Scott Spiegel

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Don’t Ax, Don’t Dwell

February 10, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Gay Rights

Discouraging military service, bean counting minority group members instead of evaluating achievement, injecting irrelevant sexual undertones—sound like conservative stances to me!

As Miss Manners once wrote on sexual orientation, the important distinction these days seems to be not gays vs. straights, but people who think other people’s sex lives are open for scrutiny vs. those who don’t.

A rapidly dwindling number of conservatives have been arguing that the military should preserve its ban on gays serving openly in the military.

The U.S.’s highest ranking military official, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, happens to disagree.  In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, he declared in no uncertain terms that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the nation’s other top defense official, testified alongside Mullen in support of repealing the ban.

Just before President Obama took office, 104 retired admirals and generals had signed a statement urging the next president to overturn the ban.

Apparently all of this wasn’t good enough for Senator John McCain, who had categorically stated in 2006, “The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it.”  Last week McCain told Mullen and Gates that he still opposes lifting the ban.

I can understand some conservatives’ suspicion regarding overturning the ban on gays in the military, when the last president who tried to do so (Clinton) had nothing but contempt for the military and aggressively eroded its capabilities every year he was in office.

But those opposed to lifting the ban have offered a lame series of unrelated, “they doth protest too much”-sounding excuses more befitting liberals’ shifting defenses of their misguided and unconstitutional policies.

For example, there’s the argument that we shouldn’t “experiment” with the military while we’re in the middle of two wars.

I notice that we weren’t in the middle of any wars in 1993, when President Clinton first proposed lifting the ban.  If anything, we need more recruits now, due to the notoriously long and repeated tours of duty our soldiers have had to undergo in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need for specialized recruits such as Arabic translators.

The notion that our current roster of troops could do their jobs better if they weren’t distracted by the presence of the estimated 65,000 gay U.S. troops helping them out is ludicrous.  The more soldiers who are trained and willing to fight our wars, the better.  One of the best conservative arguments for the greatness of the U.S. is that we are able to get so many highly qualified people to volunteer for our military, and that so few leave due to conflict or dissatisfaction.

The necessity of maximizing troop strength during wartime is also reflected by the fact that the number of troops discharged for being gay decreased almost every year from 2001 to 2009, even though general military enlistment was up after the September 11 attacks.

For what it’s worth, we did experiment with this policy in recent history, and during a war at that: the ban on discharging gays was suspended during the Persian Gulf War, with no adverse consequences.

Then there’s the highly objective and verifiable suggestion that homosexuality is “incompatible” with military service.

This flimsy proposition is torn to smithereens by the inconvenient facts that gays: (1) currently serve honorably in the military, (2) have served honorably in the military since our country’s founding, and (3) already serve openly in the military in 30 major countries around the world, including nearly every NATO member and other U.S. allies such as Australia and Israel.  American soldiers serve alongside openly gay soldiers in these armies, and I haven’t heard about any mass defections on their part over fellow gay soldiers’ unprofessional conduct.

Conservatives generally reject affirmative action, correctly viewing the policy as amounting to reverse discrimination.  Why are so many conservatives hell-bent on discriminating against gays in the military?  It is true that some conservatives probably fear the day when gay rights groups start pushing for loosened standards for gays in the military to promote diversity or to right historical wrongs.  But just because the same thing happened with race and gender doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have granted equal rights to African Americans and women.

Violent felons, card-carrying Marxists, and radical Islamists may all happily serve in the U.S. army.  What sense does it make that, say, an Episcopalian Log Cabin Republican can’t?  Even a gay person who never utters a word about his sexual orientation in the military can be discharged for the act of getting married in one of the five states that allow it.

There’s also the contention that unit cohesion would be disrupted.  Yet the same claim was made regarding racial integration of the military in the 1950s.  This assertion slanders dedicated service members by purporting that (1) gay soldiers can’t do their jobs without making sexual advances toward their peers, and (2) heterosexual soldiers can’t do their jobs without dwelling on the possibility of advances from their peers.  Here I thought conservatives were the ones who held our military in such high esteem.

Admittedly, gays are asking for a tall order from the military: namely—nothing.  Nothing needs to be done to allow gays to serve openly, except for our Commander-in-Chief or Congress to declare that it be so.  Gays already serve.  Heterosexual service members claim they already know who many of their gay unit members are and don’t care.  If heterosexual soldiers can discern the most obvious cases and aren’t uncomfortable around these people, I think they can tolerate the existence of cases so undetectable they otherwise wouldn’t have guessed if they hadn’t found out.

All the military needs to do now is stop wasting time and resources sniffing out gays like contraband and axing them after having spent millions of dollars to train them.

Leftists are usually the ones infusing sexual undercurrents and lurid motives where none exist—pointing out latent homoeroticism in “Winnie the Pooh” or condemning “heteronormativity” in Jane Austen.  Why are some conservatives so intent on insisting that the seething, passionate impetus undergirding military service is… gay lust?

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1 Comments to “Don’t Ax, Don’t Dwell”


  1. Good post. Someday even those conservatives against it will look back at this and shake their heads at how this obvious discrimination was ever allowed.

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