Defense Secretary McNamara's recent directive ordering base commanders to make "substantially" segregated commercial establishments off-limits to military personnel is potentially one of the most powerful measures the government has yet taken towards encouraging integration. It is also a move that displays great courage on the part of the Secretary, who already has upset some powerful Congressional patricians with his intelligent guidance of the Pentagon.
If properly enforced, the directive can create two positive influences. It will provide a sharp economic prod to "voluntary action" on the part of Southern businessmen, and at the same time have an educational effect of the men serving in the armed forces, many of whom probably have not thought seriously about the civil rights problem.
The pained howls of Senators Goldwater, Stennis, Thurmond and others of limited social conscience have a somewhat ludicrous ring to them. Surely the Junior Senator from Arizona does not seriously propose that an order preventing military personnel from patronizing businesses which do not uphold the basic freedoms and decencies the armed forces are supposed to be defending is a "police state" tactic. And, recalling the vehemence of Senatorial attacks on the Defense Department when it prevented officers from engaging in free-lance public education on the dangers of Communism, it is curious to find Sens. Goldwater and Stennis now deeply concerned that the military has been placed "in the mainstream of swirling political currents."
Civil rights is only a political issue because men like Sen. Thurmond insist upon playing on and contributing to the prejudice of their constituents. From the Pentagon's point of view, it is basically a Constitutional, not political, problem, and the Army has every right, if not an obligation, to insist that its representatives actively work against Constitutional infringements.