Feature 09.25.2023 5 minutes

The War for the Military

President Biden Delivers The Commencement Address At The Air Force Academy In Colorado

A new DEI office at the Air Force Academy seeks to “transform” cadets.

The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) somehow survived without a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) office during the first 66 years of its existence. Now it has one, with a self-declared mission to “aid in the transformation of future Air and Space Force leaders.” Hudson Institute Senior Fellow John Fonte has written in this publication that “today, the goal of progressive educators is ‘fundamental transformation.’” But one seldom sees this spelled out as clearly as it has been by Air Force’s DEI office.

The “transformation” being sought isn’t one from selfish teenager to selfless man or woman prepared to serve with distinction in the U.S. Air Force. Rather, it’s from selfish teenager who believes in traditional American mores to self-obsessed adult who doesn’t. Part of the current motto of the Air Force Academy—which ditched the more spirited “Bring Me Men” 20 years ago—is “Service Before Self.” But the USAFA DEI office largely encourages the opposite.

The DEI office teaches future military officers to emphasize their own identity—the ways in which they are different from others—at the expense of unit cohesion and shared goals. It teaches, in the words of USAFA DEI chief Joseph Looney, that “it is impossible to ‘Respect Human Dignity’ as a leader if you fail to value a follower’s identity”—even if that identity defies reality. “We’re committed to supporting transgender Airmen and cadets,” says Looney. The Air Force Academy DEI office, which opened shop the same month President Biden took office, also says its mission is “to serve as the U.S. Air Force Academy’s strategic leader in structuring a shared vision of diversity and inclusion.” The notion that a DEI office would serve as a strategic leader of any sort in a military context is incredible.

The USAFA DEI office gained national attention a year ago when it told cadets during a presentation that they shouldn’t use such allegedly non-inclusive, insufficiently diverse terms as “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” “Mom,” and “Dad.” Also, they shouldn’t praise the “colorblind” ideal or say things like “we’re all just people.” That’s too divisive.

Worse even than this bizarre presentation was the response from USAFA Superintendent Richard Clark. General Clark could have rebuffed the DEI presentation and replied, “Of course cadets should say ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’! And of course we believe in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s colorblind ideal.” Instead, he said that the Academy “does not prohibit the use of ‘mom and dad’”—it just discourages their use—and lamely claimed that the briefing was “taken out of context” because “the slide in question was not intended to stand alone.” Which it wasn’t—it was intended to be paired with intersectional instruction that cadets should be “color conscious.”

To further aid in the transformation of cadets, USAFA now also has a “Diversity and Inclusion Reading Room” in its library. It houses, in the words of English professor Daniel Couch, “a specially curated selection of books.” No doubt these are all recognized classics of the Western canon.

Meanwhile, Eric Tegler writes in Forbes, “The Air Force Academy began offering a minor in diversity and inclusion in 2021 as did West Point.” He adds, “In 2019 the Air Force started requiring D&I training to commission its officers.”

If all of this weren’t enough, the Air Force Academy now has a “Cadet Wing Diversity and Inclusion Program.” This program consists of 82 cadets—two or three, on average, per cadet squadron—who wear a “purple rope across their left shoulder symbolizing their position as a diversity representative.” They work “with cadet clubs, affinity groups and senior cadet wing officials” and “advise students on diversity.” In a less politically correct time, such cadets would be called informants, or narks.

In short, the Air Force Academy DEI office is engaged in a woke effort to transform how cadets think, talk, and interact. This reflects a larger effort to create a woke military. Biden’s pick for chairman of the Joint Chiefs, C.Q. Brown, regularly deplores the putative “racial disparity” and “extremism” in the ranks. Congressional inquiries have uncovered shameless anti-white racism in the Department of Defense. Abuses of public trust like this likely help explain why Americans are rapidly losing faith in that long-revered institution.

According to Gallup’s polling, only 60 percent of Americans now have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. military (as opposed to having “some” or “very little” confidence). Gallup finds that Independents hold the military in even lower esteem than either Republicans or Democrats. Only 55 percent of Independents have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in our armed forces, down 17 percentage points from a decade ago. That compares to 68 percent of Republicans (down 18 points from a decade ago) and 62 percent of Democrats (down 12 points). Over the past two years alone, the percentage of Gallup respondents who expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military has dropped 10 points among Independents.

Overall, the 60 percent of Americans who have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military is down from 76 percent a decade ago and 82 percent two decades ago. Indeed, it’s down from 69 percent just two years ago, in 2021—the year Biden took office and announced on day one that “equity” would be his administration’s lodestar.

USAFA DEI Chief Looney is helpful in explaining the difference between “equality” and “equity”: Equality “is giving everyone the same,” he writes. “In contrast, equity seeks to give people what they need”—i.e., it’s not giving (or treating) everyone the same. Equity addresses so-called “systemic racism”: “Equity can also be described as the recognition and elimination of system barriers that produce disparate experiences of belongingness,” writes Looney. (He doesn’t explain what “liberty” is, as it doesn’t seem to be on his radar.)

As I put it in the opening section of Mandate for Leadership 2025, a guide for the next conservative administration, “America is now divided between two opposing forces: woke revolutionaries and those who believe in the ideals of the American revolution.” The former believe that America “must be fundamentally transformed,” while the latter—the Americanists—believe in America’s history, its ideals, and its way of life. In our military, and certainly in the education of future officers, this battle between woke revolutionaries and Americanists is very much being waged. So far, however, only one side really seems to be fighting.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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