From the Civil War through today, 90 African Americans have been awarded our nation’s highest medal for valor, the congressional Medal of Honor. In the aftermath of the Second World War and grievous assaults made upon returning African Americans who honorably served our nation, President Harry Truman, in 1948, desegregated America’s armed forces. Though his action was immediate, its implementation was met with resistance of varying degrees throughout the country.
America has come a long way since that momentous and correct decision. The military is the last place where the color of one’s skin should matter at all; only the content of one’s character.
Horace Russell is a decorated officer whose career marked this vital journey.
I am privileged to know those who served beside Russell, and it is through them that I have learned his story. Russell began his Air Force career by being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1958. Years later, he would tell his closest friends that he initially had to fight to gain admission to an officer’s club because he was African American, though the Air Force had been desegregated years before.
Horace broke through this illegal barrier. He received his doctorate. in aerospace engineering from Purdue University and went on to serve on Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council staffs.
Subsequently, Russell was appointed deputy director for the National Strategic Target List, which governed America’s employment of strategic nuclear weapons. Within one military career, Russell went from being denied admission to an officer’s club to being charged with one of the most important jobs in the world, for which flawless character and service are prerequisites.
This is America’s story. It is one of dynamism issuing from intrepidity.
It is impossible to imagine Russell’s journey to have happened in any other country but the United States. Russell died in 2019, but his legacy continues to motivate generations who serve in our armed forces.
America’s military, however, is now in danger. Truman’s executive order brought people of all races together to build a better, stronger America, but now leftist, “woke” academicians seek to destroy our nation’s hard-fought progress.
Our security rests on the capabilities of the men and women who serve. They must be trained to fight and win and have the tools to do so. But what if their training is corrupted to enforce political ends, subverting the military’s warrior ethos? What Russell fought to achieve will be lost and, with it, our ability to defend our nation.
Our nation’s military power is being eroded by the imposition of anti-American values through training regimes that repackage Marxist dogma under the guise of equity, inclusion and “wokeness.” Racism is proposed as the arbiter in all relationships and is supposedly still concealed within the fabric of America’s military institutions.
Though our services have vanquished systemic racism, the Pentagon has now decided to subtly push instances of it through the imposition of countervailing racism, by inducing antagonism and gross attribution in what passes for “training.” Occurrences of racism cannot be fought with more racism. Prejudicial offenses to humanity and to military order must be extinguished through leadership, not bureaucracy.
As a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and as a former tank officer who faced the Soviet Union, I can think of no more damaging affront to our nation’s security than pitting our servicemen and women against each other based upon the melanin in their skin.
There can be only one standard in our military: excellence. Anything else will undermine the core values of faith, honor, duty and service to others that are the pillars of our military power.
But that is not the case in today’s military or its sacred training institutions. West Point is now employing aspects of critical race theory in its administration, a manufactured framework that posits that racism is inextricably tied to America’s foundational institutions, including our military. The Air Force, for its part, extolls valuation based upon, “identity, culture and background.” Thus, emphasis is placed on appearances at the expense of unity and contribution. These are not solutions but command inadequacies.
On its “Foundational” reading list for sailors, the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program included Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist.” Every soldier swears an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Mr. Kendi refers to our foundational document as “a color-blind Constitution for a White Supremacist America.” Such a stance undermines military order and is antithetical to the principles for which our soldiers fight. In response to intense pressure, this book has just been dropped from this year’s reading list.
It is a shared purpose that has forged America’s armed forces into a band of brothers and sisters who look far beyond their superficial differences to fortify themselves within the common bonds of humanity that God has bestowed. We must never let these bonds be broken; we must stamp out political indoctrination and the perverse assertion that Americans be separated by race.
The Biden administration’s insistence that our military is beset by racial injustice, crowds out necessary training and the maintenance of complex weapon systems. This will inevitably cause unnecessary deaths in combat training and severe losses in time of war.
The emphasis on indoctrination has also served to deprioritize the fielding of new weapons desperately needed by our country. Let us return to greatness through our comprehension that we are one people; let us honor, through our actions, Russell’s illustrious legacy.
• Michael R. Pompeo served as the 70th U.S. secretary of state from 2018 to 2021 and director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2017 to 2018.