The limits of good intent…

I’m sure it was with good intent that the powers that be declared we would have a “Combating Extremism Stand Down.” The insurrectionist attack on the Capitol in January highlighted the obvious, but rarely discussed, presence of bad actors in the ranks. 

Our version of this stand down involves a mandatory 90-minute training delivered up by the most senior leader we could wrangle. That’s fine. It’s at least an official acknowledgment that some of the apples are rotten.

The thing is, getting after people who support insurrection isn’t best served by dragging thousands of people into an online meeting and rationally explaining that raising a rebellion is a bad thing. Most people instinctively know that extremism is bad. It’s this same approach that leads us to have a yearly meeting where we’re told 37 times that rape and sexual harassment are bad… and that’s sure done a legendary job at stopping rapists.

Preaching to the choir has its place, but telling people who are already doing the right thing that they should do the right thing doesn’t solve many problems. It hasn’t been effective in clearing rapists out of the service and I can’t imagine it will have any greater effect at luring out the extremist threat. 

If the powers that be are serious about scouring the place clean, there would be less talk and more smashing skulls. I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that rather than telling the insider threat to be nicer, maybe tearing it out root and stem would be a more effective strategy. Until extremists, rapists, or other’s who show criminal intent are fired, court martialed, hauled before a firing squad, or otherwise driven out, saying the words is fine. Raising awareness is fine. Just don’t expect that kind of minimal effort to get you where you want to be. 

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