Army Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, due to retire in August, has revived a complaint of sexual harassment against another Army general, arising out of an incident that allegedly occurred in October 1996. New reports say Lt. Gen. Kennedy was unhappy to see the other general on a recent promotion list, even though she had brought an informal complaint against him three years ago. Where did she get the idea that a sexual harassment complaint in an officer’s file ought to ruin his career?
Well, that’s what “zero tolerance” policies do. The Navy, still doing penance for Tailhook, has a formal policy of zero tolerance for any form of sexual harassment. This means there is no excuse, ever, for sexual harassment, and anyone who commits it will be either removed or ostracized within the service. This is true even though sexual harassment has come to be defined by the subjective feelings of the recipient, and even though motives and meanings in individual human behavior are extraordinarily difficult to discern and interpret.
The Army normally doesn’t use the term “zero tolerance,” but it applies the same concept in its continuing efforts to achieve total gender correctness. Thus, Claudia Kennedy probably had good reason to believe that her former colleague’s Army career should have hit a dead end when her complaint was inserted into his personnel file.
As chairman of the Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, I interviewed hundreds of service members. Both men and women said they knew of false claims of sexual harassment that were treated as true by the military establishment, with unfair adverse effects on the accused. They told of drill sergeants who were presumed guilty if a recruit claimed sexual harassment, even if the recruit was a known liar.
A commander in Desert Storm told me how he lost one of his most valuable and irreplaceable staff members. No, the aide was not killed, wounded or captured. He was accused of sexual harassment. That meant he had to be shipped back to the States while the investigators sorted out the facts. Luckily it was a short war. Still, “zero tolerance” of sexual harassment in this case certainly cost the commander in terms of efficiency, and in warfare, efficiency saves lives.
Of course, it’s possible the Army, in promoting LTG Kennedy’s offender, had mistakenly overlooked her complaint (or perhaps misfiled it, and some other poor slob has paid the ultimate price).
But assuming the Army was aware of the complaint and promoted the other officer anyway, I say, Good for the Army! Personnel decisions should be based on overall fitness for duty, not on gender-correctness litmus tests. Too bad LTG Kennedy is only learning this lesson as she ends her Army career.