Political Battles

Monday, July 27, 2015

Since the 1970s, the U.S. military has experienced intense conflicts between traditionalists and individuals intent on reshaping the military for ideological reasons. For the most part, those pushing social and political agendas have been civilian leaders in Democratic administrations, who have sought egalitarian changes to the military’s human resource policies, such as opening more jobs to women, giving preferences in promotion to women and minorities, and ending prohibitions against service by homosexuals. These civilians have succeeded in instituting substantial parts of their agenda, and oftentimes in ways that make them difficult or impossible to overturn. Ideological battles are, however, still to come on some issues, such as women in combat and affirmative action.

Since the end of the draft in 1973, the preponderance of Americans who have joined the military have been socially and political conservative. Hence, most have supported traditional military personnel policies and practices and opposed externally imposed changes. Liberal disillusionment with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that the military is unlikely to experience a large influx of people who could bifurcate the uniformed military ideologically, at least in the near term.

If, however, liberal Democrats continue to control the White House and persist in efforts to remake the military according to their ideological preferences, it is possible that in the longer term a critical mass of tranformers will enter the military. Traditionalist participation in the military might well decline at the same time, out of disillusionment with the subordination of military professionalism to social engineering. If the recent trend of U.S. military disengagement from the world continues, moreover, the military will become a more attractive destination for those who believe that the military should serve mainly as a showcase of enlightenment and a source of jobs, as has already happened in much of Europe.