Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ???

Let me begin by saying that my political leanings are staunchly conservative for fiscal matters. However, I'm generally "liberal", or at least "libertarian" on most social issues. I’m a fervent Constitutionalist, and am all about individuals’ rights and absolutely believe in fighting to defend the liberties guaranteed to me and all Americans by our Constitution. Moreover, I'm absolutely disgusted by such hate-driven initiates such as California's Prop.8 which is meant to outlaw same-sex marriage. I stand for equality, civil rights, and a "live and let live" societal ideal. But when it comes to battlefield dynamics, this discussion is NOT purely academic, and shouldn’t be addressed as such. There are concrete reasons for keeping the present policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Changes in public policy enabling increased gay rights for the civilian populace have clear benefits to society as a whole and have begun to correct legal injustices gay people have had to endure. I do not oppose any such civilian legal/regulatory changes for this purpose. In the military, however, there are other factors to consider.

I'll lay out my argument in defense of the present "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy". First and foremost, the overall strength of our military forces should be absolutely paramount in any policy decision. Why? Because lives are at stake. My life is at stake; so I will never support a change in policy that would in any way increase my chances of dying on the battlefield. I believe an openly gay military would do that very thing. How? Well, this is where the difference between an academic discussion and real life come into play. Whether we like it or not, open homosexuality would undermine discipline, morale, and esprit de corps--all critical characteristics of an effective military force. Specifically, sexuality matters on the battlefield. We don't house women with men in the barracks. We don't have the women shower in the same facilities as men. Both for good reason. Women are not allowed in many combat related MOSs (job fields). Essentially, openly gay men in combat, in showers, and in the barracks would be much like allowing women in all these places. If nothing else, it would present a distraction to mission accomplishment, let alone the obvious decrease in unit cohesion and increased likelihood of violence within military units. Speaking first hand, I witnessed daily instances where male soldiers and airmen were distracted from accomplishing our mission in Kuwait because of the temptation to "romance" the women at our base. In fact, the vast majority of our UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) disciplinary actions were due to inappropriate conduct between men and women. "Bunker Love" was the norm, not the exception. In many instances it was a case of fraternization which has significant negative impact on military discipline. And in some cases, these forbidden relationships resulted in pregnancies which forced women home—at great cost to base readiness and to the American taxpayer. It was a clear breakdown of discipline, and the mission did suffer. If the women weren't there, such temptations wouldn't exist, and therefore wouldn't be a factor. Unfortunately, we need women to serve overseas because we need the manpower. Again, I have nothing against women, nor do I have anything against folks that happen to be gay; but I do appreciate the negative effects of both on the battlefield. In the movie "300", what did you notice about the makeup of the Spartan Army? It was strikingly homogeneous. And because of this, everybody had an equal role, enjoyed equal treatment, and relied on each other equally. Though it sounds tremendously racist/sexist/bigoted, this condition is ideal for fighting forces. Is it ideal for civilian society? Of course not. I cherish the value of diversity in general society. But in the military, we understand that our differences are put aside for the supreme purpose of establishing the most effective fighting force possible. In basic training, we're told that there isn't such thing as "black", "white", "yellow". There isn't such thing as "Christian", "Jew", "Muslim". Furthermore, there isn't such thing as "Republican" or "Democrat"--we're prohibited to proselytize about religion or political preference by law (Hatch Act). What I'm saying here is that such cultural differences are ignored in the military so as not to present a distraction or opportunity for in-fighting which would ultimately decrease our effectiveness.

It disgusts me that my Chief of Staff proclaimed that "Diversity is the strength of the US Military" in the wake of the Ft. Hood terrorist attack. It's hogwash. And in fact, it's that kind of “PC” attitude that allowed a known Jihadist the opportunity to massacre young men and women at Ft. Hood. The ONLY reason that these Generals say such things is for personal political gain. On the battlefield, and in the general ranks of military units, it's a completely different world than in the bureaucracy of the Pentagon. Generals pander to their politician counterparts responsible for their next star, and seem to forget the realities of war. It's shameless. In the movie, Leonidis didn't allow the hunchbacked deformed Ephialtes into his combat ranks because he understood and appreciated the decreased effectiveness of the army as a whole that would result. It may not have been the Politically Correct thing to do, but it was for good reason. He understood that Ephialtes might have his feelings hurt, but recognized that Ephialtes’ feelings were justifiably less important than the safety of his greater army. Women and openly gay men on the battlefield would absolutely decrease our military's effectiveness much like Ephialtes would hinder the Spartans from fighting the Persians effectively. Does that sound bigoted? Sure. Is it PC? No. But it's the absolute truth. Whether I agree or disagree with the underpinnings of such a policy decision is of no consequence relative to the aforementioned "life of death" that ought to be the ONLY consideration in establishing military policy. It's "life or death", and it's American national security at stake. American liberals wouldn't even have their universities and their coffee shops to discuss their own "moral high-ground" if we didn't have an effective military to defend their freedoms. How ironic. Personally, I would be happy to discuss with all of you the moral and cultural injustices that have taken place in this country and elsewhere. I know the list is long, and the strides in civil rights since the days of MLK are absolutely wonderful. I would likely surprise you with my liberal view about individual freedoms, gay rights, women's rights, etc., but when it comes to the military, and my own life--military effectiveness trumps "white guilt", "hetro guilt", "man guilt", and all the ridiculous political correctness that has pervaded civilian society. My safety, the safety of my fellow servicemen, and our national security trumps it all!

On the battlefield we can ignore the color of a fellow soldier's skin (unless he makes it an issue). On the battlefield we can ignore a man's chosen religion (unless he makes it an issue). We can even ignore a man's sexual orientation so long as it stays in the closet. But we can't ignore it if it's put on display or acted upon. Such a "difference" would inherently and unavoidably cause a decrease in unit cohesion--especially if a gay person acts upon his sexual impulses,,, just like women damage our cohesion, focus, and motivation to accomplish the mission at combat bases right now. Like it or not, I'm just stating the facts--from witnessing this phenomenon myself.

So what is the next proposal? Accommodate open gays with separate barracks? Separate showers? Separate foxholes? Or even separate units altogether? Seems to me like that kind of "solution" would cause more civil unrest and more of an opportunity for discrimination than under our current policy. Because of the absolute reliance on each other in a combat situation, the lack of differences is critical. A woman (especially a good-looking woman) would encourage "manly" men to save the "damsel in distress" on the battlefield over another soldier in more immediate need. Conversely, an openly gay soldier may be left on the battlefield while other less critically wounded hetro soldiers may be attended to first. Yes, it would happen. Such differences (once again) should be avoided for this very reason. Furthermore, it's not a "right" to serve in the US military. There are perfectly wonderful folks that aren't afforded the opportunity to serve for a myriad of reasons--too young, too old, too flat-footed, too slow, too fat, too stupid, too weak, bad heart, bad knee, bad back, bad eyes, amputee, too tall, too short,,,, the list goes on and on!! It doesn't mean these folks aren't good people. It doesn't mean they don't deserve all the "rights" afforded to every other American established by our Constitution; it just means that because of some attribute, their participation in our military would degrade our effectiveness, so therefore, they are precluded. Justifiable? Most definitely. The same should apply across the board. It may seem wrong in our collective conscious to prohibit women in combat, but I think I've done a pretty good job explaining how allowing them would decrease our overall effectiveness. Even now, women in the military are subject to a lower physical fitness standard than men, and the vast majority of female soldiers and marines are unable to throw a grenade far enough to escape the blast! But we should let them in because it "feels good", because it's politically the "right thing to do"? NO! Battlefield success trumps all that.

There's an "ethos" associated with being in the armed services. And yes, even those of us with primarily desk jobs share this ethos because at any given time we can be thrust into battle--and we train as such. The glue, or non-sexual bond that occurs between military members is a huge part of this ethos, and is invaluable to unit cohesion, morale, respect, and motivation. This ethos is compromised with sexual or romantic interests; competition for those love interests and the subsequent sexual relationships pervade our ranks--and this ethos is destroyed. And thus, our battlefield effectiveness is compromised. This ethos, not to be confused with machismo or chauvinism, is critical to everything military--critical to why young men don't hesitate when their commanding officer says "charge the hill", or when you put your back against the back of a fellow warrior and say, "I'll watch for anything behind you, and you can watch for everything behind me; together we’ll have each others’ backs—always, no matter what". Once again, anything that damages that unwritten code, that invaluable dynamic, that "ethos",,, should be discarded. This PC idea of open gays in the military should also be discarded for the rubbish that it is.

Now, to address the opponents of my position. Contrary to popular belief, under the current policy we do not prohibit gays from joining the military nor do we make them lie about their sexual orientation. They can serve if they want, they just can't trumpet their sexuality to everybody else. This is not a civil rights issue in my opinion. It's justified discrimination based on behavior. The behaviors of an openly gay military member would damage this nation's military strength, and that is why I deem this "discrimination" as justifiable--just like all the other reasons the military discriminates that I mentioned before.

Lastly, some proponents of instituting an openly gay military policy point to the opportunity of "hate crime" prosecution associated with violence against gays. This whole idea of "hate crimes" opens up a whole other can of worms. Simply stated, I don't believe in the concept of a "hate crime". If a person is assaulted,,, the color of their skin, their chosen religion, or their sexual orientation shouldn't matter. It's still a crime, regardless of the motivation. Is the family of a murder victim any less hurt by the murderer if the murderer happens to have the same color of skin as the victim? No. So similarly, the punishment shouldn't be any different. In the military, there are harsh penalties for assault, rape, battery, theft, etc. and under the UCMJ it makes no difference what the motivation for the crime happens to be. The punishment is assessed based on the criminal act, nothing more. If a soldier assaults another soldier, the perpetrator will be punished the same regardless of whether or not the victim is homosexual. In fact, I guarantee that open homosexuality would increase incidence of "hate crimes" against them. No doubt about it.

We have to be careful discussing hate, crime and punishment, policy making, and your philosophical moral high-ground associated with each. Guilt for past transgressions shouldn't cloud our idea of justice today. Affirmative action, “hate crimes”, special privileges for women, disproportionate federal grants to select groups, etc. are all attempts at righting past evils. But is it really fair when these evils took place generations ago? Also, when it comes to double standards in the courts and public opinion, is it really fair? Is it justice? I.e. if a gay man approaches me with an erection at the gym and winks at me; and I punch him out, I'll be prosecuted for assault and battery and likely receive an enhanced sentence when convicted due to the "hate crime" nature of my offense. Whereas if I inadvertently rub against a woman in the subway and she takes out a Tazer and sends 10,000 volts through me rendering me incapacitated for 20 minutes, she's likely cheered by the rest of the subway patrons and would never be prosecuted. This hypocrisy is (in large part) due to our irrational obsession with political correctness--and it has had and will continue to have negative and dangerous effects on society. Similarly, "we" as a society (policy makers and regular citizens alike) should take a more pragmatic approach to these discussions and recognize that the PC way isn't always the best way when a bit of reality is appropriately applied. The “PC way” of dealing with Malik Hasan resulted in 13 dead and over 30 injured at the hands of a known Muslim radical. “The PC way” resulted in allowing Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab to carry out a terrorist attack on an American airline that potentially could have resulted in hundreds of American deaths. “The PC way” is threatening our right to free speech and assembly for fear that it's "hate based". And alarmingly, the “PC way” of thinking regarding gays in the military is threatening the safety and effectiveness of America's fighting forces. “The PC way”, is demonstrably the wrong way in so many instances. Let’s not let Political Correctness rule the day in these decisions about gays in the military—the result could be disastrous…


Runner's Heart said...

I haven't had time to compose a though-out response yet to your well-written argument. However, I do want to throw a couple of ideas out there while they are on my mind:

1) If men have been able to see past religion and skin color in order to serve together, if they could get past those differences, then why are these same men so incapable of serving with people of different genders and sexual orientations. This seems to speak to a disturbing weakness in the abilities of the straight servicemen - to be unable to see past these differences and even inflict violence upon others within their own units. The problem here seems to lie with the sexist/bigoted men, not with the women or gays. This, to me, is not an issue of PC and not PC, and I find it sad that the very people defending our diverse country cannot seem to handle that diversity when they are surrounded by it.

2) I was utterly disturbed in your comparison of a deformed traitor of a hunchback to gays and women. C'mon. (And even to compare today's army to the army shown in 300 is a stretch - the physical demands were different, gender roles and politics within the society were different, and, perhaps most important, the approach to diversity was different.)

3) The whole idea of bunk love is silly and should be punished. That is a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed, just as any other act of poor behavior or insubordination would be punished. This should be true for straight men, for women, and for gays. The behavior is, or at least should be, the focus of the attention. The changes to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are not giving gays the freedom to get freaky with other dudes in the foxholes; that behavior is not okay, and no one is arguing that it is.

Enough for now.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, on all points, Sis. Thus my premise that a PC idealist's philosophical discussion with other PC idealists is fun and makes everybody feel good, but reality is a whole different story. You are absolutely right, it is sad. But as a pragmatist, I see that the reality of this issue is that members of our service can't "see past it"; at least not now. And I don't think men will ever be able to "see past" serving with females that they are attracted to, and likewise, gay men won't ever be able "see past" serving alongside other men (gay or straight) that they are attracted to--even if the bigots are able to see past their hatred. It's an observation. They may change the policy. But all I'm saying is that if they do, it will degrade the effectiveness of our fighting force; for no other reason than bigots will quit and we'll lose good soldiers, airmen, sailors (actually I doubt many sailors would quit), and marines. I don't find fault in the women or the gays themselves. I just don't understand why they can't see my argument and shut up about it. How are they hurt? I absolutely find fault in the others, the ones that can't see past it, but it's the others that make up our army, air force, navy, and marine corps. You seem to think as though I agree with the bigoted underpinnings of this discussion--I don't. I just recognize reality.

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Runner's Heart said...

Nope, I don't see you that way at all. I just worry that this utilitarian/pragmatic approach keeps discrimination alive and, perhaps, doesn't give our servicemen as much credit as they deserve. It seems that much of your argument stems from the idea that gay people will not be able to refrain from homosexual acts during missions and that straight folks won't be able to refrain from violent acts. It also assumes that officers will not be able to effectively run or discipline those under his/her command. I'm just not convinced that these fears are all warranted or if the extent to which they are warranted justifies keeping "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" going.

Anonymous said...

Sis, you act as though I disagree with your idealistic view. I do not. I wish you were right; but unfortunately, you aren't. Not on this. As you know, I'm actually in the military, and unlike the civilians that like to force policy on us, I actually have witnessed the issues that I described in my post. Those progressive academics/politicians that sit in their ivory towers and talk about what "should" be, or what they think "ought" to be if they were in charge of the world, have not. I've got my own pie in the sky ideas about the world, but the pragmatism that I brought to this discussion is very real, very relavant, and MUST be a consideration. Let's keep in mind that I'm not at all opposed to gays in the military like the media and academia like to say. I'm just opposed to making sexual orientation yet another difference amongst us warfighters that we'll have to deal with. With the current rules of engagement that the politicians make for us already degrade our effectiveness--let's not add yet another handicap to our ranks.

H60DVR said...

I sort of agree with the analysis. I feel you have overstated the issues with women in combat. Most men are able to get past this and most units do not have unit readiness issues. It does exist. The better comparrison is why women are not in some branches of combat arms and special forces. This is more of the same reason as to why gay men, for example, should not be serving. In order to do so, they would have to be segregated and discriminated against.

Let me give you a situation I have been in in the mountains conducting army training. At night the temperature dropped to the low 30s with rain. We were packing a very limited amount of equipment, so we buddied up to share the packing. To survive such a night, we had to buddy up and qite frankly spoon. Sounds wierd, but only possible with total trust in your buddy. This is a trust that can only form among people of the same sexual orientation. That is not sexist or homophobic. That is life.

Also, in the analysis, consider the military has higher standards of conduct than civilians for the purpose of unit readiness. We can not have extra-marital afairs, nore be overly-political.

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