A Proxy War: Attacks on Diversity in the Military Target American Civil Rights
Summary: The far-right extremist campaign to dismantle diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the U.S. military is a proxy for their broader efforts to roll back civil rights in the United States. This campaign mainstreams disinformation about DEI, undermining the strength of the military and American democracy.
Why the Military’s DEI Initiatives Are Under Attack
The antidemocratic far-right extremist movement’s battle to remove DEI initiatives from the military furthers its broader attacks on inclusive policies in American society. The movement mainstreams disinformation, perpetuating the idea that diversity harms American troops—and therefore all of America—despite the Department of Defense’s (DoD) stated support for DEI.
- Anti-diversity initiatives stem from reactionary strains in U.S. politics previously framed as anti-communism, anti-feminism, or anti-civil rights. Today, the movement frames DEI as a threat to the military’s emblematic role of American strength and patriotism.
- Prominent far-right actors, such as former media personality Tucker Carlson, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and the far-right think tank The Heritage Foundation, stoke public opposition to DEI efforts by claiming DEI weakens the military.
- DoD leadership repeatedly defends DEI programs, arguing they improve recruitment and retention efforts, bolster force readiness, and address discrimination in an increasingly diverse military. More than 40 percent of servicemembers identify as minorities, the majority of whom have witnessed racism.