The Perilous Politicization of the Military

We are looking at a permanent structural change in the American armed forces that will not only weaken the nation’s ability to defend itself, but endanger constitutional principles. A year ago in an article titled “Obama’s Generals,” I described an American military increasingly politicized under the current administration.  The evidence at the time was already abundant:  the military’s refusal to identify the Fort Hood shootings as terrorism, the coddling of Bowe Bergdahl, the relief or prosecution of politically unreliable generals, and unrealistically rosy appreciations of the campaign against ISIS being the major points.  If anything, things have worsened since, most especially with the purely political decision to remove all restriction on women in combat, and as noted in a recent AT posts the mostly symbolic but still significant decisions by the Navy to issue “gender neutral” uniforms and to ignore regulations regarding naming ships to honor Democrat politicians and leftwing social activists.  Add to this, ongoing and increasingly aggressive recruiting policies that mandate “diversity” and the situation becomes scary.

Arguably there has been some good news here and there, but even that must be taken with a large grain of salt.  Last year Congress passed legislation allowing for the soldiers wounded at Fort Hood to receive Purple Hearts, and the Army belatedly acknowledged former Major Nidal Hassan’s terrorist ties, though has yet (to my knowledge) formally remove the “workplace violence” moniker it attached to the shooting, despite the fact that Obama late last year reluctantly acknowledged the Fort Hood shooting as a terror attack.  

Similarly, in the Bergdahl case, also after incredibly long delays, the Army decided to try the soldier at a General Courts Martial.  This is seen by some as the “old Army” reasserting itself in a case that reeks of liberal political influence.  Perhaps this is so.  However, the decision to try Bergdahl only came after he badly embarrassed the Army by going public with his account of his desertion and capture on NPR, practically forcing the hand of convening officer, General Robert B. Abrams.   Moreover, though the decision to try Bergdahl was made last December (four days after the first NPR appearance), the trial will not take place until August, scarcely demonstrating a hard charging prosecution in a relatively simple case.  Even assuming Bergdahl is convicted, his attorneys will argue that Bergdahl has successfully served on active duty for over two years since his release by the Taliban in May 2014, and thus deserving of leniency, undermining the contention he is a bad soldier.  This might sound ridiculous to some, but the jury will have to consider it, and it is part of the reason why military prosecutions are usually expeditious, though the Army has not demonstrated any sense of urgency in the case.

Meanwhile the low level war against ISIS goes on. The U.S. continues operate under ruinous rules of engagement which result in countless wasted strike sorties, wearing out men and equipment to no gain.  While ISIS is probably weakening under the bombardment, the campaign’s military logic is held hostage to politically correct dogmas.  The Pentagon goes along with this, hyping over-optimistic casualty reports with promises that ISIS is close to breaking.  While the Pentagon and some commentators trumpet the arrival of B-52 bombers in the region, those expecting carpet bombing will be disappointed.  The B-52s replace more capable B-1s which flew many hours but dropped only a small fraction of the munitions they are capable of throwing at the enemy.  The B-52s will do the same.  By contrast, Russia’s politically incorrect but effective Syrian intervention seems to have accomplished much more, in a much shorter time span, with inferior equipment, money and support.   

I got to see some of the strain on Marine pilots, ground crew and aircraft when I visited the Beaufort Marine Air Station a few months ago.  While there I also learned a lot about recruiting, and especially political influences that are pervasive and potentially permanent. Beyond the already divisive, controversial and standard-destroying policy of allowing women in all combat billets is the military's intensive drive to fill the ranks with as many women and other categories of “diverse” recruits as possible, at almost any cost.   Diversity is now effectively the primary goal of military recruiters, even beyond meeting basic quotas.  Recruiters that enlist too many qualified and ready applicants (read Caucasian males) that don’t meet the description of “diverse” can be sanctioned for going after easy pickings.  Recruiting goals are first defined by diversity rather than by quality, availability or cost.  In a situation in which the Marines say over 70% of young American adults are unqualified for service, and in an era in which officer quality is a serious concern, this program verges on folly. 

Officers and senior enlisted who wish to progress must effectively buy into this program, and the folks they recruit and advance will too.  While diversity is not a bad thing (I live and work in very diverse environments) its empirical benefits are extremely debatable, and when adopted forcefully as a matter of policy, it is a completely political matter that reflects a strong leftist bent.  It may be desirable to have a military that reflects demographic reality in the country, but effectively favoring some categories of citizens willing to serve over others is a recipe for ineffectiveness, tension, conflict and potentially serious political turmoil.  That is not a price worth paying for a cherry-picked military selected to fit an idealized demographic template.

While to some extent the services have always been and will continue to be organizations affected by politics, among the many departments of government, the services are probably the most sensitive to political influence in terms of maintaining a free society.  The openly leftist orientation that the Obama administration continues to force on the armed forces not only damages morale and national security, but is potentially a serious long term (if not permanent) phenomenon.  Senior officers have to be sympathetic to the administration’s moves in order to advance, and junior officers are oriented politically both by selection and doctrine from the get-go.  On the other hand, mid-grade officers who do not buy in are forced out via the evaluation process or through their own disgruntlement.  

While plenty of former senior officers (and Defense secretaries) have criticized the administration, and some were eventually maneuvered out, I’m not aware of any who explicitly resigned on principle, which at least might offer some encouragement for those disturbed by this process.  Whether senior officers continue to soldier on based on loyalty to the military-political system or just plain careerism is hard to say (and certainly in many cases both are true), but the practical effect of going along to get along allows this extremely dangerous politicization to snowball, a process which will only worsen if another Democrat is elected in November.  

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