Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Academy At Sea

Ok, it would make more sense to use a flying or aerospace reference for a piece about the US Air Force Academy, but, in any case, things are worse than I have thought. 

Thanks to an email from my blog brother (a.k.a. lil' Steve), I read this set of suggestions for the USAF Academy by Diana Jean Schemo who spent a year following a set of the newest cadets after years of controversy.  The recommendations suggest that no progress has been made at all. 
Let me take them one by one:
  1. Uphold the honor code and to include sexual assaults as part of dishonorable conduct.  To borrow from Saturday Night Live's update routine: really?  Really? Realllllly? Just having to say this--that sexual assault should be considered as part of the things one is forswearing is just appalling.  And the fact that Schemo says that accountability must apply to those who are well connected screams that the system is still very, very broken.
  2. End the double standard for athletes.  Well, this is not surprising at all, as reports of this at the Naval Academy and elsewhere suggest that the practices of the big public universities have infected.  It is funny that I am writing a paper that discusses the rule of law and then see this where it appears that football players at the USAFA are above it.
  3. Do the Congressionally mandated survey and release the results.  Um.  That is pretty telling--that either the USAFA defied Congress (not good) or got results that are embarrassing.  I am guessing the latter is more likely, but, again, I am also writing about civilian control of the military, so it might be the case that this branch of the military is out of control?
  4. Collective punishment discussion in a philosophy class seems to ignore the real world of difficult issues like rendition and Gitmo.  Critical thinking apparently is not encouraged.
  5. Talking the talk, walking the walk?  Worship site for Pagans (really?) gets vandalized, investigation goes nowhere.  Here's a social science experiment--let's vandalize their big, expensive, tourist site of a chapel and see what happens.  Ok, let's not, but the thought experiment should be enough.
  6. "Don't use Jesus as crazy glue."  My favorite quote of 2010!  "But there is no earthly reason for the academy to host weekly Bible study classes by outside groups, some of whose philosophies dangerously blur the distinction between military service and missionary fervor."  Schemo notes that religion should not be "fodder for unit cohesion."  So, even after all the controversies, no progress at all on this.  
  7. "Liberals are cast as enemies of cadets or the military."   Don't Ask, Don't Tell indeed. Don't tell anyone you are not a right wing Christian if you want to fit in--this seems to remain the rule of the day
I am pretty sure 'lil Steve passed this on to me because he knew I would go ape@#$#@$.   Job well-done, Steve.   If our academies, or at least this one, are creating officers who seem to believe that the rule of law does not apply to them, that those who criticize are enemies of the military, that the will of Congress can be thwarted, then perhaps civilian control of the military (at least of the USAF) is genuinely in crisis. 

And, to be clear, this is not new. During the latter part of my year in the Pentagon (2002), one of the USAF officers had her assignment on the Joint Staff cut short as they needed a responsible senior female officer to go back to the USAF Academy to help clean things up.  It is pretty clear that more, much more, is required.

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