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Mike Pompeo Is Going To War Against a ‘Woke’ U.S. Military

M1 Abrams Tank
A M1 Abrams tank from 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, fires a round during a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX) at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Mar 26, 2018.

Mike Pompeo and I agree on very little; in my view, Pompeo flouts bad policy and practices bad politics. He is a prominently pernicious influence on U.S. foreign and domestic affairs. Yet Pompeo is rolling out an initiative that I find myself receptive to. And while Pompeo couches that initiative with hyperbolic language, anchoring the initiative with points that go too far, I find myself agreeing with the general sentiment: the U.S. military should not be “woke.”

Once an obscure worldview, relegated to humanities departments, communicated in esoteric terms, woke ideology has fully entered the mainstream. And while conservative portions of the U.S. population resist the rise of wokeness, it matters little, as wokeness has permeated our power centers: government, corporations, and universities.

In effect, the places where decisions are made, the places where money is transacted, the places where culture is formed and projected, are without question, woke. 

Woke is Built on Good Intentions for All, Mostly

Many purveyors of wokeness mean well; they sense injustice and want to solve injustice – a noble instinct.

But in subscribing to a woke worldview – and proposing solutions within the framework of a woke worldview – these prospective do-gooders often misdiagnose the problem before employing misguided fixes. And still, many purveyors of wokeness do not mean well. They recognize an opportunity to preserve their own power – by blaming a variety of social injustices on immutable characteristics that the individual cannot change, hence precluding the need to reform (i.e. divest power) – or, to gain power. 

Campaign Against Woke in the Military

Now, Pompeo – a West Point graduate and Army veteran – is launching an initiative to counter wokeness in the U.S. military. The initiative, backed by Pompeo’s non-profit CAVFUND, features a website ( and two advertisements. 

“American security, and the safety of our families, rests on the shoulders of our men and women in uniform,” said in a statement. “Their training must never be corrupted to advance left-wing political goals. This matters. A woke military is a weak military … we must do everything we can to stop the spread of wokeness throughout our armed forces.”

In one of the ads, Pompeo says: “Our military today is under assault from the radical left” and “if you’re a young kid sitting in a foxhole, you don’t give a darn about political correctness. If we focus on the wrong priorities, then Americans will be a lot less safe. We’ll use the right pronouns but what we won’t have is the capacity to keep our country safe. 

“I can assure you that there’s no Russian general, no Iranian leader, no Chinese Community Party admiral, who’s spending one second thinking about gender or woke ideology or climate change,” Pompeo said, “they’re thinking about how to kill Americans and the fight is on. We have to walk away from this radical left ideology. We cannot let it penetrate our military.”

How does the Woke Agenda Affect the Military

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, the initiative is political posturing more than any sincere effort to reform military culture – Pompeo has been rumored to harbor presidential aspirations and attacking woke culture is sure to be a hit with half the country.

Second, woke culture seems unlikely to degrade the efficacy of a military’s tactics, strategies, and weaponry. Our bombs are going to have the same effect whether or not the guy dropping the bombs was subjected to diversity training. What seems more likely to degrade the ability of our military – and ultimately degrade the safety of U.S. citizens – is overextension, hyper-hawkishness, basically Mike Pompeo anywhere near the decision-making process. Although I will grant Pompeo, that time and money that the military spends on a woke agenda would be better spent elsewhere – I doubt very much that woke agenda, or the resources committed to a woke agenda, detracts from the military’s general warfighting ability. 

Pompeo makes a few good points, however. Like the kid sitting on the foxhole not caring about political correctness. That hits at a bigger, important theme, which happens to be richly ironic: woke ideology is a luxury. People living in poverty, at home and abroad, people fighting wars, people fighting grave injustice – their lives are grounded in reality. This is where the irony lies: the people that woke ideology is proposedly designed to help do not subscribe to woke ideology. Go figure. 

Instead, it’s the tenured professors, HR professionals, corporate executives, and upper middle-class college students – people with money, time, and privilege – who find comfort in the woke worldview. Relatedly, Pompeo points out that Russians, Iranians, and Chinese are not worrying themselves with “gender, woke ideology, or climate change.” Generally, that’s right. Climate change has significant geopolitical and national security implications that nations would do well to consider if for no other reason than power competition. 

But no, America’s competitors abroad are not wasting time with wokeness. And while America’s wholesale subscription to wokeness may not degrade the quality of our military as Pompeo suspects, wokeness can degrade the quality of our society – which I believe is what Pompeo ultimately means, in which case he is absolutely correct. Comedian Bill Maher, who resides on the opposite end of the U.S. political spectrum from Pompeo, made a similar point.

Mike Pompeo vs. Donald Trump

Image: Creative Commons.

“You’re not going to win the battle for the 21st century if you are a silly people. And Americans are a silly people,” Maher said. “Do you know who doesn’t care that there’s a stereotype of a Chinese man in a Dr. Seuss book? China. All 1.4 billion of them couldn’t give a crouching tiger flying f— because they’re not a silly people. If anything, they are as serious as a prison fight … China sees a problem and they fix it. They build a dam. We debate what to rename it.”

Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.



  1. Steven

    September 29, 2022 at 9:53 am

    Huh? Wokism is Marxist BS. Get a grip.

  2. What In The World

    September 29, 2022 at 10:20 am

    I don’t know how anyone watches the Ukrainians using western training, doctrine, and weapons against the Russian soldiers that Pompeo and his friends have drooled over for the last few years and come to the conclusion that we’re somehow falling behind militarily and need to be more like them.

  3. Yrral

    September 29, 2022 at 11:34 am

    The Klu Klux Klan act of 1871,is the ultimate legal Critical Race Theory ,that should be used too civil or criminal prosecute those,whose run afoul of it legal doctrine, written 150 years ago ,it just as relevant as it was then ,it is the legal Kryptonite to fight racial spite Google Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871

  4. Geof

    September 29, 2022 at 2:33 pm

    Pompeo was a tank commander, armor Captain, did his time sitting in the Fulda Gap in the Cold War, with a wartime life expectancy measured in minutes. While I don’t like the guy or mostly his politics,he paid his dues, when he talks of the military I’ll listen with the respect he earned.

    That said, I’m a retired professional soldier, senior NCO, and his opinions of “wokeism” in the military are spot on. It’s corrosive to good order and discipline, is discriminatory against the lower/middle class heterosexual white males that are the backbone of our combat arms. It emphasizes otherness rather than uniformity, inclusiveness, teamwork, and unit solidarity. We also hear much about how “diversity” is our strength. Exactly how does that work? They keep repeating that as a mantra, but never explain it. We’re already seeing the impacts of woke-ism in falling enlistments and retention, with our historic “military caste” families increasingly declining to allow their sons and daughters to enlist.

  5. GhostTomahawk

    September 29, 2022 at 4:34 pm

    Spoken like a guy who couldn’t hack it in the military. Wokeness DOES effect the guys in “foxholes”. Because when military leaders are elevated due to their wokeness and not their military savvy troops on the ground suffer. It’s just like affirmative action promotions. It’s builds animosity. Elevation of people due to ANYTHING other than ability is bad for morale and combat readiness. Sure bombs blow up the same but you lose good people when you screw them over. They ETS and you’re left with whatever you got.

    Stop posting in here Kass. You’re out of your depth and it’s so obvious. You don’t know military. I have dirt in my jump boots with more military savvy than you boy.

  6. William Appleby

    September 29, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    Is this a commentary on how corrosive Wokeism is or a diatribe to illustrate that Harrison Kass is uniformed and woefully inexperienced (militarily)?
    Pompeo is spot on and being an active duty member now, I can tell you that Wokeism has permeated into the granular level of our military and indeed has made us noticeably weaker.
    Wake up, lefties…winning wars is much more about the soldiers, sailors and Marines than the weapons they have. It’s about cohesion and teamwork. Both concepts do not include leftist propaganda and the re-image of the military.

  7. Willie

    September 29, 2022 at 4:53 pm


  8. Walker

    September 29, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    I would love to bitchslap anyone who uses the word “woke” including the idiots like Kass who want to fight it.

    To be honest, I’m sick of all the stupid rhetoric. Using words to make people angry is just evil. And to be honest, Republicans are the worst offenders. Don’t let people influence you with evil sounding words. Look at the reality.

    The military has slowly becoming more open to women and homosexuality for the last 30 years. And now all of a sudden “woke” is this evil thing. You all have been brainwashed.

    Anyone who wants to join the military should be allowed to do so if they can pull their weight. And everyone in the military have to work together and treat each other as their rank requires, not some social hierarchy. The military has been fighting this fight inside its ranks for much longer. The military has been the must successful in using Affirmative Action to ensure that blacks move up the ranks without fear of racism. They should continue to do what is needed to ensure women and homosexuals also are treated with respect and not face harassment. This isn’t woke! This is how to create a modern fighting military.

    Don’t like PC? Fine, shut your racist sexist ass up and let the military take care of its own abilities. How is that for non-PC?

  9. Geof

    September 30, 2022 at 1:02 am

    Dear Walker; you conflate equality, equal opportunity, and non-discrimination with “woke-ism”. Woke-ism specifically rejects all of the above. “Look at the reality”…woke-ism IS racism and sexism, all wrapped up in a pretty liberal palatable package. And there’s no place in the military for it.

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