Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Debating Point: Gays in the Military

I suppose that I may simply be losing touch with what's going on in the world. But I wonder if anyone seriously thinks that the military should switch to having co-ed barracks...other than perhaps as a plot for a comedy. If not, I'm having trouble understanding the difference between forcing a woman to undress, shower, and sleep with men ogling her every move, and forcing a man into same situtation...the only difference being the gender of the recipient of unwanted attention. But the recent obsession with undoing the military's policy of "don't ask-don't tell" strikes me as rather an exercise in looking for problems...perhaps to distract us from the very real financial, economic, and foreign policy problems that are being crowded off the public stage.

I think that the military exists for one purpose, and one purpose only: to neutralize or destroy any threat against the country, and to do it as efficiently as possible. Anything that detracts from that mission --- such as introducing internal sexual tension into a unit that should be concentrating on destroying the enemy --- is a luxury. We can do so if we choose, because at the present time we're far more powerful than any country on the face of the earth. But there is a reason why all military units in history have separated men from least, until the present day: they don't want romantic thoughts and conflicts to intrude on battlefield responsibilities. Introducing the same thing into all-male or all-female barracks isn't something to do lightly, or out of some sense of political correctness.

This does not mean that homosexuals should be hounded out of the service, or beaten within an inch of their lives merely because of their sexual orientation. If push came to shove, I'd be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those trying to protect our comrade who was being attacked from within. And away from the front lines, there are many jobs in the military for which "sexual tension" in the ranks simply wouldn't matter. But we don't train our military to be enlightened philosophers: we train them to kill enemies on command, and without mercy. And when our surival is on the line, we're better off being defended by a division filled with Conan the Barbarian, rather than one consisting of Mr. Sensitivity.

Unlike most people voicing opinions on the subject, I don't pretend to know the answer. But I do know that we are not asking the right questions. As a result, the current "gays in the military" debate is missing the whole point of having a military in the first place: we should be concentrating on what makes our armed forces stronger, more powerful, and more ruthlessly effective. We should not be using it as a laboratory for conducting experiments in human sociology.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a veteran public prosecutor in Detroit, Michigan, specializes in the appellate practice of criminal law and writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the science fiction adventure novel The Star Dancers, the exciting second volume in the Guardians of Peace-tm series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.


Glenn Sogge (FormerComposer) said...

Jeff, I think the military has already had to deal with the facts of homosexuals in the military, it just hasn't had to acknowledge that it has. I find it hard to believe that for all the years and all the men and women who have served there have been no homosexuals, bisexuals, or others in the uniform. I've never heard a call for the correction of any failures caused by the fact that gays have served. I'm sure locker rooms have simultaneously housed gay and straight soldiers since ancient times.

What the change is about is the recognition that human sexuality comes in many forms. And, that in most cases, it is completely irrelevant to the job. There are already sanctions in place for soldiers who cross the line of appropriate behavior regardless of sexual orientation.

When the military, or police department, or fire department, or other civil service career, can prove that it has never had non-heterosexual individuals in the ranks, then there might be an opening for a discussion about change (because it would actually be a change.) Otherwise, it is, at best, a discussion about who feels threatened by whom by the fact of their existence, not their behavior.

Jeff Caminsky said...

I don't disagree...but whether you think someone is proceeding from a perspective that is ignorant or enlightened, you have to take the feelings and sensibilities of everyone into account. Otherwise, we're like to be facing the intended consequences of attempts to "do good" that won't change minds or solve problems...they'll just create new ones.

Among the foreseeable problems in changing the "don't ask-don't tell" policy is the possibility that we'll be changing our enlistment criteria: rather than choosing recruits because they (1) want to serve their country, and (2) aren't grotesquely stupid, we may find ourselves selecting recruits because they (1) are homosexual, or (2) don't mind serving with homosexuals. Questions like competence, brains, and the ability to follow orders and kill the enemy without questions may not be on the test, since they'd only cause trouble.

Human sexuality isn't the issue: unit cohesion, and enhancing our military's ability to destroy our enemies is. And anything that disrupts that cohesion distracts the military from its mission---which is keeping this country secure, and safe from all enemies.

I don't know the answer; but if we're talking about "rights" or "sexuality" then we're already asking the wrong questions. The right question would be to ask what makes us stronger, and better able to subdue our enemies...not what makes us feel better about ourselves.

That being said...I don't think "don't ask-don't tell" is a perfect solution, especially since it doesn't seem to have stopped nosey people from making trouble for soldiers who are only trying to serve their country. But trying to force this sort of change down the throats of those who are presently wearing our country's uniform won't solve the underlying problem. Until Society as a whole is ready to accept this sort of change, it's a mistake to use the military as an experiment in human behavior.

At least...that's one civilian's opinion.