“Leave no one behind” has been the American warrior’s ethos for decades. It is ingrained in the Army Ranger’s Creed: “Leave no fallen comrade behind.” It is the reason they searched so desperately for Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, the Lone Survivor, and so many others throughout our country’s history who have been separated from the team in the heat of battle. As a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, the Marines who trained us beat accountability into us to ensure we take care of our own — always.
These are the core values service members carry with them, and these are the values that attract young Americans to join the armed forces. That is, until Joe Biden became commander-in-chief.
In fiscal year 2022, the Army missed its recruitment goals by 25 percent. The Navy was able to barely meet its quota by rolling forward recruits and padding their numbers before the end of the fiscal year. This caused a deficit for fiscal year 2023, so the Navy’s solution was to accept recruits with lower entry level test scores.
With the strategic mistakes of President Biden, such as the Afghanistan retreat, paired with puzzling Pentagon priorities, it’s no wonder recruitment is at an all-time low.
I watched in horror as the images of the fall of my native Saigon repeated themselves in 2021 in Kabul. A few short months after my last combat deployment, the Afghans I worked with clung desperately to aircraft and pounded at the airport gates. The worst image of all was when eleven Marines, one sailor and one soldier were killed by a suicide bomber outside Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport as the evacuation occurred. These servicemen and women were left out there to guard a patch of land their commander-in-chief had given up. Days later, as their bodies were ceremonially paraded off a C-17, he was seen checking his watch when he should have been paying his respects. Why would anyone join the military when the ethos of “leave no one behind” is just a catchy phrase that no longer holds any substance?
This administration has a growing obsession with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI, a college campus fad that teaches America is fundamentally racist and can only be fixed by discriminating against American males with European ancestry. DEI is unpopular in the military, a place where troops may be rightfully hesitant to serve under a commander selected for the color of his skin rather than the content of his character.
Elite organizations and individuals are not inclusive. They are rigidly exclusive. Not everyone gets to be a doctor, or an astronaut, a Navy SEAL or a starting center in the NBA. We respect those professions for the same reason recruits are drawn to them, because those who make the cut have worked hard and earned their place. It’s unsurprising that the service that is consistently hitting its recruitment target, the Marines, pride themselves on being the best of the best. Their very slogan is exclusive in nature, “the few, the proud, the Marines.” It is not “join the Marine Corps, any schlub can do it.”
When announcing their priorities in 2021, the Biden Pentagon ranked odd and naked political priorities right next to China in terms of importance. Climate change, right-wing extremism and Covid-19 were considered just as a dire a threat as the People’s Liberation Army. Young Americans don’t join the Army to fight climate change, that is a job for scientists and engineers. They don’t join to root out domestic extremists, that is a job for law enforcement. And they don’t join to obsess over gender, sexual orientation and skin color, that is a job for weird humanities professors.
If we want to turn the tide on the impending national security threat we face from historically low recruitment numbers, then we must go back to a blind recruiting standard where race, sex and sexual orientation do not matter, because things like death, hardship and war are indiscriminate. The recruiting challenge is hard enough already. Only 23 percent of Americans aged 17-24 qualify for military service. External factors such as low unemployment, foolish Covid-19 policies that kept recruiters out of high school, and a rising teen obesity rate contribute to the problem, but it’s a problem that the Pentagon cannot control.
What military leaders can control is the slow creep of naked political impulse into a once apolitical institution. The fundamental problem with progressives is that they replace things that work with things that don’t. We are witnessing that in real time. Unfortunately for Americans of all political stripes, our national defense is the one thing that must work.