- - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Uniforms are “uniform” for a reason. The military requires hair to be cut to a certain length, tattoos must not overtake the neckline, crawl under short sleeves or otherwise showcase an inked army of one. An effective fighting force requires discipline, camaraderie and professionalism above all else. President Obama has other ideas.

The old way of thinking, that got us through Valley Forge, Belleau Wood, the Normandy beaches and the Ia Drang Valley, was that every soldier is “part of something larger.” All branches of the military prohibit racist, extremist and gang-related tattoos, and the Army is the strictest of all, banning tattoos below the elbow or knee.

Before 2003, the Navy and Marines enforced a “25 percent rule” that restricted the size and number of tattoos, and in 2006 allowed visible tattoos smaller than an extended hand.

In Mr. Obama’s military, it’s time to accessorize. The Defense Department now says scarves, beards, turbans, yarmulkes, some jewelry and visible tattoos will enable the uniformed services to allow “individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs.”

The directive was inspired by Army Maj. Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a Sikh, who told a congressional briefing about his desire to wear a turban and maintain an uncut beard.

So when the battlefield calls, a Muslim soldier can take comfort in his beard and prayer beads, a Sikh sailor can wear a turban and hope he’s not mistaken for a radical Islamist. Wiccan ladies who practice “Magick” can seek accommodation in their own way. Airmen with yarmulkes will simply need to keep it from going airborne in a brisk wind.

It’s difficult to credit this to a sudden interest in religious freedom, considering that the Air Force wants to strike the words “so help me God” from the oath airmen take, the Army sanctioned a sergeant because he served sandwiches from Chick-fil-A at his promotion party — the founder of Chick-fil-A says his religious faith teaches him that men and women marry only each other — and Army theologians want chaplains to skip Bible passages that condemn the practice of homosexuality.

Lost in this obsession with political correctness is the idea that the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines are expected to fight and win wars.

The changes that Mr. Obama, who has never worn the uniform, makes to the military are designed to strike at the traditional values that make a fighting force more effective. But there are no casual Fridays on the battlefield.