How today’s 'diversity' damages our military

Diversity sounds great.  That's part of the problem.  Today's "diversity," however, isn't what it used to be.  Rather than diverse experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives — that promote healthy group decisions and outcomes — "diversity" has come to mean only race, ethnicity, and sex.  Unfortunately, today's "diversity" is replacing our long, and largely successful, journey toward equal opportunity.  We have moved the goalposts to the end of a new field — a field where equal racial and sex-based outcomes determine the score.  In this new world, "diversity" has become an end unto itself, undermining the purpose of our military: winning wars.  Here is why it is so damaging.

Today's diversity advocates measure organizational success by race/ethnicity and sex — factors that have nothing to do with performance or potential.  Yet they are influencing accessions, advancements, and promotions across the force.  Prioritizing racial and sex-based goals clearly undermines the importance of performance and merit.  Sadly, today's military leaders are often downplaying talents, experience, and skills in favor of skin color and sex in their personnel decisions.  The result is a less capable force with less capable leaders.

This new push for diversity also destroys trust.  When merit and performance are downplayed in the name of quotas and goals, excellence is undermined.  In this environment, leaders are increasingly doubted as representing the very best of the organization.  Not only is this disheartening, but it also makes them question their leaders' abilities.  If a leader, or commander, is seen as a "diversity hire," he will always be suspect.  This is also devastating to the thousands of deserving minorities and women who are rightfully rising to the top on merit alone.  Amid these growing doubts, trust is eroded.

Diversity programs also destroy the warrior culture by robbing it of its core ethos.  This ethos is built, first and foremost, on accomplishing the mission.  As soon as we elevate racial and sex-based quotas above this, the culture suffers.  After all, diversity and unity are opposing concepts.  Today's military is losing sight of the strength that comes from molding diverse people into a unified team.  Instead, they are elevating diversity above the "unified" team, causing divisions.  A warrior doesn't care about skin color, sex, or background.  He cares about one thing: do you have what it takes to perform when the going gets tough and the consequences are life and death?  Warriors want everyone to be judged by what they bring to the team — no favors, no quotas, no special considerations.  LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster recently commented on this, writing, "Nothing could be more debilitating to combat effectiveness than adherence to CRT [Critical Race Theory]'s proposal that people be judged by identity category rather than by character and the ability to contribute to a team."

Finally, the sheer volume of diversity programs creates an unacceptable cost on military training.  A training calendar is a zero-sum game.  The more requirements we place on service members to learn about diversity, equity, inclusion, gender bias, and other social justice constructions, the less time they have to focus on critical war-fighting skills.  Ask any service member about the volume of non-war-fighting topics he is required to train on each year, and you will be astounded.  They continue to pile up and rarely go away.

Our adversaries are taking note.  In a recent speech, Vladimir Putin encouraged us to stay the course on our diversity efforts, even as he sees what we are doing as "worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."  It doesn't take a military genius to understand that when your adversary takes note of your self-destruction, it might be time to change course.

It's time for our military leaders to find their moral courage on this issue and prioritize military readiness above social justice.  Be proud that our military has led the nation in racial and sex-based integration.  Yet stand firm in the conviction that the military will always value real diversity — not the new "diversity" — while continuing to look for ways to attract underrepresented groups to our ranks.  We cannot waver in the commitment to maintaining standards of excellence and performance as the bedrock of personnel decisions, without regard to political pressures.  Compromising on this will only lead to bloodshed and defeat tomorrow.

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Chris Petty is the creator of the Battle Digest military history series and currently serves as a vice president of (Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Service, Inc.).

Image: National Archives.

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