With Glenn Beck out of the studio this week, substitute radio host Doc Thompson wasted no time skewing a newly released report by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission to spin a grand yarn about a supposed progressive conspiracy to promote minorities in the military over whites. From Glenn Beck:
THOMPSON: All right, a report to Congress says the U.S. military now has to become more diverse, which is a buzzword for not so white. Way too white, certainly at the top. The officers, way too many crackers. Way too many honkies. Too white at the top. Seventy-seven percent of the senior officers on active duty military, white. Can you believe that? Yeah. Eight percent black and only 5 percent Hispanic. Horrible, horrible numbers. Way too many white people. Let's get rid of them. Well, you've either got to throw out some of those bums, those white guys there, get rid of them, you know, and then, bring in some non-white people. Or, you could leave those white people there and just promote a whole lot more people, but promoting nobody that's white in order to bring up the percentages. I guess that's probably what they should do. I mean, you need greater diversity, right?
I know when I think about the honorable people who serve, you know what I think about? Is that guy white or black? Is he Hispanic? Oh. he's not Asian. is he? That's what goes through my mind. No. it doesn't. I look at them as honorable people, as people who are serving their country, and I respect them for their service, regardless of race. And I would hope that the military, in order to keep America safe, would promote the cream that rises to the top, the people that should be promoted. Call me crazy, but I would like to base it on merit, just like in the private workforce, not like unions. I want them to promote the people who should be promoted, the people in those positions, the people who can do the job. That's what I would like. But apparently there's a lot of people, a lot of progressives out there, that don't want people based on merit, they want them based on if they're not a white person. So the cracker quotient in the military, way too high.
There's just so much to unpack there. Let's start at the top with Thompson's claim that the report stated that the military was too white. Simply not true.
From the report:
Current and former military leaders have long argued that developing and maintaining qualified and demographically diverse leadership is critical for mission effectiveness (Becton et al., 2003; Lim et al., 2008). Specifically, they argue that the military should mirror the demographic composition of the population it serves and that senior leaders should mirror the demographic composition of the troops they lead.
Subsequent charts on page 41 of the report show that ethnic minorities are underrepresented when comparing percentages of enlisted personnel to those of officers. Further, women and minorities are underrepresented among senior enlisted and flag or general officer ranks. (An exception is found in senior enlisted racial minorities in the Army and Marine Corps, where it could be argued they are overrepresented.) For example, 18 percent of active duty enlisted troops are African-American, but only 8 percent of officers are.
The report then explains the value of diverse leadership:
Leaders from racial/ethnic and cultural backgrounds similar to those of the U.S. citizenry have the potential to inspire future servicemembers and engender trust among the population. Demographic similarities between the enlisted corps and its leaders can equally inspire and facilitate greater confidence. [...] Advancing understanding of how the military personnel life cycle both promotes and impedes members of underrepresented demographic groups from achieving leadership positions is a critical first step.
The report would like the demographics of the officer corps to reflect that of enlisted troops. It also favors demographics among senior officers in line with those of junior and mid-grade officers, and demographics for senior enlisted that reflect those of lower enlisted ranks. That's a far cry from suggesting that there are too many whites in the military.
Next, Thompson's insinuation that all this talk of diversity is at the hand of the big bad progressives is rather undercut by the vast and diverse military experience of the commission's members: active duty personnel, active and reserve retired officers and senior enlisted from all of the services, veterans of conflicts spanning World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Finally, let's tackle Thompson's suggestion that "a lot of people, a lot of progressives out there, that don't want people based on merit, they want them based on if they're not a white person." That assertion also has no basis in fact.
The report concludes with 20 recommendations, none of which come anywhere near suggesting whites be ejected from the military or promoting minorities or women ahead of white males. The seven pages of recommendations include such innocuous policy suggestions as leadership training and commitment, developing metrics and benchmarks to track progress toward a diverse personnel pipeline, an expanded applicant pool, improved recruiting, career development, an end to the combat exclusion policy for women, and widening the focus of the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services to include approaches to retention. The final recommendation is that Congress revise current law to require that the Secretary of Defense "ensure that all qualified candidates (including racial/ethnic minorities and women) have been considered for the nomination of every 3- and 4-star position." That is obviously not the same as promoting minorities over whites.
In other words, the report does not come close to claiming the "cracker quotient in the military" is too high or that minorities should be given preferential treatment over whites. Instead, it suggests that personnel policy should be crafted to ensure that the U.S. population cultivates qualified military applicants, that personnel are retained, and that women and minorities are given a fair shot at advancement. Which -- when considered along with the fact that its authors are experienced military leaders -- sounds less like some grand, hysterical progressive conspiracy to take back military success from "the man" and more like sound common sense.