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Fred Reed’s latest essay adds a nice perspective to my post on women and gays in combat units.

Those who try to understand military policy often confuse themselves by focusing on minor matters such as strategy, tactics, logistics, and armament. Here they err. For years the central goal of the military, the brass ring, has been independence from control by civilians.

One can argue the merits and demerits of a civilian-controlled military, but if we assume that Reed is correct—that the military’s endgame is to turn itself into a de facto government contractor—then keeping pace with the zeitgeist must be an important part of the strategy. Like any good private company, the military must give people what they want so that the people don’t look too closely into their corporate practices. And what the people want is social justice.

It’s not just that power has fled from combat units, making the entrance of gays and women a non-issue from the standpoint of raw military strategy. It’s that transmuting the combat unit from a necessary cog of war into a site of social struggle ensures that the military is on the right side of history and not on the wrong side of sustained criticism. It’s a brilliant bit of smokescreen that completely neuters anti-war sentiment.

Here’s how it works:

In the current zeitgeist, if you want people to support something or, at least, to not question its existence, you simply need point out that there aren’t enough gays, minorities, or women taking part in the thing. Then the would be critic of the thing will spend all his energy on ensuring that gays, minorities, and women can take part in the thing. Never mind what the thing is, or whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. If you point out that a minority group is disparately represented in the thing, then no one will ask anything about the thing. They’ll just demand more minority representation in the thing.

The military doesn’t want people questioning its existence or its practices, so they tap into the zeitgeist and manufacture a social justice crisis. They encourage an emerging awareness that women and gays are shut out of combat service (which service is really not important in today’s military, as both I and Reed have noted). Whatever anti-war sentiment might gather strength is now transformed into a harmless pro-gay-and-women-in-combat sentiment. Mission accomplished.

The underlying logic, of course, is that progressives don’t like war, but they absolutely hate the idea that women and gays can’t participate in war.