Is the Pentagon betraying its troops?

Why repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for homosexual servicemen and women will weaken American combat effectiveness.
Robert R. Reilly | 6 December 2010
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The unremitting drum roll for allowing open homosexuality in the US armed forces grows louder. President Barack Obama supports it. In May, the House of Representatives passed the repeal of the “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy, which has kept a lid on this issue for the past 17 years. On Friday, the Senate began hearings on the repeal bill. Also, a federal district court has found the policy unconstitutional (though subsequently an appellate court stayed the injunction), though sodomy has been grounds for dismissal from the military since the Revolutionary War.

Current law states that people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” because of their presence “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” President Bill Clinton also wanted to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the services, but he was unable to revise the law. As a compromise, he introduced the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 1993. Officially homosexuals are still not welcome, but they will not be punished or discharged as long as they keep their orientation to themselves.

Last week, the Pentagon released a 300-plus page report on the subject which concluded that repeal would not cause any serious disruptions in the military. The Republican-dominated Congress which will take office in January, will undoubtedly be more skeptical about changing the current policy. So for advocates of change, the issue is urgent. President Obama has asked the Senate to vote as soon as possible, "so I can sign this repeal into law this year and ensure that Americans who are willing to risk their lives for their country are treated fairly and equally."

The President has been supported by Pentagon bureaucrats, albeit without great intellectual rigor.

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, poor Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, never seemed to know when he was shooting himself in the foot and making the very points he haplessly wished to refute. In regard to the “bunk and shower” issues, he said that “I believe, and history tells us, that most of them (the troops) will put aside personal proclivities for something larger than themselves and for each other.” But “put[ting] aside personal proclivities for something larger than themselves” is exactly what the “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy asked of serving homosexuals. They were only dismissed when they could not or would not keep those personal proclivities aside for something larger.

Now the policy Mullen is advocating precisely promotes the personal proclivities of homosexual troops who are not content with serving without having their proclivities openly accommodated. Where exactly is the service to “something larger than ourselves” in that? Poor Mullen, without noticing it, has installed a set of personal proclivities while he thought he was transcending them.

The Admiral testified that in his experience, he had “been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career... I knew they were there. They knew I knew it. And what’s more, nearly everyone in the crew knew it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on target.”

Well, if this is so, why change the policy? It seems to have served us well.

Mullen explained why by trotting out his lame, often-repeated imperative for repealing the policy, saying, according the Washington Post, that it “‘doesn’t make any sense to me,’ because it requires troops to lie about their identity while serving for a military that values integrity.”

This is a puzzling formulation because the policy he is overturning did not require anyone to lie, as it prohibited asking if one was a homosexual in the first place. However, the more important point that eluded Mullen is that people with integrity can’t be forced to lie. Refusing to lie, even if it is “required,” is exactly what defines integrity. In other words, what Mullen is really doing is promoting a policy designed to accommodate people who would otherwise lie as “required.” Is this valuing integrity?

The general conclusion of the parties favoring repeal seems to be that the only remaining problem is with the prejudices of the military, not with anything homosexuals do. None of the reassuring messages from its proponents, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Admiral Mullen, the many op-eds in the Washington Post and elsewhere, or in congressional testimony actually talk about or even vaguely refer to homosexual acts or examine why anyone might consider such behavior a problem in a military unit.

Yes, there are demure references to certain troops, say Marines, who object to bunking or showering with homosexuals. In fact, last August, Gen. James Conway, former Marine Corp commandant, said that “an overwhelming majority [of Marines] would like not to be roomed with a person that is openly homosexual.” But no one says why they would not like it, or if their objections are based upon any good reason.

So, let’s get explicit, if not graphic. We begin by noting that the most prized character in the military is masculinity or maleness. It is in the military and most especially in battle that a man is at his most manly. He must call upon all his warlike resources as a man to succeed. Combat requires discipline, self-sacrifice, trust, strength and valor. Many men enter the military exactly to test themselves, to become or to discover if they are real men – meaning men who can take the hardship, the pressure, the violence, and the mortal danger. Therefore, they prize masculinity in these terms, and, most especially, the camaraderie of their fellow warriors.

What might offend these men in active homosexuals? Are homosexuals somehow less masculine? Consider what takes place in a homosexual relationship. In it, one man behaves toward another man as if that other man were a woman. The other man willingly pretends that he is a woman. For a man to pretend he is a woman in a sodomic sexual act is, to say the least, unmanly. It is the antithesis of maleness. This why in common parlance such a person is often referred to as a “girlie man.” He is pretending he is a girl, and so is his “partner.” By nature there is something cowardly in this, and that is why “girlie men” are despised. They are being less than men.

If a “manly” man is approached by a homosexual to engage in this sexual charade, his natural reaction is outrage and disgust. He considers it an assault upon his masculinity and an insult to his manhood. (This outrage can easily lead to violence, which is why the “closet” is exactly the place for any homosexuals who wish to serve in the military, and why openly serving homosexuals are disruptive to good order and unit cohesion). Is this man wrong to be outraged at being “hit on” in this manner? If one expects him to be manly, if masculinity is the quintessence of his profession, the answer is no. Outrage and disgust are normal responses to something unnatural. This is, no doubt, why the Pentagon report (pg. 74) states that “Nearly 60% of respondents in the Marine Corps and in Army combat arms said they believed there would be a negative impact on their unit’s effectiveness in this context; among Marine combat arms the number was 67%.”

Therefore, what is to be done with these men? They are the obstacle to creating a permissive attitude to homosexuality in America’s armed services. Well, then, they must be trained; they must be reconditioned; they must be educated; and, if nothing else works, they must be ordered to enter into the brave new world. Military discipline, the chain of command, will be used to undermine the very virtue that underlies that discipline.

In an extraordinary demonstration of the Chinese proverb that a fish rots from the head, a lesbian professor at the Marine Corps University, Tammy Schultz, in a front page Sunday Outlook op-ed, declared her hope for the successful implementation of the repeal of “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy by quoting a Marine saying, “If the law changes, we will comply with the law.” Indeed they will; they have to. The law is coercive.

“Perversion is no longer subversive,” writes left-wing intellectual Slavoj Zizek. Of course it isn’t when perversion, or its general acceptance and actual promotion, has become the norm. Today, it is virtue that is subversive. It is virtue that dare not be named. The price of open homosexual service is further to drive virtue, including the military virtues, underground as deviancy is defined upward. This is not an accidental effect or simply collateral damage; it is the larger purpose of revoking the policy of “don’t ask; don’t tell.”

The military is the last public bastion for these virtues; so it is now the target. It must be made to kneel before moral abnormity. Men of honor must be required to acquiesce publically. Their fall will be the definitive triumph of the moral dystopia that has been eating its way through America’s institutions – education, legislatures, courts, media, and now this. The subsequent decline in combat effectiveness, the resignations, the dismissals, and the loss of military vocations are a small price to pay for the new world’s ultimate vindication of the rationalization for the moral disorder that is sodomy.

While many repeal advocates point to the integration of homosexual troops into the ranks of many NATO countries' armed forces as a "success," they fail to reflect upon the fact that none of the prospective adversaries of the United States or NATO -- such as Russia, China and Iran -- has followed suit. One wonders why.

The failure of many of those in public life, including senior military officers, to rally to the defense of these men and their institution has a name: trahsion des clercs. It is not an honorable one, but they have earned it. The Senate may yet save the US military from their dereliction, as hope remains that it will not pass the repeal in the remaining two weeks of its lame duck session.

Robert Reilly has worked in foreign policy, the military, and the arts. His most recent book is The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis.

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