May 14, 2013

In her May 12 op-ed column “It takes some brass to say things like these,” Ruth Marcus, while correct about the problem, missed the point of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Our military, by design, is a microcosm of U.S. society. The recruiting base is representative of our society, with all its associated shortcomings. Compared to decades ago, today our society has a much different moral culture brought on by a complicated set of social influences, all of which have an impact on how men and women interact.

While the services attempt to screen out the negative during the recruiting process, some bad actors get through and become part of the closed military society.

Those bad actors cause the cancer known as sexual assault.

The military services have identified the problem, albeit far too late, and are working to cure it. That was Gen. Welsh’s point — not blaming victims, but explaining that cultural values that lead to sexual assault are imported into the services. Better screening, leadership at the unit level and education of our service members on what is and is not acceptable in military society are required to solve the problem.

Labeling senior military leaders as clueless and uncaring only undermines their credibility and the confidence of service members in leadership’s ability to solve the problem.

Richard Platt, Alexandria

The writer is a retired Air Force major general.