A cynic once observed that in times of peace nations make war on themselves. Nowhere is this phenomenon more manifest than in the United States military, where the onslaught of political correctness has resulted in the lowest morale in memory. As American Armed Forces recently geared up for another engagement with Iraq, a troubling consensus arose among officers in the Persian Gulf; neither the hearts and minds of the servicemen nor the material force structure were in readiness for success with a minimum of casualties.

Why was this not more widely reported? The answer lies in the modus operandi of political correctness, which demands unhesitating conformity of behavior and opinion while imposing irrational taboos on the discussion of certain subjects.

Outside of religious orders, there is no institution that demands so much in the way of obedience and conformity as the military. Precisely because the imperatives of political correctness are so frequently contrary to human nature, the effects on a comparatively closed society like the military are devastating. And even though the national defense of the republic is jeopardized thereby, many officers remain silent, as Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness has explained, out of a well-justified fear of a career-ending mistake.

When Lt. General Victor “Brute” Krulak, USMC (Ret.) appointed me to the post of Deputy-in-Chief of Strategic Review, the venerable quarterly of the United States Strategic Institute (USSI), he did so because he recognized a need for a full hearing on controversial topics, particularly those falling under the heading of cultural politics. Privately exasperated officers, from all branches and all ranks right up to general, immediately rallied to our banner, telling us that the reason uppermost in everyone’s mind for the current readiness crisis is the deliberate feminization of the military.

As I argued in an editorial published in our fall 1997 issue, if political correctness is to be combated in the military, Congress and the military should dispatch immediately the feminist demand that women be integrated into combat units. Contrary to popular misperceptions and the bureaucratic redefinition of combat criteria, the exclusion of women from combat remains the clear intent of the law, codified in the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948. That is why we are sometimes told that maneuver warfare and over-the-horizon weapons have rendered all members of the military “combatants.” At other times we are told that certain posts which previously appeared to be involved in mortal combat do not qualify as “direct” combat postings. By one gloss or another, I argued, the Pentagon Pharisees will have their way, and “intent” be damned.

Because of this editorial, I was summarily dismissed from my post. I was told that the Institute’s official position on integrating women into combat units had already been written some time ago by General Krulak. When I found this previous editorial, a weak demurrer to gender integration, I noted the by-line was not of General Krulak but of the then-deceased chairman of the USSI, Arthur G.B. Metcalf. There was no telling what might have happened inside the Beltway should someone have suspected that the opinion of General Victor Krulak was also that of his son—General Charles Krulak, the current Commandant of the Marine Gorps.

That incident merely hints at what is taking place inside the military and the dark night of self-censorship concealing it. It is no coincidence that when ABC’s Nightline (February 10, 1998) chose to explore the new rules of “men, women and sex in the workplace,” the lead segment by Dave Marash zeroed in on the military. Speaking from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), which Nightline incorrectly identified by the less charged name of the “Military Management Institute,” Marash briefly let slip the truth: “But when talk moves from what should be to what is, in today’s American armed services, the word you hear again and again from these military managers is ‘scared.'” A male officer is then shown worrying aloud, “I feel scared sometimes because I’m afraid that I might do something that I’m going to regret, and then next thing I know I’ll have a report against me for sexual harassment.” Apart from that glimpse of reality, ABC delivered cover-up coverage designed to inflame the public against seemingly irrational males.

Here, in contrast, is how feminist activist Linda Bird Francke describes the mission of the same institute in her book Ground Zero:

The DEOMI subjected male students to sexual harassment in a role reversal exercise known as Meat Market. “Bend over. Touch your ankles. Hmmm, good pair of buns,” female students murmured about a male student in one classroom. In another, a female student ordered a male to lie down on his back and hold his legs open in the ongoing tradition of the “leg spreader.” “We want the males to feel truly uncomfortable,” says one of the trainers watching the exercise approvingly from the central, one-way glass control booth. . . . At DEOMI the simple answer to gender discrimination was the elimination of the combat exclusionary laws. The complex answer lay in the purging of biases and stereotypes ingrained in the white male Christian heterosexual culture.

The complete portrait sketched by Francke resembles nothing so much as a remake of The Manchurian Candidate.

Officers like the one on Nightline have a lot more to fear than fear itself In the opening section of Department of Defense Instruction No. 1320.4, which redefined the necessary components of officer promotion packages in the wake of the Tailhook scandal, we encounter Definition 2:

Alleged Adverse Information. Any allegation of conflict of interest, failure to adhere to required standards of conduct, abuse of authority, misconduct or information serving as the basis for an incomplete or unresolved official investigation or inquiry into a possible conflict of interest or failure to adhere to standards of conduct or misconduct.

Anyone who does not understand the requirements on reporting “alleged adverse information,” strategically placed throughout the instruction, as referring to crimes against political correctness is out of touch with the legitimate fear and suspicion of today’s officer class.

The current process of vetting candidates for promotion cannot even be compared to the Inquisition, since one never gets to face the accuser or defend against the accusation. By a kind of weird poetic justice, it almost makes sense when agitated Senate Republicans order a Commission on Military Training and Gender-related Issues to ferret out the truth by September, and then appoint Mr. Frederick Pang to the panel. In his capacity as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy, Mr. Pang gushed in a letter on October 17, 1995, to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the reporting of “Alleged Adverse Information” on the attendees of Tailhook had gone so well that “We want to apply the Department’s normal adverse information reporting requirements to all officers.”

As a consequence, there exists a thin crust of officers at the very top who are there because they have shown themselves willing to carry out the directives of the civilian culture warriors. Serving below them is a vast sea of disgust, complemented by highly trained professionals who have retired in droves citing morale, a changed culture, and lowered standards of every sort. They know that Navy Secretary John Dalton demonstrably lied in 1995 when he denied the use of race and gender quotas. They know it is madness for the Army to bunk men and women, including military chaplains, together. And they know that the purpose of the military as an institution —to win the nation’s wars—had to be qualified publicly by Army Secretary Togo West as on a par with “an equal opportunity to serve” in order to justify this dangerous and costly transformation.

The eerie thing about the present state of affairs is that one must now read American press accounts in roughly the same way that Sovietologists used to read Pravda, scouring articles for little tell-tale facts buried deep within. In March, newspapers nationwide carried a dispatch by Associated Press writer John Diamond on the alarming number of pilots unceremoniously departing from the Air Force and Navy. Less than 30 percent of nine-year veteran pilots in the Air Force are accepting an extended tour of five years, even when offered a $110,000 signing bonus. As for the Navy, this year only 27 out of 261 carrier pilots have opted for another tour of duty, again despite generous offers of bonus pay. A variety of reasons are offered, none of which makes perfect sense, until the reader notices that many of the officers cite as an explanation “difficulties with the promotion process.” Everyone in the military knows that what this phrase really refers to: the process of weeding out enemies of the new order.

Meanwhile, as President Clinton was preparing another massive air campaign against Iraq, the defense of our crucial ground position in Kuwait was in the hands of a reinforced armor battalion and a Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit—hardly a division. Highly placed officers from Central Command in the Gulf warned their former colleague Joshua Cohen, editorial manager of the influential Periscope military news service, that in the event of a ground-based Iraqi counter-attack key bases such as Al Jabar, from which many of the American sorties were to be flown, would not be defended. What would we have done had the Iraqis captured a significant number of Americans on the ground as prisoners of war?

The fact that the Clinton administration was persuaded that it could compel the behavior of a nation the size of Iraq with over-the-horizon and stand-off weapons alone is significant on a number of levels. It can be read as support for a point made by William Lind: “There is a direct connection between the feminization of our armed forces and the fantasy of ‘push button warfare,’ because that’s the only kind of war women can fight (and it doesn’t work).” As the troops see it, what began as social experimentation with the intangibles of good order, morale, and discipline has finally matured into a criminal neglect of the concrete exigencies of war-fighting.

The ultimate and more ominous significance of these phenomena can be derived by simple logic. The inclusion of any element which, by its nature, is incommensurate with a principal end of action affects performance as a whole. Even advocates of gender integration know that it reduces military readiness, but they forge ahead because they view androgyny as a cultural imperative. While a patriotic soldier fights for victory and is prepared to sacrifice himself for his country, postmodernists are prepared to sacrifice countrymen and victory to the perverse ideal of a community homogeneous in feeling, thought, and activity.

Such being the gravity of the matter, a portion of my Strategic Review editorial that feminists found particularly infuriating bears repeating: “If Congress and the Pentagon will not act, officers en masse should simply refuse to implement integration further.” If some view that recommendation as a scary call to mutiny, they should realize there are many ways of saying Non serviam. Officers are saying as much by simply walking away.