General Milley, Chief of the Joint Chiefs, addressed the 21 ROTC commissionees out of the Howard University Class of 2021.
As with most politicians, his words can be revealing, if you know where to look.
Speaking at the HCBU Howard, he asks “Where are the African American Generals?” He might have asked where the Black generals were, but the media corrected him on that. As part of the Biden administration, he is allowed no evil or untoward intention. Milley’s point that 2% of the pilots forty years ago were Black, and that this percentage persists today, and that only 2 of 41 (5%) four star generals are Black, might actually speak to different challenge – a challenge of perspective, as this 2019 demographic fact sheet illustrates.
If Black Americans are 16% of the military, and currently 5% of the four star ranked officers, we may not have a performance or a promotion problem, as much as an evolutionary one. Today’s four star general was likely commissioned 35 years ago, where the number of minority lieutenants was far lower than today. For example, in the mid-1980s, around 70 of West Point’s 1000 newly commissioned officers were Black, a percentage of 7%.
Focusing on low pilot numbers could indeed speak to an overall national statistic of minority pilots in the commercial arena, where we find 3% Black commercial pilots. A trend that is improving daily, and for which “improvement” in the trend is somewhat irrelevant, as piloting an airplane remains a field where performance is still a primary focus, and poor performance tends to eliminate poor performers of all creeds, colors and genders.
Two key questions we’d ask at the Pentagon upon hearing of a promotion to Flag officer was either “when did he or she get the lobotomy” or “When is the lobotomy scheduled?” If it wasn’t a battlefield promotion, and none of them are, we observed that all Generals go to finishing school, and most come out intellectually and morally finished. This has little to do with the US as we like to think of it, nothing to do with race or gender, and everything to do with the empire and power.
Milley also spoke of how the oath to defend the Constitution will be your “moral center.” This is not only laughable, but also tragic. Many of our military people who succeed inside the real system (not Hollywood’s version of the military) are those most morally flexible, or most ignorant, of the US Constitution and the nature of the US “Republic” in the 21st century. A far smaller but significant number reside in military prisons or have done so, precisely because they took that oath to the Constitution seriously and literally. Perhaps Milley could have shared those examples, but they are far too frightening for a freshly woke college graduate. Or are they?
It is curious in the context of social justice and defending the Constitution that Milley spoke of international instability and global risk to a [past] era of US unipolarity. A day late and a dollar short does not make for an inspiring speech, yet there it was.
It has been precisely the past 70 plus years of US political and military expansion, expeditioneering, and exploitation of large parts of the world – all of it un-Constitutional, most of it unpopular among average Americans, and overwhelming implemented in places populated by poor brown people – that has delivered the present day scenario of instability and risk. Milley seems to think that this instability and risk is something brought about by outside players – the great Chinese machine and the evil Russian oligarchs, among others.
Suddenly, in 2021, the Pentagon story is that we are suddenly challenged as “a global military, economic and political power.” Think about it. These words, fervently spoken, belie the fact that the United States military has not won a military war in 50 years (with the exception of three days in Grenada). These words, sincerely uttered, belie the fact that the United States has a debt to GDP ratio that has never been higher since WWII. These words, earnestly whispered, belie the fact that the US is financially reduced to chasing its tail on the petrodollar, and politically marginalized as demonstrated by its frenetic top diplomat incessantly raging to foment the next world war in sleepy backwaters.
Our senior leaders and the institutions they control have become fantasists and wizards. Will our coming generations be able to pull back the curtain, and really help the United States move into a future era of peace and prosperity? Unless they can understand the words, and the culture, of its current leadership, I fear they will be doomed.