National security experts should help defend our democracy. They should begin by confronting the illiberalism in our universities.
The Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security recently held an event titled “Democracy in Danger,” in which the speakers made several excellent points. They discussed the dangers of tribalism; ideologies which drive racial supremacist narratives; how we should be “activating, and connecting, and supporting” people to speak out against them; and the importance of finding a “superordinate identity,” such as being American. David Priess, Hayden Center senior fellow, spoke of how “we can’t talk about national security, and the institutions that help preserve it, without talking about threats to democracy itself.”
I agree with these points, and I include our universities among those institutions that ought to help preserve national security. Therefore, I cannot help but wonder if those at the Hayden Center are aware of the anti-democratic and anti-American elements which have seized control of the institution they call home: George Mason University. Under the guise of “Anti-Racism” and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), George Mason University has created a regime so antithetical to democratic principles that it warrants special consideration—and subsequent categorization—as an immediate threat to democracy.
First, let us consider this ideology of so-called “Anti-Racism” and its GMU-approved champion, Ibram X. Kendi. Under the banner of “Anti-Racism,” Kendi (and GMU, by extension) advocates for the creation of a new federal agency. This agency would have no political appointees, and therefore no oversight from the people, the president, or the Congress. It would be responsible for preclearing all local, state, and federal public policies for potential “racism,” thus ending federalism and the separation of powers. Worst of all, this agency would punish public officials for expressing “racist ideas”—ending representative government.
Of course, these “racist ideas” include the advocacy for even basic economic liberties, given that Kendi views capitalism as fundamentally and irredeemably racist. If this philosophy seems eerily reminiscent of the USSR (and the KGB), it is because that very adversary lurks in the background of this ideology. Angela Davis, a former leader of the American Communist Party, which collaborated with the Soviet Union, is often portrayed heroically by Kendi in his work. George Mason University does so as well, listing Davis as a resource to which students and staff may turn for guidance on “Anti-Racism.”
I cannot imagine this is what true defenders of democracy would or could ever condone. Nor would they be likely to permit it without prolific protestation. Much to my dismay, I have thus far heard few discordant voices raised against these ideas from our democracy’s defenders.
Second, consider the unholy trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Much has been written about its problems, such as the criticisms penned by Dorian Abbot and Ivan Marinovic last fall, in which they argued—and correctly so, in my estimation—that DEI violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment before the law, compromises the university’s mission, and undermines public trust in universities and their graduates. After all, what is the public to make of GMU’s provost stating that DEI—not scholarship—“is actually the core of what the university is about”?
Looking outside of the academy, we see DEI as a grave threat to national security. As I recently explained, once DEI is applied in government—which it now is—tribes are sure to form within the federal workforce, as employees are boxed into identity groups. This is precisely the tribalism we should seek to mitigate. Likewise, DEI is sure to subvert our shared American identity in favor of racial and sexual identities, while “American” is the superordinate identity we should seek to maintain. If “Anti-Racism” is the philosophy of the university, and DEI is what the university is about, then the university is a danger to democracy.
It is admirable that those at the Hayden Center, and our security scholars in general, recognize the preservation of democracy as paramount to national security. However, it is clear that anti-democratic, anti-American, and illiberal ideologies are running roughshod throughout the academy, and GMU is no exception to that trend. It is imperative that security scholars, at the Hayden Center and elsewhere, realize that these policies will foster tribalism, legitimize ideologies which drive racial supremacist narratives, and corrupt our superordinate identity as fellow Americans.
These institutions—our own government institutions—are now endangering democracy. They are in need of immediate reform. We should begin by taking General Hayden’s advice: Tell the truth.
Image: Unsplash, Public Domain