The Corner

The Military Has An Infidelity Problem

As the Petraeus affair now degenerates into near-farce (but with perhaps fatal consequences — with a series of now-notorious debacles in Afghanistan and Libya, it raises questions as to whether our soldiers are being led effectively when their leaders are living through romantic plots fit for Jerry Springer), it highlights the military’s significant infidelity problem. While the “Dear John” letter has long been a staple of deployments, our new coed military now gives as good as it gets while deployed downrange. 

In the military — as elsewhere — sexual scandal is simply called “drama,” and “drama” (with its related fights, substance abuse, and sometimes even suicide attempts) can dominate military justice in deployed environments. During my deployment, I was with an all-male combat arms unit on a small, isolated base and thus missed most of the controversy that sometimes consumed entire units. But go to Balad — or one of the other larger bases — and it was everywhere. The larger DFACs (dining facilities) were the deployed equivalent of singles bars, and the omnipresent port-o-pot was a favorite location for clandestine couplings.

At some level this is entirely predictable: Place thousands of young men and women together in close quarters, put them through a shared (and intense) experience, and relationships are inevitable. Military regulations can’t spontaneously generate a deployed legion of coed puritans. Nor is this a new problem: There is a long tradition of “camp followers” that trailed behind armies in the field.

It’s a problem without an easy solution. Historically, many outstanding combat officers have been known philanderers, while marital fidelity does not necessarily translate into martial effectiveness. I tend to think that the military should be far more ruthlessly accountable regarding its primary job: combat effectiveness. Distracted officers (for any reason) tend to be poor leaders, and perhaps a focus on outcomes will do more to deal with the distractions than a myriad of regulations covering all potential human failings.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Most Popular

White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More
White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
Elections

How Beto Made Himself into White-Privilege Guy

Robert Francis O’Rourke is white. If it’s any consolation, he’s very sorry about that. “Beto” has been running from his Irish ancestry for some time now. Long before the Left fell headlong into the logical termini of its triune fascination with race, power, and privilege, O’Rourke sensed that there ... Read More