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Comments on "The Hyphenated-Airman".

WHEN I READ Lt Col Robert Poynor's "The 'Hyphenated Airman': Some Observations on Service Culture" (Fall 2007), I got no further than the fifth paragraph before I was brought up short. How did "multicultural tribalism ... a contemporary manifestation of cultural Marxism" (23) slip into this discussion? I'm sure the author had the best intentions of setting the stage, but I would like to describe how paragraph five reads to one airman.

That passage comes across as a rather thinly veiled, one-sided explanation of the social dynamics that make up part of the fabric of America. First, it is very clear that the tribes referenced here could only be African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, and so forth. It is also clear that a description of the dominant culture as "white, male, and Christian" puts women in a tribe. (Interesting choice of words here; in my experience, I have heard or read "white, Anglo-Saxon [sorry for the hyphen], and Protestant.") The author then goes on to attach "victimhood" to the tribes and assess their motivation as the "restructuring of society, usually through proportional representation (i.e., quotas)," all a rather transparent swipe at affirmative action. Although I am suspicious of the scholarship associated with these statements, I guess I should be satisfied with the author's citing Wikipedia as the main source.

Colonel Poynor seems concerned that these tribes would seek redress for "perceived grievances of the past." I would suggest that he return to Wikipedia and check "slavery," "Jim Crow," "segregation," "barrio," "migrant workers," and "glass ceiling" for a start. Of course, he would find that these were neither perceptions nor completely in the past. With regard to affirmative action, he might find it useful to look at demographic projections for the america of the future and then review the amicus brief (supported by a dozen or so flag officers from different services) filed in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative-admissions policy. (1)

Passion aside, I share the author's enthusiasm for exploring this topic, but I guess I tripped over my expectations. I thought perhaps he would explore tribalism from the perspective of a military service in which the officer corps does virtually all the fighting. Or take a look at the ramifications of drawing leadership from outside the tribe. Or how about building a "tribal" case study for one of the most amazing feats of organizational management around: kluging Strategic Air Command, Military Airlift Command, Tactical Air Command, Air Force Systems Command, and Air Force Logistics Command into Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air Force Materiel Command? I even thought he might dip into the Air University archives and revisit Col Mike Worden's book Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982. In my view, this topic is very important--rich with data for mining. Whether it is "black shoes versus brown shoes" in the Navy, "leg infantry versus airborne" in the Army, or "fighters versus bombers" in our Air Force, the services have never needed Karl Marx to key the mike and declare "fight's on" when it comes to "tribalism." Multicultural tribalism and Marxist philosophy as a foundation for our complex social environment was just too much for this old airman to handle.


(1.) For the text of the amicus curiae brief filed with the US Supreme Court in Grutter V. Bollinger, see admissions/legal/gru_amicusussc/um/MilitaryL-both.pdf.

LT GEN JOHN D. HOPPER Jr General Hopper retired in 2005 as vice-commander of Air Education and Training Command.

LT GEN JOHN D. HOPPER Jr., USAF, RETIRED * Alexandria, Virginia
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Title Annotation:The Merge
Author:Hopper, John D., Jr.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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