On Thursday, Republican Senator Ted Cruz learned that the American military was taking a page from the CIA's playbook and rolling out its own series of ads targeting millennials.
"Holy crap. Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea,” Cruz writes in a tweet comparing a Russian military ad to a U.S. Army recruiting ad. The Russian ad features recruits shaving their heads and suiting up for a parachute mission, interspersed with shots of a bullet being loaded into a weapon. The American ad, posted earlier this month, is a sunny animated clip featuring a narrative voice over from a female soldier raised by two women explaining why she decided to join the US Army.
Cruz faced quick backlash for his comments, with most of it centering on Cruz's implication that the Russian military was better than America's. Some went so far as to call Cruz a "sedition-loving traitor" while others mused on how it was "the American military that protected him from an insurrection he helped foment?" All of this, however, suffers from the same oversight as the misplaced backlash to the CIA’s string of “woke” recruitment ads and rebrands.
The US Army is just one branch of the most powerful military in the world. It’s not clear how that ad undermines the simple reality that soldiers are trained to fight wars, to invade countries, to kill other human beings, but also a host of other functions that don’t suddenly disappear because the military wants to rebrand. It doesn’t matter who joins the military, how, or which ad they watched, in the end they will be trained to effectively serve US interests.
This should become even more clear when you look at the other animated ads offered by the Army. One ad centers on a Haitian immigrant, Rickie, who joined JROTC as a way to get out of gym class but decided to join the military after a moment of reverent silence after a 9/11 ceremony at his school. It’s clear this ad, just like the ad in Cruz’s tweet and every other ad in the series, is trying to connect the military to various sets of values that can be identified with American life.
Cruz’s hysterical outburst is ridiculous, but shouldn’t distract from what the Army is doing here: trying to get its foot in the door by drawing a strong line between the military and what it believes millennials value. And whatever Cruz thinks about the ad or what it represents about the military, it will still be a deadly and well-equipped cudgel of empire.