In an era of evolving threats, the military needs diversity more than ever

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Too often, the utility of the American war machine is perceived on a limited understanding of the realities inherent in a direct military confrontation.

What should go without saying, but doesn’t in today’s hyper-politicized environment, is that our military should be focused on exploiting every avenue, resource and talent pool in our growing global competition with authoritarian power brokers in Beijing, Moscow and elsewhere. However, the perception of that competition among talking heads turns into hero worship and promotion of the kind of savagery that rational leaders understand isn’t the path towards securing a functional, rules-based world order.

Thus, the clip of political commentator Jesse Kelly telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson last week that the military is “too gay-friendly, and too woman-friendly” exhibits dissonance and forgets that the talent pool he decries took the same oath to defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as he did while serving in the Marine Corps. 

Kelly goes on to tout Chinese and Russian technological capabilities (much of which was grossly overestimated but good for publicity points) and how the Pentagon’s moves to promote diversity are paving the way for the deaths of tens of thousands of service members in a future conflict with China. Despite apparent concerns about the Department of Defense’s ability to fight wars, the duo notably failed to mention the impact of the sexual assault epidemic that further erodes our military’s readiness. 

Today’s Pentagon, despite its many flaws, is not suddenly an experiment in social cues: it concerns itself with the defense of our way of life. Its members’ gender or orientation is certainly no detractor in their individual or collective abilities to counter the threat growing from our competitors abroad.

This is, unfortunately, not the first time I’ve made an analysis of the civilian-military divide; even the concept of ‘wokeness’ in the military has taken residence in this column, and it won’t be the last time this kind of hypocrisy will be op-ed fodder. The trend here, and the apparent baseline of Kelly’s bombastic remarks, is that after emerging from America’s longest war we need to double down on savagery, which is more befitting of a conquering host of Hun-like invaders. This iconography permeates the more hawkish mentalities of today’s national security apparatus and is neither rational nor feasible in an information-driven paradigm like strategic competition.

To hesitantly give some context and credit to Kelly’s message, war is indeed a savage arena. Most of my deployment’s firefights are largely a blur, the only thing that stands out in my recollection was the smell of human remains and burnt explosives. Those imprinted memories are hard to erase and harder for non-combat veterans to imagine. 

The U.S. does need hard men and women to do terrible, hard things — when the situation demands such, not pre-emptively. However, the assertion that the United States must foment the brutality of  “sitting on a throne of Chinese skulls” forgets one key aspect: the American and allied skulls that such rhetoric will recklessly sacrifice in the attempt. Throwing lives into a meat grinder is hardly a functional military strategy: just ask World War One generals how that approach worked in the trenches of the Western front.

This kind of promotion endorses the type of hero-worship that undermines the order and discipline that any military demands of its ranks: the type of hero-worship that allows war criminals like Eddie Gallagher to build a successful brand off of his antics, which includes the death of a captured ISIS militant under his medical care in a warzone. 

America’s last war was marked by a decided loss in the information domain — airstrikes and raids against mistakenly identified civilians despite the most advanced technology ever imagined. The price of those missteps left a black mark on America’s reputation and global leadership, precisely the kind of outcome that coincides with fostering the ‘kill ‘em all’ mindset instead of soliciting every helping hand available to deter confrontation through superior abilities. 

Confrontation is different in today’s paradigm of war. When bullets start to fly, or in all likelihood, when cyberattacks target critical infrastructure, when communications systems are pushed offline and when space architecture is knocked askew in a deliberate push by adversaries to limit the effect of a U.S.-led deterrence of aggression, the answer is not deploying a regiment of blood-thirsty ravagers whose only goal is to stack bodies on their way to the seat of Chinese power. Those attacks mentioned above will be met by a collective body of all types, who volunteered their lives to be part of the defense enterprise.

The gender or orientation of those servicemembers isn’t going to detract from that mission. Promoting segregation or contraction of the American talent pool is certainly not going to enhance that effort either. This type of discord does nothing to aid our defense enterprise, it only sews further division and mistrust in our military at a time when trust and support are more critical than ever before.

Ethan Brown is an 11-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force as a Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack controller. He is currently the senior fellow for Defense Studies at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress, a contributor to the Diplomatic Courier, and has written for the Modern War Institute (West Point) and RealClearDefense. He can be found on Twitter @LibertyStoic.

Tags Leadership Tucker Carlson United States Department of Defense US military

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