Why Is America’s Ordinary Source of Military Valor Failing?


Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis really doesn’t care who people sleep with, especially in the military. He dismissed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s question about LGBT members of the military during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, saying “I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” he replied. (Mattis Shuts Gillibrand down)

Back in January, 2017 I used the above quote as the lead-in to my article “Mattis’s “Don’t care” attitude: The maddest military social experiment yet?” In it I discussed the fact that the nonchalance General Mattis expressed about “who sleeps with whom: “abandons good order and discipline”:

It abandons truth because it cavalierly dismissed the integrity of the vows of love and loyalty on which the integrity of marriage and the family depends, insofar as they are public concerns, vital to the preservation, welfare and education of individual citizens in our republic.

It abandons good order and discipline because the regulations that govern life in the US military have always taken account of the nation’s vital interest in preserving this integrity.

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They have always regarded conduct (including adultery and inappropriate fraternization) that disregards the love, and contemns the loyalty those institutions require, as conduct utterly inconsistent with honorable military service; and likely to inflame unruly passions dangerous to the lives of our military personnel, and the mission they are sworn to perform.

I went on to point out that enforcing USMJ Article 134, dealing with the misconduct noted above, requires caring about who sleeps with whom. All this came to mind as I read a recent Washington Times story headlined “James Mattis says number of Americans qualified for military service continues to drop”:

“We are no longer receiving people from the society who are as much in step with the qualities that our institution must have for success on the battlefield, Mr. Mattis told reporters Wednesday… More than 70 percent of 18- to 24-year-old males and females cannot qualify to be a private in the Army. …I’m told it’s 72 percent, it’s unfortunately going up.” he said.

“This is combination of illicit drug abuse, illicit drug use, obesity is probably the biggest one, morals, you know, just arrests, that sort of thing and there are other reasons,” he continued, adding academic failings as another major factor.”

General Mattis’s “don’t care” attitude echoed the prevailing mentality of the elitist faction that in our day consciously promotes self-centered hedonism as if it can harmlessly replace the voluntarily disciplined and self-sacrificial ethics of natural family life as an acceptable moral basis for human sexual activity. Who can blame a military man for being nonchalant in this regard, when even high clerics in the Roman Catholic Church now assert that the “heroic virtue” sexual self-discipline requires is beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Of course, heroic virtue is the stuff that military schemes are made on, for little valor ends in big defeat. To be sure, there was a time when the thought prevailed that heroic valor was the exclusive province of a few. Elitist used every means available to encourage the assumption that military success or failure turned on the performance of the few, as leaders and examples for the otherwise craven masses. During England’s 17th Century Civil War, the Puritan Christians’ New Model Army repeatedly defeated this cavalier assumption, at Naseby, Langport and in other battles. Its success also confirmed the possibility of a new model for just government, a model predicated on the potential for heroic virtue in ordinary men and women.

In this context, however, it’s important to hear in the word “ordinary” its etymological reference to order, and those who characteristically follow the rules and regulations required to maintain it. Of course, the English Puritans in Cromwell’s New Model Army self-consciously (critics would say self-righteously) proclaimed that God’s order informed their character. It obliged them to live and die, as need be, in defense of their right to worship Him according to His word. Thanks to the heartfelt commitment of most to fulfill that obligation in all areas of their lives, God’s Holy Spirit empowered their actions, in peace and war, in family life and battle.

Though overwhelmingly Christian, most of the people who first upheld the independence of the United States during the founding did not self-identify with the Puritan heritage, or the regime it briefly imposed on 17th Century Britain. However, the logic of public virtue (i.e., virtue within the reach of ordinary people) informed their sense of God-endowed right, and the critical role it played in bringing the just powers of government under the authority of the people as a whole. As Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington stressed the importance of reverent self-discipline. He encouraged regular worship, decent speech and observance of the rules of good conscience, according to God’s commandments.

These days, the elitists encourage young Americans to believe that the nation’s success resulted from the drive of virtually lawless ambition, brought within the bounds of law and order by an heroic few, somehow magically inclined to uphold them. Until this present era of depravity, however, no such paradigm of dog-eat-dog evolutionary licentiousness prevailed to produce the farms, ranches, hamlets, towns and cities Americans etched into the landscape of their continent. These ornaments of ordinary human life grew from aspirations inspired by hopes that centered on decent family life, in places made safe for child-rearing, including the formation of constructive purposes, and the sturdy bodies, sane minds and decent hearts required to pursue them.

These developments were, of course, continually punctuated with conflicts that required ordinary folks to call on the heroic virtue armed conflict and war demand. But more often decisive was the heroic self-discipline required to brave hardships inflicted by the elements; the rugged hills and mountain passages; the viewless plains and waterless deserts; and the failures of rain, crops, will, and yes, familial virtue, that continually threatened to kill off decent dreams.

What sustained the character that allowed ordinary folks time and again to endure, battle and overcome all these challenging circumstances? Not slavish admiration of an heroic few, but the fact that every man and woman was encouraged to look within themselves, confident that they could find, dwelling there, the God of all Creation. Christ spoke to them from flesh not unlike their own. He suffered mortal hardships, not unlike their sufferings. Through Christ recalled to God, they lived in remembrance of God’s Incarnate Word of power, hope and courage. He was always waiting to inspire faithful souls who remembered the exalted meaning of their ordinary faith—promising light and life in the darkest shadow of death, to all those willing to recur to its written and Incarnate inspiration.

But now we read of efforts underway to use the Bible’s plain insistence on human sexuality disciplined by respect for human procreation, as a pretext for censoring its use to educate our young. In this, the real agenda of the elitist faction’s moral corruptors reveals itself. For once the heroic virtue of ordinary folks no longer demonstrates its strength in everyday life, people will be ready to believe that law, order and survival itself depend on the exceptional virtue of a few. When people no longer practice self-discipline as a rule of everyday family life, they will quickly forget that the most important resource of law, order and yes, military valor, lies close at end within us. It flows in veins of moral inclination, known to America’s creed as God-endowed rights. From them we draw the power to look beyond ourselves—first to the good of our children and family, and thence to the good of our community, our nation and humanity as a whole: which latter, by God’s act of procreation, we already had in view.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Once a high-level Reagan-era diplomat, Alan Keyes is a long-time leader in the conservative movement. He is well-known as a staunch pro-life champion and an eloquent advocate of the constitutional republic, including respect for the moral basis of liberty and self-government. He has worked to promote an approach to politics based on the initiative of citizens of goodwill consonant with the with the principles of God-endowed natural right.

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