Destroying Meritocracy Is Deadly

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

A recent epidemic of airline near misses deserves both attention and reflection.

In mid-December, a San Francisco-bound United Airlines Boeing 777-200 airliner, just a little over a minute after taking off from Maui, Hawaii, suddenly dived. It lost more than half its altitude and came within 800 feet of crashing into the Pacific Ocean before pulling up.

About a month later, an American Airlines jet crossed the runway at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport just as a Delta Air Lines plane was accelerating for takeoff. The two aircraft nearly collided.

Then in February, a FedEx cargo jet at the Austin, Texas airport just missed crashing into a Southwest Airlines airliner by a mere 100 feet.

The same month an American Airlines Airbus A321 was being towed out of the gate at Los Angeles International airport, and smashed into a bus carrying passengers between terminals, injuring five.

These near and actual accidents come amid a general landscape of aviation chaos.

After Christmas, Southwest Airlines simply canceled 71 percent of its flights. It blamed staff shortages due to storms. The airline seemed incapable of ensuring enough of their pilots, attendants, crews, and airport staff could get to work.

The Federal Aviation Administration in January canceled all flight departures from the United States for two hours due a computer safety system collapse. Thousands of additional flights were canceled, many for over 24 hours.

Something has gone terribly wrong.

Either the Department of Transportation and its Secretary Pete Buttigieg, or the head of the FAA, or the quality of either ground crews, pilots, or air traffic controllers—or all combined—are putting American travelers at mortal risk.

If not corrected, these near-death airline experiences and the near collapse of the U.S. commercial aviation system presage catastrophes to come.

Similar problems are plaguing the U.S. military.

On July 21, 2021 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley assured the country that “The Afghan security forces have the capacity and capabilities needed to fight and defend their country.”

Those forces utterly collapsed in a matter of hours less than a month later.

On the eve of the war in Ukraine, the Pentagon wrongly warned Congress that Kyiv could fall within 72 hours of a general Russian invasion.

This month, the Defense Department officials apparently allowed a series of surveillance balloons to enter U.S. airspace. Joe Biden claims he was advised by the military not to shoot down a Chinese survival balloon craft as it crossed with impunity much of the United States.

In the aftermath, Pentagon spokespeople gave incomplete, mutually contradictory, and absurd explanations for these serial violations of U.S. airspace, most likely perpetrated by the Chinese communist government.

The Pentagon likewise disputes details of recruitment shortfalls. But the military brass concedes that many branches of the military are still between a third to a quarter short of their recruitment goals—despite the military steadily lowering standards for enlistment. It denies that the new woke military culture has alienated future recruits, although polls suggest otherwise.

The same shortfall is true of U.S. weapon arsenals. Between cuts in the defense budget, poor procurement planning, incompetent administration, and massive arms shipments to Ukraine, the military suffers dangerously low inventories of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, artillery shells, rockets, missiles, and mines.

America’s security, safety, prosperity, and postmodern lifestyles are not our birthright.

They are the dividends of centuries of prior hard work, unfettered freedom of speech, disinterested research, and a meritocracy.

Tamper with any of that and the system begins to fall apart.

The United States will then resemble the miasma we see in most of the world abroad where ideology suppresses free inquiry, political correctness warps research, and tribalism trumps meritocracy.

Many of the major airlines have established racial and gender quotes for government pilot training programs.

United Airlines has set quotas to ensure half of its trainees will be minorities or women.

Since 2013, the FAA has been lowering standards for air traffic control qualifications to achieve de facto race and gender quotas.

In testimony before Congress our top military brass has bragged not of their reduction in standards for enlistment, but of their “diversity” hiring, as they purportedly ferret out “white supremacy” and “white rage.”

In sum, our government is playing with our lives as it prefers diversity, equity, and inclusion over ensuring the best qualified employees are hired on the basis of racially and gender-blind competitive tests and experience.

Keep it up, and there are going to be a lot more Afghanistan-style surrenders, Chinese surveillance craft in our skies, and airline nightmares.


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25 thoughts on “Destroying Meritocracy Is Deadly”

  1. You think all that’s funny, wait until you see the lengths some will go to “retain” anyone halfway competent. Can you say Organization Todt?

    1. It started out as “the Peter Principle” and has morphed into a Frankenstein from that earlier, comical tactic.

  2. Its worse than your comments. From the FAA website, “The FAA meets the goals of the PWD Program through a variety of practices:
    Targeted Disabilities
    Targeted disabilities are those disabilities that the Federal government, as a matter of policy, has identified for special emphasis in recruitment and hiring. They include hearing, vision, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, psychiatric disability and dwarfism.”

    1. Thanks W. Edwards. It’s comforting to know that the FAA has the safety of passengers paramount! Pilots and/or air traffic controllers that can neither hear nor see is clearly subordinate to the marxist narrative which obviously levitates planes. I feel most passengers would be more at ease in the air at 30,000 feet if the FAA would include narcolepsy as one of their “targeted disabilities “.

    2. It appears the USAF using an F22 and a $430k sidewinder to remove a $12 hobby balloon may be the latest proof of the pudding u describe. Was this another Milley revealing decision? Hopefully, the hobby club members have good attorneys.

      The possibility of a battle between our grotesquely expensive keystone cop military bureaucracy and a real military force brings one exponentially more panic.

  3. All government agencies may claim meritorious service, may claim to adhere to meritorious standards, but most, if left to their own devices fall far short of such measures. Just as a professor who had obtained the perfect GPA through all his or her studies be proclaimed to be exceptional paragon of meritocracy and yet at the same time be a most mediocre teacher, so it is with many other endeavors in life. The Best and the brightest who oversaw the ‘conflict’ in Vietnam had the most dismal record of conducting such conflict with any real success. Merit tends to be the judgment by organizations rather than men. The validity of merit is whether is judges what it purports to judge (notice I did not say measure) and does it provide consistent and repeatable results. Organizations tend to amplify the mistakes of its individual members.

  4. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing 440,000 Americans every year. We’ve had DEI in healthcare for decades, and it’s been a catastrophe.

  5. Astonishing and scary, is it not? Yet there’s hope in this still-vibrant country (brilliant and courageous voices (yours, Shapiro’s, Prager’s, others) and Presidential aspirants (Haley; and, prospectively, DeSantis, Pompeo, Cotton, Cruz, Paul, others).

  6. On a recent Swiss Air flight from Zürich to Boston the Pilot had to abort the landing at very last minute. In very Swiss fashion the pilot announced dryly that there was another plane on the runway he had been cleared to land on. No whitewashing the incident. This is likely happening more frequently than is being reported in the media because it is not being reported by the FAA or any US agency. Certainly individual pilots are reporting the incidents and then it is filed away.

  7. I have read Prof Hanson for years, but recently I am having my doubts. It was a weather balloon. The Chinese have hundred of satellites looking down on us and thousands of humint sources on the ground. Also, for a military historian, Prof Hanson will soon suffer a humiliating admission as to how little he actually knows about modern US military disposition and force structure. We have not won a war since WWII, and we are, through our proxy, up against the most powerful land forces on the planet, and NATO is weaker than it has been in its entire history. I spent 21 years working the G3/G8 in HQ USAREUR/7A, aka HQ CENTAG, NATO. We never thought for a moment that we could defeat Russia. We hoped to stop Russia at the West German border. Our forces today are far weaker through the attrition/depletion of materiel, weapons, and personnel associated with the wars, both kinetic and through proxies that we have engaged in and the resultant losses since the collapse of the Warsaw Alliance, Prof Hanson is clearly getting his information from the ISW through the neo-cons at the Hoover Institute

    1. So, for 21 years you have been an integral part of the atrophy of our military capability and therefore Victor Hanson has deficiencies?

    2. With leaders like Austin and Milley, our military has declined significantly. Since shortly after WWII, the Pentagon’s bureaucracy has evolved into non-militaristic mess while requesting every more budget. Now we have billions for social engineering. Recently, they think nothing of lowering standards for diversity without a thought of the real-world consequences. Having served under Lemay, what followed seemed foolish at best or a high probability of being suicidal should relationships with nations across the globe take a dive. VDH regularly criticizes the trend. MAD worked with the Russkies. China is much less open and straight forward. When dealing with China, either as an individual or a nation, it is recommended to always, always present as 90 degrees from the objective. When GWB invited the Chinese generals to visit and observe our Navy exercises, it made some of us chuckle. When it became known about Sawell and Biden and others obvious, we knew they had our number. Sun Tzu was a military genius not sufficiently appreciated here. I kind of doubt that Milley’s counterpart in Beijing called him on the balloon.

      1. Funny stuff.
        Curtis Lemay, aka, “iron-ass”, tolerated only patriots in his command.
        Pity the metro-male lack of perception were they there.

    1. Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity is the order as I see it – DIE.

      It’s like filling your gas tank with equal amounts of gasoline, water, sugar, and flour. Good luck with that.

  8. Diplomas from the university need to put in a little font…degree earned in a meritocracy. Or degree earned equity setting.

  9. To be fair, the problems with the United flight leaving Maui were thought to be weather-related. There were powerful storms that day with rain, wind and lightning. I’m surprised they took off in that weather actually. In fact, that very day an Hawaiian airlines flight also experienced violent turbulence from the storm causing serious injuries to numerous passengers. The pilots with the United flight had a combined 25,000 hours of flight time so they weren’t recent diversity hires.

  10. For some context, listen to a short commentary by Bill Whittle on Airline Safety:
    The story and actual achievements of the NTSB and our past airline safety are seldom told. Bill does a great job at
    Ever wonder how we have achieved a record 20+ years without a major airline accident in the US? It was not due to diversity equity and inclusion. Hopefully the lessons learned over the past 50 yrs won’t be thrown away.

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