03 December 2003

Don't Think, Don't Fight

One of the struggles that I had while on active duty, particularly as a commanding officer, was the military leadership's deepseated prejudice against gays. (I'm not; it's just not an issue for me.) I successfully avoided ever using the homophobe administrative discharge provisions for airmen under my command, let alone the punitive articles in the UCMJ. My position was that consensual sexual behavior just is not a relevant issue. As I pointed out to one wing commander (a colonel on the BG list) when he questioned why my large unit hadn't made any effort to "get rid of gays," the military has a serious problem with nonconsensual heterosexual behavior, including the recent rape of a female airman in my unit by a drunk off-duty pilot (Academy graduate, no less). This was several years before the Tailhook scandal, let alone the pathetically misguided attempts at post-event discipline that followed a coverup that shames Watergate.

I was reminded of this misallocation of resources — one of the cardinal sins of military strategy — by an article in today's Washington Post. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is really no more tolerant than preceding policy, because it still requires keeping secrets. The historical argument that "gays are bad for security because they're easily subject to blackmail" doesn't wash. In all of the unclassified accounts of treason and related misconduct by members of the US armed forces, there is exactly one instance in which blackmail of a gay individual was determined to be a factor; there are at least one hundred in which blackmail based just on a heterosexual affair was determined to be a factor.

The real problem is a moral one. Or, rather, a misguided moral one, based as much on xenophobia as on anything else. That the ultimate purpose of the military is built around violating a commandment ("thou shalt not murder"), while the antihomosexuality provisions are built around literalist interpretations of a few translated passages later in the Bible, seems to have escaped the conservative Christian culture that overwhelmingly informs the military leadership (uniformed and civilian) in this country. They just don't seem to understand any language or thought that is not their own, and are threatened by it — which makes Ms. Glover's situation that much more ironic, because the whole point of her service speciality was that she does.