General Welsh Connects Social Mores, Sexual Assault Trends

Update: USAF Public Affairs took the somewhat unusual step of contributing to the comments sections of a few articles that derided Gen Welsh’s comments.  LtCol John Sheets issued the following statement on behalf of the CSAF:

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III gave the following statement to clarify what he meant in using the phrase ‘hook up mentality’ to describe the culture from which the military recruits its people: “My reference was certainly not blaming the victim; it was based on some young men treating young women with a complete lack of respect. There is no place for sexual
assault in our Air Force and we’re committed to solving this problem. As I’ve said to our Airmen many times, you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”

– Lt Col John Sheets, Air Force Public Affairs

That seems consistent with the fair reading of his original statement (for which the Washington Post provided more context).  Young men and women treat each other with a lack of respect in the modern social context of sex.  They then bring that into the Air Force, and the Air Force has to deal with it.

On Tuesday General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, appeared to indicate that the moral culture of society was having an impact on the culture of the Air Force:

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Air Force’s top commander, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, appeared to blame broader society, noting that 20% of women report they had been sexually assaulted “before they came into the military.”

“So they come in from a society where this occurs,” he said. “Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it.”

Contrary to the framing, he wasn’t “blam[ing] broader society,” nor was he blaming the “hook-up culture,” as others sites claimed.  It was a simple statement.  Society now has lax social mores when it comes to sex; that affects both recruits coming into the service as well as the culture of the service itself, which reflects the greater culture from which it is drawn.  The “problem” is not unique to the military, nor is the source of the problem to be found solely within the military.

In addition, when the military focuses its “training” on how to correctly ask another person for sex, rather than, say, telling people to keep their pants on unless they’re with their husband or wife, it addresses the symptom, rather than the cause.

The benefits of moral character may be most evident when society begins to reap the results of a culture in which moral character is no longer encouraged.