Those who support integrating open homosexuals and lesbians into the military have this much in common: The vast majority never served a day in the armed forces of the United States. Among those who have, many approach this issue from a far different perspective.
America’s armed services exist for only one purpose — to defend the country and to prevail in battle. They are not about building a career or seeing the world. Combat effectiveness is, or should be, the overriding concern, and anything that threatens to compromise it must be resisted.
Military readiness is not measured exclusively by having capable, trained personnel and the proper equipment, although both obviously are essential. There are also certain intangibles. Among these are high morale, respect for superiors, unit cohesion and good order and discipline. The French call this esprit de corps, and Napoleon proved that it can make the difference between victory and defeat.
When such distractions as suspicion, jealousy, distrust and favoritism enter the picture, combat effectiveness can be undermined. Mixing same-sex attraction into the comradeship that is an essential ingredient in any military unit is one of the quickest ways to do that. During four years of sea duty, I saw the disruption this can cause.
While a sizable number of Americans say they see nothing wrong with the gay lifestyle, the fact remains that many heterosexual men feel uncomfortable around those who are openly homosexual, especially when they are thrown together in close quarters aboard ships or on military bases. This feeling is strongest among our most elite units — Marines, SEALS, Rangers, etc. — according to Pentagon surveys.
For obvious reasons, no man would be assigned to a women’s barracks on a military base. Placing a homosexual in a men’s barracks, or a lesbian in a women’s barracks, is not materially different, and the same result can be expected.
In combat situations, this problem becomes much more serious. Suppose the platoon sergeant, who is gay, has his eye on one of his men. When a risky patrol must be sent out, whom does he pick to go? (For the very same reason, placing women in combat units also is a bad idea.)
In 2009, more than 1,050 retired generals and admirals, which is an incredible number, sent a letter to Congress urging that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” not be repealed. Here’s one paragraph from that letter:
“Our past experience as military leaders leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness. We believe that placing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents to lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
Yes, the top brass now say they support repeal, which the Democratic lame-duck Congress rammed through in December. But these officers serve at the pleasure of President Barack Obama, who has made it clear that advancing the gay agenda trumps maintaining a sound military. Ranking officers must either fall in line or get out.
It is misleading to depict opening the military to gays as exclusively a civil rights issue. Civil rights are those rights that apply to all citizens and are guaranteed by law, especially those rights enumerated in the Constitution. But there is no “right” to serve in the armed forces. The services accept those men and women they want and reject those they don’t want. Throughout our history — until now, that is — same-sex attraction has been an automatic disqualifier. Has that been a wrong-headed policy all along? Are we now going to set out into uncharted waters and hope for the best?
Voters will be electing a president and a new Congress in 2012. If last fall’s elections are any indication of how things will play out next year, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” could end up being revisited, as well it should be.
America is facing a fanatical enemy — radical Islam — that in some respects poses a greater threat than did the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War. This is not the time to practice social engineering with our military forces in order to placate the never-ending demands of political correctness.