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Sword of Dishonor:
The Reasons for the Decline of America’s Military

7,671 words

For decades, the opening lines of a poem by Sam Walter Foss entitled “The Coming American” hung in big steel letters at the Air Force Academy. Year after year, incoming classes of cadets would finish their six weeks of basic training by marching under the words BRING ME MEN. Up the ramp, they went onto the Academy’s impressive terrazzo flanked by modernist architecture, scene of the next four arduous years. Each cadet memorized the lines that came next:

Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.[1] [2]

In 2003, the Academy officialdom deemed those words to be offensively gender-specific and ordered them removed. As it happened, nearly half a century of sunlight had etched the shadow of the letters onto the granite underneath, making the words as legible as before. Workmen with power sanders were dispatched to finish the damnatio memoriae [3]. Then, after an entire year of brainstorming for a suitably inspiring quote to replace the old one, the Air Force displayed its complete poverty of thought by erecting its bland “core values”: “Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do.”[2] [4]

This month I retire from the military after twenty years. That service includes two wars and service in multiple branches of the military across a wide range of specialties. A few dozen enemies no longer walk this Earth because of orders I have given. On my mantel rests an Academy saber; above it is the Bronze Star I received in Iraq. And yet I find myself wondering what it was all for.

One might be tempted to write this off as the existential crisis of middle age, but it is a sentiment shared by those who have witnessed first-hand the dramatic transformation of the military over the past two decades. Members of a dying breed, we sense that once we are gone, the profession of arms will hardly be recognizable. That profession, like civilization itself, is a precarious thing: it only takes a couple of generations for the continuity to break down. Bringing it back is no easy matter.

This sea-change has a particularly bitter taste to those who are being either forced into retirement, not promoted, or downsized (dubbed “force shaping”) because they are the wrong race and the wrong gender, at a time when the military makes no secret of its enthusiasm for affirmative action in recruitment and promotion.[3] [5] In the past decade, it has added sweeping changes: the green light for open homosexuality in 2011, the opening of all combat positions to women in 2015, the allowance of transgender individuals in 2016.[4] [6] Attempts to place all the blame with the Obama administration ignore more permissive attitudes in society at large. More importantly, the military’s seemingly precipitous decline is the outcome of two tendencies that have been eating away at its aristocratic spirit for over a century: egalitarianism and managerialism.

The “Embarrassment of Choosing”

Alexis de Tocqueville, that sharp-eyed observer of nineteenth-century America, was particularly interested in what impact egalitarianism would have on the hierarchies that no society can do without. In such institutions, promotion becomes a problem because of the egalitarian conceit that one man is just as good as another:

. . . As the paths which lead to them are indiscriminately open to all, the progress of all must necessarily be slackened. As the candidates appear to be nearly alike, and as it is difficult to make a selection without infringing the principle of equality, which is the supreme law of democratic societies, the first idea which suggests itself is to make them all advance at the same rate and submit to the same probation. Thus in proportion as men become more alike, and the principle of equality is more peaceably and deeply infused into the institutions and manners of the country, the rules of advancement become more inflexible, advancement itself slower, the difficulty of arriving quickly at a certain height far greater. From hatred of privilege and from the embarrassment of choosing, all men are at last constrained, whatever may be their standard, to pass the same ordeal; all are indiscriminately subjected to a multitude of petty preliminary exercises, in which their youth is wasted and their imagination quenched, so that they despair of ever fully attaining what is held out to them, and when at length they are in a condition to perform any extraordinary acts, the taste for such thing has forsaken them.[5] [7]

As society becomes more imbued by the egalitarian spirit, this mindset seeps into the military, and the superior officer grows more uncomfortable with the idea of making personal, unequivocal statements about the merits of his subordinates. He is freed from “the embarrassment of choosing” by the emergence of anonymous promotion boards and check-the-box requirements that he can easily hide behind: “Well, I couldn’t rate you higher, you see, because you haven’t done a staff tour yet . . .” Thus, egalitarianism leads inevitably to managerialism, a sort of corporate cursus honorum [8] that steeps future leaders in the bureaucratic mindset. In the military, the check-the-box promotion system creates countless roadblocks to the quick rise of geniuses but ensures a mediocre competence at each level, and predictability is in greater demand than brilliance. Such a system tends to produce managers, not leaders, men with eyes focused on the next rung:

. . . In democratic armies, in time of peace, promotion is extremely slow. The officers at first support this state of things with impatience, they grow excited, restless, exasperated, but in the end most of them make up their minds to it. Those who have the largest share of ambition and of resources quit the army; others, adapting their tastes and their desires to their scanty fortunes, ultimately look upon the military profession in a civil point of view. The quality they value most in it is the competency and security which attend it: their whole notion of the future rests upon the certainty of this little provision, and all they require is peaceably to enjoy it.[6] [9]

Men treated like cogs begin to act like cogs. They may be irked now and then by the system but also recognize that being a part of it guarantees their piece of the pie, the “certainty of this little provision.” De Tocqueville’s caveat about all this changing during wartime does not apply to the post-1945 military. There can be no more “boy colonels,” twentysomething prodigies, in a military where minimum time in each rank is required by law.[7] [10] As de Tocqueville remarked, “Thus not only does a long peace fill an army with old men, but it frequently imparts the views of old men to those who are still in the prime of life.”[8] [11]

“So what?” one might ask. Doesn’t the guaranteed competence of a hundred staff officers compensate for an overlooked genius? Although that is debatable, the objection overlooks the fact that the profession of arms is unique. The soldier is not like a plumber or an accountant hired to perform a task. To treat him as such, when there is no “bottom line” to be served in dying for his country, is to conflate the citizen-soldier with the mercenary. Such a thing is dangerous in the long run, for since ancient times, Indo-European societies have recognized that the warrior class has the power to utterly subdue society. The unique capabilities of the warrior class make it imperative that its ethos center around self-sacrifice for the good of the people. Hence the social significance behind the Germanic warrior-god Tyr and the legendary Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who willingly gave up their sword-hands to save their people.[9] [12] This ethos must also include a chivalric spirit, otherwise soldiers risk becoming sociopaths, and killing becomes like cleaning a clogged drain. Yet managerialism, by depriving its servants of historical continuity, giving them supervisors instead of leaders, and replacing the warrior’s ethos with verbiage from the corporate world, sooner or later delivers them over to just such a fate. Men cannot attain glory if they cannot conceive of it.

An Army of Hoopers

De Tocqueville warned that in an egalitarian society, it becomes all the more important to immerse the intellect in the great works of aristocratic ages.[10] [13] Yet already, he noticed, there was a tendency to abandon the ancient works in favor of books that treated the individual as the victim of anonymous social forces that he was powerless to counteract:

In reading the historians of aristocratic ages, and especially those of antiquity, it would seem that, to be master of his lot, and to govern his fellow creatures, man requires only to be master of himself. In perusing the historical volumes which our age has produced, it would seem that man is utterly powerless over himself and over all around him. The historians of antiquity taught how to command: those of our time teach only how to obey . . . If this doctrine of necessity . . . passes from authors to their readers, till it infects the whole mass of the community and gets possession of the public mind, it will soon paralyse the activity of modern society, and reduce Christians to the level of Turks.[11] [14]

As early as the 1870s, a growing trend in the officer corps was to take one’s cues from industry, which seemed so efficient and provided the fighting man with such wonderful technology. Alfred Thayer Mahan, naval officer and future author of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, observed that in an officer’s education, the humanities were being gradually replaced by study of the “physical and mechanical sciences, and an intimate acquaintance with the arts of the manufacturer.” Proponents of the managerialist approach argued that the officer’s academic grounding should be principally in these cutting-edge fields, else he “must descend from the high position occupied by him and his predecessors for these centuries past and become the simple drudge of others whose minds have received a more vigorous and deeper, though often narrower, culture.” Mahan retorted that the attempt to join officership with technical expertise “has upon the whole been a failure, except where it has succeeded in reducing both to mediocrity in the individual.”[12] [15] The technocratic approach tended to create managers, not leaders, to “impede the growth of the class of moral powers needed at sea; to promote caution unduly; to substitute calculation for judgment; to create trust in formulas rather than in one’s self.”[13] [16] So much for men with empires in their purpose and new eras in their brains.

Countering the push for technocratic specialization, Mahan argued for an education grounded in English literature, foreign languages (to a fluency allowing the acquisition of their literature), and naval tactics:

If I be asked . . . how the English studies or the acquirements of Foreign Languages help a man to handle and fight his ship, I will reply that a taste for these two pursuits tends to give breadth of thought and loftiness of spirit; the English directly, the Foreign Languages by opening their literature. The ennobling effect of such pursuits upon the sentiment and intellect of the seaman helps, I think, to develop a generous pride, a devotion to lofty ideals, which cannot fail to have a beneficial effect upon a profession which possesses, and in its past history has illustrated in a high degree, many of the elements of heroism and grandeur. The necessarily materialistic character of mechanical science tends rather to narrowness and low ideals.[14] [17]

Needless to say, Mahan’s recommendations did not win out, and in the decades that followed, the managerialist faction grew in strength. From industry and engineering the new officer-technocrats imported a reliance on procedures, grafted it onto remnants of classic military leadership, and comforted themselves with the maxim, “We lead people, but manage things.” Lacking the independent spirit Mahan extolled, the new breed of officers was risk-averse, preferring to shelve decisions whenever possible until committees could be formed. If this was not possible, they could at least hope to hide behind procedures, and this created an incentive to make everything more systematic and routine, even the higher aspects of leading men. Since there was less need for the individual judgment of the officer, it became easier to simply plug in mediocre men – and mediocrity is exactly what all this produces. Brilliance and dashing spirit became increasingly hard to find, but at least the ship wouldn’t sink. Junior officers, who once occupied Olympian heights, came to resemble highly-paid enlisted members, and today even senior officers are as subject to rote procedures and possess as little scope for lofty ambition as the most junior technician repairing a generator.

By the Second World War, officers like Hooper in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited were as common as hobbits in the shire:

Hooper had no illusions about the Army – or rather no special illusions distinguishable from the general, enveloping fog from which he observed the universe. . . . Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert’s horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry . . . Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry’s speech on St. Crispin’s day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales and Marathon – these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper.

. . . He had an overmastering regard for efficiency and, drawing on his modest commercial experience, he would sometimes say of the ways of the Army . . .  “They couldn’t get away with that in business.”[15] [18]

As indeed they could not, a fact which the post-1945 military was eager to solve. President Eisenhower warned in vain against the military-industrial complex, for the senior levels of the officer corps blended seamlessly with the corporate world and appropriated its outlook, methods, and language.[16] [19] One day, Robert McNamara was president of Ford Motor Co.; the next, he was Secretary of Defense, and this “IBM machine with legs” brought in teams of management specialists to accelerate the corporatization of the military.[17] [20] A statistician by training, McNamara had an enduring effect on the military that went far beyond the debacle in Vietnam. Bombing targets for the sake of improving the numbers, fudging statistics by re-defining the parameters, and grossly overestimating enemy casualties (while minimizing or ignoring civilian ones) are all familiar to those who have participated in the recent crop of Middle Eastern wars.

The managerial obsession with statistical models and measures of effectiveness has taken over the officer corps like a parasite its host. As de Tocqueville observed, the egalitarian impulse gives rise to a structuring of promotion in which box-checking has more weight than merit – especially if that merit can’t be quantified, in which case it is useless. Officer and enlisted alike must essentially write their own annual performance reports for their superiors to review, edit, and sign, supplying grandiose bullet-statements that they hope will curry favor with promotion boards. Each service has Websites where one can shop around for winning bullets, and it is all too common to find someone painstakingly crafting a bullet while they do the task the bullet is for.[18] [21] The dollar value alone of all the exaggerated financial impacts in these bullet statements would probably exceed the world’s entire GDP. Thirty billion dollars appears on one of my more successful performance reports.

By the 1990s, with variations among the services, there was little to distinguish the ranks of officers and senior NCOs from the corporate world. The Air Force issued a “Little Blue Book” of its core values, with these inspiring words: “We must focus on providing services and generating products that fully respond to customer wants and anticipate customer needs . . .” It explained one of its core values thusly: “Excellence in all we do demands that we aggressively implement policies to ensure the best possible cradle-to-grave management of resources.”[19] [22] As if sensing that they went too far, since 9/11 the managerialists have added more rhetoric about the “warfighter” and stock phrases such as “we [insert any career field here] are the tip of the spear.” Yet underneath it all is the same corporate babble from the cramped imaginations and mediocre minds that Mahan warned against.

For all the vaunted talk of asymmetric warfare, paradigm shifts, and thinking outside the box, our military remains one of the most symmetrical, predictable forces in the world. This has nothing to with the soldier on the ground or the sailor pounding the deckplates, but with the functionaries who pose as their leaders. And yet this is not the worst of it.

 “A military that looks like the nation it serves”

The military managerialists, firmly ensconced by the end of the Second World War, set about transforming this ancient hierarchy into something worthier of a triumphant democracy. The wartime indoctrination in democratic values continued, as the military’s mission was recast from defending America’s borders to defending “freedom and democracy around the world,” as the Sailor’s Creed puts it.[20] [23] The military became a kind of social laboratory for egalitarianism, and it is by means of this that the elite convinces itself that it truly deserves its place at the top.

Long before the struggle over desegregating schools and the bussing fight, President Truman (himself once an Army officer) ended centuries of racial segregation in the military with an executive order. He thereby demonstrated how easy it is to effect socially controversial changes in the military, since government can silence any opposition through threats of courts-martial and dishonorable discharges. The ostensibly successful integration of groups X and Y in the military can then be used as another argument to overcome recalcitrant sectors of broader society. Another advantage of social engineering via the military is that its members, after being indoctrinated in the new order of things, re-enter the civilian world, thus increasing the number of citizens for whom such issues don’t really matter. Since the draft ended in 1973, nearly half of recruits (now serving for longer terms) have come from rural areas, which are overwhelmingly conservative on social issues, making this indoctrinate-and-return method even more effective.[21] [24]

In the decades since, enacting controversial change through decree has become something of an art form in the modern military. In 2011, I attended a briefing where my unit was informed that for the first time in its history, the US military would allow individuals to openly serve as homosexuals, ending the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” similarly decreed from on high back in 1994. On these occasions, each service tries to have the new policy announced by someone of sufficient rank to overawe those present – preferably a General or Admiral, but in a pinch a full-bird Colonel or Naval Captain will suffice. Next, the senior officer will make sure that everyone present understands that the change is a fait accompli, that to oppose it would be at best pointless and at worst punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All that remains, then, is to work out the details, which in fact are anything but. Nothing demonstrates the irresponsibility of the managerialists more than the way they shrug off the complex problems that arise from radically changing the relationships of those who must live, work, and fight together.

Finally, the briefing officer will announce that while he or she will field questions, no discussion involving morality will be allowed. Those in attendance comply without a murmur. After all, what would be the point of debating the morality of an inevitable change? To bemoan growing old is common enough; to debate whether it is ethical is a waste of time. Hence the non-stop effort by our elites to convince us that the transformation of our society through mass immigration is inevitable: once that point is conceded, there is little point in arguing that it is undesirable.

The same technique was used for the opening of all combat positions to women, then the order allowing transgendered individuals.[22] [25] (The Trump administration has not completely undone the transgender policy, since the new wording allows the Pentagon to make exceptions where it sees fit, and the repercussions will be felt for years.[23] [26]) It is not difficult to see why many social conservatives simply get out after one enlistment or never join in the first place. Some of the manliest men don’t find themselves drawn to such a military, where men without chests (as well as women without them) abound.

The move to an all-volunteer force has made it easier, not harder, to tinker with social attitudes in the ranks. For instance, more servicemen see White Nationalism as a greater threat to national security than conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq. More than sixty percent support activating the National Guard or Reserves to handle any future Charlottesville. Of those polled, seventy-six percent were white.[24] [27]

Despite the cuckoldry implied by that last statistic, a military that is eighty-five percent male and sixty percent white – even after great efforts to recruit women and minorities – is a problem in need of solving, according to military leaders.[25] [28] Even though the military already practices affirmative action in recruitment and promotion, it is not enough for some, who advocate doubling down on racial and gender preferences. As one senior female officer puts it, the military will thereby “gain legitimacy from having a military that looks like the nation it serves.”[26] [29] To anyone who has walked around in public recently, having a military that looks like the nation it serves is a horrifying prospect, especially since a large majority of young people are not even qualified for military service.[27] [30] Undaunted, recruiters have reached out directly to “gay community centers,” and there seems to have been a tidal wave of lesbians in the ranks of late. Courtesy of an executive order from President Bush in 2002, the military offers immigrants an expedited route to citizenship if they don a uniform, and over one hundred thousand have joined up.[28] [31] It is shocking how often one encounters servicemen, typically Hispanic but also African, whose English-language skills are so poor that they can barely make themselves understood.

“I will not look at a person and see any race”

A few years ago, the bean-counters at the Pentagon (which now has a high-ranking “diversity chief”) found that the number of blacks in the military had slipped slightly since the 1990s.[29] [32] The generals called for increasing the budget for minority recruitment, even though the percentage of blacks in the military was still greater than their proportion of the civilian population as a whole. The fact that over the past twenty-five years, fewer black youth were interested in military service struck these social engineers as yet another problem to solve. Clearly, what was needed was more diversity and more affirmative action. Marine General James Amos, who created no less than four “diversity task forces” in response, said it was now time to “remove potential barriers for Marines to compete on merit for leadership positions.”[30] [33] There is in fact little pretense that military promotion is based on merit anymore. A white colleague of mine recently managed to make rank in a career field with low promotion rates. His advice? “Don’t check the box marked ‘white’ on your service record. Check ‘other’ and keep them guessing.” For many, however, that is not an option, as most promotion boards review service photos of the candidates.

Another colleague described his experience observing a board that was promoting soldiers to Master Sergeant, the second-highest pay grade in the enlisted ranks. There were about three hundred candidates, but only around fifty would be promoted. First, the board “racked and stacked” all soldiers on merit alone. Then it separated the candidates by race and gender. At a bare minimum, the number of Group X who were to be promoted had to match their percentage in the Army as a whole. Thus, if the Army were twenty percent black, one-fifth of the available slots would go to black candidates, regardless of where they ended up in the general rack-and-stack. If only one soldier happened to be Native American and female, she was guaranteed promotion, even if she came in at last place out of three hundred in the general rating. The idea that soldiers are entitled to have the most qualified people leading them into battle, regardless of race – something that the mid-twentieth century integrators argued – has long since disappeared under affirmative action.


World War II-era recruitment poster

In addition to affirmative action, the military employs subtler tools to suggest a narrowing public space for white males. Bases host cultural events for minority groups, which unit leaders are sure to attend and get photo-ops. Unit walls are festooned with posters for “Hispanic Heritage Month,” “Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” and so forth. There are “Profiles in Minority Courage” for every ethnic group except European-Americans, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who have served since 1776 come from precisely this group. The typical posters from the Second World War show white men heading into combat, urging the recruit to join and thereby become a man. Their angular faces and determined expressions are well-suited to the descendants of the Viking raiders, Germanic war-bands, and Celtic tribes that carved a path through Europe’s history. Today, not only are the faces hard to find, but equally rare are the exhortations to martial greatness. Themes of racial diversity and delicate gender relations dominate.


Consider a typical modern poster, this one from the Navy. Three sailors stare accusingly at the viewer: one is a black male, another a white female, the third an Asian male. There is no white male to be found, but his existence is suggested by the words below: “No sailor stands watch alone – so we reported that guy who wouldn’t leave our shipmate alone.” Another poster proclaims the “Army Values,” with six soldiers arrayed in a kind of wedge formation that has the front soldier – a black male, staring at the viewer with an accusing eye – taking up nearly half of the poster space. Second in position and size is a white female, then a Hispanic male, and so forth. Only one of the six soldiers, toward the back, is recognizably an Anglo male. So it is with the lion’s share of these corporate warrior posters: They emphasize diversity so much that one could be forgiven for thinking white males were statistically insignificant in the ranks, not the largest group. And there is always this accusing stare from the minority serviceman or woman, shaming the viewer, demanding that he adjust to this new reality. To get a feel for this in-your-face diversity, watch this unwittingly humorous video [36], part of mandatory training.

Air Force NCOs have a creed with this curious promise: “I will not look at a person and see any race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, for I will only see the person; nor will I ever show prejudice or bias.”[31] [37] Curious, because the Air Force, like all branches, engages in a kind of doublethink about these things: no conscious recognition of race or sex, alongside a fierce determination to get more women and minorities into positions of authority. It should come as no surprise to learn that all this focus on minority recruitment and promotion has increased racial tensions in the military (in the above-mentioned poll about national security threats, five percent left comments complaining that Black Lives Matter wasn’t an option).[32] [38] But of course, that is just further proof to the progressive managerialists that they are on the right track, that it is just a matter of removing the remaining undesirables who question the new order.

“Weak men and disorderly women”

De Tocqueville writes:

There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make of man and woman beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things – their occupations, their pleasures, their business. It may readily be conceived, that by thus attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded; and from so preposterous a medley of the works of nature nothing could ever result but weak men and disorderly women.[33] [39]

The Frenchman went on to praise the state of affairs in early nineteenth-century America, in which men and women had completely different spheres but were each held in high regard:

In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes . . . but in two pathways which are always different. American women never manage the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other hand, ever compelled to perform the rough labour of the fields, or to make any of those laborious exertions which demand the exercise of physical strength.[34] [40]

The nation that de Tocqueville describes, in which “it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamour for the rights of women, whilst she is trampling on her holiest duties,” has vanished without a trace.[35] [41] Since time immemorial, one of the most basic truths of human existence is that no tribe can survive if it fails to perform two functions: defending itself from enemies and bearing children who can continue the line. If the community should neglect either of these tasks, it can be destroyed in a single generation. Men and women are each designed by nature to perform one of these two essential tasks. In Sparta, the only marked graves were reserved for men who had died in combat and women who had died in childbirth, since both had died in service to the community.[36] [42]

It should come as no surprise, then, to find that the iron resolve to get more women in the military should be accompanied by a shameful weakening of masculinity, for such a disordered society must expect that it will have more “weak men and disorderly women.” Case in point: Two years ago, two US Navy boats were captured by the Iranian Navy. During their comfortable fifteen-hour captivity, the ranking American officer on scene took it upon himself to publicly apologize to the Iranians, while some of his men broke down crying, which the Iranians – not raised on a diet of sensitivity briefs – were only too happy to film.[37] [43] We shouldn’t judge them too harshly. After all, their service’s professional creed ends with these rousing words of military glory, “I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.”[38] [44]

Racial diversity does not pose such a direct threat to the prime function of men in the tribe. One could argue that it does so indirectly, since white males are being slowly decoupled from their original corporate responsibility for America’s defense, attended by a vanishing of any notion of tribe, or nation. But the pursuit of gender diversity corrodes the military’s fighting spirit far more than the effort to get more Samoans in uniform. The opening of all combat positions to women in 2015 was not the mere presidential whim of Barack Obama; it was the outcome of decades of feminist propaganda movies [45] and progressive messaging in the media. For years, we’ve been listening to stories of the most patriotic, competent females contrasted with bumbling, hidebound males who can’t handle a successful woman in leadership.

The reality is that the effort to get females in key positions both in combat and leadership has resulted in a downgrading of objective standards across the board. For example, male soldiers aged 17-21 must perform a minimum of 42 pushups in two minutes; female soldiers need only perform 19. Male soldiers must run two miles in at least 15:54; female soldiers can skate by with 18:54.[39] [46] It would be absurd, then, to claim that male and female soldiers are equally capable of carrying each other out of harm’s way, or indeed performing any of the myriad tasks that require strength and endurance from the soldier. Realizing this hypocrisy, the Marine Corps experimented with a “gender-neutral” fitness test in 2016. In the event, eighty-six percent of female recruits failed it; less than three percent of males did.[40] [47] Some female servicemembers will even acknowledge the absurdity of two different sets of minimum physical standards.[41] [48] Yet here is a clear-cut conflict between equality and diversity.

When the Secretary of the Navy announced to the graduating class at Annapolis that the Navy and the Marine Corps needed to increase the number of female recruits from seven percent to at least twenty-five percent of the total, he was making it all but impossible to enforce the same standards on women as on men. Humorously enough, his justification was that “a more diverse force is a stronger force.”[42] [49] We have finally concocted “so preposterous a medley of the works of nature” that diversity has become a greater metric of strength than actual physical strength. How exactly a military is stronger by being physically weaker, racially and religiously divided, and devoid of a coherent identity is something he never answered. Presumably the victims of Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan might be more critical of such a hell-bent effort to produce diversity in the ranks.[43] [50]

Then there is the mountain of problems created by having men and women serving in the closest possible quarters. During a combat deployment to the Middle East, my unit had three females. One accused a soldier of raping her; another, a married woman with children, was having an affair with a married serviceman; and a third, single, was sleeping with a married soldier whose wife back home found out during the deployment. All this drama was going on while we were supposed to be focused on the mission. In fact, it seems that the more stressful the situation, the closer to combat, the more inhibitions melt away and the soap opera begins. Such situations help explain why military wives have the most reservations about their husbands serving with women.

But as in broader society, the problems created by diversity in the military also cement the need for a managerial elite to preside over these conflicts, studiously review the data, and apply the appropriate remedies. In 2017, the “Marines United” scandal erupted, in which Marines were caught sharing sexually explicit pictures of female servicemembers in an online group that had thirty thousand members. After convening a slew of disciplinary boards, the Marine Corps is now using the incident to dramatically expand its monitoring of social media.[44] [51] Faced with such situations, the managerialists argue that every scandal is further proof of the need for more women in the military:

The dearth of women in leadership roles is not just an optics problem. It undermines effectiveness, inhibiting the recruitment and retention of talented women who are repulsed by a male-dominated culture. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has himself identified the vast gender disparity in command positions as a key cause of the sexual-assault crisis: “I believe it’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel, at some level.”[45] [52]

Unit notice boards are buried under various “zero tolerance” warnings pertaining to inappropriate male-female interactions. Each unit is saddled with having an NCO appointed as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, who then must administer a vigorous program of mandatory training for the unit as a whole. Much of this training consists of ridiculous vignettes that hammer home the “perception is reality” mantra that governs accusations of sexual harassment. In recent years, the training program has entailed breaking up the unit into smaller groups of ten or twelve, in which servicemen must act out the scenarios, successfully parrot the party line, and even share examples of which they know before they can be let go. To be present at one of these Cultural Revolution-type “struggle sessions” is to witness the emasculation of our military before your eyes.

The military is also subjected to periodic surveys with questionable methodologies as to the “command climate” in the unit. If the number of reported sexual assaults goes up, then clearly we need more HR training, even though a rapist is not going to be deterred by a training video any more than a psychopath would by a gun law. If the number of reported sexual assaults goes down, it obviously means that victims don’t feel comfortable coming forward, so clearly we need more HR training. Those who are dumbfounded at why increasing the number of women in the military increases the number of sexual problems it must face are fools, pure and simple. Those who respond to such problems by increasing the number of women, expanding affirmative action, and multiplying sensitivity workshops without end are deliberately weakening what remains of this country’s fighting abilities. When a Navy pilot had the audacity to draw a phallus with his aircraft’s contrails in the sky, the joke sent the HR goons into Def Con 1, and the Navy had a “stand-down” day for more training and penitent beating of chests.[46] [53]

The focus on indoctrination reduces the time for training on professional skills, a problem that can have fatal consequences even in peacetime. In 2017, a spate of entirely avoidable accidents by the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet resulted in the deaths of more servicemen than died in Afghanistan that same year.[47] [54] The official explanation was an exhausting deployment tempo and high demands on crews, with no explanation of how previous generations of sailors, slogging through the Second World War and the Cold War, were able to avoid such frequent crashing into friendly vessels.[48] [55] Many experts point to the declining amount of training time devoted to basic seamanship skills, but few have the courage to admit what has crowded out those classes: relentless training on tolerance, sensitivity, and “awareness” of an increasing array of protected groups. Unit commands put the highest priority on these classes and demand one hundred percent attendance, for fear of getting the blame should any HR incidents happen under their watch. True, there are some hopeful signs, such as the Army’s recent ending of transgender training in favor of training that actually builds combat effectiveness.[49] [56] Time will tell, but one thing is certain: The inevitable friction that diversity brings will invite more task forces, more training, and more boxes to check.

The Coming American

Alexis de Tocqueville worried that the love of equality would lead Americans to a soft tyranny, one that

covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.[50] [57]

A nation can survive fairly long with citizens such as these, provided that an altogether different spirit animates its armies. But it does not bode well if its warriors also begin to resemble “a flock of timid and industrious animals,” gelded by the shepherd government in order to make them more docile and accepting of this grand social experiment.

To succeed, the advocates for egalitarianism must ultimately overturn biology in at least two ways. First, they need to achieve the kind of blunt, matter-of-fact relationship between the sexes portrayed in so many action movies, in which men are just soldiers who have one extra piece of equipment to carry. Those charged with conducting “resistance” training, in which future pilots, special forces, and other personnel are treated as POWs and subjected to minor torture, know that nothing is more effective than making a male soldier listen to a woman in distress. Yet as more women move closer to the front lines, more of them are in danger of falling into enemy hands. So if the male protective instinct becomes a liability, far better to get rid of it, or at least train men that their instincts are wrong.

Secondly, they need the white male to fully accept that while the achievements of others will bring public credit to their sex, race, and ethnic group, his achievements will only bring credit to an idea so nebulous that any newly-arrived immigrant may claim it as his own. The same pride in tribe and ethnos that is allowed and even encouraged for every minority group will be immediately condemned in him.

The managerialists are confident they can achieve these goals, but even their wildest hopes are tinged by resignation, for most of them are, after all, white males. Perhaps they console themselves with the thought that their own retirement is assured: après moi, le deluge [58]. Their task will be complete only when the last white male among them displays a Powerpoint slideshow on why his presence is undesirable. Even if this social experiment results in the collapse of America’s fighting forces before a determined enemy, far better to go out with their egalitarian conscience intact. So what if a sailor bawls at the first sign of hostility, or a soldier lacks the tenacity to crush the enemy? At least they will be fully versed on the relative benefits of restricted versus unrestricted reporting for sexual assault allegations.

What will this coming American look like? Nothing like what the poet hoped for, of that I am sure:

Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.

We who once thrilled to those words will soon be gone, like the words themselves, sandblasted off the stone. Forced into retirement, I had not the heart for a ceremony, to participate in such a charade. What would I say?

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.[51] [59]



[1] [60] Sam Walter Foss, “The Coming American [61].”

[2] [62]James A. Shaw, “AF Academy renames ‘Bring Me Men’ ramp [63].”

[3] [64] Robert Knowles & Rachel E. Vandlandingham, “Affirmative, Sir! (And Ma’am!) [65],” The New Republic, June 24, 2013.

[4] [66] Eric Bradner, “U.S. military opens combat positions to women [67],” CNN, December 3, 2015; Jonah Engel Bromwich, “How U.S. Military Policy on Transgender Personnel Changed under Obama [68],” New York Times online, July 26, 2017.

[5] [69] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2002), p. 574.

[6] [70] De Tocqueville, pp. 597-598.

[7] [71] Stew Smith, “Military Commissioned Officer Promotions [72],” The Balance Careers, March 5, 2018.

[8] [73] De Tocqueville, p. 598.

[9] [74] For an excellent discussion of this in conjunction with the mythology of the Germanic warrior god Tyr, see Woden’s Folk Kindred, Heathen Handbook (2012), pp. 104-107.

[10] [75] De Tocqueville, p. 438.

[11] [76] De Tocqueville, pp. 457-458.

[12] [77] Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan, “Naval Education,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 5, 1879, pp. 347, 353.

[13] [78] Mahan, p. 347.

[14] [79] Mahan, p. 352.

[15] [80] Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (New York: Back Bay Books, 2012), pp. 9-10.

[16] [81] “Eisenhower’s [82] Farewell Address to the Nation.”

[17] [83] Stephen Braun, “Robert S. McNamara dies at 93; architect of the Vietnam War [84],” LA Times online, July 7, 2009.

[18] [85] For example: Air Force (http://www.eprbullets.com/ [86], http://www.afeprbullets.com/ [87] ), Army (http://www.armywriter.com/ncoer_bullets.htm [88]), Navy (http://www.navyfitrep.com/officer.html [89]).

[19] [90] United States Air Force Core Values [91], January 1, 1997.

[20] [92] US Navy, “The Sailor’s Creed [93].”

[21] [94] Bernard Rostker, “The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force [95],” Rand Corporation research brief, 2006; Ann Scott Tyson, “Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn to Military [96],” Washington Post online, November 4, 2005.

[22] [97] Bradner, ibid.; Bromwich, ibid.

[23] [98] Helene Cooper & Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Trump Approves New Limits on Transgender Troops in the Military [99],” New York Times online, March 24, 2018.

[24] [100] Leo Shane III, “One in four troops sees white nationalism in the ranks [101],” Military Times online, October 23, 2017.

[25] [102] Kim Parker, Anthony Cilluffo, & Renee Stepler, “6 facts about the U.S. military and its changing demographics [103],” Fact Tank: News in the Numbers, April 13, 2017.

[26] [104] Knowles & Vandlandingham, ibid.

[27] [105] Thomas Spoehr & Bridget Handy, “The Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Serve in the Military [106],” Heritage Foundation report, February 13, 2018.

[28] [107] Elisabeth Bumiller, “Marines Hit the Ground Running in Seeking Recruits at Gay Center [108],” New York Times online, September 20, 2011.

[29] [109] Gregg Zoroya, “Military backslides on ethnic diversity [110],” USA Today online, February 17, 2014.

[30] [111] Zoroya, ibid.

[31] [112]Air Force NCO Creed [113].”

[32] [114] Shane, ibid.

[33] [115] De Tocqueville, pp. 547-548.

[34] [116] De Tocqueville, p. 548.

[35] [117] De Tocqueville, p. 549.

[36] [118] Plutarch, “Life of Lycurgus,” in Plutarch on Sparta (London: Penguin Books, 1988), p. 39.

[37] [119] Kellan Howell, “Lt. David Nartker, 27, identified as Navy sailor who apologized in Iran video [120],” The Washington Times online, January 15, 2016; Adam Taylor, “New video from Iranian state television shows captured U.S. sailor crying [121],” The Washington Post online, February 10, 2016.

[38] [122]The Sailor’s Creed [123].”

[39] [124] US Army Basic, “APFT Standards [125].”

[40] [126] Lolita C. Baldor, “New Standards Weeding Out Both Male and Female Marine Combat Hopefuls [127],” Military.com, 2018.

[41] [128] Kate Germano, “Make the Standards for Male and Female Marines Equal [129],” The New York Times online, August 20, 2015.

[42] [130] Derrick Perkins, “Mabus: 1 in 4 Marine recruits should be women [131],” Marine Corps Times online, May 26, 2015.

[43] [132] Associated Press, “Fort Hood shooting rampage suspect: U.S. at war with Islam [133],” CBS News, July 27, 2013.

[44] [134] Shawn Snow, “Seven Marines court-martialed in wake of Marines United scandal [135],” Marine Corps Times online, March 1, 2018.

[45] [136] Knowles & Vandlandingham, ibid.

[46] [137] Dave Brooks, “Navy apologizes after pilot uses plane to draw sky penis [138],” The Daily Caller, November 17, 2017.

[47] [139] Statista, “Number of fatalities among Western coalition soldiers involved in the execution of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2001 to 2018 [140]“; Alex Horton & Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Deadly Navy accidents in the Pacific raise questions over a force stretched too thin [141],” The Washington Post online, August 26, 2017.

[48] [142] Horton & Gibbons-Neff, ibid.

[49] [143] Even so, the training is being ended not because it is worthless but because “[t]ransgender training is complete across the Total Army.” Carlo Muñoz, “Army training will now focus on actual battlefield skills, not social issues [144],” The Washington Times online, June 25, 2018.

[50] [145] De Tocqueville, pp. 627-628.

[51] [146] Wikipedia, “Tears in rain monologue [147].”