Don’t ask don’t tell bites the dust

Posted: December 18, 2010 in News, Philosophy, Politics

Here’s the AP story.

This is one of those political issues that has always been a curiosity for me.  It’s one that many people feel very strongly about, but I never have.  My thoughts run along these lines:

The military is not a social justice sandbox.  The military exists to do one thing and one thing only:  kill people.  Every feature of the military should be optimized in order to best serve the goal of killing people quickly and efficiently, with as little loss to our own side as possible.  To this end, the military discriminates in a myriad of ways:  gender, height, weight, intelligence, physical fitness, eyesight, hearing, reflexes.  They even discriminate, in certain circumstances, on the basis of good looks or ethnicity.  I’ve heard a few complaints about the exclusion of women from the combat arms MOSs, but other than that, all this discrimination goes by without a bat of the eye.  What is it about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that gets people so up in arms?  If General James Amos, USMC, says “I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction.  I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction,” then who are we to second-guess him, and on what basis?  If we’re going to conclude that he’s a bigot and is lying about the reason he doesn’t want homosexuals in his unit, then that’s an issue of integrity and fitness to command, and the solution would be to remove him.  Is it totally inconceivable that a combat commander might genuinely believe queer-integrated units would pose a threat to mission accomplishment?  Is it inconceivable that he might be right?

Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. Many activists hope that integrating openly gay troops within the military will lead to greater acceptance in the civilian world, as it did for blacks after President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order on equal treatment regardless of race in the military.

This rings completely empty to me.  Race integration in the military improved race relations in this country?  How?  As far as I can tell, race relations are shit and getting worse.  In a country where Cynthia McKinney, a member of the United States House of Representatives, thinks its ok to accuse a capitol guard of racism merely because he asked to see her ID (his job), I’d say we’ve hit rock-bottom.  Also, nothing about military service has anything to do with “rights”.  In the military, you have fewer privileges than a typical prison inmate in the USA.  When people talk about the “right to serve in the military”, a little part of me dies.  What does that mean, that we all have a right to a military-industrial complex?  A right to war?  There is no such right.  If the military has become an entitlement program, then I think we have bigger problems to worry about than DADT.

Now please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not arguing in favor of DADT, or of a ban on homosexuals in the military.  I’m simply arguing that this is not a question with an easy, “no shit” answer.  It’s not about rights, it’s not about equality.  Like the abortion debate, this issue has gotten so politicized that its almost never debated in terms of the real-world consequences of the policy.  Let’s talk about a few of those.  In the military, men and women sleep in separate rooms, and use separate toilet facilities, much like in the civilian world, and probably for the same reason.  Men and women are (typically) sexually attracted to each other, which can lead to either discomfort, or hanky-panky, both of which the military frowns on.  These issues become even more intense in the field, or in a combat zone, when you’re sleeping in foxholes together and showering outdoors.  So where does an openly homosexual man fit into this picture?  Well, unless you’re just going to throw him in with the rest of the dudes, he has to have his own room, and his own shower.  If not, well then you might as well say fuck it and throw everybody together, men and women, queer and straight alike.  If that’s the goal, a la the film Starship Troopers, then ok.  Let’s talk about THAT, not “rights” and “equality”.  Because that’s the road this puts us on.

  1. Jesse says:

    I vote the starship troopers angle, that type of progress is slow. I think with the level of money being dumped into our vast military, it’s a good idea to think of other things to do with it, besides kill.

    If our military is being sold as a force of peace, idealism, a police of the world, and spreading our ideals is somehow the motivation for our on going list of foreign wars. Our military should at least vaguely reflect the ideals we are trying to impose upon nations we have decided to “help”.

    If you look at the military being a force of integration for race, I think it has played that role, I’ve met people who had never seen a black person till they were an adult, weird right. Point being going into a situation where military units are not segregated is going to cut through “myths”, by virtue of first hand experience. You also have the best person doing the right job, regardless of bigotry. Ideally.

    The concept itself is dumb, if someone want’s to fight let them. I doubt any one is going to be mandating weekly military gay pride parades, but no one will be kicked out for a slip of the tongue either.

  2. Jesse says:

    Then it would likely cause moral problems.

  3. Matthew says:

    I’m with you, Catha. Your whole piece reflects how I feel almost to a T. This cat, Jesse, may want to shower with a bunch of gay dudes, but the majority of the military does not feel comfy doing so, and I think that is A-ok. Tolerance is not tolerant if it is forced from above.


    • scr0d3 says:

      Race relations are at an all time low based on… what? One relatively minor incident? I think we’re clearly doing better than time periods with state enforced segregation, mass vigilante racial mob violence, and the socially acceptable bigot.

      • I wouldn’t call that a minor incident. The fact that it involves a congresswoman makes it a noteworthy event. Also, I would describe her, and other race-baiters like her as “socially acceptable bigots”.

        I don’t believe that there’s any direct correlation between state enforced segregation and race relations. In fact it seems clear to me that after the federal government forcibly integrated everything, race relations went to shit.

        We certainly still have mass vigilante mob violence from time to time — look at the Rodney King riots. As far as frequency, I don’t know, but this doesn’t strike me as something that was ever terribly prevalent.

  4. scr0d3 says:

    Sir, there be a mass scale of difference between our troubling level of problems, and the uber-troubling level of problems we experienced previously.


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