Some time ago, we had a post about Secretary of Defense Carter’s ill-advised desire to improve recruitment by lowering standards (see, “Drug Users Welcome”). In the comments, mention was made of the widening gulf between society at large and the military (we’re also seeing a divide between society and the police but that’s a topic for some other blog) and that mention has stuck with me. After much thought and much self-debate about the desirability of posting on the subject, I’ve decided to offer my thoughts. Be warned, if you don’t want to read a sociological commentary post, leave now and wait for the next post.
Observers have offered various reasons for the divide between society and the military. The reasons generally focus on politics, policies, involvement in unpopular conflicts, and so on. All probably contain a degree of validity. However, the main reason for the gulf is something different, I believe.
The gulf between the military and society stems not from politics, policies, and actions but from a widening difference in values. The military has traditionally valued order, discipline, honor, integrity, sacrifice, and identification with something larger than self. Society has, over the last couple of decades, turned away from those characteristics and moved towards blaming others for one’s own failures, a focus on self, and elimination of accountability and personal responsibility. Consider these examples.
- Suing the seller because you were dumb enough to spill hot coffee in your lap
- Participation trophies
- Sanctuary cities
- Failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton
- Enforced feminization of boys in elementary schools
- Banning of Christian references to Christmas
- Legalization of drugs
- Programs to forgive IRS and credit card debt
- Welfare, in general
It all comes down to standards and standard’s handmaidens: accountability and responsibility. Our society is systematically removing standards. No one is held to any civil or criminal standard. No one is accountable for their actions. No one is expected to demonstrate responsibility.
Is it any wonder that military age young adults who have grown up in this society and have come to see it as normal see little that they can identify with in the military?
Of course, in the last few years the military has also begun to abandon standards, accountability, and responsibility so the gulf may actually be narrowing a bit. We see this abandonment in the Fat Leonard scandal that has rocked the Navy, the disgraceful, willful failure by 7th Fleet to follow mandatory training requirements, the lying by the Marine Corps regarding IOC of the F-35, and so on – I won’t bother presenting an endless litany of the moral and ethical failings of Navy leadership. Read the blog and you’ll see all the examples you need.
Ironically, anecdotal evidence suggests that the military’s recent social engineering policies are turning off those who do identify with the military culture but now see it being eroded. I’ve heard from endless veterans who tell me they will actively steer their children away from military service because of the erosion of traditional values. The long, unbroken lines of familial service are being broken. The widespread failure of veterans to promote military service may be more damaging to recruitment than the general gulf between society and the military. Veterans are, arguably, the most effective recruiting tool there is and if they have stopped recommending service then recruitment will, indeed, become a challenge. Recruitment-wise, the military has shot themselves in the foot by abandoning traditional values.
A functional society must have standards and hold its members accountable to those standards or it will fall. Is our society climbing or falling? I’ll leave it to you to answer that question for yourself.
The military has traditionally been the caretaker of society’s standards but is now rapidly abandoning its standards. This is not a good trend and our civilian leadership’s response of further lowering standards could not be more wrong. Now is the time to strengthen and reinforce military standards.