Thursday, April 20, 2017

Diversity Thursday

It has been a month, and it is time.

Unlike most DivThu, I'm not going to be making many of the points, I will let others do that for me.

This doesn't quite fit as a DivThu either, but in the end it does because the same tactics used by Diversity Bullies who work out their own demons and insecurities on an isolated, undefended target are in play ... and if I had one I had 100 requests that I say something.

So, here you go.

Think about where you went to college. Does this meet the standards of a "Distinguished Graduate Award?"
Mr. Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, receiving a special commendation for his leadership contributions. First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer’s Basic School, he served as a rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1975.

Mr. Webb served in Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he led the fight to include an African American soldier in the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall. In 1984 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and in 1987 became Secretary of the Navy.

He was a Fall 1992 Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

In addition to his public service, Mr. Webb has enjoyed a varied career as a writer. He taught literature at the Naval Academy. Traveling widely as a journalist, he received an Emmy Award for his PBS coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, and in 2004 was embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. A screenwriter and producer, his original story “Rules of Engagement” held the top slot in U.S. box offices for two weeks in April 2000. Mr. Webb has written ten books, including “Born Fighting,” a sweeping history of the Scots – Irish culture, and “Fields of Fire,” widely recognized as the classic novel of the Vietnam War.

Mr. Webb has six children and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Hong Le Webb. He speaks Vietnamese and has done extensive pro bono work with the Vietnamese community dating from the late 1970s.
Unspoken, of course - he was also a Senator.

But ...
Female U.S. Naval Academy alumni are protesting an award given to Jim Webb, a decorated Vietnam veteran, former senator, and secretary of the Navy, because he argued against women in combat nearly four decades ago.
I'll save you all the emoting by people about how other people used Webb's article to hurt their feelings. You can read the whole article from 1979 here.

I'll let Aaron MacLean at the Free Beacon outline a few thinking points;
The most widely cited reason for his political toxicity is an article he wrote in 1979 (side note: almost forty years ago!) in Washingtonian Magazine entitled "Women Can't Fight." Never mind that he has apologized for both the vivid language of his youth and the ways in which the article made life difficult for women already in the service. ("Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article. To the extent that this article subjected women at the Academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.") Never mind the fact that Webb was channeling the beliefs of the vast majority of his fellow infantrymen, if in somewhat impolitic language—or that even today, the vast majority of Marines of all grades oppose the inclusion of women in combat units. Never mind that in 1987, as secretary of the Navy, Webb opened a tremendous number of new positions in the service to women. Most of all, never mind that as of December 2015, combat units were all opened to women by order of then-Secretary of Defense Carter, overriding the objections of the Marine Corps (though not of the Army).

In other words, the proponents of including women in combat units have won. But, as the case of Webb shows, that's not enough. You have to salt the fields.

Returning to our midshipman, here is what the Naval Academy has taught you this week:

- Do not take a bold stand, especially in public. It does not matter if your argument is made honestly and in good faith, or if you are an expert on the matter of policy under discussion.
- Keep a keen sense of which way the political wind is blowing. Don't fight it—drift with it.
- No matter the number of your accomplishments or their objective prestige, you will be humiliated for once having promoted a Wrong Opinion.
- The more effectively and memorably you promoted the Wrong Opinion, the greater your punishment will be.
That is about right.

Captain Gary Storm, USN (Ret.) President of the USNA Class of '68 also made some great points;
... as Secretary of the Navy. It led to a historic increase in the opportunity for women to serve at sea and ashore. Jim approved tightening the Navy’s definition of “combat mission” to open nearly 9,300 sea billets to women. Aviation opportunities were also increased by authorizing women to serve with shore-based reconnaissance squadrons. These changes significantly increased the opportunities for women to serve in major command billets—an important factor in enhancing their career progression and prospects for promotion.

One of our classmates, Karl Krumbholz, was a member of the panel that researched and contributed to the writing of the Navy’s study in 1987. “As a Commander,” he said, “I was on the Sexual Harassment and Fraternization Panel. This was an enormously educational experience for us and raised awareness of women’s issues within the Navy. It clearly helped Jim make changes that improved the environment and opportunities for women going forward in their careers. The members of our study group brought a spectacular focus and desire to do a good job. In my view, as a former commanding officer, the study group’s recommendations that Jim approved were well beyond the thinking of my contemporaries at the time.”
Again, what more can this NROTC guy say?

For your additional ponderings about how and why Webb was attacked now, in the way he was; Rule 12 from Saul Alinsky;
"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
You operationalize it as such.
You don’t communicate with anyone purely on the rational facts or ethics of an issue”. ... “moral rationalization is indispensable,” ... “clothe” one’s goals and strategies with “moral arguments”. But there can be no conversation with one’s opponents, for to converse with them is to humanize them.
My instincts were right to wait a month to comment on this sad little occurrence - mostly because I had to digest my own complicated feelings about Webb that long time members of the Front Porch are familiar with, no reason to go there again.

A month ago I was not all that happy that he backed out from receiving the award like he did, as it fit a pattern of his, but now I am having second thoughts.

I realized that I needed to look at his decision in the context of the cultural reference we both share; we are both from Old Line Scots-Irish families. When I think about it that way, it is all clear.

He dearly loves the Naval Academy. What he loves is weak and under the power of a force that is foam-flecked and inflexible. Nothing he could do by his presence would do any anything but to give that power more reasons to abuse and hurt that which he loves, as he was powerless to stop it and was without support. As such, there was no honorable option but to back away in sadness and regret - sadness and regret of what time and ill-treatment by others had done to the object of his affection.

He made the right call. Those who insist on judging people by what they said over 37 years ago and ignoring all they did afterwords - I hope in the future you are judged by the same standard.

Update: Did you know that there is a #DiversityThursday hashtag on facebook ... but none of the posts here (where it started) use it?

Instead, it is a happy tag by the Diversity Industm.ry. Huh. Shame if something should happen to it. Ahem.

No comments: