Small Wars Journal

Bigotry as Opportunism

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 4:23pm
In the holiday spirit, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote that the Commandant of the Marine Corps "is one step short of being a bigot." Cohen, who strongly supports homosexuals in the military, insisted that the Commandant be fired because he held a different view. According to the dictionary, 'a bigot is one who is strongly attached to his view of politics and intolerant of those who differ.' It is Cohen, not the Commandant of Marines, who defines the word bigot.

Cohen is also cunning in arguing that gays should join a Marine Corps that, in his judgment, should dismiss its own leaders. His column is a clarion call to incite the very divisiveness the legislation was intended to expunge. That is a sure way to cause chaos and anger -- and increase readership by slyly encouraging controversy of the Jerry Springer style. Cohen's screed has already rocketed around the military-related web sites.

The best way to treat a bigot is to ignore his opportunistic self-promotion. Let the Washington Post correspondents who risk their lives alongside Marines deal with Cohen and his warped journalistic ethics.

(Richard Cohen, Marine Corps commandant has to go, Washington Post, Dec 21, 2010)


Ed (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 4:38pm

I think the larger problem is that Amos spoke out publicly and repeatedly about his views on the issue. And, crassly, he resorted to fear-mongering.

As someone who served in the Marine Corps, I'd say THAT'S what's entirely unbecoming, and entirely deserving of his removal.

Joe (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 5:01pm

Was it "fear-mongering" or actually identifying problems. Seems to me that Amos is simply doing what Shinseki did in 2003 when he argued for more troops in Iraq - giving professional military advice in the face of an administration with different views. Why is one person attacked and another praised? Dare I say that military advice and towing an administration's line aren't always the same thing?

You can also look at ADM Radford's dissent in the 1949 controversy over the super carrior, General Maxwell Taylor's concerns during the Eisenhower Administration with respect to reducing the Army's budget and the strategy of massive retaliation, or General Vessey's dissent during the Carter Administration with respect to withdrawing all troops from the Korean Penninsula. I can't wait to see all the learned articles about civil-military problems during this administration. There is always a spike of them when Democrats are in power but they seem to never be consistent.

Former Marine (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 5:08pm

Disagree 100% with Ed, I served 20 years and in my Corps expressions of honest opinion and dissent are appreciated and valued even when they run up against conventional wisdom. The CMC was asked his opinion and he gave it, honestly. And as all Marines do; he will follow through on his orders, even if they are contrary to his personal and professional beliefs. Those who want heads to roll have an overkill agenda and that my fellow Devil Dogs will "distract" from warfighting skills and capabilities.

MKS (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 6:00pm

Sexual orientation may or may not be inherent; it doesn't matter much. Homosexual acts are chosen behaviors. Equating race and homosexual activity is a bogus line of reasoning - attempting to cast the noble mantle of civil rights over simple wrongs. General Amos spoke with courage and conviction, and I appreciate his forthright stand.

Concur with "Former Marine." A professional military officer knows that dissent in the formative stage of a concept is both welcome and required to develop logical COAs. Once a decision is reached however, it will be executed.
Should there be issues regarding boundaries crossed, etcetera, this administration certainly has no qualms firing Generals. They crucified the last guy, based on a liberal rag (Rolling Stone). I suspect the Marine Commandant's comments were nowhere near the realm of General McChrystal's staff comments. This will pass.

Jimbo (not verified)

Tue, 12/21/2010 - 8:05pm

This whole issue would go away if the force simply took vows of chastity and celibacy and became warrior-monks.

General Amos was correct in expressing his concerns and doubts during the deliberation period. This is what a good leader does. This window continues during the development process for implementation. Once the rules are in place its a different story and continued outspokenness against established policy can cross the line into being prejudicial to good order and discipline.


Tue, 12/21/2010 - 11:19pm

It might be useful to remember that General Amos represents all Marines, and there were many who, having served their country in Iraq and Afghanistan, responded in the DoD survey that they did not have a problem with homosexuals serving openly and supported a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Whatever his own beliefs, he is the leader of all Marines. So ask yourself this question: Has General Amos served these Marines well in putting his personal opinion so much at the forefront?

Cohen's opinion piece may have been incorrect, and may have gone too far. But I am not certain that General Amos' reputation has been burnished in these events either.


BK Price (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 3:25am

I agree with most so far, that the good General was doing his duty by identifying potential friction points and representing the views of his Marines. On this point, I disagree with Jill, in that the released survey clearly showed that more than any other service, the USMC had the most problems with homosexuals serving openly. And more so, front line Marines were the most concerned. So General Amos is *absolutely* speaking for his Marines.

I also believe that Mr. Cohen and many of his ideological siblings may be understating the difficulties of sexual influences in the military. Mr. Cohen suggests that the idea of Marines sneaking into each other's bunks is beyond the possible and yet anyone who has deployed downrange to a large FOB or airbase knows that these things already cause problems among the heterosexual population. There is no reason to assume that homosexual 18 year olds will be any better behaved. When downrange, the fact that every other commercial on AFN radio and TV is about Sexual Assault, reporting Sexual Assault, and preventing Sexual Assault indicates that sexual aspects of serving with objects of desire can cause problems. Again, there is no reason to believe that homosexuals will not ALSO be caught up in these problems (not exclusive to them, but no less than the heterosexual issues).

Lastly, however, is my belief that this is REALLY being blown out of proportion. Most major studies indicate that homosexuals make up 10% of the American population. And most folks now agree that the military is no longer representative of broader America, we tend to be more conservative, more heterogenous, etc. So I find it hard to believe that even if every gay member of the military were to suddenly come out when law was compeltely repealed that we would have more than a handful of individuals out there. (If anything, I think there are more people who are suspected of being gay who are in fact, not, but folks just assume they are.)

Jill (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 12:23pm


I will grant you the benefit of the doubt and assume you did not understand my question. I know that the majority of the Marine and Marine Combat Arms respondents share the opinion of the Commandant. However, there is a significant minority who do not. For example, approximately 1/3 of Marine Combat Arms respondents do not foresee a problem for unit readiness if DADT were repealed and it were known that a homosexual male or female were serving in the unit. (p. 74 of the survey*)

It is the easy route for the Commandant to stand with those whose opinions are in line with his. The far more difficult thing would be to consider the voice of those who don't. Commandant of the Marine Corps is not an elected position. The General who fills that billet is not beholden only to those who share his opinion, who would "vote" with him on this issue. He serves all Marines.

Without the least assistance of the senior leadership nearly 1/3 of the most conservative faction of the armed forces believes the repeal can be done with no harm to readiness. Imagine what could be achieved with the support of the senior leadership?

In my view, the Marines who hold the best vision of their fellow Marines and their Corps and believe both are more than capable to withstand this change best exemplify the true spirit of that institution. The Commandant would not suffer to learn from them and follow their example. At the very least, as he serves as their Commandant as well, he ought not give such short shrift to their voice, and consider them as well before speaking so definitively on behalf of the entire institution. He should be especially careful when the views he expresses as best for the institution track so closely with his own personal views.

The real problem, as I see it, is that the Commandant is setting up himself and the Corps for great difficulties. After resisting so mightily, against a likely unstoppable tide, will he really be able to assume the mantle of moral authority on the matter and lead the Corps to the best adaptaption to the change? It will require real leadership to mitigate any potential problems. Given his outspokenness, will he be able, without seeming like a hypocrite, to turn on a dime and exert the sort of leadership and authority necessary, or will the damage to his credibility on the issue be too great?

*The rest of the numbers continue to trend downward, but there remains a core who are optimistic.

Toby (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 12:43pm

As much as I respect Bing West, I don't see why this discussion is on the front page of the SWJ blog. The original post and subsequent comments smack of ad-hominem attacks and political debate. SWJ is about operations, not politics.

I don't care who started this debate, and I don't care how much people with opinions about DADT think this influences operations, whether for better or worse (all based on guesswork).

I simply don't want to see these kinds of discussions polute the professional atmosphere that SWJ has so successfully fostered. This belongs on a forum or similar.


Wed, 12/22/2010 - 12:57pm

Jill, legend has it that a picture of an early Commandant, the grand old man of the Corps, Major Archibald Henderson, fell to the floor at the home of the Commandants when the Marines opened their ranks to women many years ago. . .the Corps survived and is better for it.

The bottom line is: said picture didn't fall upon repeal of DADT, and the CMC was quite clear he wouldn't resist integrating gays within the ranks and specifically stated "the Marines would get in step and do it smartly."

Your remark that the Marines exemplify the true spirit of that institution? General Amoss quote does exemplify that. . .please, stand at ease!

Bing West is absolutely right: Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is a bigot. Cohen is an intolerant left-wing bigot.

However, as I explain in a piece that I wrote for the American Spectator, Cohen's bigotry is part and parcel of a much larger-scale problem; and that is the virulent bigotry and dogmatism inherent in the entire push to require open homosexuality with the ranks.

John Guardiano

Publius (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 8:29pm

Despite what Marines may believe, their commandant actually does work for other people, with the president of the US being at the top of the heap. As I recall, President Obama has always been open about his desire to see DADT repealed. General Amos was just recently confirmed as Commandant of the Marine Corps. ISTM that if he harbored such deep-seated feelings about gays, and given that it was inevitable that the issue would come to a head during his term, he might have opted to decline the appointment.

Then, post-confirmation, if General Amos still felt the same way about gays, and also felt that his Marines felt the same way, then he might have approached the president in private, expressed his thoughts and then offered his resignation (which is actually retirement). Instead, he chose to go public and to embarrass his president. IMO, he's also embarrassed himself. Some of us are getting a little tired of serving general officers who feel the need to let it all hang out publicly. We have certain customs in the military, one of them being the expectation that if a senior officer can't follow the lead of the NCA, then retirement is indicated. Then, they can go on Fox News all they want. They can even have their own web site.

And, yeah, I agree the ad hominem isn't too attractive. The Cohen article isn't noteworthy in any respect, but the reactions may tell us a lot. This is a legitimate discussion for military personnel--and, in that I disagree that it isn't suitable for SWJ--but if there was ever a time for dispassionate discourse, this it. Note I'm not knocking Amos for his opinions. I'm just wondering why he felt it necessary to broadcast them in public. It's a difficult subject and folks like General Amos are making it more difficult. Leadership 101 is what I'm talking about.

Former Marine (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 10:26pm

Publius: <i>Despite what Marines may believe, their commandant actually does work for other people</i>.

I'm sorry, where do you come off with such a blanket statement. Marines understand this, maybe better than many others within the Department of Defense.

Publius: <i>ISTM that if he harbored such deep-seated feelings about gays, and given that it was inevitable that the issue would come to a head during his term, he might have opted to decline the appointment.</i>

Contrary to the belief of many who have such passion on this subject (homosexual acts and desires), the Commandant has many issues on his table and it is my most humble opinion that he is the best man to tackle the issues really important to the Corps - as in its future considering the budget restraints and the all so predictable "second land army" criticisms. When General Amos took office, DADT repeal was not a 'done deal". He was asked, in Congress and in the press (Washington Post) about his opinion and he gave it honestly. I'd rather have honesty than the all so typical DC dodge and evade.

Publius: <i>Instead, he chose to go public and to embarrass his president. IMO, he's also embarrassed himself.</i>

A very subjective statement, and if I may be so bold to also make one, the President needs no help in embarrassing himself. He does a fine job without any outside interference.

Publius: <i>Some of us are getting a little tired of serving general officers who feel the need to let it all hang out publicly.</i>

But it is just fine with you when Gates, Mullen, Cartwright, and Carter do on the same subject? Pot calling the kettle black and can also be interpreted as "command influence" considering the statements by the pro-repeal leadership were made while the study and poll were being conducted. Now that is what I call shady and undue pressure public politics.

Publius: <i>Leadership 101 is what I'm talking about.</i>

Cheap shot, but I'm sure you felt it a great sound bite to conclude. General Amos is a fine leader, don't confuse leadership with management.

Former Marine (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:13pm

As an afterthought and since you cannot edit comments here; my comment <i>the President needs no help in embarrassing himself</i> is one I think true, but not germaine to the issue under debate here and probably not one that should be made on this site. My apology.

carl (not verified)

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 11:42pm


I believe GEN Amos was asked by Congress what his professional opinion of this matter was. Therefore he had a duty to give Congress his honest assessment, whether or not it conflicted with the party line. I think the interview was after his appearance in front of the Senate panel so he was just saying what he had already said. If he had said something different he would have looked foolish.

BK Price: I don't think 10% of the population being homosexual is correct. That figure was discredited some time ago. The more accepted figure is around 3% plus or minus.