Already the articles have started, singling out those whose honest professional opinion was against the repeal of DADT. Long-time Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has written a column demanding the relief of General James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, because of his honestly-held professional military opinions advising against repeal of DADT.

A great many of the opinions expressed here and elsewhere cautioning against repeal of DADT revolved around concerns of the rampant DoD over-compensatory political correctness which has been the hallmark of response to special interest pressure from without. Such concerns were lightly brushed off as unlikely, or dismissed as paranoia of homophobic, bigoted, hateful service members whose fitness to serve was almost always questioned.

Except that now, a major newspaper has begun the effort to remove from senior leadership positions those they deem somehow politically untrustworthy. General Amos must read now in the written press an open question of his fitness to lead Marines, published dutifully by WAPO. What other GOFO will be similarly targeted? Will those who provided input honestly and forthrightly be punished for doing so? How many views are “on the record”, as Cohen puts it, making them susceptible to subtle but real retribution? (In case anyone doubts broad-sweep retribution occurs within DoD, one needs only to recall Tailhook and the damage done to the innocent as well as the guilty, at the behest of political special interests.) Some of Cohen’s words are below, sandwiched between accusations of lack of leadership and a brusque dismissal of effects on unit cohesion being a chimera used as an excuse for dissenting opinions:

They know he has not an iota of sympathy for what might be their difficulties or any tolerance for their lifestyle. If I were gay, I would not want to work for the man – or serve under him. He is one step short of being a bigot.

One could dismiss the Cohen column almost out of hand as expressing an extreme take on an emotional issue. Perhaps it should be. It has the flavor of a tin-clad dictatorship, where decisions are followed by purges of opposition simply for being opposition. However, it would be far easier to dismiss if the words Cohen used were not so strikingly similar in tone and intent as those uttered by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a few weeks back:

In the end, if there is either policy direction that someone in uniform disagrees with…and you feel so strongly about it — you know, the answer is not advocacy; it is in fact to vote with your feet.

General Amos, like General Conway before him, disapproved of the repeal of DADT, and stated well-reasoned professional arguments in doing so. Neither expressed his personal views on the matter, but rather only shared their views as professional Marines whose comments were regarding readiness and combat efficiency. Admiral Mullen was not so prudent.

I would hate to think that Admiral Mullen is in agreement in the least with Richard Cohen, but he has publicly spoken words that indicate otherwise. Because if he is in agreement, even a little, then he is questioning if General Amos, like General Conway before him, can be trusted to lead Marines. General Conway, like General Amos, is a supreme warrior. I have served under General Conway’s leadership in combat, and would do so under the leadership of General Amos. If, in Admiral Mullen’s mind, he believes even in the slightest that these two warriors are not fit to lead Marines, then Admiral Mullen knows nothing about leading Marines.

Admiral Mullen has been extremely outspoken regarding his personal beliefs on this political issue. Now would be a very prudent time to use that same mouth to be just as loud and outspoken in stating that such a call for the heads of the dissenters as Richard Cohen has made will not be tolerated nor condoned. He has the bully pulpit. If he cannot find his voice to do so, it is he who should step down, as he is not worthy of the trust of those whom it is his job to lead.


4 January 2011-

None other than James Webb summarized it nicely:

When leadership fails, sometimes a fundamental shift overtakes a unit, or a military service, or a nation, that is so profound that it can change an entire ethos. Most often it occurs gradually, not because of decisions taken by senior leaders so much as from their inaction, an acquiescence to insistent, incremental pressures generated from the outside.

Acquiescence all around. Insistent, incremental pressures cost the United States Navy a successful and talented Captain today, and much more of it has to do with the leadership failure I note above and that Jim Webb addresses than it does any four year old video.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Navy

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  • Aaron Brotman

    Look, this whole thing has been an ugly fight in many ways. I don’t like the idea of Sailors and Marines being polled for broad policy options like this, as Sen. McCain and many Republicans suggested. I believe Gen. Amos blew the issue out of proportion by suggesting DADT repeal could directly lead to injuries. That said, he will be well positioned to lead the transition as he will have to transition himself – a noble task to which he has committed himself. I disagree with calls for Gen Amos’ resignation.

    SecDef and CJCS made the right connection when matching DADT repeal to our services’ core values. The working group’s study was very comprehensive and did not only address the politically correct questions (despite many alleging the following). We have our guidance that the policy will change in the near future. So let’s not inflame any tensions that may exist and rather look to how we can implement a policy that is deliberately based on Honor, Courage and Commitment rather than stereotypes and rumors.

  • Redeye80

    Well said. I am looking forward to Admiral Mullen’s statement.

  • PJN

    ADM Mullen wasn’t talking about not liking your CO, or thinking your Commandant holds foolish opinions. He was talking about policies and orders, and the requirement those in uniform have to follow them. And he’s right – if you serve, and you don’t like the orders, it’s time to resign.

    Mr. Cohen is off in a completely different direction: the need to remove officers from command for their perceived personal opinions. It is a foolish view to hold, and one, I suspect, that won’t get much traction outside his own mind.

    It takes a staggering leap [redacted by admin] to draw a connection between Mr. Cohen’s column and ADM Mullen’s opinions. Somehow, you just took that leap.

  • Charley

    Mr. Cohen has written more than one poorly reasoned column in his career. Should Gen. Amos (and other dissenters) be removed for expressing his professional opinion – of course not. Some in the media seem not to be entirely convinced that his professional opinion wasn’t colored at least somewhat by personal belief, but that doesn’t matter. In a Stars and Stripes article, Amos said “I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps [Carlton Kent], will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines.” That should be good enough to satisfy any reasonable detractor.

  • The Usual Suspect

    Mullen is running for political office…no telling who he will throw under the bus to get it. Don’t want to know, don’t care. Remeber, under Mullen, DIVERSITY is the number one mission of the United States Navy. Silly me, I thought that this was the mission of the U.S. Navy:

    The mission of the United States Navy is to protect and defend the right of the United States and our allies to move freely on the oceans, and to protect our country against her enemies.

  • Andy

    I fear that General Amos will go unsupported as I have little confidence in the leadership of a person who cannot force his service to choose between two competing LCS-designs.

    “I have served under General Conway’s leadership in combat, and would do so under the leadership of General Amos. If, in Admiral Mullen’s mind, he believes even in the slightest that these two warriors are not fit to lead Marines, then Admiral Mullen knows nothing about leading Marines.”

    Heartily concur, although I would change “leading Marines” to “leading troops.”

  • CDR Lumpy

    Yes, polling enlisted sailors and Marines to facilitate the passage of legislation and to bolster public opinion that supports an ideological position is a failure and abdication of military leadership.

    And, sadly it appears the military leaders who refused to abdicate their positional and legal authority, will be the ones removed because they exercised the proper decision making processes at the correct level vice abdicating the same.

  • Paul

    Doesn’t matter what their views are about this subject area or the perceived bias some may claim they have– they’re officers in the United States Military and understand that if the law is changed, they will abide by it and enforce it to the best of their ability whether they agree with it or not. If they feel that strongly about it, then they could consider resigning.

    Every officer gets orders they may not like or agree with but it’s incumbent upon them to salute, respond with either “Aye, Aye, Sir (or ma’am)” or “Yessir (or ma’am)” and drive on. How would this be any different?

    To imply that because they offered their opinion when queried they’d forget all of that in their past is not only insulting but also unrealistic.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “So let’s not inflame any tensions that may exist”

    Sound advice for Admiral Mullen. The “vote with their feet” statement was ill-advised, and his voice here to dispel the negative effects of his words previously would be a prudent and necessary display of leadership.

    So far, the silence is deafening.

  • Stu

    Given the trend to simply poll the ranks for policy issues and uniform matters, I look forward to the senior leadership using similar methods for pay raises, working hours and even tactics.

    On this from Andy:
    “I fear that General Amos will go unsupported as I have little confidence in the leadership of a person who cannot force his service to choose between two competing LCS-designs.”

    Sadly, I agree.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “It takes a staggering leap… to draw a connection between Mr. Cohen’s column and ADM Mullen’s opinions. Somehow, you just took that leap.”

    Mr. Cohen: Because General Amos didn’t agree with it, he should be out.

    Adm Mullen: If you don’t agree with it, get out.

    Yep. Really big leap there.

  • Jay

    CJCS silence right now is fine. CJCS neither needs to, nor should respond to calls for the CMC to resign. I don’t think CMC should resign either, as his comments, although somewhat foolish, didn’t cross over to the completely inappropriate (as did GEN Pace’s comments a while back). CMC released his statement already, concerning his dedication to carrying out the new policy. I am sure he will do so to the best of his ability, without reservation. If he has reservation serious enough to negatively impact the new policy, then he should (as should all Officers in the days ahead) examine his conscience, and if resignation is his decision, so be it. I doubt we’ll see many resigning/retiring/separating over this issue.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “CJCS silence right now is fine”

    CJCS silence right now, after his vociferous campaigning for repeal, is a leadership failure. He is letting General Amos swing in the wind, as you can be sure Cohen’s column will not be the only of its type.

  • Old Air Force Sarge

    Hhhmm, if you don’t agree with official policy then you “vote with your feet”, i.e. resign or not re-enlist.

    I do recall that the oath everyone in the military takes bears the words: “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same”.

    Now I’m not saying that DADT is a constitutional issue, far from it. My point is that those of us who wear (or have worn) the uniform have an obligation to not blindly follow orders or obey official policy simply because it’s official policy.

    So let’s get away from “just say yes sir/ma’am and drive on”, it ain’t that simple.

  • Anonymously Speaking

    Sadly General Amos may be only the first of many to be drummed out of the service for their viewpoints on homosexual conduct in the ranks. The results of the survey were not 100% across the board approval by all in uniform for repeal of DADT. While American public opinion may support DADT repeal, the impact will be felt only by those wearing the uniform and not by those sitting in their livings rooms watching MSNBC. That being said, anyone in uniform has to now walk a very fine line to avoid being viewed as anti-gay. The witch hunt has already started. Recall the days of the post-Tailhook Navy and the sexual harrassment fallout. Many male officers and sailors got shown the door after making “inappropriate” comments to females. Some comments were as slight as “you look nice today” however because the Tailhook nerve was still very raw, there was no tolerance for anything even approaching the resemblence of sexual harrassment. Commanders would immediately discharge suspected offenders rather than face the scrutiny of an unyielding press corps still hungry for uniformed blood. Fast forward to the repeal of DADT. The press corps will be waiting in the wings, ready to pounce on the first evil soldier/sailor/marine/airman who steps even a millimeter off the line of supporting gays in the military. Those with traditional values had best keep their heads down for the next couple of years until the repeal of DADT becomes a backpage historical issue.

  • Jay

    Well, URR, you have your idea of leadership failure, and I have mine. And, although I told myself that I wouldn’t gloat…I guess this time, my idea of leadership has carried the day. 🙂

  • Andy

    Stu Says:
    Given the trend to simply poll the ranks for policy issues and uniform matters, I look forward to the senior leadership using similar methods for pay raises, working hours and even tactics.

    As I have worked my way through the required reading lists I find a growing disconnect between the actions of my military commanders and the values/principles that they wish to impart via “required reading”. The act of polling troops in order to validate a command decision cannot be found within Leadership: The Warrior’s Art.

  • Matt Yankee

    Are male Marines allowed to bunk with female Marines?

    What about transvestites…will a gay transvestite who had his pride cut off be allowed to be a Marine as a male or female?

    What happens when a poor Marine gets confused and just wants all of the above? Does he get to sleep with female Marines?

    This is the solution…every Marine becomes lesbian though doesn’t have anything cut off…this is the very latest style anyways.

    I find it a bit GAY that a congress with 13% approval would find time to force Marines to sleep with gay Marines.

  • CDR Sudbeck

    If the Majority Democrat Party is going to shake off the prohibition of deviant sexual behaviors, let’s lift them all. End the ban of adultery, polygamy and fraternization between officer and enlisted(I estimate the USAF already has ended fraternization).

    Why is the Majority Party so discriminating that only the gays and lesbians get to indulge in their deviant sexual behavior? Let’s not discriminate and embrace diversity.

    I am sure if the CJCS polled the enlisted sailors and Marines, based upon past performance, over 70 percent would indicate they don’t have a problem with it. Focus groups would mirror that assessment. And, as leaders I am sure we can manage it.

    Well you leaders still on active duty, as I am retiring.

  • Interesting post and your condemnation of Cohen is warranted. The CMC gets paid to provide his earnest opinion on matters affecting the USMC and he did just that. Congress and the President (and myself for that matter) disagreed with him, but part of me admires his sticking to his guns in what he knew was a losing battle. The very next day he said he would do his job and personally lead implementation, because that’s what officers do.

    As for CJCS, I’m not sure how far to take interpretation of his comments. I read them (and of course I could be wrong) that this is coming. If you’re in the service and you’re that against it, just get out – and some will, but the vast majority will continue to do their duty, like General Amos in spite of personal misgivings. I hardly think ADM Mullen would ask this latter group to leave out of principle.

    Last point, there was a huge difference between Generals Conway and Amos on this topic. It was pretty well known (in DC at least) that General Conway was prepared to resign over this topic in order to shape the political process. I think that type of attitude is what the CJCS was aiming his remarks at. And now General Amos is CMC, not General Conway so that sorted itself out. But hey, I’m an Army guy so I may be totally wrong on this.

  • Wharf Rat

    Jay, Jay, Jay:

    So you got your way, and you’re smiling, and you’re proud of your ‘leaders’. Like I said at Sal’s place, this was about politics. The majority party could have done this any ole’ time, but no, they waited until days before they lost power. They’re doing this to stick it to the voters that destroyed them. Come January – this was a non-issue.

    So now, on one hand I only want people to shut their trap about who they’re sleeping with and do their job, and on the other hand I still have trouble with the morality about men sleeping with men. You’re saying in a real sense, that if I disagree, it’s not a moral issue – I must be a bigot.

    Where is your line? What’s moral, what isn’t?

    And if you think the liberals will stop at this, you are sadly mistaken. Is this enough for you?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    @Jason Fritz,

    CJCS remarks regarding those opposed to repeal of DADT were, IMHO, ill-advised and open to precisely that interpretation, that repeal of DADT would be followed by intense scrutiny, with a hair-trigger to discipline/separate those who opposed repeal.

    Admiral Mullen was seemingly on every Sunday morning talk show for weeks, and was quoted dozens of times openly seeking repeal, to include the indiscretion of setting any honest opponents of repeal as adversarial to his personal point of view, which he expressed without solicitation to Congress.

    Admiral Mullen had an opportunity to clarify his comments, and try to calm the considerable upheaval he had a major role in causing. His window is closed. Remarks from this point forward will not carry nearly the same impact as those he could have made very publicly (as publicly as his advocacy for repeal) immediately following the vote. They will, with some justification, be seen as an afterthought, while men like General Amos take their lumps, sans any support from CJCS.

    Admiral Mullen’s silence speaks volumes about his leadership and his character. None of it is good. His remarks about “voting with your feet” were ill-conceived and showed poor judgment, eroding trust that honest opponents of repeal of DADT had in him. His self-enforced muteness on the matter is evaporating what remains.

  • Jay

    URR – diet of sour grapes? 🙂 CJCS handled this extremely well, provided reasoned, fair, realistic, and sorely overdue advice. His leadership on this issue has been outstanding. What a historic day for America today, as Pres Obama signs the bill!

  • UltimaRatioReg


    CJCS picked a very poor time to stop giving “sound advice”. A leader would know that.

  • Stu


    I was reminded of your “historic day” comment when I saw this part from Patrick Buchanan:

    “Remarkable. The least respected of American institutions, Congress, with an approval rating of 13 percent, is imposing its cultural and moral values on the most respected of American institutions, the U.S. military.”

    Historic indeed.

  • Byron

    Here’s a thought: How about you boys leaving this discussion alone till after Christmas Day? Among the other things Christmas is about, it’s about friendship, about family, about all the good feelings that should go along with this day.

    Besides that, all you’re doing is sniping each other. Neither side is going to convince the other that it is right, so it’s just a mud throwing contest. So put the “guns” down and reflect for a couple of days on the season, your friends your family.

  • I’m with Byron – cut out the snark

  • Matt Yankee

    We may be financially and morally bankrupt but hey it’s Christmas or “The Holidays” which is the proper way of describing it really because some indiduals take offense to saying “Merry Christmas”. Mostly the same kind of person that has a problem with Christianity in general. How can the Military sanction Christianity at all if Christianity is against homosexuality? The last thing this country needs is Christians breaking up homosexual behavior.

    In fact I think Arlingto Nation Cemetary should start replacing the crosses with headstones that aren’t biased against homosexuals by their very nature.

    This is just the begining indeed…

  • Matt Yankee

    I almost forgot…

    Happy Non-holy-holidays to all species!

  • Byron

    Matt, did you bother to click on the “Happy Holidays” picture? If you haven’t, please do so.

  • Lowly USN Retired

    Disappointing, abomination, disgusting, totalitarian. Gates and Admiral Mullen have failed the military in this matter and shall go down in history as the greatest yes men to serve in their respective positions. Will UCMJ Section 925 Article 125 be enforced now should the openly homosexuals decide to flaunt their homosexuality on the deck plate or in the berthing compartment; or, will the UCMJ be amended and revised to accommodate the deviate life style of homosexual service members? Who shall help Gates and Admiral Mullen write the new and improved UCMJ?

    When will the military be forced by congress to revert back to the days when officers were elected by their popularity with the men, only now it will be by the men, women and others?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Great discussion over at Lex’s place. Aptly-titled “Didn’t Take Long”.

    And the answers to these questions posed at Lex’s place (and here); will they increase combat effectiveness and readiness, or be a distraction and drain both fiscally and administratively from those things?

    And are we to glean from Admiral Mullen’s loudly voiced advocacy that those service members that believe that marriage is between a man and a woman somehow also are at odds with the good Admiral’s personal beliefs, and also lack integrity? Should THEY vote with their feet, as well?

  • Jay

    Well, that break didn’t last long…not sure how you jump from CJCS supporting DADT repeal to an issue of marriage. Bit of a canard. I don’t think there is any intent to address that issue, at least while DOMA is on the books. If DOMA stays in place, the services may indeed lose gay members who want to provide for their families. Time will tell on that. 2011 will be busy enough will repeal implementation. There are numerous other forums that address/debate marriage, civil rights, etc. Either way, whatever the rules are, once they are promulgated, make your career decision.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Oh Jay,

    Admiral Mullen knew that one issue (repeal of DOMA) would follow directly behind another (DADT), like rail cars on a track. You know it too, Jay. Precisely the point Lex’s post addresses.

    CJCS has already opened the door to lecturing about which personally held views he thinks have “integrity” and which don’t. Where does the new line get drawn? Why should anyone anticipate he will stop there if his political bosses push further?