Right-Wing Extremism in the Military

Teun van Dongen, Yannick Veilleux-Lepage, Eviane Leidig, Hanna Rigault Arkhis 25 May 2022
 
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Keywords: right-wing extremism, military, extremist violence, hate crime, military misconduct, terrorism, recruitment, radicalisation

This research paper seeks to examine the nature of the nexus between right-wing extremism and the military by surveying five potential consequences (i.e., problem areas) arising from the presence of right-wing extremists within the armed forces of twelve Western countries. The five problem areas identified are military personnel: 1) committing right-wing extremist violence; 2) facilitating right-wing extremist violence by organisations; 3) perpetuating ideologically motivated hate crimes or violation of procedures and rules of engagement while on deployment; 4) hampering military diversity and inclusion efforts with activities and behaviours; and 5) undermining civilian control over the military. Based on a systematic review of five years of news media articles and government reports from 2017-2021, we find that for most problem areas the worst conceivable manifestations have thus far not (yet) materialised. Further, activities of military personnel with right-wing extremist leanings were not more dangerous as a result of their military background. Overall, the nature of the nexus between right-wing extremism and the military was vastly different amongst the countries in our study, with Germany and the US appearing to be the most heavily affected. The mapping of this threat serves as a basis for informing policymakers of the various scenarios and appropriate responses to counter right-wing extremism within the military.

Related readings:

Koehler, D. A Threat from Within? Exploring the Link between the Extreme Right and the Military. Policy Brief, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 7 October 2019.

Kaldor, S. Far-Right Violent Extremism as a Failure of Status: Extremist Manifestos through the Lens of Ressentiment. Research Paper, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 11 May 2021.

Leidig, E. “We are worth fighting for”: women in far-right extremism. Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 26 October 2021.

Wilson, T. Rightist Violence: An Historical Perspective. Research Paper, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2 April 2020.

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