Vance said that every “‘senior Pentagon official’ who commented on this story while hiding behind anonymity is a coward.” He added: “senior military officials should maintain neutrality about hot button political topics.” At a talk yesterday, Vance described Carlson as “the most courageous person in American media.”
Why it matters: Vance’s tough words for the Department of Defense reflect a cultural shift among far-right Republicans — a combativeness toward the Pentagon that has potential implications for civil-military relations and U.S. foreign policy.
The backstory: Carlson and Vance are political sympaticos. They’re leading voices among the National Conservatism or “New Right” trend who see themselves as defenders of traditional values and American sovereignty. What sets them apart from other conservatives is not just the especially hard line they take on illegal immigration, but their economic nationalism and willingness to take on the Pentagon.
Foreign policy implications: For decades, the Republican Party has been the pro-war party. Carlson, Vance, and others among the far-right like Marjorie Taylor Greene are upending the party’s norms, opposing U.S. intervention in overseas conflicts, including the Russia-Ukraine war.
- In March, on the twentieth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, Vance described the war as an “unforced disaster” that “killed many innocent Iraqis and Americans.” He expressed guilt for supporting the war and said: “Our foreign policy is still held hostage by men to desperate to avoid looking in the mirror that they will support the next war, and then the next one, until their country is hollowed out.”
- In an appearance on Fox News’s The Ingraham Angle this evening, Vance blasted the White House for allegedly not considering a negotiated settlement to the Russia-Ukraine war. The fight, he said, was disconnected from U.S. national security interests and described Ukraine as one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The bottom line: The Pentagon has been used to criticism from the left. Now it’s also getting hit from the right. While libertarians and paleoconservatives have been the Republican Party’s noninterventionist voices since the 1990s, Carlson, Vance, and others are taking the Pentagon head-on. It’s one strand of what’s shaping up to be a very heterodox moment in U.S. politics.
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