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OPINION

An Open Letter to the USAFA Superintendent

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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MICHAEL DINNEEN

You must put an end to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the United States Air Force Academy’s curriculum of study and culture. The idea that our country is irredeemably racist and systematically prevents certain classes of people from advancing and excelling because of their race or gender has no place in the training of future military officers.

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First, and most importantly, the philosophical premises underpinning DEI are immoral.

We simply cannot teach young cadets that the Air Force, as an institution, believes anyone is less (or more) valuable than anyone else because of the color of their skin. Or because of who their parents were. Or because they speak differently. Or because of where they’re from. As an institution, the military was at the forefront of eliminating these biases and prejudices from its ranks, and we cannot resurrect them by teaching a generation of cadets that racism is acceptable – provided its only applied to “those” people. This fashionable sophistry is the seed of rot, and we must not let it take root in our Air Force.

Second, application of DEI undermines the Air Force’s combat effectiveness.  

History teaches that competent, skillful, and daring leaders who can think better and faster than their adversaries and impose their will on them will win, and that the race, gender, and political beliefs of those leaders is immaterial. Hannibal was not a great military commander because he was African. Golda Meir was not admired as a leader and strategist because she was a woman, or Jewish. Conversely, Napoleon did not win victory after victory just because he was white, or a man. 

Contrary to these historical lessons, DEI teaches that a person’s innate traits and the accidents of birth do matter. This is folly, and it will prove costly when the theory is put to the test of combat. Professional soldiers know competency, moral courage, and character are the actual things that matter.

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An example: In the mid-to-late 1960’s the Air Force was slugging it out over the skies of North Viet Nam with an enemy that had constructed the most complex and deadly air defense system the world had ever seen. Over time, the North Vietnamese learned our tactics and operational tempo and used this knowledge to their advantage. The consequence was that the life-expectancy for American pilots was perilously short and morale among them was commensurately low. 

Enter Colonel Robin Olds. A double ace from WWII with an out-of-regulation handlebar moustache who led from the front, Olds assumed command of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing flying out of Ubon Air Base, Thailand. His leadership and the example he set for the pilots brought the warrior spirt back to the fight. Most notably, Olds and junior officers under his command devised “Operation Bolo,” an ingenious ruse that turned the tables on the North Vietnamese. In one mission, Olds and his pilots shot down seven enemy planes without a single American loss. The victory re-energized American pilots.

But what if, instead of a proven combat leader such as Olds, the Air Force decided it was more important the squadron commander be selected, at least in part, because she would be the first half-Indian, half-Jamaican woman to lead a forward deployed fighter squadron? 

Proponents of DEI are compelled to maintain there is no difference between the two, or that the perhaps the “diverse” commander would bring a different set of skills and attributes to the table. This is a terrifically consequential leap of faith that cuts against the accumulated wisdom of history, and if its proponents are wrong, will have consequences measured in American lives.

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After the war, then-General Olds served as the Academy’s Commandant of Cadets.

Which brings us full circle. 

The Academy, by design, is a cauldron of competition based on the premise that ability on the playing fields, in the classroom, or flight training always shines through. Within this environment, the only transcendent characteristic among cadets is ability, and the ingredients for success are immutable - hard work, initiative, and a healthy dollop of good ol’ fashioned grit.

“Diversity,” as currently practiced, appears to be in equal parts the veneration of victimhood mixed with an overt preference for groups of people based on their innate traits and characteristics. As a practical matter, “diversity” suggests the color of a cadet’s skin, or their combination of X and Y chromosomes, is somehow related to ability. This is inimical to the Academy’s mission.

Last year, under your watch, it was widely reported cadets received a briefing where they were instructed to avoid using loaded “gender specific” terms such as “Mom and Dad.” The controversy attracted enough attention to elicit an almost immediate letter from you to “Alumni, Parents, Cadets, Permanent Party & Supporters” reassuring them the briefing was “taken out of context and misrepresented.” Predictably, your letter attempted to draw the stage curtain across the episode and allay concerns about what happened by classifying the briefing as an example of the Academy’s broader commitment to “diversity.” 

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Merit and ability, Academy hallmarks, are no longer enough. By focusing on “diversity,” the highest performers will be evaluated based on something else. What that something else is has nothing to do with individual ability but zeros-in on innate characteristics over which cadets have no control.

Would Robin Olds care if his pilots used the terms “Mom and Dad?” 

If the answer is no, then why are we teaching this to cadets?

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