February 04, 2010


The debate is rightly one which must play out in the political arena in light of existing law and the President's desire to change it. The fundamental question to be answered is not whether the present policy is morally right; it is at best an imperfect solution to a sticky problem but such is the nature of any compromise to a politically divisive issue. The real question is what impact that changing the present policy will have on good order and discipline and the military's primary mission: to fight and win the Nation's wars. Somewhere deep in the pages of the opinions of the Supreme Court is the observation that an Army by its nature cannot embody all of the attributes of the free society it protects. One is dedicated to equality and liberty, the other to victory. From my standpoint as an infantry officer who has served on active duty and in the Army Reserve, in peace and in combat, these are the considerations which must be weighed:
1. Soldiers are not bigots or homophobes but what impact, if any, will there be in how the troops interact with one another? The average age of most units is around 19, the age when the hormones of young men and women are running hot. Commanders and senior NCOs in units with men and women have to contend with the normal social interaction between the sexes, including infatuation, heartache, and jealously between unit members--none of which are conducive to good order and discipline. Adding gays to the mix does not improve the situation and only complicates it. Infantry, armor, and cavalry units are largely free of these concerns, except to the extent these combat arms soldiers are attracted to women in adjacent gender-integrated units. Adding gays to their ranks will only add another dynamic for combat arms commanders to juggle.
2. As necessary, units provide separate billeting for men and women, NCOs, and officers where possible, providing some small measure of privacy. (Unlike "Starship Troopers," there are no co-ed showers.) Adding gays to mix will only complicate matters. For example, will first sergeants now have to take into account separating the straights from the gays? While the gays may not object to having a straight roommate or roommates, what about the straights? Is it unreasonable for straights to object to sharing quarters with someone who is predisposed to be attracted to members of their own sex?

3. Will servicemen who object to accommodating gays for their own moral or religious reasons in billeting be subject to pressure, overt or otherwise, for not being sufficiently committed to equal opportunity? (EO is a graded area on evaluation reports of officers and NCOs alike. An adverse comment in that area or a "founded" EO complaint can be the kiss of death to one's career.) Will the present debate permit officers and NCOs to present arguments as to why the present policy should be maintained without threat to their careers?
4. Homosexual men are one of the two groups most susceptible to HIV/AIDS, a disease which is fatal if left untreated (the other is intravenous drug users). In fact, the American Red Cross prohibits blood donation by any man who has had sex with another man since 1977 ("even once" as the Red Cross literature puts it). Why is it permissible for that matter, for the Red Cross to "profile" gay men in this way and the military cannot, especially when considering what is at stake? Granted, advances in treatment have permitted many infected patients to live many years virtually symptom-free but it is at best, a chronic, incurable disease which is expensive to treat. Moreover, HIV/AIDS is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and war can be, if nothing else, a bloody business. Will the military medical system bear the cost of an inevitable increase in its HIV/AIDS patient load? What about the added risk, however small, infecting soldiers with HIV/AIDS through contact with infected bodily fluids? Is changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, worth the additional risk of infection, however small, to non-infected soldiers, straight or gay?
5. What will be the cost of dropping the policy as measured in personnel turnover, costs incurred for separate billeting accommodations, the burden of treating HIV/AIDS patients, and the like? Will it be balanced by savings associated with gays staying in the service that would have otherwise left? If there is a net cost, what will be the equivalent amount of equipment and material that the military will have to forego in order to institute the policy (ships, aircraft, tanks, trucks, ammunition)? Let's say it will cost $1.5 billion to implement--is ending "don't ask, don't tell" worth an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or the equivalent in Army Brigade Combat Teams?
6. If gays are allowed to serve openly, what about their "partners"? Won't their arguments be that they should be allowed dependant's benefits because they are "functionally" the equivalent of spouses? What about the federal Defense of Marriage Act? Will it have to be changed as well? If the unmarried "partners" of gay servicemen are treated as dependants, what about the shack-ups of servicemen, stratight or gay, can't they claim the same treatment based on "equity"?
7. The enemy gets a vote. What impact, if any, will ending "don't ask, don't tell" have on our enemies' commitment to fight? We are at war with the products of militant Islamic cultures. Will the enemy fight harder and be less willing to surrender, if they know they might be fighting gays?

Posted by LMC at February 4, 2010 09:51 PM | TrackBack

When talking to fellow ship designers I have pointed out that the "Starship Troopers" reference is that only logically consistant model to follow. By putting openly homo men in the same berthing compartment as hetero men you are creating a powder keg. There is only the very basic level of privacy in your rack and virtually none in the heads and showers. What happens when heteros are made to feel that they are putting on a show? If a man puts an unwanted suggestive hand on a woman he gets slapped and no one blames her. Is physical retaliation in a similar homo on hetero incident going to be accepted? The heteros have a point in asking, "If I have to take a shower with guys who get off on guys than why can't I take a shower with who I get off on which is women?" And as a commanding officer I would say that you don't pay me enough to deal with this cr@p.

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"Infantry, armor, and cavalry units are largely free of these concerns, except to the extent these combat arms soldiers are attracted to women in adjacent gender-integrated units."

A cute female medic not only has her choice of infantry officers, but she also has access to an unlimited supply of Robitussin.

This adds +6 to her charisma, and makes saving throws against her virtually impossible.

Posted by: Schliemann (a former infantry officer) at February 7, 2010 04:55 PM

Schlieman, that reminds of an e-mail soundbite that worked its way around MND-B--an officer was busted for, how shall we say, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, with a female 'terp. The gal was described as: "hot, and not just wartime hot, but anytime, anywhere hot."

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