Friday, February 12, 2010

PC Soldiers

The recent release of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review ( represents for me the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. If you're inclined to investigate, you will discover within its pages that "climate change" has now taken a place among the more recognizable threats to the security of the United States. I can almost hear you bellowing: "Are you serious?" I'm afraid so, and what's more, I'm afraid those charged with producing the review are so as well. How did we come to such a place? I have become convinced that one very important reason is that the authors of the QDR include now a generation of soldiers, our most senior officers, who have spent the entirety of their careers rigorously disciplined by the strictures of political correctness.

What prompted me to this conclusion (and one of the other straws) was the immediate aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre last fall. You'll recall that at that time one of the items batted about in the press to help understand how the jihadist Major Hasan could fall through the cracks was the presence of political correctness in the Army. The thinking was that while Major Hasan's superiors knew his prior behaviour was over-the-top and potentially dangerous, they felt constrained from taking action either because they felt it would be a waste of time, i.e., their concerns would be dismissed for the very reason of political correctness, or, worse for them, their careers would be jeopardized as they would ever after be labeled bigots.

But if political correctness played a part in that bloody event, it played even more of one in (another straw) the official Defense Department report of the incident. If you had relied solely on that account for your information, you would never have learned that Major Hasan was a "Muslim" motivated to open fire on his fellow soldiers by his fidelity to an extremist understanding of "Islam". Those two words are found nowhere in the report.

Finally (and the penultimate straw), was President Obama's call in his recent State of the Union address for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. As there is no evidence that the current policy is in any sense defective, and as the military is currently preoccupied with more pressing matters, this initiative is nothing more than an attempt to institutionalize yet another aspect of political correctness. As a man of the Left, President Obama's call for this change was not surprising. But what was surprising was that he was joined in the effort by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Well, maybe not so surprising if my thesis is correct.

When did this begin? When did the codes, explicit and implicit, of political correctness take their place alongside "Duty, Honor, Country" as guiding principles for those charged with defending the country? I think the answer is during the immediate aftermath of the Viet Nam War, the mid-70s, more or less. But if I were forced to supply a defining moment, (at the risk of appearing to pick on the women) I would say the admission of females to the various service academies in 1976 is as good as any.

That event formalized the imposition of the codes of political correctness onto the one institution that, because of its mission, had to that point seemed safely beyond their reach. As it will soon be 34 years since that seminal event, now almost every currently serving officer, and importantly, virtually all the senior officers, have grown up under their sway. From that time forward, the pressure to conform to the PC codes within the military has grown immeasurably. To be sure, some soldiers did then and do now embrace them enthusiastically. But others, many others, and I would argue most others, have done so grudgingly and buckle to the pressure now only because they know, because everyone knows that to challenge them publicly is a very real threat to one's career.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not suggesting that we've promoted, as a result, a generation of dishonest and cowardly soldiers. That's not the way the pressure to conform works. Rather, it works by forcing those soldiers whose principal concern is military effectiveness (and thank God there's still plenty of them) to simply accept the PC codes as part of the "given" in any problem they face. Political correctness is, with a "can do" shake of the head and shrug of the shoulders, simply accepted as one more obstacle to be overcome. The effective officer figures out a way to work around it.

But the way around it is always inefficient, sometimes dangerous and far too often dispiriting. My son is a U.S. Army First Lieutenant currently serving in Iraq. When I asked him about his training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi immediately prior to his deployment he answered with this: "Dad, I'm not sure how we'll perform in combat, if and when we engage the enemy, but one thing I do know, we'll sure as hell not sexually harass them."

Now I suspect some of you may think I'm overstating the case. If so, ask yourself this question, or better yet, ask it of anyone you know (male or female, straight or gay, white or not) who holds a position of command in the military, at any level of responsibility: Is their duty of disciplining a poor performing soldier complicated or simplified if the individual in question is a straight white male? We all know the answer to this.

As the saying goes, is this any way to run a railroad? Maybe, maybe not. But it is certainly no way to run an efficient army. At a time of war, heck, at any time, should we be saddling our commanders with the added problems that invariably attend mixing men and women, straights and gays? Should we be forcing them to divert their focus and limited resources away from the very real threat of extremist Islam and towards ridiculous phantom threats like climate change? You tell me.


  1. Bravo Sage. You should forward this on to the powers that be.

  2. I would, but I doubt they would find time to read it as they are presently preoccupied in a sensitivity training seminar.