Keith Whittington on how to recover the American university as a place of free inquiry and intellectual rigor.
Seldom has an American president so enthusiastically embraced a public policy doctrine than President Obama has the doctrine that diversity benefits groups possessing it. Last August, he began an Executive Order ‘establishing a coordinated government-wide initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the federal workplace’ by declaring:
‘Our Nation derives strength from the diversity of its population…’
That from which the American nation has derived its strength is not its diversity in terms of race, creed, color, religion, gender and sexual orientation, but in equality under the law, which permits the magnitude and diversity of the skills and talents of its members to be employed usefully.
There is very little evidence that the diversity of Americans in terms of their race, religion, creed and sexual orientation has contributed to their acquisition of their stock of talents and preparedness to use them to good effect.
The diversity of Americans is no more a cause of their skills and willingness to put them to good use than is the diversity of their eye color.
Yet propagation of the doctrine that diversity benefits groups that possess it can be used to assist, and has assisted, the recruitment into organizations of notionally underrepresented groups on account of the extra diversity they bring, and not on account of their talents and their genuine contribution. When and in proportion as that occurs, so there diminishes the strength and efficacy of the groups which have been made diverse for that reason.
In the case of no other organizations in America has their strength and efficacy been more adversely affected by their having been obliged to become more diverse for the sake of becoming such (and the alleged benefits that their being such has been said to bring) than those which comprise the US military.
Yet it is precisely in connection with the US military that President Obama has been most keen to see its diversity increase, just for its own sake and for the benefits he alleges diversity brings.
In connection with no other organization has President Obama done as much damage by pursuing the diversity agenda.
The American military has long led the way among America’s institutions and organizations in becoming racially diverse. It was integrated racially by an Executive Order issued by President Harry Truman in 1948. Hence, President Obama’s campaign to increase its diversity has been primarily focused upon increasing its diversity in terms of the creeds, gender, and sexual orientation of its enlistees and officers.
President Obama alluded to this campaign in his State of the Nation Address in January. After paying tribute there to ‘the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s armed forces’, he went on to remark:
‘When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.’
Sadly, these last statements are simply untrue, or not nearly as unqualifiedly true as President Obama portrayed them as being.
However much he may pretend otherwise, it can and often does matter greatly what gender and creed someone in uniform is. Take creed to start with.
If, as it has been this last decade, America is in armed conflict with Muslims overseas, the creed of its soldiers and marines who are also Muslim can matter very greatly. For it can create, and has created, within them divided loyalties that are so acute and unbearable as can lead them, and in certain cases has led some of them, to commit acts of violent extremism against their fellow soldiers and citizens.
The best known such case is that of Major Nidal Hasan, currently awaiting court martial for allegedly opening fire upon fellow soldiers at Ford Hood in Texas in November 2009, killing a dozen soldiers and one civilian, as well as injuring dozens more. When he opened fire, he allegedly shouted ‘Allah Akhbar’ (‘Allah is great’), the battle cry of Muslims.
Major Hasan would be by no means the first Muslim soldier in the American military for whom his creed continued to matter greatly in terms of his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, even after he had put on his uniform.
In 2000, US Sergeant Ali Mohamed Mohamed pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to kill US nationals and officers or other employees of the U.S. government for which he is currently serving a life prison sentence.
At the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, US Sergeant Hasan Akbar killed two fellow soldiers and wounded 14 others when he attacked his own camp in Kuwait.
In 2003, US naval reserve Semi Osman pleaded guilty to a weapons violation, after his arrest the year before in a federal investigation into the establishment in Oregon of a terrorist training camp.
In September 2004, National Guardsman Ryan Anderson, a convert to Islam, was sentenced by a court martial to life after he had been found guilty of attempting to provide al Qaeda with military intelligence.
Nor is Major Hasan the last Muslim member of the US military to have found the strains imposed by his faith too great to sustain his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, when called on to join with them in fighting fellow Muslims.
In July 2011, AWOL soldier Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was arrested near Fort Hood after a police tip-off by a local gun store owner from whom he had purchased munitions. Abdo later admitted planning to attack Fort Hood. Shortly after his arrest, Abdo’s Facebook page was taken down in which he had stated that: ‘Prayer and reflection have helped me to understand that I cannot be a soldier in the U.S. Army and continue to remain true to Islam as I understand it.
At the end of January 2012, the ex-US Marine Yonathan Melaku pleaded guilty and agreed to a 25 year term for having gone on a shooting spree in Washington in 2010, while filming himself shouting ‘Allah Akbar’. Upon his arrest, he admitted that he had also been planning to desecrate the graves of fellow US soldiers at the Arlington military cemetery.
The Department of Defense has described the Fort Hood shootings as no more than ‘work-place violence’ and the Washington shooting spree as no more than a ‘drive by shooting’. But its attempts to dissociate these acts from their roots in the creed of their perpetrators convince no one.
Worse than that, in the case of Major Hasan, there is clear and compelling evidence that his jihadist proclivities were well known to both the FBI and to his commanding officers well before the November 2009 shootings. His commanding officers, it would seem, simply turned a blind eye to the danger he posed so as not to lose the diversity he brought.
It is by no means unclear that the gender of soldiers and sailors cannot also adversely affect the military capability of the units in which they serve. In line with the recommendations to equalize the opportunities of women in the military for career advancement made by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission which President Obama set up, the Pentagon has recently announced policy changes designed to eliminate, or at least minimize, the exemptions of women from front line assignments in combat battalions. The argument of the Commission for eliminating these exemptions is that all front line service is in a combat zone, and hence there is no sound logic for exempting women from direct combat duties.
But, of course, there is.
Women’s bodies, and the familial responsibilities and attachments that flow from them towards their progeny, simply make them in general far less well suited to such duties, as has long been recognised by the military before the Obama administration.
The point has been well illustrated by Elaine Donnelly, a member of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, who has noted:
‘If a soldier is wounded in battle… a collocated support solder may be the only person in a position to evacuate the wounded soldier on his own back. In this environment, women do not have an opportunity to survive or to help fellow soldiers to survive. Lives should not be put at needless risk just to satisfy “diversity metrics” or the career ambitions of a few… Attempts to establish [the same physical standards for women as men]… always… result [in] lowered, gender-normed standards that mandate inequality in the name of “equality”.’
In sum, President Obama’s commitment to the diversity dogma is liable to be as detrimental to the US military, as his commitment to expanding publicly funded medicine in America is liable to be to the quality of health care received by its citizens.