your position is concentrated on the need for the US military to finally confront this problem head on. What would that look like?

 

(Reid)
It’s sort of a multistage process. As you look at people who have talked about their involvement, either in the white-power movement generally or in the intersection of the military and the white-power movement, a lot of it has to do with personal, individual, and group vulnerability. The same way we talk a lot about gang membership or mental health risk, (posttraumatic stress disorder or) PTSD, and suicide—just because it’s potentially a small portion of the population doesn’t mean that there are people who are not at risk for long-term consequences from this action. So when we think about “OK, what would studying this really look like,” a lot of people are bringing these ideologies or beliefs in with them, and it continues once they’re there. Or are they sort of becoming—and I use the word “indoctrinated” very loosely—but, you know, sort of becoming wrapped up in this movement while in the military because of either what they’re seeing or what they’re being exposed to? Because that really impacts how we intervene and how we move to prevent further polarization or further extremism.

 

But the bottom line is we don’t know. So if we can get surveys or research done as people are coming in or coming back from deployment—so, figuring out those points of inflection where risk is the highest—then we are able to develop prevention programs the same way we do for others. Again, probably small numbers, but large impacts.

 

So we don’t dismiss suicide risk amongst the military because it’s only going to be a small proportion, right? We take that seriously, or we hope people take that seriously. We tried to take PTSD seriously. We take veteran homelessness seriously. And, so, dismissing something simply because it’s a small number, potentially, is to give the people who are at risk for this behavior no support and put them on a path that leads to a lot of risky behavior and can really change their lives in a negative way.

 

(Host)
There was some commonality in your views, and Dunlap does agree. In fact, I’ll quote here. He says, “Let’s be clear about something. The military, like American society in general, needs to stamp out racism and white supremacy. In this respect, I believe, Valasik and Reid have some ideas worth pondering.”

 

Do you have any final thoughts?

 

(Reid)
Because they are the military—similar to the police, where we’ve seen this issue in law enforcement generally—we are giving them extra skills and assets and a belief system that the far right is trying to exploit. They bring something to the table that potentially an average citizen doesn’t. And, so, it becomes more imperative to really root out this problem. Because it’s more than just racism. It’s beyond, you know, “I don’t like so-and-so.” And I know he talks about, you know, “We don’t want to cause distrust in the military.” But the problem is that distrust exists because these people are showing up on the news and are being seen at things like the Capitol riot or Unite the Right or Portland protests. I think it erodes trust more not to be doing anything about it than it does to try to expose a problem and say, “We’re going to move forward to deal with this in an efficient and effective manner.”

 

(Host)

Thanks for joining me today, Shannon, and for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

 

(Reid)
Thank you.

 

(Host)
If you enjoyed this episode of Decisive Point and would like to hear more, look for us on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or any other major podcasting platform.