Confidence and faith in our government leaders, officials, and institutions has waxed and waned since our founding, but for most of our history most Americans have held our military in high regard. The Vietnam years were a notable exception when political leaders failed to communicate the goals and most important win the political war, but President Reagan restored respect for the military. He provided the military with adequate resources, competent leadership, and most important he explained their purpose in rational and noble terms that motivated Americans to serve in or support our armed forces. Reagan inspired Americans to be proud of our country again and the military was central to that.
The past four decades our military consistently enjoyed the highest favorable public opinions of any governmental entity, but those opinions are slipping substantially. Last year’s catastrophic and embarrassing retreat from Afghanistan shook American confidence in the military to its core, but most people realized it was not the troops but rather a gross failure in leadership from the generals to the Commander-in-Chief. Other metrics are now showing the stature of our military has been damaged; recruiting and retention are at all-time lows.
All the services will fail to meet their recruiting goals this fiscal year with the Army not even at 50% with just one quarter to go. This is a huge problem because recruiting directly impacts “end strength” which when missed lowers military “readiness.” A very dynamic organization, the military requires a constant inflow of recruits to replenish the ranks, but it’s a long process because every member requires months, if not years, of training. “End strength” is the number of “trained” services members we need to man the units to accomplish the missions the military has determined are required to protect the nation. Every recruiting shortfall will show up downstream when we don’t have enough troops to complete our missions, and that’s “reduced readiness.” Big shortfalls like this can be disastrous.
Biden’s Department of Defense tells us that the competitive job market and high school shutdowns during COVID are to blame for perhaps the most abysmal recruiting year in half a century. Those factors may have had some affect, but it’s largely a misleading excuse.
Every problem is a leadership problem; and sadly, our military is suffering the worst leadership crisis in our history! The preponderance of Admirals and Generals have exhibited grave deficiencies in competency, integrity, and judgment, but they have an abundance of political ambitions and an overwhelming zeal for social justice and other nonsense that has NOTHING to do with readiness. Incredibly, executing military missions has become secondary to fulfilling politically correct prescriptions and quotas. It now seems defeat is acceptable in the pursuit of some perceived notion of diversity.
The Kabul debacle and ineffective responses to China, Russia, and Tehran reveal the growing incompetence of military leadership, but even worse they are frivolously chasing ghosts and dishonestly maligning our troops. Biden is convinced the Joint Chiefs told him the greatest threat to security is climate change and the Generals can only nod, but even if you believe in climate change, what can the military do about it?! It’s silliness that takes the military off mission.
Worse than that, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin started his tenure basically accusing the rank and file of racism by directing a month's long stand down to root out extremism! In any organization, there are always a few bad apples, but save intense patriotism is there is NO widespread extremism in the US military – it’s a cynical lie. So, the Defense Secretary advances the concept that America is such an inherently racist nation, he must purge the military of radical racists and then he and the brass are puzzled why no one wants to join and too few want to stay.
It’s actually bigger than that and something bigger is actually the key. Despite about a generation being indoctrinated to consider our country hopelessly flawed if not to outright hate America, many young Americans still want to serve their country and fellow man. Like those before them, they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, but they are not fools. They recognize dishonesty and nonsense.
They know defending the nation and preserving freedom is about protecting a country that upholds our Constitutional rights not about forgiving college loans, endless grievances dividing Americans, or the pursuit of everchanging pronouns. The military misses this fundamental point; they have feminized or personalized their recruiting to try to relate to individuals. But service members do not join to be individuals! Motivated by timeless principles and values, they seek to join an elite organization.
Tragically, the military’s answer is to just lower standards, so criminal records, lack of education, or poor fitness won’t matter – quality will surely decline more. Serving members see this and they suffer the leadership deficiencies firsthand, so many are leaving as soon as they can. Compounding the strain, DOD is senselessly discharging thousands of troops for refusing an unproven vaccine for a virus that poses negligible risk to healthy young people. Couple this impending readiness disaster with unbelievably inept military leadership and our national security is in jeopardy.
Our enemies know we have become soft “woke” fools, but they are training to be proficient in their tactics and tough. With the current woefully inadequate leadership and severely declining readiness, our military is at risk of failing when challenged. The crime and shame of all of this is it’s avoidable because we know what works, but we have purposely abandoned what works for what’s “woke.” If we lose another military challenge, it because our military was defeated from within.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8 pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at fmtalk1065.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on MEWE @PeteRiehm or read all his columns at http://www.renewamerica.com/.© Pete Riehm
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.