Americans have always been a ragtag bunch in battle. Immigrants have always fought under an American banner. So have Native Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, and women. To be sure, such service was not always rewarded equally — but then again, it was not always so revered as it is today. That, too, was a social advancement.
So from the very beginning of our American social experiment, the arms of the nation have been wielded by a diversity of peoples; it just took this long for us to get this far.
We are hardly unique this way. Almost 33 centuries ago, in the very first battle that we have good enough records to understand, Ramses II held off the Hittites at Kadesh with a force of Egyptians, Nubians, Sherdens, and Canaanites. His enemy had nineteen allies.
Contrary to tedious conservative talking points about “social experiments,” armies and navies have always been melting pots. War brings many strangers together, an inherently social activity. Most Central European land armies have been polyglots, some more successful than others; a flagrant homosexual taught Americans to fight like a Central European army, and all through the uniting language of drill.
Germany, where violent nationalism reached a zenith in the 20th Century, saw its military forced by necessity to expand the zone of racial-ethnic-religious acceptability to dozens of peoples before the Third Reich fell. Israel became a modern nation because Jews from all around the world have fought as one to forge and preserve the Israeli state, which has led the world on inclusive recruitment policy.
To have an army large enough to defend itself, even the most homogenous nation must recruit people from a diversity of locales within its borders, a cacophony of accents and cultures and tastes. A country as big as America needs not just many warriors, but many different kinds of warriors in its ranks. Indeed, the missions of the age require skills and knowledge that are unavailable through other means.
With so much practical and historical evidence against the proposition that fit volunteers of some sort should be excluded from military service, you would think that America’s conservatives would stop trying to block anyone from enlistment, for any reason — gender, nationality, faith, whatever. But they still do, and for some reason the world still lets conservatives get away with saying so.
The military is not a social experiment. Finally a POTUS who understands the concept. Political correctness=intellectual dishonesty!
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) July 26, 2017
I don’t mean to pick on Tomi Lahren, who seems nice. But all militaries are social experiments to some degree, and that is not “political correctness.” It is common bloody sense, pun intended. Arguments otherwise are never, ever honest.
Donald Trump was lying in his tweets. Not only were the Joint Chiefs unaware of the president’s decision, they were not consulted on it as he claimed. Rather, Steve Bannon and Mike Pence seem to be running a social experiment of their own on America’s military forces in hopes of tearing apart the American civic contract.
By pushing the Pentagon to stop accepting immigrants and even help deport them, they propose to make the United States military both dumber and less diverse. Transgender policy reversal is red meat for the Breitbart base as well as a barrier to wider social acceptance for transgender people. In their eyes, this is a win-win scenario for the culture wars. Militaries shape nations as much as they are shaped by them. Many of the most influential political voices in Trump’s ear hope to reshape America this way.
Sixty-nine years before Trump’s ominous tweets, President Harry Truman — himself a veteran — issued the executive order for racial integration of military service. Gen. Omar Bradley criticized the decision, saying that the military was no place for “social experiments.” He later apologized for being so ridiculous.
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