Americans’ trust in military hits ‘malaise era’ territory

It’s official. The state of the U.S. military is on the fringes of malaise era territory and it isn’t clear how the institution will be able to turn around the negative spiral with the American people anytime soon.

A new Gallup Poll has found that 60 percent of the American public trust its military. Still over 50 percent, but a far cry from 70 percent just two years ago in 2021 and an even further fall from the 80-plus figures just a decade ago.

The drop is seen among all party affiliations: Republicans (68 percent), Democrats (62 percent) and Independents (55 percent).

For perspective, Gallup pointed out that that the last time it dipped to 60 percent or below was in 1997 and actually lingered below 60 percent during the late 1970’s, the post-Vietnam phase when the military was transformed into an all-volunteer force and the national was wracked by what then-President Carter called a “crisis of confidence,” later coined “malaise.”

The left claims that racism and other intolerances in the ranks have caused Americans to turn against the military; the right says “woke” politics are at the root of increasing alienation.

Perhaps the culture indeed is responsible for the 25 percent shortfall in recruitment, but beware of partisan narratives that appear to speak for everyone and explain trends so neatly. Never is anything that simple.

The truth is the country is two years fresh out of a war that lasted two decades.

While Afghanistan was an endless churn of personnel rotations, military families back home suffered under the strain of divorce, financial fragility, and a one-parent home life. Veterans returned with injuries, inside and out. Kids grew up in these conditions.

Moreover, that the Iraq War (which overlapped Afghanistan for a half a dozen years) is now deemed a failure, is no ringing endorsement for 18-year-olds who have to read dusty old history books and watch movies to understand what it was like to win, to be “the good guys” in a heroic narrative. These things matter.

As (Ret.) Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who challenged the truths of the generals during the Afghanistan war pointed out in an email, the cat is out of the bag on how deceptive the military and Washington leadership was for the 20 years of  the Global War on Terror. It’s seeped into the bloodstream. No one can fairly or accurately pinpoint what is at the core of the slipping trust numbers, but one can’t — and shouldn’t — count out this new, post-GWOT “malaise.” . . .  (read more on Responsible Statecraft)

Poll: Confidence in US Military at Lowest Point in 25 Years (Washington Free Beacon, 31 JUL 23)

. . . . . The poll comes just months after an expert panel of military veterans warned Congress that the Biden administration’s focus on “woke” measures is causing a “once-in-a-generation military recruitment crisis,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Retired Army captain Jeremy Hunt and other experts told Congress in March that the administration’s focus on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training” caused the Army to fall “a historic 15,000 soldiers short of its recruitment goal,” the Free Beacon reported.

As U.S. servicemembers are forced to complete “11-week resident DEI training classes,” Hunt said, the Chinese military is growing and the Russian military is waging war on Ukraine.

DEI programs and other “woke” initiatives have “left our military unfocused, untrained, unmanned, and unprepared for combat,” according to Hunt.

The Pentagon has “pumped around $114 million into DEI programs,” Navy veteran and Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Brent Sadler told Congress, and the “corrosive impact” of these programs has sent America’s faith in the military plummeting. . . .

Confidence in U.S. Military Lowest in Over Two Decades (Gallup Poll, 31 JUL 23)

Americans are now less likely to express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. military, with a noticeable decline that has persisted for the past five years.

The latest numbers are from a June 1-22 Gallup poll that also captured record lows in public confidence in several public institutions.

At 60%, confidence in the military was last this low in 1997, and it hasn’t been lower since 1988, when 58% were confident. From the late 1970s to the early 1980s — during the Cold War and amid threats to U.S. power, including the Iran hostage crisis — between 50% and 58% of Americans were confident in the military.

Confidence generally improved during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. It then surged after the Gulf War victory (to a record-high 85% in 1991) and again after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Confidence generally held above 70% for the next two decades, until dipping to 69% in 2021 and declining further since then, following the exit from Afghanistan. . . . (read more on Gallup)

Leave a Comment