The leaders of our armed services extoll the value of diversity for military success. What does history tell us about this? We go to the Persians and the Mongols to find out.
Diversity and Military Success
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.”
“In the absence of orders, go find something and kill it.”
– Field Marshall Erwin Rommel
“We find the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline within their camps, and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war.”
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus
“There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.”
And – this is the REAL speech Patton delivered, not the cleaned-up one used in the movie; yes, that one was cleaned up…
“An army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, and fights as a team. This individual hero stuff is bullshit. The bilious bastards who write that stuff for the Saturday Evening Post don’t know any more about real battle than they do about fucking. And we have the best team — we have the finest food and equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity these poor bastards we’re going up against.”
– General George S. Patton Jr.
In a recent column for the Wall Street Journal, writer Andy Kessler, in a piece called, The Biden Loyalty Machine Administration insiders play by one rule: Never criticize other insiders, states, “In her 2014 book, “A Fighting Chance,” Elizabeth Warren describes advice she received from Lawrence Summers when he was Harvard’s president: “I had a choice. I could be an insider, or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People—powerful people—listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.” Kessler goes on to write, “And how about the military? In June 2021, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told Congress, “I want to understand white rage.” Then in a January letter to Sen. James Inhofe, Gen. Milley said U.S. service members had spent almost six million man-hours since Mr. Biden took office on “extremism stand-down” and “diversity, equity, and inclusion” training, including critical race theory.”
Milley himself also stated, “First of all, on the issue of critical race theory, et cetera. I’ll obviously have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is, but I do think it’s important actually for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. And I want to understand white rage, and I’m white, and I want to understand it. And in the United States, Military Academy is a university, and it is important that we train and we understand.”
Finally, Milley noted, “I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” he said. “So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?”
I want to take that last part first. Milley is doing the false equivalency thing. No, reading Mein Kampf certainly does not make one a Nazi, but my question is whether reading Mao makes one a superior officer. More fully to the point, is being diverse better for a military?
And it is not just Milley; former General and current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin joined in, “Diversity is really important to us. The … military has led the way in a lot of cases. With respect to Diversity, I’ve got to make sure that we continue to make strides. And I equate Diversity with being invited to the dance. Inclusion is actually being asked to dance.”
And the Commander in Chief President Joe Biden? An article in the Military Times, written in 2021, stated, “Biden signed an executive order on “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce” on June 25, charging the heads of federal agencies, the directors of OPM and the Office of Management and Budget, and the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with developing policies and practices to expand Diversity and inclusion of the federal workplace. Biden stated, “This order establishes that Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are priorities for my administration and benefit the entire federal government and the nation and establishes additional procedures to advance these priorities across the federal workforce. Kiran Ahuja, who was recently sworn in as OPM director, came under fire from conservative members of Congress for her previous support of critical race theory and was confirmed by a narrow 51-50 vote.”
For those of you with life who do not spend your time memorizing governmental acronyms, OPM stands for Office of Personnel Management and has oversight of Defense Department hiring practices.
First, we need to define Diversity as it is thought of on the left and is what is really being referenced by the leaders of our armed services. In that context, it is two simple things, race, and gender. The Supreme Court consists of nine people who matriculated from just two, and two only, Ivy League universities. They all clerked for other Supreme Court Justices. They were all professors and judges at district or appellate courts. None have owned businesses nor have a medical degree. None have been politicians like former Chief Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. None have been in an executive branch position similar to former Chief Supreme Court William Taft (who also did a stint as President). Yet, this court is diverse by the left’s standards because there are four women and two African Americans. Well, sort of. I find it infinitely fascinating that the left does not acknowledge Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barret with the same groundbreaking respect they reserve for their ideological like-minded.
So Diversity in this regard, or to use the now prominent term equity, would entail that our armed services should be about 50% Northern European descended, or better to say non-Latino, 30% Latino, 12% African American, and 5% Asian. Oh, and it should be roughly 50/50 men and women. But as those terms are now fluid, should there be about 10% representation from the LGBTQ communities? Obviously, this kind of makeup in a volunteer army is ludicrous to most senescent beings, which is why there is this pivot to diversity teachings. But let’s be clear about what critical theory, the foundation for Milley’s remarks, consists of.
The basis for this intellectual pursuit emanated from class warfare in the 1950s. The theory posited that societal inequities were not caused by poor policies, natural occurrences (famine, plague), and certainly not by individual choices. Instead, inequities were the result of class distinctions in the Marxist vein. If one person was wealthy and another poor, that had to do with the class to which they were born far more than any individual agency. In the 1980s, Critical Theory was adopted by academicians such as Derek Bell to explain inequities among races.
The race was at the center, dismissing everything from marriage rates to poor schools. At its core, critical theory creates a Manichean universe in which there are the haves and have-nots. Divisiveness is at the heart of something that begins with the term “Critical.”
In a Republic, where a majority of the people select leaders, divisiveness will be the norm. Everything from taxation to immigration to abortion is rife for argument. And there is education. Even my central, overriding premise of individual agency has to account for differentiated education. Inner-city children, laboring under the rule of the Teacher’s unions, will have a poorer education than those in a tony private school in a suburban enclave.
If we want a place with no debate, our Republic will look like China or North Korea. But the issue with CRT is that by defining the terms of the debate solely along race, we move back to something akin to the pre-Bellum south. There is a funny and poignant video called “When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything” from Ryan Long Comedy in which a wokist and racist agree on pretty much everything from wanting to define people by race to segregation.
Crazy thought but thinking we can do better? Someone could say I do not quite understand the differences because I am not black, and that is true. However, I am a pretty decent historian, and one thing that stands out in the historical record. Divisiveness and diversity do not translate well into the military setting.
Alexander of Macedon conquered the entirety of Greece, Egypt, the Persian Empire, and parts of India in less than 12 years. His army is instructive of his approach. The Battle of Gaugamela also called the Battle of Arbela, took place in 331 BCE between the forces of the Army of Macedon under Alexander the Great and the Persian Army under King Darius III. It was the second and final battle between the two kings and is considered the final blow to the Achaemenid Empire, resulting in its complete conquest by Alexander.
Darius fielded an army that was the definition of diverse. They included, and this is a truncated list; European Thracians, Paeonians, Medes, Achaean Greeks, Cissians, Hyrcanians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Bactrians, Sacae, Arians, Parthians, Caucasian Albanians, Sogdians, Caspians, Utians, Phoenicians, Judeans, Egyptians, Cyprians, Aegean islanders, Aeolians, Arabians, and even some Ethiopians.
I have studied ancient history for 30 years, and there were groups that I had never heard of. And each of these people brought their unique styles and weaponry. The army included cavalry, archers, slingers, chariots, heavy infantry, and even war elephants.
The Macedonian army, however, was far more similar in composition. Created by Alexander’s father, Phillip II, the new Macedonian army consisted mainly of Macedonians and other Greeks (especially Thessalian cavalry). Though there were other elements, these were not the core composition of the Macedonian Force. Darius’ host, on the other hand, aside from the well-trained, well-equipped 10,000 corps of Immortals, was represented by every province of the Empire and even from the Border States. Alexander’s army was primarily composed of three elements, heavy infantry in the famous phalanx, light infantry, and cavalry.
Yet it was not just the aspect of unity that represented Macedonian superiority but training. While Darius had a significant advantage in numbers, most of his troops were lower quality than Alexander’s. Alexander’s heavy infantry was armed with a six-meter pike, the sarissa. The main Persian infantry was poorly trained and equipped compared to Alexander’s heavy infantry. The Greek mercenaries fought in a phalanx, armed not with a heavy shield but with spears no longer than three meters, while the spears of the Immortals were two meters long. Among the other Persian troops, the most heavily armed were the Armenians, armed in the Greek way and probably fought as a phalanx.
In the Punic Wars, the Carthaginians pitted a primarily mercenary army against the citizen-soldiers of the Roman Republic. And even with the military genius of Hannibal Barca, they lost and saw their city ultimately destroyed. The legion numbered 5,000 men, and the maniples in the front lines were increased to 160 men each. Membership of each line was determined by age group: the hastati contained the younger men (up to 25 years old); the principes those in the 26–35 group; and the triarii, the older men (36–46). Each maniple was commanded by two centurions, one senior and one junior, elected by the unit’s members.
In the Punic Wars, the great ancient historian Adrian Goldsworthy notes that Hannibal’s army consisted of Gauls, Ligurians, Numidians, Libyans, Greeks, and especially Iberians. Troops were recruited both by simple monetary contracts and through partnerships established through treaties with other states and tribes. These troops represented everything from Greek heavy infantry to light infantry of the Libyans, cavalry from Numidia, and (as with the Persians) Hannibal’s famed elephants. War elephants were no doubt a terrifying sight for infantry and cavalry alike. Standing next to a 1,200 horse, one feels the weight and bulk. But they saw an 8,000-pound, 10 feet tall elephant bearing down on you must have been horrific. Nevertheless, these symbols of ultimate war diversity did not save the Persians, Hannibal at Zama, nor the Seleucids who commonly employed them.
Arguably the greatest conqueror of all time was Temujin, later Genghis Kahn. The leader of a destroyed clan, Temüjin, fought various rival clans and formed a Mongol confederacy, which in 1206 acknowledged him as Genghis Khan (“Universal Ruler”). The united Mongols were ready to move out beyond the steppe by that year. He adapted his method of warfare, moving from depending solely on the cavalry to using sieges, catapults, ladders, and other equipment and techniques suitable for the capture and destruction of cities. In less than ten years, he took over most of Juchen-controlled China; he then destroyed the Muslim Khwārezm-Shah dynasty while his generals raided Iran and Russia.
Yet the Mongol army’s core was mounted cavalry firing a recurve bow though they also carried swords. Six of every ten Mongol troopers were light cavalry horse archers; the remaining four were more heavily armored and armed lancers. Mongol light cavalry were extremely light troops than contemporary standards, allowing them to execute tactics and maneuvers that would have been impractical for a heavier enemy (such as European knights). Most of the remaining troops were heavier cavalry with lances for close combat after the archers had brought the enemy into disarray. Soldiers usually carried scimitars or halberds as well.
Here is a description how Genghis’ army from the Army University Press; thank God this type of thing exists though it should be noted the article was written in 1986 by Captain Dana Prittard, US Army. I will quote at length and invite you to contrast how Prittard thinks vs. that Milley.
“Genghis Khan’s use of initiative is legendary. No other commander in history has been more acutely aware of the fundamental importance of seizing and maintaining the initiative of constantly attacking, even when the strategic mission was defensive.2 The Mongols attempted to retain the initiative by continually keeping their enemies off-balance.
Before the beginning of an invasion, numerous spies and scouts would be dispatched to the target country. The spies would attempt to sow seeds of dissension while the scouts watched the enemy. Scouts also screened the movements of the Mongol army. As the time for the invasion approached, the spies and scouts created a veritable “war of nerves” among the enemy. They appeared as small armed parties of men at different entrances to the country and within the country, causing consternation and confusion.
At the outset of every invasion, the main Mongol army of typically three to five toumans (division-size forces of about 10,000 min each) would rapidly advance behind a screen of light horsemen in several roughly parallel columns on a broad front. Contact was constantly maintained through mounted couriers and a system of signaling. This formation permitted flexibility, particularly if the enemy was stronger than the Mongols or if his exact location was unknown. Depending on the situation, the column encountering the enemy forces would either fix the enemy or retire, depending on the situation…Their use of mobility kept enemy forces in movement, either forward or backward. They knew by experience that a courageous and unbroken civilized army would almost always advance against them, and a broken army would seek safety in flight away from them. Their maneuver prior to general engagement was explicitly intended to prevent the decisive battle. This was an interesting goal, to say the least.
Most successful armies in history, such as Napoleon Bonaparte’s, maneuvered their forces prior to an engagement to seek the decisive battle. The Mongols used the entire battlefield depth to keep enemy forces from gathering in strength to make a stand on favorable ground. Once enemy forces gathered insufficient strength, the Mongols normally refused to engage them directly. They, in turn, used the deep attack by merely fixing the enemy force with one touman and using the bulk of the Mongol army to terrorize the civilian population centers and destroy uncommitted forces and enemy support facilities. Quality, not quantity, and the organization’s simplicity were key to the Mongol army’s superior agility.
Am I suggesting that, like the Mongols, the U.S. army represents a single ethnicity, of course not. I am suggesting that focus, training, resources, discipline, and clarity of mission are paramount. One of the lessons of history, and my personal experience in business, is that organizations who try to be good at too much encounter failure. It is far better to be focused. Amazon is not an e-tailer as much as they are good at customer experience and logistics. Apple is good at taking complex computer systems and making them user-friendly. Should Amazon make electric cars or Apple open coffee bars? Some may suggest that when companies for 100 years have strayed from their mission, they often end up in bankruptcy. Sears began to see itself as more of a real estate company and a stockbroker. If they had remembered, they began and flourished by getting products to the consumer using a catalog they might be seized upon etailing. Today there is no Sears.
Am I saying that the military should lose Diversity of thought? Again no. Instead, I am saying that their views, however, differentiated, by whoever serves, black, white, Latino, straight, gay, trans, whatever, be laser-focused on protecting the American people. If a brigade made mostly of trans people could parachute into Tehran and take out Revolutionary Guardsman, then the more power to them. But their being Trans is entirely beside the point. Their ability to kill the enemy is the point. Part of the protection of the American people will be either the overt or suggested use of aggressive force that will destroy our enemies. That is the mission. Having the army serve as some sort of social justice experiment is not only unwise but possibly catastrophic if it not only diverges from the task but becomes a substitute for it. And it encourages our enemies to think that the dividedness inherent in critical race theory may lead to a weakened force.
The military is not like Congress, the academy, the business water cooler, or the town hall. As Patton and Rommel both said, it is killing in the most efficient manner. Yes, it is about protection, but that only comes when there is reluctance or downright fear of our military, of what would happen if a power attacked the United States.
Given the volunteer nature of the army, I could tolerate the “be all you can be” mantra of my childhood. But the Army of One slogan was just about the dumbest ad out there. That is like saying a marriage of one or a team of one. Whatever ad slogans are used to get recruits through the door, the reality is that an army is the ultimate team. Not a team to accomplish a business goal, win a debate, or put a rubber ball through an iron hoop, but a team to destroy an enemy while preserving one’s own, and in many cases with armies, the more critical lives of your teammates. Anything that digresses, divides, and distracts is simply dangerous.
It is fine for Milley to state that he reads many interesting books. I imagine that Patton did as well though I do not know the contents of his library. One book I do know that Patton read was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks. Amazon describes this tome as “Infantry Attacks is a classic text in the field of military strategy. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel wrote it; it was first published in 1937 as a journal-Esque chronicle of the author’s experiences in World War I and his lessons. In it, he provides detailed accounts of various military strategies that rely on speed, deception, and deep penetration into enemy territory to intimidate and surprise opposing forces.
Again, Milley can read comic books for all I care, as long as he does two things; he spends a few of his reading hours on military-type things and does not provide divisiveness and Diversity to divide the army and distract from its mission. Given the history of Critical Theory and what it has wrought today, I find it hard to believe that it help the armed services with their core mission.