Was MAVNI a good idea? MAVNI: Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. This was a program devised under Bush 43’s presidency as a response to a desperate need for skilled, foreign-language speakers within America’s military ranks, all in order to better conduct the war on terrorism.

In 2002 President Bush signed an executive order with the purpose of expediting naturalization of foreign-born active-duty soldiers. The program became a formal – and perhaps overly ambitious – program with the creation of MAVNI in 2008.

But guess what? Within a year or so of its creation, the Fort Hood shooting happened. Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist, had been increasingly displaying radicalized behavior and he snapped and started shooting on the base, on November 5, 2009. He was American, born in Virginia to Palestinian parents. This tragic and violent incident meant the program was  put on hold until 2012. In other words, the possibilitiy of admitting recruits – however well-educated and well-qualified – into the military suddenly was seen to come with the possibility an urgent danger. And it still is a key determinant of the vetting and screening process that necessarily comes with a program like MAVNI.

Will they turn on America? And will they do it from within the military? Will your farsi-speaking “asset”, for example, turn deadly on you? How to screen for that risk when your recruits come from places where tracking down official data is tricky at the best of times? And yes, those places are often precisely where you find recruits with the language and cultural skills the military needs.

So while the headlines on the MAVI story seems to vary between racist military and idiot military bureaucracy, perhaps we should just consider the fact that the program has ends that are very difficult to reach. You are asking people who are not American citizens to take up the ultimate sacrifice of going into harm’s way to defend a flag they have yet to swear allegiance to – at least not as citizens of America.

Yes, it can seem a wonderfully inspiring story about America’s inclusivity and how it asks for and brings out the best in people, regardless of where they come from or who they happen to be.

But that “who” they happen to be is the tricky part. How do you vet someone who, say, is an engineer born in Afghanistan and who studied in Saudi Arabia and now wants to join the American military? What documentation will be sufficient to give a recruiter reasonable certainty that this person will not be a threat at some future point in time?

Margaret Stock – a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who supposedly helped design MAVNI – has been all over the media defending those recruits who have been reportedly discharged in recent weeks. She is also defending them legally as an immigration lawyer. But even Stock admits that MAVNI became burdened by unnecessary additions.

Before he became head of DHS, Jeh Johnson was general counsel for the Pentagon and in that capacity he decided it would be a good idea to add DACA recipients to MAVNI. Two nice acronyms make a cute fit. Right?

Wrong. Until the military decide that Spanish is indeed a necessary language in the war against terrorism, admitting Hispanics and Latinos to MAVNI was using the wrong program for the wrong purposes. Aside from the fact that America has more than a few legal hispanic speakers who could and in fact do join the military.

So right now, the military is having to reassess how to vet and how to deal with the enormous backlog of cases in MAVNI. That perhaps means some discharges are related to this vetting process. It could also mean that some recruits were deemed inadmissible for other reasons.

But this isn’t a case of idiot bureaucrats. It’s the case of a military overwhelmed by an ambitious and poorly designed program with possibly flawed ends.

In other words, should MAVNI have ever been created? That America should fast track some legal immigrants who serve with honor in the military is obvious. That is it should create a Frankenstein of a program that gums up the process of recruiting – already a delicate balance between vetting and necessity – is a question that needs to be asked.

Not whether the military under Trump is suddenly and supposedly racist.

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