- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Duncan Hunter
Best Defense guest columnist
Using an obituary to editorialize against a man is the worst of bad taste.
Matt Schudel’s obituary for the Washington Post on former Marine Corps Commandant General Carl Mundy appeared to be more of an editorial espousing liberal views on gays in the military and women in combat. The column served neither the truth nor the legacy of a great Marine general.
Schudel excoriates Mundy for his stand against allowing homosexuals into the ranks and resisting the movement to place women in combat positions. Further, he takes Mundy to task for refusing to cut the Marine Corps below their traditional level of 170,000. The Army unfortunately was more acquiescent during the same period, allowing its forces to be cut almost in half with only 10 out of 18 divisions remaining when President Clinton exited the White House.
Ten years later, during the Iraq war, thousands of Army families were punished by multiple 15-month tours in the combat zone. Through his previous resistance to cuts, Mundy spared his Marine Corps the same fate.
It was also Clinton who made a campaign promise to remove the ban on gays in the military. Mundy battled back. The result was a continued ban, a result of the American people and both houses of Congress standing with Mundy.
Schudel further criticizes Mundy for his stand against permitting young women in close-quarters combat. Yet as secretary of defense, Les Aspin, a liberal Democrat, had issued a policy banning women in combat. He apparently agreed with Mundy’s statement that direct combat is "a very dirty, distasteful and physical business."
Mundy’s views were formed in the brutal cauldron of combat in the jungles of Vietnam. Years later, the primal, house-to-house battle for Fallujah validated his views. It was difficult after seeing film clips of Fallujah to argue that young American women should have been in the middle of that battle.
Mundy, like many Marine commandants, was forged and tempered on the battlefield. Sometimes complicated U.S. foreign policy resolves into life and death struggles in remote parts of the world. Prevailing in these conflicts is the paramount security interest of this country.
For 200 years, Americans like Mundy have stepped forward — forthright and courageous, with a sense of honor. We should respect Mundy for his tremendous service to this country and thank God for his career.
If men like Mundy stopped coming forward, America would lose.
Duncan L. Hunter served in the House of Representatives from 1981 to 2008. He is a former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.