TCS Daily

Being Straight, Shooting Straight

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - June 14, 2005 12:00 AM

With constant talk about the problems various service branches of the American armed forces are having in meeting recruiting goals, talk has naturally drifted towards the possibility of a draft being instituted. Most of the political maneuvering regarding the possibility of draft reinstitution has amounted to cheap and transparent gamesmanship making fears about a draft seem somewhat paranoid by nature. Realistically speaking, there is no way that Congress will vote to reinstitute the draft. Even if it does, there is no way that President Bush will sign such a bill. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has stated quite clearly that he is opposed to a draft, as have the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And yet, none of this has been able to completely squelch rumors that the draft may be reinstituted. So instead of continuing to swear up and down that they will not reinstitute the draft, political leaders should instead show that they are serious about tackling whatever personnel problems may exist in the United States military. And the best way to do that is to finally and completely reverse the ban on gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the United States military. Not only would the reversal of the ban go a long way towards remedying any recruiting problems that may exist, it is the right thing to do to let gays, lesbians and bisexuals serve their country in the armed forces should they wish to do so.

Let us start with the acknowledgment that but for their sexual orientation -- a sexual orientation that evidence increasingly suggests is hardwired and not the product of some kind of personal choice -- gays, lesbians and bisexuals are just like straight people. They have the same strengths that straight people do. They suffer from the same foibles that straight people do. The only difference is who they are attracted to. To take that difference -- which again, is entirely hardwired and driven by biology instead of environment -- and to make it the determining factor in deciding who does and does not get to serve in the military is entirely arbitrary and self-defeating.

To its credit, the military appears to understand the arbitrary and self-defeating nature of its policy more and more in this time of war, which is why -- as the Washington Post points out -- the discharge of gays and lesbians from the military has lessened considerably since the September 11th attacks. Nevertheless, the military is still in the strange position of discharging exceedingly highly skilled people ("90 nuclear power engineers, 150 missile specialists, 49 nuclear, chemical and biological warfare specialists, 50 intelligence operatives, and 163 police officers and professional prison guards" since President Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted, according to this report) simply because of their sexual orientation -- which they have no control over whatsoever. And this does not even count the scores of soldiers who could serve in front line positions and provide invaluable service because they are either gay lesbian or bisexual. To fully appreciate the absurdity of this situation, consider that the military is trying to recruit high school dropouts but won't recruit eminently qualified people simply because of their sexual orientation.

Some are inevitably concerned that the inclusion of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military will cause morale problems that will result from soldiers living in close quarters with one another. This seems unlikely. First of all, as the Washington Post article linked to above makes clear, "Less than 20 percent of the discharges resulted from personnel being caught with a member of the same sex in a compromising position or from investigations of their conduct." This indicates that having soldiers of differing sexual orientations living together is not that much of a problem because relatively little fraternization actually occurs (it may be that the military is just astonishingly bad at rooting out and punishing such fraternization, but that seems quite unlikely). Moreover, to the extent that fraternization needs to be prevented, it can be prevented through the amendment and application of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In order to prevent the depletion of unit morale that may result from fraternization, fraternization of all types must be prevented, not just same-sex fraternization. The UCMJ is an appropriate tool through which fraternization may be discouraged and unit morale kept high. A ban based on sexual orientation is not and the statistics seem to suggest that the fraternization concerns that drove the ban are in large part overblown.

Similarly, some may fear that gays, lesbians and bisexuals may somehow lack the appropriate mindset to serve in the military. But the increasing retention of gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers implicitly undermines any concern that they are not cut out for military life. Moreover, there exist physical and mental tests that can be -- and are -- used by the military to weed out any recruits (gay or straight) that might not be able to serve effectively in the armed forces. Such comprehensive qualifying examinations help the military make a better determination about potential recruits than does the simple (and simplistic) inquiry into the sexual orientation of a recruit.

It is not clear whether reversing the ban alone will be able to squelch talk about a draft or solve all of the recruitment problems that the armed forces may be having. But it is at the very least a good start in that direction and it will allow an insensible policy that prevents patriotic gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving their country in the armed forces to finally be recognized as the outdated idea that it is. When the fight over the gays-in-the-military policy erupted in 1993, Barry Goldwater -- who rightfully remains a hero for conservatives and libertarians -- remarked that "You don't need to be straight to fight for your country. You just need to shoot straight." He was right then. And his words have even more meaning and accuracy now. If the United States military reverses the ban on gays, lesbians and bisexuals, it will both address the recruiting problems that some of its service branches may have as well as allow patriotic American citizens to serve their country in the armed forces regardless of sexual orientation. A wrong will be redressed and the American military will benefit by the righting of that wrong. It is time to reverse the ban.


1 Comment

Being Strait, Shooting Strait
Under no circumstances should the military accept homosexuals as a realistic lifestyle even if the AMA or the Psychiatric version of the AMA validates that lifestyle as normal. Moral relativism has nothing to do with military recruiting. It would be better to go back to the draft than to validate homosexuality and the problems (massive STD's) that come with that Biblically labeled deviant lifestyle.

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