No, West Point Grads Don’t Need To Learn Anything From The Resistance
John Lucas and James R. McDonough
Last Thursday, a group of West Point graduates calling themselves “Concerned Members of the Long Gray Line” published an open letter attacking, without directly naming, President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (West Point class of 1986), and several other members of the class of ’86 who have served in the current presidential administration. The letter was coyly framed as advice to this year’s class of West Point graduates, but it’s clear the intent is to generate negative news coverage of their political opponents. It worked.
CNN and other media outlets gleefully republished excerpts of the letter, happy to portray Pompeo and the other West Pointers in the administration as deceitful, oath-breaking toadies who have made a “Faustian bargain and endeavor to please their commanders and advance their careers” at the expense of troops in combat.
The letter’s clear message is that Pompeo and the other West Pointers in the Trump administration are dishonorable deplorables who have failed to uphold West Point’s motto of “Duty, Honor, Country,” not to mention their oath of office and the Constitution. The “Concerned Members” would have us know that by making their “Faustian bargain,” these failed fellow graduates “prize loyalty to individuals over the ideals expressed in the Constitution.”
The American people should not be duped. This is utter nonsense. It is both false and not representative of West Point graduates. Make no mistake about it: although ostensibly addressed to the graduating class of 2020, the ultimate target of this political screed is not them, or even Pompeo or his West Point classmates. It is the current commander in chief.
Although the signers attempt to portray themselves as pure and motivated by only altruistic motives of “Duty, Honor, Country,” their letter is part of a dishonest and hypocritical effort most likely intended to promote the “Resistance.”
These People Don’t Represent West Point
Who are these “Concerned Members”? With approximately 500 supposed signatories as of the time the letter was published (less than 1 percent of living West Point graduates, according to data from a source at West Point’s Association of Graduates), this article will not try to characterize each person. But we know something about many of them. Some are Democrat politicians. Some are self-styled members of “the Resistance.” At least one was booted out of the Army early.
Some are blatant hypocrites. We know that because while proclaiming their courage and what they say is their “lifetime commitment is to the enduring responsibility expressed in the Cadet Prayer: ‘to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,’” they were too cowardly to sign the letter. Fifty-nine identified themselves only as “Anonymous.”
Similarly, although their letter clearly is an attack on the president and Pompeo and other accomplished West Point graduates, the authors engage a ruse of their own by not naming their targets, thus attempting to retain a patina of deniability. They are not exactly Horatius at the Bridge.
The Military Is Legitimately Used to Stop Riots
We also know they are not the least bit concerned with the next phrase of the Cadet Prayer that they quote: “never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” That is because they dishonestly accuse the president of threatening “to use the Army in which you serve as a weapon against fellow Americans engaging in these legitimate protests.” No honest person could join in that calumny.
First, federal troops have been routinely deployed to quell domestic civil unrest and riots, beginning with Shay’s Rebellion in 1786. The reader may well wonder if the “Concerned Members” are equally incensed by President Eisenhower (West Point class of 1915) having deployed the 101st Airborne when the governor of Arkansas and white supremist mobs sought to block black children from attending Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957.
Second, and fundamentally, the inflammatory assertion that threatening to use federal troops against innocent and “legitimate protests” is a falsehood. As we know, the administration considered deploying troops to protect American citizens and their property, not from “peaceful protestors,” but from mobs that were killing, beating, burning, and looting. This mayhem and insurrection occurred while numerous elected “leaders” stood idly by or actively excused and encouraged their orgy of destruction.
The inclusion of this falsehood in the letter also casts a dark shadow over the authors’ proclamation, “We will not tolerate those who ‘lie, cheat or steal.’” Indeed, the contradiction between their virtue-signaling platitudes and what they say reveals the “Concerned Members’” hypocrisy.
This Isn’t Advice, It’s Propaganda
The “Concerned Members’” presumptiveness in thinking that it is necessary for them to supplant the four years’ of ethical and leadership training at West Point is sorely misplaced. Could the signatories really believe that in the past four years, West Point, this hallowed institution—with all its historical traditions, strong leadership, and ethical underpinnings—failed to get that essential point across to the newly minted lieutenants in the class of 2020? Do these young officers really require a reminder from the Resistance that they have taken an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and that they must not betray that oath by selling their souls to the devil?
The answer to that is apparent. The letter reveals itself as propaganda. It is not a necessary letter to newly minted lieutenants about to take up the burden of faithfully performing their duty of accomplishing the assigned missions and of defending honorable subordinates.
Instead, it is a political statement, another in a string of engineered statements presuming all is wrong with America save for the dedicated few who view themselves as keepers of the flame and resisters of the unworthy deplorables now serving in positions of great responsibility in government.
Such a letter does not serve well those to whom it is ostensibly addressed. The new officers from the West Point Class of 2020 can be trusted to do their duty well, to face the daily challenges they are bound to meet in war and peace, and to know the difference between right and wrong. They will serve our country well, as West Point graduates have done for more than 200 years, despite this self-serving and unnecessary letter.
John Lucas is a practicing attorney in Tennessee who has successfully argued before the U. S. Supreme Court. Before entering law school at the University of Texas, he served in the Army Special Forces as an enlisted man and then graduated from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point in 1969. He is an Army Ranger and fought in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader.
Col. (Ret.) James R. McDonough is a West Point graduate, class of 1969. He is the author of the book “Platoon Leader,” a memoir of small unit leadership in combat in Vietnam that is studied at West Point and in ROTC today and since its publication in 1985.