Salvo 02.21.2023 4 minutes

A Few Broken Men

United States Marines on patrol.

Our nation’s priority should be fixing its men.

A group of military experts recently gathered at the Naval Academy to discuss military recruiting and retention challenges. Analyzing what military demographics would be in 2040, the panelists concluded that men are not the top priority. In fact, all the “diverse” points of view on the panel agreed that the military will have to move beyond the American man and embrace the feminization of the armed forces. 

In its coverage of the conference, the Military Times relies heavily on the opinions of Lindsay Cohn, an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. Cohn believes that drug use and felony convictions will continue to reduce the male population’s eligibility for military service: one in seven American men commit felonies, which means that they are generally prohibited from serving in the military. And since women have higher rates of college education, they will continue to qualify for the officer ranks at a greater rate than men.

A rational American citizen may see this set of circumstances as an emergency, but experts like Cohn and the Military Times relish this new reality as it moves the needle toward the military’s gender diversity goals.

The American military has historically been diverse. It has in crucial moments drawn on the many talents of the American population. For example, when George Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776, he relied on the abilities of soldiers from Massachusetts, whose maritime background enabled the Continental Army to conduct an amphibious operation that defeated a Hessian garrison in the Battle of Trenton.

Furthermore, Washington’s appointment as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army was a kind of “diversity” assignment. John Adams recognized that Washington’s background and status as a prominent Virginian would help bring the southern colonies into the fight against the British.

No one objects to diversity as it relates to accomplishing the mission. Diversity of skills, knowledge, and background can be a strength. When I was in the Marine Corps, my company deployed to North Africa and conducted training with French forces. Having Marines who knew how to speak French was valuable. That type of diverse talent was mission enhancing. 

But the diversity that is being promoted today is less about national defense than societal transformation. The military is a convenient test tube for advancing social and cultural agendas. The consensus of America’s ruling class is that men have had their turn. Their time is up. The military can help usher in a new female-dominated epoch.

Military standards have always favored men, specifically in terms of physical ability. But the feminist military experts are finally seeing cracks to exploit. As the American male continues to spiral in an epidemic of drugs and criminal behavior, these experts are hopeful that women will fill the void. Don’t you see? The future really is female.

The Naval Academy panelists never stopped to ask the obvious and, indeed, the moral question: “Is it really a good thing that we can’t recruit the men of America to serve in uniform?” It doesn’t take a four-star general to understand that more and more young men taking drugs is a problem. It doesn’t take a PhD in The Art of War to know that young men with disqualifying felonies represent a threat to combat readiness. It does, however, take a gender studies degree to conclude that having men hooked on drugs and crime creates an amazing opportunity for aspiring young women.

But to America’s ruling class, broken men are a chance for “systemic” change. Since G.I. Jane’s brother is in jail for smuggling opioids from Ohio to Virginia, recruiters now have an opening to add a female to the platoon. For the young man, the recruiter can point him to the local rehab center. Or maybe there is a minimum-security prison where he can take coding classes. Perhaps he can finally earn his degree there. But when he gets out, he won’t be joining the Marine Corps. Experts haven’t yet determined that criminal conviction is the type of diversity they are looking for.

Americans with common sense recognize that what the Naval Academy panel discussed is a serious national security issue. It is not an occasion for female empowerment. America’s political class continues giving billions to Ukraine—in 2022 alone, Congress and the Biden Administration authorized over $50 billion in aid—and fails to grasp the domestic dysfunction that is all around us. This is why they are not fit to be called “political leaders.” A leader cares about his or her own people. Our political and ruling class care about people they have never met. Nevertheless, the real emergency continues to exist on the home front, not in Eastern Europe.  

American men need purpose and meaning. They need the military—or something like the military—to inculcate structure and discipline into their lives. American men are broken. We need to tackle major economic and social issues that have reduced workforce participation and marriage rates, and increased deaths of despair from drugs and suicide. Rehabilitating broken American men should be our nation’s priority.

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

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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