“Where are the Admirals?” “Where are the Generals?” “Where are my Fellow Veterans?”
Jeff M. Lewis – Commander, US Navy (Ret)
April 22, 2021
Somebody needs to say it… Somebody needs to ask…
On 17 August 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower prescribed a Code of Conduct for members of the Armed Forces of the United States. The purpose behind establishing the Code of Conduct was to inform and equip each service member serving in a combat unit of their basic responsibilities when engaged in combat, or if they were captured by enemy forces. Containing six articles, the first and sixth articles are particularly impactful reminders of the mission of the Armed Forces, and the complete dedication required of each member to complete their mission.
“I am an American fighting in the forces that guard my country and our way of life,
I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”
“I will never forget that I am an American fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
A firm belief in the unique and moral character of the United States, the freedoms from which we all benefit and which we endeavor to see spread to every nation, along with the desire to serve our country are of primary importance to recruiting a skilled and talented, all-volunteer military force. These beliefs and the desire to serve must be evidenced in each member of the military, as well as the development of one’s loyalty to their brothers and sisters in arms. These tenets are foundational to the purpose and effectiveness of the Code of Conduct. To go into combat, one must fully believe that the cause and purpose of the United States is just and morally upright. Furthermore, each member of the Armed Forces must be fully committed to one another, and fully committed to accomplishing their mission – to fight and win. A study of the wars fought in the 20th century, and of the testing endured by those who were captured and held as Prisoners of War, has on numerous occasions revealed the vital importance of this foundational relationship between fellow service members, their belief in the cause for which they are fighting, and their belief in the United States of America.
Without it, how would the United States ever have prevailed in armed conflict?
As a 20-year Veteran of the United States Navy, I was taught this Code of Conduct and instructed in the responsibilities that accompanied my service. I was taught Core Values that would enable me to develop attitudes and behaviors that also embody and represent the best of America’s values and founding principles. I have seen that fairness, equity, and equal opportunity are inherent and relentlessly instilled in the military’s culture. Importantly as well, I have seen the concomitant diversity that is the natural by-product of this culture, because it rewards hard work, talent, and the ability for their own sake, for their undeniable merit, and for the betterment and preservation of America itself.
Therefore, training the institution of the Armed Forces of the United States in Critical Race Theory, with its core belief that America and her citizenry are irredeemably racist, along with the tenets of “white supremacy,” “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “white fragility,” and “systemic” or “institutional racism,” represent a pernicious and destructive path that must be avoided. Critical Race Theory does not build up, it tears down; there is nothing aspirational or uplifting about it. And as a springboard to establishing “diversity” as a goal unto itself, as its own concurrent priority, the inculcation of these values will not equip the military to succeed at their first, and most important goal – to fight and win in armed conflict.
Critical Race Theory is antithetical to the principles that are taught by each branch of the military, particularly as they are taught in “boot camp” or “basic training.” This entry-level training – and the arduous nature of the entire experience of indoctrination into military service – must necessarily diminish within each recruit or candidate their individual identity and replace it with the aspirational goal of becoming part of a successful, elite team, with its own service’s unique culture and esprit de corps. Each recruit or candidate, no matter their own personal desires or goals which led them to volunteer for military service, must set aside their own individuality and self-centeredness and instead dedicate themselves wholly to becoming a member of the Team. Critical Race Theory, by contrast, undermines the necessary team building and teaches that we should expect our interactions with others to be based solely according to race. Nothing could be further from reality when each branch of service in the Armed Forces acts in accordance with their core values and the guiding principles which have made America truly exceptional in human history.
So, I must ask… “Where are the Admirals?” “Where are the Generals?” Just as important, where are my fellow Veterans and why are we allowing what we should be able to discern as a crass, purely political, fraudulent, and destructive ideology to erode the foundations of military service and success? Why are we silent while these toxic and corrosive ideals are taught to our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines?
The negative impact is easy to foresee and calculate. Will a service member’s supposed “privilege” be imagined as the determining factor for their success? Or will the supposed lack thereof be blamed for their failure? Will the undermining notion of an individual’s “privilege” improve teamwork and effectiveness, or will the supposed lack thereof diminish their achievements, their earned authority, and credibility? Instead, this subterfuge is more likely to create enmity, jealousy and strife that will erode the traits needed for the unit’s cohesion in the stress of deployed service or combat. Will a service member’s race be seen as what has “systemically” placed them in their position of rank and authority, or will the “institution” be the explanation for why one may not have risen and achieved the standards necessary for promotion?
According to Critical Race Theory, if one is not a person of color, then their success is not a result of their hard work, talents, and abilities, but is an ill-gotten gain. However, in the U.S. military the long-standing and widespread success of tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of service members from every race, ethnicity, and every walk of life provides a firm and factual refutation of the theory. How can it be factually and honestly asserted that, as it has been so broadly and generally ascribed, that in America, racism is “part of our DNA?” Those who volunteer for military service are representative of our nation, therefore if America’s “DNA” is irredeemably, unalterably racist, all its institutions would be cast from the same, so-called unchanging and irredeemably flawed mold.
If then, there is an undeniable history of equal opportunities for advancement and achievement for all service members, does Critical Race Theory have any value as a course of instruction for the Armed Forces? It does not because neither America nor her military is “irredeemably racist” cultures or institutions. To the contrary, the military has made many positive changes over the years, and the very existence and the undeniable success of an already-diverse military provide its own irrefutable testimony to the greatness of the nation its members take an oath to defend – with their own lives, if necessary.
My own “real-world” experience has shown me that each and every unit commander who upholds by word and deed, and who consistently enforces the principles that are in accordance with the Constitution of the United States and in accordance with the core values and guiding principles which define their branch of service – which is their duty to do – will eschew any attitudes of race defining outcomes. To the contrary, each unit and each service member in their command is enabled and empowered to meet every opportunity and challenge and to succeed. The command structure of the United States military and its meritocracy – the merit-based system of performance evaluation and promotion – are what have in the past and will continue in the future to guarantee an overwhelmingly “color-blind” system of achievement that benefits not only the individual, but their Team, and our country.
Accessions to military service and to the opportunities that are contained therein, if provided to individuals based disproportionately on race, gender, ethnicity, or other factors, will not secure future success for our military. This has been proven to be true, and the practice of denying an individual the opportunity to serve based solely on race, gender, etc. was acknowledged as a flawed approach and has largely been discarded. However, certain specialized units that take on unique missions which require specialized skill sets, as well as demonstrated physical and mental abilities, have continued to adhere to their own, time-tested standards (US Navy Seals, USMC Recon, and US Army and US Air Force Special Forces). Based on the critical nature of their missions and the importance of their success in combat, those unique standards must remain in place and be considered inviolable.
There are a variety of sport’s analogies that can be instructive. Consider a basketball team; it is well-known and widely accepted that any good coach would select a team of the highest possible talent. It is also well-known, widely evidenced, and accepted that the sport of basketball is dominated by African Americans because of their physical attributes and the superlative athletic prowess required to excel at the sport. Therefore, any good coach – who would have been hired primarily to lead their team to win – would select team members who had the exceptional ability and talent to be part of a winning team. Diversity, for diversity’s sake, would be far down the list of priorities for the team to achieve their goal.
If the Armed Forces of the United States, in conjunction with their primary mission to fight and win, desire to field a military force (and promote leaders within its ranks) who are more proportionally representative of the population of the country, then those efforts must start at least a generation ahead of time. The time to begin recruiting and informing America’s youth about the high calling and the unique opportunities associated with military service is when these children begin their education. Our children must know they have a Future Story, and their story will lead them to hope and to have aspirational goals that are greater than themselves. They must be taught what is exceptional about America, about why America is a beacon of freedom in the world, and why we as a nation have the high calling to actively advocate – and sometimes to fight – for the freedoms we enjoy. There is much in our history that is shameful, much in our current culture that needs improvement. We should never hide from nor dismiss those truths but face them head-on and take on the challenge of ensuring every American has equal access to the blessings of Freedom. If America expects to continue to field a military force that is second-to-none in its talent, technology, and ability to win, America must raise up the patriots who will be willing to serve the nation and serve alongside their brothers and sisters from all walks of life, from every corner, every avenue, hill, and dale of the nation.
Critical Race Theory, and the resulting ideology which is sweeping across the nation, along with the misrepresentation of America’s history and culture inter-changeably as “systemically racist” or “institutionally racist,” and on which every societal ill and the unequal outcome is blamed, is a divisive and destructive lie. There is nothing inherent in these ideologies, these attitudes, and the hatred for America they espouse that is beneficial to anyone, and much less to the United States military.
So, again I need to say it… I need to ask… Where are the Admirals? Where are the Generals? Where are my fellow Veterans? Why are we allowing this racist cancer to infect the ranks of the most educated, most talented, and most lethal military to ever exist in human history?
Jeff M. Lewis is a retired Commander who served in the United States Navy for 20 years, flying the A-6E “Intruder” and the FA-18 “Hornet.” He is a self-employed small business owner and resides with his family in South Texas.
Published and Distributed by the Stand Up America Foundation.