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The Military Spiritual Reform Movement (MSRM)
addressing the spiritual conflict undermining readiness in the U.S. military
This article is meant to start a conversation, not to convince anyone that all of my perceptions and opinions fully reflect the reality of the situation. I don’t have robust solutions to the problems I see, just a recommended strategy for addressing the looming readiness crisis. To implement this strategy and prevail in what I see as a spiritual conflict between Americans and anti-Americans, I need help. The message I am trying to convey here is in a state of draft and is in obvious need of refinement. Your recommendations on how to improve this article are welcome and subject to being integrated into this living document. When providing any recommendations, please consider the following:
Mission: Principled Americans participate in a decentralized Military Spiritual Reform Movement (MSRM) to generate a dynamic common operational picture (DCOP) in the cyber domain to inform decision making targeting resolution of spiritual conflict within the U.S. Military.
End State: A peaceful and prosperous America that is secured from all enemies foreign and domestic by a military comprised of holistically healthy and fit Americans.
Framing the Issue
The U.S. military is facing a crisis of spiritual readiness1. This crisis has only one hope of being solved: It must be addressed and understood. In order to do that, leaders will be required to openly engage in hard conversations that will risk opportunities for career advancement. A variety of politically charged assumptions have permeated the culture and conspired to ensure that service members are unable to ask candid, good faith questions about how current events interact with their own subjective spiritual needs. If you aren’t in the practice of endorsing wokeism, willfully ignoring failure, and pathologically deferring judgment to “the experts”, you are continually subject to personal and professional consequences. This doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of official policy. Most commonly, this is expressed as an overall impression that the apostate is simply “unprofessional”. For anyone who doesn’t fully subscribe to the mainstream narrative, this trend undermines our subjective sense of purpose and meaning by encouraging us to let others dictate what we can think and say, escape accountability through willful ignorance, and allow our capacity for sound judgement to atrophy through neglect. Without being able to clearly articulate how military service aligns with our individual notions of purpose and meaning, the most critical weapon system at the disposal of our military is rendered impotent, namely, individual human beings. If heterodox thinkers among the ranks continue to allow themselves to be dominated by a culture incompatible with American values, it will only ensure that this trend accelerates.
Why Focus on Spirituality?
In the Army’s Field Manual 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F), five domains of readiness are identified as the essential components of optimal human performance. The energies needed to engage in the behavior changes necessary to promote physical, mental, nutrition, and sleep readiness are harvested from a foundation of spiritual strength.2 If Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen can’t delineate how their military service fulfills their purpose, they will be unable to perform in accordance with their full potential. Perhaps even more pressing, the military will not be able to recruit and retain service members or meaningfully mitigate suicide risk if the current spiritual conflict isn’t successfully resolved. If you appreciate the truism that humans are more important than hardware, then you understand why focus on spiritual readiness needs to be the #1 priority for any military that hopes to cultivate a highly lethal and effective fighting force.
Starting the Discussion
So how can this be accomplished? The answer is simple, but given the incentives that govern the military bureaucracy, it is also nearly impossible. We have to acknowledge failure so that we can learn from it. If we think that integration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) into Equal Opportunity (EO) training is damaging to unit cohesion and individual resilience, we need to say so. If we recognize something that seems to be illegal, immoral, or unethical, we need to discuss it for no other reason than to allay our concerns. As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Without practicing agency we quickly lose the critical ability to relate our professional responsibilities to a stable spiritual foundation. We devolve from Warrior to Bureaucrat. I’ll do what I can here to start the conversation by sharing some of my thoughts on issues that I believe are central to the current spiritual conflict.
Propaganda is an ever present and important part of war, but for it to be effective it has to be believed. The narrative that the Ukraine is a pure victim against a perpetually hostile and expansive Russia is unconvincing to many service members, myself included. If we are to assume that Russian aggression can be rightfully condemned, how are we supposed to justify our 2003 invasion of Iraq? Russia’s justification for its “special military operation” isn’t nearly as falsifiable as America’s claims that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat to our nation’s security. In what amounts to “confession through projection” George W. Bush took it upon himself condemn “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq, I mean, uh, Ukraine”. The parallels were simply too obvious for his subconscious to ignore. If service members are to justify continued sacrifices in service to our country, a narrative less vulnerable to accusations of blatant hypocrisy is needed. I prefer examining issues from a realist perspective. Based in no small part on the coverage by GS employee and military veteran Jacob Dreizen, I’m most convinced that the conflict in the Ukraine is related to Russia’s unwillingness to acquiesce to Western globalist hegemony. More specifically, I believe support for Ukraine is meant to mitigate the threat Putin poses to the petrodollar system that facilitates said hegemony. Of course this is a complex issue and I could be completely wrong. Whatever the truth may be, we need an alternative to the unconvincing “Putin Double Plus Ungood” narrative. For such an alternative to be spiritually satisfying to most service members, it will need to explain how what we’re doing defends Americans, especially in the context historic rates of price inflation.3 To be frank, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to believe that everything the U.S. military does isn’t a tragic waste of lives and treasure after we spent 20 years in Afghanistan just to leave the Taliban better armed and with greater control over the country than when we arrived. I know I’m not alone in this. If we don’t talk about this openly, how are we supposed to assume that it won’t happen again? How are we supposed to believe the same thing isn’t happening right now? As my commanders loved to tell me when I was a dumb ass lieutenant, hope is not a method.
There is a widespread loss of trust in our senior leaders. Although coverage of this issue is limited in the legacy media, high profile examples of senior leaders escaping even modest accountability for poor judgement and morally questionable conduct circulate quietly among the ranks. Danny from Terminal CWO covers these issues with alacrity on his website.
No senior leaders took accountability for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. When Stu Scheller lost his composure over this tremendously emotional event, his leadership moved to have him incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth. Thankfully, the $2,000,000 legal fund he raised gave the military court the incentive it needed to allow Stu to separate from service in peace sacrificing the pension he was less than 3 years away from receiving. Our SECDEF continues to hold stock in companies including Raytheon and Tenet Healthcare that he stated he would divest himself of prior to assuming his current position. Since that time, SECDEF Austin’s net worth increased by over $1,000,000 secondary to policies he implemented from these companies alone. How can this be justified?
In the book Peril, Bob Woodward asserts that GEN Milley called his counterpart in the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army to tell him
“General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
How is this acceptable? Either he was lying or he was obligating himself to make a significant concession to a powerful strategic adversary. Which was it? This same general officer expressed interest in the thesis of White Rage. When questioned about his interest in the book, Milley responded “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned, non-commissioned officers, of being ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” To be clear, I’m not concerned that he is studying these theories (although I would recommend James Lindsay’s work if understanding was the true objective). My concern is that some of our leaders, including Milley, have internalized a rejection of American exceptionalism after being persuaded by the arguments of CRT. There are dramatic implications that accompany such beliefs. How could someone who believes that America is inherently racist be spiritually fit to lead its Armed Forces? Milley’s deference to CRT within the ranks seems to be metastasizing. I’ve been informed that a brigade commander gathered all of his racial minority Soldiers together to apologize for his white privilege. While I could share my thoughts at length on the insanity of this, Matthew Lohmeier already wrote the very well reasoned Irresistible Revolution that outlines the downstream effects of embracing this ideology on spiritual readiness. After he published his best-selling book, instead of patting him on the back for contributing to the world of ideas or arguing against his thesis, Matthew’s leadership summarily relieved him of command. They cited a “loss in trust”. I think a Lt Col who has dedicated the prime of his life to his country deserves an explanation for why his good faith examination of a critical issue caused his leaders to lose trust in him. Something more than a baseless assertion as a “thank you” for his service. We’re left to surmise that these leaders consider their own highly politicized beliefs to be apolitical and beyond reproach such that any who condemn such beliefs are to be terminated with prejudice. This level of hypocrisy has a predictable effect on morale and makes it difficult to conceive of military service as noble and worthwhile.
For the 25-50%4 of the force that has been coerced to receive experimental5 vaccinations, trust in the leaders who made promises about safety, efficacy and approval status of available vaccines has been fully severed.6 Some senior leaders seem confident that purging the ranks of the unvaccinated will solve this problem. This assumption is unfounded. Even if the DoD is successful in its bid to separate vaccine refusals, it will not eliminate the hundreds of thousands who complied with this hitherto unlawful campaign7 against their will. Evidence that intentional suppression of adverse safety data on the part of the Defense Health Agency, CDC, and FDA is not hard to find. This evidence corrodes trust in those leaders that promoted the “safe and effective” narrative. If retrospective analysis shows absolute risk reduction for C19 vaccines to be negative for the military population once the dust settles, this trust will be nigh impossible to restore. For those who have witnessed the grotesque underbelly of the military industrial complex, fending off cynicism has always been difficult, but manageable with the help of a little Gell-Mann amnesia. The rapid proliferation of politically motivated behavior, programs, and decisions across the DoD8 precludes this strategy in the current environment. Is it any surprise that so many are deciding to separate from service in response? Some simply can’t see a path through such a fecund swamp.
Impacts on Spiritual Readiness
There seems to be much confusion about failure to meet recruiting goals. While reports of retention aren’t being reported as catastrophic, based on a few dozen conversations I’ve had from folks across the services the situation seems dire. Suicides over the last 3 years are at all time highs. Musculoskeletal (MSK) injury rates are down from people not being forced to exercise for the past 2 years, but in the Army, the looming resumption of mandatory fitness testing threatens to reverse that trend carrying the promise of a renewed wave of medical evaluation board separations. These trends can all be traced from the spiritual readiness of individual service members. Even the will to “suck it up and drive on” is dependent on having a reason to do so.
In attempting to describe the foundations of this ongoing spiritual conflict I speak to widespread perceptions, some of which may have no basis in fact. It must be understood that when it comes to spiritual readiness, perception is reality. If these perceptions do not reflect reality, open and honest engagement is the only thing that will allow them to be addressed. Information is the antidote to ignorance.9 If they do reflect reality, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. We must find a way to explain to ourselves and to one another exactly what we’re supposed to be preparing for and how it will support and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States. We must develop methods to overcome the entrenched perverse incentives that undermine accountability and buoy toxicity throughout our military. I fear we approach an event horizon beyond which failure of our institution is inevitable. As dissident thinkers try to weather this storm in silence it becomes increasingly obvious to the American people and the world at large that something is amiss. This attention scores the grooves of conflict ever deeper as opportunities for amoral social climbers to claim plausible deniability are denuded. History marches forward at its inexorable and ponderous pace. Regardless of the outcome, knowing my intentions are good10, I am confident that I’m on the right side and that I’m doing everything I’m capable of within reason, are you?
Fork In the Road
Years ago I read a book called Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard. It had a lot of great insights but the one that has stuck with me is to “look for the bright spots” when facing a seemingly impossible challenge. In this case, a leader recommended a book called Boyd: The Fighter Pilot That Changed the Art of War that highlighted a dazzling bright spot in military history: The impact of COL John Boyd and his acolytes on the Department of Defense. One of, if not the single greatest U.S. military success of the last 70 years was the Gulf War. Boyd and his acolytes were instrumental in that success. From saving countless lives with their contributions to materiel combat effectiveness to providing direct influence to the highly successful invasion plan, this group of great Americans leveraged their sense of purpose to overcome seemingly insurmountable opposition to advance their highly effective heterodox “reforms” while contending with an establishment that often hated them for it. As the great evolutionary psychologist Dr. Gad Saad would say, they had each activated their inner honey badgers. But how? They all made a simple decision.
“one day you will come to a fork in the road and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments. Or you can go that way and you can do something — something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?”
-COL John Boyd
As service members, in order to meet our spiritual needs we have to do things. We have to do them for our country, for our branch of service, and for ourselves. If we choose to be somebody we can’t ever meet our potential and serve whatever purpose we may find for ourselves. If we want to have any hope of the U.S. military ever being the organization that it purports to be, we have to do something.
The optimal path forward isn’t known. If we want to find it, we have to work together. I initially made the decision to join the military almost 15 years ago. I made that decision because I wanted to be in an organization where we were all on the same team. Even though this notion is a little naive, I believed it for a time. I still want to believe it, but every time some obese senior leader makes highly politicized remarks, it feels like it is to let me know that I am not on their team. Is that the case, or are they not on ours? What can we do about this spiritual conflict? We have differences of opinion among us, so what are our options? We have to determine if there is anything we must agree on11 and where disagreement is a necessary and natural consequence of ideological diversity. Chris Langan thinks a 21st century metaphysics is needed as a metareligion if we are to achieve what he calls the Human Singularity. I’m inclined to believe widespread deference to the non-aggression principle might be sufficient. Whatever the answer may be, we won’t find it if we don’t expose our ideas to each other in a decentralized destructive and creative process so that we may synthesize a realistic dynamic common operating picture (DCOP) towards achieving our mutually desired end state.12 The primary tool that I recommend in support of DCOP synthesis is Substack. Why Substack? In short, because it is easy, free, uncensored, and doesn’t engage in Big Tech shenanigans such as algorithmic manipulation. This type of discussion is a critical component of learning and growth, even if you only learn to better articulate your own deeply held beliefs.13Ironically, submitting my religious accommodation request for COVID-19 vaccination helped me with that. Growth through adversity, go figure. You can engage in this endeavor revealing your true identity, or you can participate in the conversation pseudonymously. You can create a publication, or simply engage in the comments. This high degree of flexibility is essential for DCOP synthesis. In order to meet our spiritual needs, we have to do what we think is right. This might seem obvious, but consider, how can we do what is right if we can’t even say what we think is right? Perhaps more importantly, how can we know what is right without challenging our assumptions? Participating in the analytic/synthetic dance of DCOP refinement is essential to align our actions with our desired end state.
The looming crisis we all sense is the result of a spiritual conflict between Americans and anti-Americans. This is difficult to articulate because most anti-Americans routinely pervert language to befuddle opponents and evade their own cognitive dissonance as they strive to dismantle the legacy of American ideals. This is especially true for anti-Americans who “serve” in the military. Apathy towards addressing failure, an eagerness to infringe upon service members’ religious freedom, and sympathy towards an ideology that characterizes America as inherently racist and oppressive strongly indicate a lack of commitment to the oath we all took. In condemning these anti-American sentiments, we leave ourselves open to character assassination and marginalization. This anti-American SOP has facilitated near total cultural dominance in the absence of principled opposition. Watch for accusations of racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, heterocisnormativity etc. These accusations are not arguments. Likewise, when attempting to have a realist discussion of geopolitics, watch for accusations that you are “regurgitating <insert current strategic adversary here> propaganda”. That isn’t an argument. Propaganda can be true, in any case. In fact, developing some solid American propaganda that is based on reality will prove crucial to prevailing in this conflict. The fact that our ideological enemies are unwilling to even make arguments telegraphs that their edifice is constructed entirely of cards. The primary way to gather intelligence needed to feed the DCOP is to engage in good faith discussion. What I mean by good faith relates back to spiritual readiness. Is your purpose aligned with fulfilling the oath you took to the Constitution? If so, in the context of doing something to contribute to military readiness you can be said to be acting in good faith. You have to be ready to explain that intentions are more important than impact, because this is the very opposite of the anti-American notion of microaggressions used to subvert principled opposition to their agenda. So please, do something. Join the discussion so that this spiritual conflict may ultimately be resolved. I believe it is our duty to develop a DCOP to determine the true state of military readiness so that we may appropriately contend with the threats we face as individuals and as a nation and resolve the spiritual crisis within our military. The alternative course of action is to be somebody. Say the words you’re supposed to say and cross your fingers and hope that large scale combat operations you know in your heart we’re not ready for never come to pass. To be or to do? Which way will you go?14
The word spiritual has many different connotations for many different service members. To facilitate communication a common definition is warranted. To be clear, I am using the simplest possible definition: Purpose. We all understand how critical it is for commanders to provide task, conditions, and purpose to meet a particular end state. In order to move forward as an organization and avoid catastrophe, all service members must define their own overarching/metaphysical purpose in order to meet their own subjectively desired end state. This purpose could be anything from serving God or Family to becoming the most lethal instrument of war possible to defeat enemies of the United States in close combat. As long as the purpose is compatible with the oath we all took to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, it is consistent with the requirements for service. For more of my thoughts on this topic, see this article.
I see this as knowing who you are, what you want, and why. Since I am not traditionally religious, I don’t believe that theism is an absolute requirement to support optimal spiritual readiness in service members, but I recognize that I could be wrong on this point as I’m obviously biased to believe that I am worthy to fulfill my current professional roles and responsibilities. In any case, I think it is worthy of discussion. That said, I will stipulate that the majority of individuals in the military that are on the right side of this spiritual conflict are traditionally religious. In fact, even though it would exclude me, I think a military composed entirely of principled, conservative, traditionally religious individuals would be more effective fighting force, and would also be less tolerant of the incremental efforts to subvert the culture articulated so well in Lt Col Lohmeier’s book. Even though I acknowledge this, I consider it irrelevant for I also believe there is no practical way to achieve such an end state without violating the very principles we espouse as Americans.
Since I’m no longer combat arms, it is easier for me to internalize how my duties fulfill my purpose. Human performance optimization (HPO) makes Soldiers more lethal. I hope they never need that capability. I’m content knowing that HPO also makes Soldiers better mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends. More fulfilled human beings. I’m more concerned about what happens when I separate from service. The thought of a woke military without cultural commitment to constitutional rights and contempt for the rule of law as an inconvenient obstacle to “progress” is terrifying. I think the trick for folks in combat arms with inquisitive minds might be holding onto the hope that grand strategy shifts from enriching a globalist technocratic elite to supporting and defending the Constitution and the American people over time with the disciplined engagement I’m recommending.
My 95% confidence interval based on survey data, vaccination rates through transition from voluntary to mandatory, and vaccination rates related to command climate/degree of coercion between units. The 25-50% figure is inclusive of those who remain unvaccinated, as they simply didn’t capitulate to said coercion.
Emergency Use Authorized (EUA) vaccines were definitively the only available vaccines through JUN2022. There are questions about the availability of FDA approved vaccines currently, as Comirnaty labeled product provided to service members appears to have been imported from Europe and does not conform to BLA requirements. EUA products cannot be legally mandated without presidential waiver, which to this date has not been provided.
The orders are unlawful because FDA approved vaccine have not available, and EUA treatments can only be mandated on service members with presidential authorization, which has not been provided. I speculate that that POTUS has not provided such authorization as doing so may interfere with the liability shields associated with EUA products currently enjoyed by Pfizer and Moderna. The stock prices of these pharmaceutical companies affect the net worth of many individuals within the executive branch of our government, including the SECDEF. While presidential authorization would make the vaccine mandate legal, it would introduce a modicum of downside personal financial risk for key policy makers. I surmise that our leaders have determined that mitigating personal financial risk > the rule of law. Isn’t political realism fun?
For a detailed synthesis of DoD vaccine rollout timeline that outlines the lack of availability of an FDA approved vaccine, see David Beckerman’s videos and supporting documentation through MAY22. Since JUN22 there have been sightings of “Comirnaty” labeled vials, but Dr. Sam Sigoloff highlights evidence suggesting that these vials are non-BLA compliant versions of Comirnaty that have been imported from Europe.
I consider the following list to include some recent decisions that I believe are politically motivated that I am interested in discussing. Each one might enhance readiness, or detract from readiness. My concern is that these decisions are not being made following a robust cost-benefit analysis, but are simply assumed to be readiness enhancing because of their political expediency. Some of these issues could be investigated very easily, others would be more difficult, but monitoring the outcomes of significant departures from norms is warranted for anyone serious about optimizing the readiness of the force. Without further adieu in this already too long footnote: Electric tactical vehicles, transgender policy, integration of females into combat arms, incorporating components of CRT into annual training, and engagement on social media in uniform highlighting rank and position.
Note: Information != Character Assassination (i.e. baseless assertions that these perceptions of concern are “unprofessional”, “inconsistent with military values”, “the product of white privilege”). Such assertions must be articulated in relation to some basis of fact if the perception is to be repudiated as opposed to suppressed.
The only way to ensure that your intentions are “good” is to understand your motivations. As the great Robert Barnes likes to say “motivation is the master of reason, if you want to improve your reasoning, change your motivation”. What you might find if you work on building self-awareness (such as with MRT), is that sometimes your motivations don’t align with your preconcieved notions of “good”. This is a common source of cognitive dissonance if it isn’t resolved. With a sound spiritual foundation (indicated here as self-awareness of motivations that resonate with you as “good”), it is easier for the ego to deal with failure. We will all fail and be wrong about things. Being able to rapidly recognize this and adjust is facilitated by not having your ego tied to the particular outcomes of your actions, but to an earnest commitment to doing your best. To me, doing my best means ensuring that my true motivations consistently align with the values I purport to hold. This is something that no one can ever take away from you if you take the time to build self-awareness about your true motivations. I don’t know if there is a succinct way of putting this, but I’m confident that there is something to it because I’ve had in depth conversations with one of my closest friends (who is a clinical psychologist that gets excellent outcomes with his patients) that employs the exact same strategy in his personal life, and we both arrived at this strategy somewhat independently. As an aside, I try to make a habit of being charitable when inferring the motivations of others. You can’t ever really know someone else’s motivations, so this is a good default to help you maintain a positive attitude when confronted with interpersonal conflict. This is the opposite of what is encouraged by the notion of microaggressions, which is why I’m so confident that it amplifies interpersonal conflict and needs to be openly condemned. Building unit cohesion is difficult enough without letting this fox into the hen-house.
We probably must at least on the importance of the oaths we all took.
A peaceful and prosperous America that is secured from all enemies foreign and domestic by a military comprised of holistically healthy and fit individuals.
To use the terminology of U.S. Army Master Resiliency Training (MRT), it helps us “detect icebergs”, a basic skill underlying the competency of self-awareness.
Special thanks to all the substackers, friends, colleagues, and intellectuals of old that contributed to the development of this synthesis. May we continue to destroy and create together towards a better future.