SINCE the end of the cold war, the Marine Corps has been
transformed from the wet mop in the United States' military closet
to its foreign-policy spearhead in Somalia, and now Haiti.
But the Clinton administration's goal to expand opportunities
for women, minorities, and homosexuals in the armed forces has put
the corps under fire. Some experts warn that too much political
correctness might dampen the warrior culture of the Marines and
undermine their ability to wage war.
In the last two years, the Marines have opened combat training
to women, absorbed the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue"
policy on homosexuals, and revised their training manual to
prohibit officers from making statements that show "racial,
gender, or ethnic prejudice, or bias."
"The trade-off between political correctness and military
effectiveness has yet to be fully analyzed," says Marty Binkin, a
senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Because
of its combat orientation, Mr. Binkin argues, the Marine Corps is
more sensitive to demographic tinkering in its ranks - an
assessment Marine commanders agree with.
"We do windows, we do floors, we do what you want done," says
Gen. Thomas Wilkerson, assistant deputy chief of staff for the
Marine Corps. "Maybe we're a little bit conservative ... but we
provide something the nation is looking for."
General Wilkerson says that although the Marines are making
progress in the advancement of women and minorities, their crowded
docket prevents them from tackling every "quality of life" issue.
Yet some evidence suggests that the Marine Corps culture is
prejudiced in favor of white males. Current Defense Department
statistics show that only 4 percent of Marines are women, compared
to a militarywide figure of 12 percent, and only 11 percent of
Marine officers are minorities, again the lowest percentage for all
In 1989, the Marines dismissed Bruce Yamashita, a
Japanese-American, from its Officer Candidate School (OCS) at
Quantico, Va., for what they termed "leadership failure."
Mr. Yamashita says he was ousted because he protested the racial
taunts and jeers he was subjected to during training.
Reviewing the case early this year, Navy Secretary John Dalton
determined that Yamashita's ouster had been driven by racial
The Marine Corps has always had the attitude of "let us do it
our own way," says Yamashita, a Washington lawyer. "But the way
the Corps does things now doesn't allow room for basic equal
opportunity, basic diversity, and tolerance."
In a 1992 internal review, the Marines discovered that, indeed,
minorities drop out of OCS at higher rates than whites. Appearing
on CBS's "60 Minutes," Marine Commandant Gen. Carl Mundy fueled
criticism by stating that minority officers do not perform in the
field as well as their white counterparts. …