In just 10 words, Napoleon captured perhaps the most important element for leading a team to success: "The moral is to the physical as three to one."
Morale involves cohesion, confidence, a sense of common purpose, and loyalty all wrapped up into a hard-to-measure but readily discernible package. Teams with high morale radiate energy and meet heady challenges head-on. The indifference of those without it is equally palpable.
Back in July, President Joe Biden publicly conveyed his belief that the Afghan army, with 300,000 soldiers and its own air force, would hold against some 75,000 Taliban. And yet, even with 4 to 1 odds, that well-equipped organization melted away in the face of a poorly armed militia.
Though hard to quantify, morale is an essential element of effective teams. More often than not, it is the difference between winning and losing in any arena. Those precious few who have served during conflicts don’t just embrace that fact; they view Napoleon’s dictum as one of the most treasured and carefully guarded elements within their fighting force. They hold the morale of their units close to their chests because it is incredibly hard to develop and so easily lost.
Over the course of its history, the U.S. military has mastered the process that develops unity by compelling recruits to let go of their individualism for the sake of the team. The traits of race, creed, color, faith, and family heritage are hard enough to put in check, but in recent years, technology has delivered an accelerant to individualism.
The military works to rid the iPhone generation of its focus on self through a relentless series of physical and emotional challenges that can be resolved only by believing in and being part of something bigger than themselves. Marine Corps basic training is perhaps the most effective in that role. Its graduates leave with a service culture, work ethic, and an indelible bond that is shared with all others that have earned the right to wear that uniform.
Units receiving those graduates know that any semblance of cliques or individual isolation can be cancerous, so they further that bond by onboarding them technically and socially to ensure every new Marine is fully assimilated into the team. That process enables units to grow closer through the most arduous of circumstances and, when required, to fight and win.
Leaders of organizations with exceptional morale will fight off every stimulus that could pit one part of their team against another or could divide the whole into favored and unfavored elements or factions.
And yet, that is the very essence of critical race theory now working its way into the Defense Department.
By design, critical race theory destroys unifying organizational cultures by dividing people by race and sex. And then, incredulously, it demands each subgroup to identify themselves and the others as either oppressors or the oppressed. The fix, the remedy critical race theory offers society, is to subjugate the "oppressors" to the whims of those it has predetermined to be "oppressed," sanctifying the blight of racism the service has worked so hard to stamp out. Put simply, critical race theory divides organizations against themselves, and history shows that divided organizations cannot stand.
For more than 50 years, our military has set the standard for race relations in the United States. While there will always be room for improvement, critical race theory will reverse that trajectory. If allowed to propagate, it will foster internal contempt, destroy morale and undercut the demand for excellence on which the success of our military relies.
Senior leaders within the Defense Department must stand alone, if necessary, against every introductory element or seemingly benign aspect of this destructive scheme. They must make that stand now, before we lose the bond that holds our military together and relegates those segregated groups, and our nation, to the kind of nightmare the people of Afghanistan now endure.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner