I graduated from West Point in 1964; the four years there truly molded me into the man that I am. It made me a man of character and honor and one committed to serve my nation. I was a reasonably squared-away young man when I arrived, but I really learned about accepting responsibility for my own actions, team work and, well, our motto of Duty, Honor, Country.
We cadets were evaluated by our peers and cadet superiors, by our tactical officers, and by our faculty. If we needed mentoring our tutoring, it was there.
West Point cadets have always been taught the importance of Secular Authority through a myriad of dos and don’ts: how to make beds, shine shoes, how to stand, when to go where and do what, when and how to speak, how to march or perform in class, and more. Compliance brought rewards; noncompliance brought punishment.
Secular Authority is essential for the efficient and effective functioning of any organization. It is rational knowledge. It discriminates, compares, and categorizes. Without rational rules, regulations and laws there is no organization, there is only the chaos of a mob. It’s usually written as part of a legal system.
Different than secular authority is the inner compass allows individuals to make their own judgments between right and wrong, and to discriminate between good and bad. What shapes the inner compass of each individual? Sacred Authority.
Sacred Authority is intuitive, and is often called belief or civic virtues. It allows individuals to value behaviors that are good and to shun those that are evil. Sacred Authority surpasses feelings and requires moral individuals to be judgmental. It is not taught in an academic sense; it is not intellectual, or rational, knowledge. It is intuitive knowledge. Sacred Authority is the ultimate reality arising from experience. It just is. And this is clearly very, very different now, than it was when I was there.
It was very clear to me that West Point was changing. Political correctness was forced on our entire military by our political leaders. As I’ve often said, the focus of the military has to be combat readiness—not political correctness.
So, while I saw things changing, I was seeing from afar. So I was truly shocked when the story of a very recent graduate from the Academy, 2LT Spencer Rapone showed himself to be an anti-American, undisciplined, slob—to be nice.
As I’ve mentioned before, this raises the question of how this guy—who had prior service in our army—survived the army as an enlisted man and how he could have been selected for an appointment to the Academy. A much bigger question was how he could have survived peer evaluations, much less the tactical and academic department’s evaluations. That could never have happened when I was a cadet.
How could someone who hates America and our military, who claims to be a proud communist, who loves Che Guevera, who hates and openly bad-mouths our nation’s leaders, who was insubordinate to faculty—how could his peers have permitted him to stay. When I was a cadet we evaluated all of our peers in our cadet company and all the cadets in the company junior to us—twice a year. Further, bad attitudes were dealt with by the cadet and tactical officer chain of command.
We’re told that West Point is distancing itself from Rapone and the army is investigating him. I hope that he’s court martialed and given a dishonorable discharge. We’ll see. But that’s not the point. The question is not what the Army is going to do with this jerk, now that he’s been commissioned, but how he survived four years of evaluation.
I can only conclude that something is very, very different and very, very wrong at West Point today. It’s probable that this degradation has taken place over decades.
One retired army LTC who served two tours on the faculty at West Point has written an open letter describing his perspective of what happened and the results. It’s quite condemning of the academy’s leadership.
Given that our previous president was very anti-military and very politically-correct, he, as do most presidents, had the military promotion boards seek for promotion to general and admiral ranks, officers who would fully implement his political vision. Thus, a great many of our current generals may well have compromised their commitment to Duty, Honor, Country—in order to get promoted. Perhaps this is a part of the answer.
The current Academy leadership has responded to the questions being raised by generations of graduates. The responses do address some of the issues raised—but not all of them and not how this new non-military culture could be tolerated.
I will be talking people who know what they’re talking about on this topic—probably for several months. This is not going to be something quickly answered. And there will certainly be different perspectives on this topic. And, maybe, this is just some big goof that got through a, basically, valid system.