PRUDEN: A grim message for the generals

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s a reason why Barack Obama is mistrusted in the ranks of the military services. He doesn’t smell of the hive, and it shows. Bees recognize a hostile intruder when they see one, and so do soldiers, sailors and Marines.

Many of these soldiers, sailors and Marines feel betrayed by the senior officers of the services, beginning with the commander in chief. The old customs and traditions that have held the services together through war and peace have been scorned and trashed, replaced with the politically correct attitudes and regulations that gag real men. Even saying so is a sure way for an officer to ruin a career. The men in the ranks understand this, too.

The Army’s Center for Army Leadership at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., asked 16,800 commissioned and noncommissioned officers whether they think “the Army is headed in the right direction to prepare for the challenges of the next 10 years.” Their answers, as reported by CNS.com, ought to be enough to scare a commander in chief straight. His defense chief, too. But it won’t, because they’re exactly the men responsible for the survey results.

Only 26 percent — 1 man in 4 — say they think the Army is on track to continue as the scourge of evildoers who yearn to do the republic ill. Nearly 40 percent say the service is headed in the wrong direction, and 36 percent say they don’t have an opinion (and no doubt if they did, they’re smart enough to keep it to themselves).

The pessimists — or “realists,” as they might be called — cite two reasons. One is the hollowing out of the military as proposed by President Obama, and the other is the stifling effects of the politically correct run amok. They don’t understand why the men entrusted to manage the Army go along without protest with the nonsense mandated by the White House. Generals and admirals, just like shavetail lieutenants, know who punches their tickets.

Both President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta are continuing to “evolve,” but to what end we yet know not. This year, the president decreed that the armed services, hollowed out or not, “must” celebrate “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month,” and Mr. Panetta cheerfully agreed: “During Gay Pride Month, and every month, let us celebrate our rich diversity and renew our enduring commitment to equality for all.”

You don’t have to pass on Gay Pride Month to wonder what taking pride in what’s in a gay soldier’s skivvies has to do with the fighting spirit that is the mark of an army ready to meet a foe. Speaking of “equality,” Mr. Panetta has not yet ordered a month set aside to celebrate the contributions of black soldiers, Hispanic soldiers, lady soldiers or the soldiers descended from Scots-Irish forebears who have shaped and led the Army from its origins in the Revolution.

A public display of affection — a “PDA,” as it was called in the “old” Army — has traditionally been discouraged in the ranks, discouraged long before anyone thought to ask and when there was nothing scandalous to tell. The Army has always had unforgiving rules about personal conduct. Commissioned officers have been court-martialed for adultery. Cuddles and kisses were nice, but not necessarily on the firing range or in uniform and on the street. Discipline, dignity and self-restraint were always recognized as crucial to good order.

But now gay soldiers (and merely cheerful soldiers) are encouraged to march in uniform in gay-pride processions, to carry aloft the flag, ribbons or even one of the 5-foot papier-mache penises so popular in San Francisco parades. Gens. Philip Sheridan, John J. Pershing and George S. Patton would not recognize their Army.

Barack Obama, whose views have only recently “evolved,” probably doesn’t think very much about the military, except when he’s on duty with SEAL Team 6, hogging credit for chasing down bad guys in Afghanistan. In modern America, as politicians like Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton have shown by example, military service is a grim task to be avoided. Even with expert coaching, in eight years as commander in chief, Bubba never learned to properly return a salute. But like President Obama, he was eager to report for photo-op duty with authentic heroes.

The men in the ranks are as dedicated and as eager to serve as their fathers and grandfathers ever were, and they deserve selfless leadership from the top. High-tech weaponry, wondrous as it may be, and politically correct attitudinizing, as warm and fuzzy as it may make generals and admirals feel, are never substitutes for leadership. That’s the message in the Army’s leadership survey. Mr. Romney, take note.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Wesley Pruden

Wesley Pruden

Editor Emeritus — American journalist legend and Vietnam War author James Wesley Pruden, Jr. is Editor Emeritus of The Washington Times. Pruden’s first job in the newspaper business dates back to 1951 as a copyboy at the now defunct Arkansas Gazette where he later became a sportswriter and an assistant state editor. In 1982, he joined The Washington Times, four ...

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