In war, the moral is to the physical as three is to one. The American military, the most powerful martial force in the world, has consistently preached and followed that dictum. In 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis declared that the fundamental criterion by which to judge key actions in the Department of Defense was clear: Does the action enhance the lethality of the force?

Inside the military, however, another criterion has taken central booking: diversity. The focus has shifted toward emphasizing gender and racial equality, particularly in leadership positions. Diversity has replaced lethality as the lodestone for the military. “It’s all about war-fighting readiness,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Admiral John Nowell Jr. said. “We know that diverse teams that are led inclusively will perform better.”

On one level, that sentence is a tautology; every individual is unique and therefore every team is diverse. On another level, the admiral is speaking in code. He is implying that the services have been under-performing because they have not properly rewarded diversity. As a Marine veteran, I find this disconcerting. From boot training on, Marines are taught to put aside diversity, not to emphasize it.

That is now changing. The Naval Special Warfare Command has established “the goal of normalizing women in SOF (Special Operations Forces) and better identifying issues specific to female candidates.” Another goal is to “eliminate cross-cultural barriers to entry.” What is a cross-cultural barrier? The Special Operations Commander, General Richard Clarke, said that the special forces must reflect “American diversity and values.” This is an oxymoron. Diversity occurs from birth; values occur from character.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is important to this military,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said recently. “We are going to make sure that our military looks like America and that our leadership looks like what’s in the ranks of the military.” This is impossible because our military does not look like America. In fact, the military does not want to recruit the average American; seventy percent of America’s youth cannot qualify to serve. A Marine recruiting slogan states, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” Equity has never been a military principle because the military has based promotion upon individual merit, not upon race or gender.

A Navy task force, assembled to “combat discrimination,” recommended that sailors pledge to “acknowledge all lived experiences and intersectional identities.” Navy guidance singled out Black Lives Matter as a policy issue for which sailors could advocate. But why go down such an ideological path that stirs divisiveness inside the force?

“Based on a substantial amount of time talking to sailors in the fleet,” the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said, “there’s racism in the Navy.” This is a disconcerting statement. It implies that sailors confess to a four-star admiral, yet officers of lesser ranks are not aware of that racism. Indeed, as he rose through the ranks, Admiral Gilday was also unaware; otherwise he would undoubtedly have taken action a long time ago.

The lethality of our military is not enhanced through politically-imposed “equity” and “diversity.” The U.S. military is a family business in that most who volunteer have fathers or mother, brothers or aunts who served. A decade hence, it’s not predictable who will volunteer, if the zeal for “inclusivity” and “intersectionality” among gender and racial groups results in friction and acrimony, as every group comes to feel it is either patronized or excluded.

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