Mac

Gays In The Military

108 posts in this topic

There are some excellent arguments for ending the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. And there are some lousy ones. Leave it to the people who mistake moral preening for thought to make the lousiest ones of all. For instance:

• Ending the policy is the great civil-rights cause of our time. As compared to what? On the scale of moral precedence, "don't ask, don't tell" is trivial compared to the abuse of women in the Muslim world, or of political dissidents in Cuba, or of homosexuals in Iran, or of American children in inner-city public schools.

This is a meaningless point as what concerns us is the US, not the rest of the world. Gays in the military might not be the great civil-right cause of our times, but certainly not because of what happens elsewhere.

• The support of U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen for ending the policy is the last word on the matter. The argument might have been more convincing if Adm. Mullen hadn't located his conscience at this moment of maximum political convenience, after saying he'd served alongside homosexuals since 1968.

OK

• "Don't ask, don't tell" is the moral equivalent of the military's pre-1948 policy of racial segregation. Or not. "Skin color is a benign non-behavioral characteristic," Colin Powell noted in 1992. "Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics."

This is stupid. Race is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US, and it's interesting to note that gays are kept out of the military for the same reason blacks were: not because they can't fight, but because other military personnel might not like having to serve with them.

That leaves the best argument against lifting the policy, which is that doing so will have an adverse impact on military effectiveness. The armed services exist to defend the country, not reflect it. (If "reflection" is what we wanted, a third of the military would be obese.) Its value system of duty, honor and country is very nearly the opposite of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Spend an hour in the company of West Point's superb cadets; those high-collared uniforms aren't exactly keeping pace with our evolving social mores. Good thing, too, since if they were you probably couldn't count on them to jump on live grenades to save their buddies.

But does "don't ask, don't tell" contribute to military effectiveness? Probably not. One problem is that by demanding that gay and lesbian service members keep their sexuality a secret, it makes them uniquely susceptible to blackmail.

More problematic is that it has meant the dismissal of more than 13,000 American service members since the policy came into force. Assume that the presence of openly gay people in uniform poses real if intangible risks to morale or capability. It's still worth pondering whether those risks outweigh what amounts to the loss of an entire division of war-fighters.

Also worth pondering is the experience of countries in which gays and lesbians serve openly. Britain and Canada are often cited as cases in point, though the deteriorating overall capabilities of their armed forces do not inspire confidence. A better comparison is the Israeli military, which hasn't yet been deemed incompetent or pusillanimous even by those who otherwise routinely defame it.

"It's just a non-issue," says Israeli Army spokesman Capt. Barak Raz about the service of openly gay soldiers.

Israel lifted restrictions on gay soldiers in 1993 on orders from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. If there were ill-effects, Capt. Raz says, nobody noticed. Openly gay soldiers have served with distinction in elite combat units and as senior officers. Most of the information is anecdotal, though last summer the army's weekly magazine published an edition for Gay Pride week highlighting a few openly gay officers.

(...)

As Capt. Raz says, "by not treating it as an 'issue,' it doesn't become one. That's the bottom line."

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I consistently see people saying that "There is no right to military service.", which is something I emphatically agree with. However, in the same vein, there is no right to be comfortable in the military. Simply because a gay person makes you uncomfortable it does not give you the right to deny them service, that only holds true when it causes some lowering in efficiency. I will say that I must agree that the military is not the place to push change, that is society's issue.

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I consistently see people saying that "There is no right to military service.", which is something I emphatically agree with. However, in the same vein, there is no right to be comfortable in the military. Simply because a gay person makes you uncomfortable it does not give you the right to deny them service, that only holds true when it causes some lowering in efficiency. I will say that I must agree that the military is not the place to push change, that is society's issue.

If that discomfort is affecting effectiveness/$, it's a life and death issue.

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The support of U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen for ending the policy is the last word on the matter. The argument might have been more convincing if Adm. Mullen hadn't located his conscience at this moment of maximum political convenience, after saying he'd served alongside homosexuals since 1968.

OK

As has already been said, military top brass are political animals. Just referring to their conclussions does next to nothing to advance the argument in either direction.

"[T]he last word on the matter" sounds an awful lot like an evasion to my ears; if only because AP ran a piece last week on Gates wanting to slowdown integration to a crawl.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is the moral equivalent of the military's pre-1948 policy of racial segregation. Or not. "Skin color is a benign non-behavioral characteristic," Colin Powell noted in 1992. "Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics."

This is stupid. Race is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US, and it's interesting to note that gays are kept out of the military for the same reason blacks were: not because they can't fight, but because other military personnel might not like having to serve with them.

I'm not sure that "[r]ace is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US". And I'm reasonably sure that if this were the case in the military we'd be far closer to integration.

As for the discomfort issue: Being uncomfortable enough to serve with warriors of other ethnicities is stupid. I'm not sure that feeling uncomfortable when forced to serve in an environment where sexual and/or romantic relationships are possible is stupid.

More problematic is that it has meant the dismissal of more than 13,000 American service members since the policy came into force. Assume that the presence of openly gay people in uniform poses real if intangible risks to morale or capability. It's still worth pondering whether those risks outweigh what amounts to the loss of an entire division of war-fighters.

Well, how many wouldn't sign up if the ban was lifted?

Also worth pondering is the experience of countries in which gays and lesbians serve openly. Britain and Canada are often cited as cases in point, though the deteriorating overall capabilities of their armed forces do not inspire confidence. A better comparison is the Israeli military, which hasn't yet been deemed incompetent or pusillanimous even by those who otherwise routinely defame it.

"It's just a non-issue," says Israeli Army spokesman Capt. Barak Raz about the service of openly gay soldiers.

Israel lifted restrictions on gay soldiers in 1993 on orders from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. If there were ill-effects, Capt. Raz says, nobody noticed. Openly gay soldiers have served with distinction in elite combat units and as senior officers. Most of the information is anecdotal, though last summer the army's weekly magazine published an edition for Gay Pride week highlighting a few openly gay officers.

(...)

As Capt. Raz says, "by not treating it as an 'issue,' it doesn't become one. That's the bottom line."

But the IDF isn't a voluntary force, the US doesn't start every day on the verge of annihilation, the US isn't Israel and, once again, the armed forces are political entities.

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This is stupid. Race is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US, and it's interesting to note that gays are kept out of the military for the same reason blacks were: not because they can't fight, but because other military personnel might not like having to serve with them.

I'm not sure that "[r]ace is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US". And I'm reasonably sure that if this were the case in the military we'd be far closer to integration.

The statement "Race is a much more important issue than sexual orientation in the US" is completely wrong. Virtually all Americans are now comfortable with the concept of racial equality and living with, working with, falling in love with, etc, other races. The same is nowhere near true for homosexuals in the US, and whatever areas are still hostile towards other races, will be ten-fold more hostile to homosexuals.
As for the discomfort issue: Being uncomfortable enough to serve with warriors of other ethnicities is stupid. I'm not sure that feeling uncomfortable when forced to serve in an environment where sexual and/or romantic relationships are possible is stupid.
I don't think I'd enjoy living in close quarters with, showering with, working out with, etc etc, an openly gay man for an extended period of time in the military, especially when that would be a time-period of extreme sexual repression.

To put this plainly: If you were a hetero man or woman who had to live in the same room as the opposite sex for several years, seeing them naked on a daily basis, all the while being cut-off from a normal civilian life of sexual relationships and dating, how do you think that would go?

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I don't think I'd enjoy living in close quarters with, showering with, working out with, etc etc, an openly gay man for an extended period of time in the military, especially when that would be a time-period of extreme sexual repression.
To put this plainly: If you were a hetero man or woman who had to live in the same room as the opposite sex for several years, seeing them naked on a daily basis, all the while being cut-off from a normal civilian life of sexual relationships and dating, how do you think that would go?

A female serving with me is not just a female. Sure there's a suspense between us by the nature of the man/woman interaction. But it doesn't mean just any woman naked or not will attract me. Otherwise account for the fact that gynecologists don't usually have sexual feelings for their naked patients. Or that I've had nude women pose for me and felt no sexual interest at all in my line of my work as an artist.

If there's a choice involved, one could evade his sexual preference and not act on it...just as my preference...

I mean to say not "preference" but one's sexual being.

Suppose my best friend (although not my lover) in combat is gay, and as good or better a warrior as I am. Suppose he's taken the appropriate precautions, and that these have been effective -- but there's no way I could know this.

Another person is not just a sex object. Don't forget the spiritual aspect. No matter how long one is deprived of a sexual relationship -- which last is part of the moral outlook of the knowledgeable individual who chooses the military, knowing he might be separated for some time from

a normal civilian life of sexual relationships

I have no objection to Carlos' statements. Just want to be as plain as I can be.

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Jake, Wow! It seems that you did not read Mac's whole post as he stated that his friend had a tour in Vietnam a year after his tour.  Most people, even if they made the military a career, are no longer in the military from the Vietnam area. 

Have you ever been in the military?  If so, you should have noticed that one cannot force the men that are serving around him to trust and like him, that trust and friendship must be earned.  And hence why a lot of the time there is a comradeship not found in other areas of life.

Mac: Please accept my apology.  I started replying to your original post before you finished the second post, so I didn't see your second post, and I didn't know the full context of your thoughts.  Regardless, my first comment was unwarrantedly snarky.  Sorry.

RayK: I have been in the U.S. military going on 9 years, both enlisted and as an officer.  I'm currently a helicopter pilot who absolutely has to trust, and be trusted by, his crew to keep everyone in the aircraft alive.  Yes, I understand the comradery which is unique to military service.

The intent of my comments was to divorce the issue of "gays in the military" from the issue of "AIDS in the military," and describe the way in which the military already deals with AIDS.

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The intent of my comments was to divorce the issue of "gays in the military" from the issue of "AIDS in the military," and describe the way in which the military already deals with AIDS.

Jake,

Does the military take similar measures with other, potentially lethal communicable diseases?

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Jake,

Does the military take similar measures with other, potentially lethal communicable diseases?

As far as I know, yes. However, I'm not in the Medical Corps, so I don't know specifics. I have a few friends that were quarantined for 2 weeks due to a case of H1N1 picked up in Australia. I have also seen people sent home from boot camp (released from service), and I have seen people moved from shipboard to shore-based duties due to diseases that would make it unsafe for someone to come in contact with their blood.

I've heard that medical records of people with certain diseases (e.g. STDs) are specially marked to ensure medical staff protect themselves, but that could be merely a rumor.

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Jake, I appreciate you clarification. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post (and brought the numbers to support it) around 60% of new AIDS/HIV cases are from gay men. This fact alone makes it very difficult to seperate the two subjects in the context of all the things I have already mentioned in earlier post.

Thanks for your defense.

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Jake, I appreciate you clarification. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post (and brought the numbers to support it) around 60% of new AIDS/HIV cases are from gay men. This fact alone makes it very difficult to seperate the two subjects in the context of all the things I have already mentioned in earlier post.
The problem with that statistic is that it doesn't tell what percentage of gay men are HIV-positive, so it doesn't directly support an argument that gay men are too likely to have HIV to safely serve in combat. I am still unsure about the right approach to gays serving, but I do know the people most qualified to decide work in Northern VA, not DC.
Thanks for your defense.
Thanks for yours. I gained a lot of respect for through a few cruises on an LHD.

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I am still unsure about the right approach to gays serving, but I do know the people most qualified to decide work in Northern VA, not DC.

But given the political dimension of those who are appointed to run the Pentagon, their conclusions on all matters are suspect. On an issue that's this politically charged, I see no reason to assume that they're conclusions are much better than those of other high-level government employees, of political activists, lobbyists, etc.

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Jake, I appreciate you clarification. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post (and brought the numbers to support it) around 60% of new AIDS/HIV cases are from gay men.

If this is true - which I doubt, but it probably depends on the universe you're talking about - then it would be a rational argument that a large proportion of new HIV cases are gay men. It is not a case that many gay men have HIV. I just took a class in combinatorics, which is the branch of math that deals with that kind of question.

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Jake, I appreciate you clarification. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post (and brought the numbers to support it) around 60% of new AIDS/HIV cases are from gay men.

If this is true - which I doubt, but it probably depends on the universe you're talking about - then it would be a rational argument that a large proportion of new HIV cases are gay men. It is not a case that many gay men have HIV. I just took a class in combinatorics, which is the branch of math that deals with that kind of question.

Why would I lie about such a thing?

You are still missing the point(s) brought up in most of my other post. The military needs people that are mean and nasty to seek out and kill our enemies and that can do this with unit cohesiveness. Not everybody in the military, especially the guys that actually do the killing, are going to be objective about working in such close areas with a gay person. I cannot change that aspect of a society by starting with the military, it has to start through changing the profound philosophy of a society and until that changes military commanders have to deal with real problems and overcome them in the most efficient manner with limited resources and time.

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Jake, I appreciate you clarification. But as I have mentioned in an earlier post (and brought the numbers to support it) around 60% of new AIDS/HIV cases are from gay men.

If this is true - which I doubt, but it probably depends on the universe you're talking about - then it would be a rational argument that a large proportion of new HIV cases are gay men. It is not a case that many gay men have HIV. I just took a class in combinatorics, which is the branch of math that deals with that kind of question.

Aren't HIV numbers and the stats on the subgroups affected disproportionately by this disease still suspect?

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Aren't HIV numbers and the stats on the subgroups affected disproportionately by this disease still suspect?
Why would I lie about such a thing?

No, but you could well quote numbers that are true for a different population than that which concerns the US military, i.e., military age US resident of both gender (I don't know what population exactly the US military recruits from).

As far as I know the statistics are pretty well known and not overtly suspects but we certainly don't know all there is to know about HIV infection and how it leads to AIDS.

You are still missing the point(s) brought up in most of my other post.

I'm not missing the point, I am answering one of your arguments, and saying it's logically false.

The military needs people that are mean and nasty to seek out and kill our enemies and that can do this with unit cohesiveness. Not everybody in the military, especially the guys that actually do the killing, are going to be objective about working in such close areas with a gay person. I cannot change that aspect of a society by starting with the military, it has to start through changing the profound philosophy of a society and until that changes military commanders have to deal with real problems and overcome them in the most efficient manner with limited resources and time.

I don't agree with either premises, i.e., that the US military members would loose unit cohesiveness, or that unit cohesiveness in some marginal cases should be ground for us to enforce some form of discrimination based on anything else than individual effectiveness. I'd rather get rid of 10,000 military personnel who cannot work effectively with gay people, than loose 10,000 military personnel who perform well as individuals and happen to be gay.

Military personnel who refuse to perform with gays should be dismissed, as should those who cannot perform well with Jews or Blacks. In combat situation, they should be further punished.

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Joss,

And I still disagree with your illogical assumptions, especially considering you have never been part of a military unit and have no real world, concrete examples to back you claims. I also do not think (in today's context) that women should serve in infrantry units, on deployable war ships nor submarines as unit cohesiveness has been shown to drop off. And women are not allowed to deploy if they get pregnant and can decide to get out because of pregnancy. A study done in 1996 found that deployed women were evacuated at a rate of one every three days during deployment. Once again, you cannot force military members (nor anyone for that matter) to value another person. The military members might work together well enough in a civilian type of situation, but military units demand a much larger cohesiveness than anything the civilian workforce, it seems, can imagine. That cohesiveness cannot develop if they do not have similar values (beyond freedom) and hence why unit cohesiveness will most likely never develop. You and I have the option to not generalize and put all gay people in the same character realm. The military does not have the money nor the time to figure out every individual in a certain social group and hence just like people that have to many tattoos or have belong to a "gang" are not allowed in the military because they found them to have certain character traits that for the most part do not allow for cohesiveness and unit efficiency. I would also offer that your "black" example is a genetic trait that a person has no choice over.

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Joss,

And I still disagree with your illogical assumptions, especially considering you have never been part of a military unit and have no real world, concrete examples to back you claims. I also do not think (in today's context) that women should serve in infrantry units, on deployable war ships nor submarines as unit cohesiveness has been shown to drop off. And women are not allowed to deploy if they get pregnant and can decide to get out because of pregnancy. A study done in 1996 found that deployed women were evacuated at a rate of one every three days during deployment. Once again, you cannot force military members (nor anyone for that matter) to value another person. The military members might work together well enough in a civilian type of situation, but military units demand a much larger cohesiveness than anything the civilian workforce, it seems, can imagine. That cohesiveness cannot develop if they do not have similar values (beyond freedom) and hence why unit cohesiveness will most likely never develop. You and I have the option to not generalize and put all gay people in the same character realm. The military does not have the money nor the time to figure out every individual in a certain social group and hence just like people that have to many tattoos or have belong to a "gang" are not allowed in the military because they found them to have certain character traits that for the most part do not allow for cohesiveness and unit efficiency. I would also offer that your "black" example is a genetic trait that a person has no choice over.

I think I finally grasp where Ray is coming from. It took me a while, but I don't think he's arguing against gays being in military service as such, in some future and more rational culture. He's talking about in combat TODAY, you need fighters willing to kill the enemy without distraction. Yes it may be irrational for men in combat to not want to be around gays and yes they're likely wrong to hold that view, but one cannot at the stroke of a pen FORCE these men to change their views. And besides all that, like gay marriage, we have far bigger fish to fry before it's even remotely important. As a gay man myself, it matters not one whit whether I could serve in the military, as long as we actually defend our nations.

This may sound like a reversal on my part, and perhaps it is, but we haven't the luxury to quibble about what gays can and can't do when the fundamental issue of the defense of free nations is at stake.

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I think I finally grasp where Ray is coming from. It took me a while, but I don't think he's arguing against gays being in military service as such, in some future and more rational culture. He's talking about in combat TODAY, you need fighters willing to kill the enemy without distraction. Yes it may be irrational for men in combat to not want to be around gays and yes they're likely wrong to hold that view, but one cannot at the stroke of a pen FORCE these men to change their views. And besides all that, like gay marriage, we have far bigger fish to fry before it's even remotely important. As a gay man myself, it matters not one whit whether I could serve in the military, as long as we actually defend our nations.

This may sound like a reversal on my part, and perhaps it is, but we haven't the luxury to quibble about what gays can and can't do when the fundamental issue of the defense of free nations is at stake.

Yes, I agree with your statements.

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What I don't understand is that we seem to agree that the military is more than a collection of killers. It is a corp that embodies the principles of the country they are dedicated to defend. Given this, it seems to me that enforcing a segregation or a discrimination on any non-rational standards would weaken that value link between the military and the civilians.

Second, I don't understand the bit about color of skin being genetic. Certainly it is true, and it is certainly also true that homosexual acts are a choice. But this argument seems to contradict the argument that the only thing that counts is unit cohesiveness. It's simply irrelevant.

Third, thousands or tens of thousands gays currently serve in the military. I cannot believe that military effectiveness asa whole would increase if these people were suddenly kicked out. In fact, I am convinced that military effectiveness has suffered from some gays in important roles being kicked out.

Fourth, military effectiveness goes beyond unit cohesiveness (which I still don't agree would be materially affected if gays were allowed in). If gays were allowed to serve openly, that would increase the pool of candidates. Given the extreme sophistication of some branches of the military, this overall small increase might make a disproportionate effect on the military as a whole. Also, voters and politicians currently hostile to the military might become less so and become less likely to cut programs.

Finally, there's been an undertone in this conversation suggesting that the military should be left to govern itself. This is completely misguided. The military is at the orders of the government, it works for it, not independently from it. Of course, politicians would be foolish not to delegate the minutiae of military operations to the specialists, i.e., the military itself. For policy decisions however, I see no reason why the government should take a hand's off approach.

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I also do not think (in today's context) that women should serve in infrantry units, on deployable war ships nor submarines as unit cohesiveness has been shown to drop off.

This is already the case for all French subs, precisely for the reason you mention (and for fear of psychological problems amongst the crew). The Navy didn't fancy women being locked in a box at a 10:1 ratio with men for 6 months (the length of a typical SNLE patrol).

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I also do not think (in today's context) that women should serve in infrantry units, on deployable war ships nor submarines as unit cohesiveness has been shown to drop off.

This is already the case for all French subs, precisely for the reason you mention (and for fear of psychological problems amongst the crew). The Navy didn't fancy women being locked in a box at a 10:1 ratio with men for 6 months (the length of a typical SNLE patrol).

Try that on ballistic subs that patrol for three months at a time.

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Joss,

The military is fundamentally different that any other group. The fundamental purpose for having a military is to prepare it's members for war/combat and to win by killing it's enemies or causing a surrender. To do this it's members train and live in very primitive or spartan type quarters which leads to very intimate conditions lacking in almost all privacy. There is no place in the civilian society (besides jails) that works/trains and lives in such close intimacy and hence why unit cohesion is of the utmost importance in the efficiency of the obtainment of military objectives. You can keep stating that unit cohesion has nothing to do with a military unit's efficiency, but I disagree and have seen how taking one person out of the picture can turn around a unit which allows them to become much more efficient.

I would also offer that a large amount of today's military members disagree with you (which does not automatically make their choices right or rational). In a poll done by "Military Times" they found that 58% of their active duty readers are OPPOSED to the repeal of the gay ban. Another combined 24% said they would leave the military or not re-enlist if the ban was discarded.

I have never stated nor do I think now that the military should not be under government control. But that does not mean that the unique conditions that military members accept as normal should be overlooked when determining what can cause a disruption in unit cohesivenees and a loss of combat efficiency in the obtainment of the military's purpose.

I would also offer that you (and maybe some others) have very little idea of what military life is like. From the time one is sent to boot-camp or officer training the military basically owns and dictates almost all of one's time. The military member is supposed to be able to deploy anywhere around the world to answer the call of defending their country. From where one lives to how far one can go on one's time off. From when one will be at work and how long one will stay at work. For a large part of one's military life they are controlled by their military service group. It is the uniqueness of the military that basically demands a certain set of standards which lead to the military's purpose being achieved. You might not like their standards nor agree with them, but their very nature demands unit cohesion unlike anything seen in a civilian workforce.

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