It seems the editors of USA Today are not happy with the way the U.S. military academies select their cadets and midshipmen. It is, in their opinion, too political and "produces geographic balance at the expense of racial diversity."
As we all know, the variations in skin pigmentation are the singular most important aspect of a good education and absolutely essential to preparing young men and women for future command responsibilities. Nothing else matters more.
Or so USA Today seems to think.
It would be ironic were it not so typical of human beings and politics that we have so distorted and perverted Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a society where skin color doesn't matter that we use his dream as the justification for making skin color almost the only thing that matters.
To be sure, because nominations are made by politicians, it can be a political process. I will point out, however, that my own son was nominated to the Naval Academy by then-Rep. Herseth-Sandlin, as well as by Senator Johnson and Senator Thune. Apparently my politics were not a stumbling block to either Senator Johnson or Representative Herseth-Sandlin. And I have never given money to any of them, not even Senator Thune. The insinuation that such campaign donations are an essential step for those wanting to get a nomination for their children is simply false.
Most delegates to Congress want to make sure the people they nominate have a high probability of selection and eventual success at the service academies. The screening process is not separated from politics, but neither is it dictated by purely political considerations. The kinds of suggestions USA Today puts out are in most cases already practiced. We must also bear in mind that a military commission is also political - one is commissioned by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, even as a lowly ensign or 2nd lieutenant. While this is rather automatic at those lower ranks, it is not unheard of to have a senator stand on the process when it comes to colonels, navy captains, and certainly flag officers. Skin pigmentation, by the way - "racial diversity" - is also a political consideration that is not ignored by those in Congress who make these nominations.
And if you think it should be purely "merit" and not "politics" at all, consider the political implications of the decisions a ship, brigade, squadron, or battalion commander might well be called on to make. Politics is part of the job, and thus an essential component for determining merit in the first place. The military is an instrument of state power, and it ought to remain subject to state control lest it become the tool for controlling the state. The process in place, while not perfect, helps to maintain and emphasize civilian political control of the military, which is a good thing.
Finally, a nomination to the academy does not guarantee either acceptance or success at the academy. A look at the 2018 class at the Naval Academy - those who began this past June - shows that 6,724 were nominated. Of those, a mere 21% - 1,398 - were offered appointments (1,191 accepted). The racial make-up of the class shows roughly 9.6% Black, just shy of 12% Hispanic, and not quite 13% Asian. The U.S. population as a whole is 13% Black, 17% Hispanic, 5% Asian, but we should expect a slightly higher representation of Asians at an engineering school like the Naval Academy - it (engineering) is a profession to which Asians seem disproportionately attracted. The others are fairly close for a highly selective student body smaller than 5,000.
The "problems" USA Today thinks it has identified are, it turns out, not really problems at all. The admissions process in place already does a pretty good job, even on the misguided criteria their editors set for it.
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