A Further Perspective

The Wrong Gay Line

Adm. Michael Mullen has weakened the U.S. military.

By 2.8.10

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Wilford Brimley, the folksy and appealing character actor, did a series of commercials a few years back for a brand of oatmeal, the signature line of which was, "It's the right thing to do."

I don't know if eating oatmeal is the right thing to do; it's certainly an uninteresting thing to do. But I know Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is wrong when he claims that allowing openly homosexual men and women to serve in the U.S. military is "the right thing to do."

Putting gays and lesbians in the barracks and ships' sleeping compartments, not to mention those communal showers, would be an extraordinarily disruptive thing to do. It would make our military less effective. It would hurt recruiting. It would be a thumb in the eye of the men and women of our military who've been performing well and bravely under very tough conditions.

We've had endless evidence that our rookie president doesn't know or care about any of these things. So it's no surprise that he would put left social engineering ahead of national security (about which he is clueless). But it's more than a little disappointing to learn that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs doesn't either. Even our Secretary of Defense has chosen politics over security.

I'm really surprised at how many people, including journalists who should know better, claim to be surprised that the admiral buckled on this one. Mullen may or may not have been a warrior earlier in his naval career. But he's a courtier now, and he must say what the court wants to hear. Or at least he thinks he does.  

"Who would have thought that the most emphatic statement in favor of gay rights would come from a military leader -- instead of a court, a state legislature, or a popular vote?" the lead to an editorial in the Greenwood Commonwealth of Greenwood, Mississippi asks.

Well, just about anyone familiar with the military officer promotion system at the highest levels would not be surprised by this sort of toadying. Sadly, after about lieutenant colonel in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and commander in the Navy, promotion gets very political. Too often the warriors get left behind while bureaucrats and politicians are lifted up.

Civilian control of the military does not require top military officers to roll over for policies that make it harder for our military to accomplish the tough missions we give it (not to mention the crack-pot social-work deployments we shouldn't be giving it). But too often that's just what we get. General Patsy Schroeder comes up with yet another daft idea and the guys with the stars on their shoulder-boards salute and ask, "How high?"

The debate on this issue threatens to establish a new NCAA record for non-sequiturs. One of the non-sequiturs supporters of this policy trot out is that gays have always served secretly but honorably, often bravely, in the military. True, but irrelevant. As is the assertion that public support for gay people has increased, which it clearly has. And don't be impressed with the news that Canada allows homosexuals to serve openly and that this, pro-gay-service types say, causes no problem. Canada's military is about the size of the Tampa Police Department and may have even less firepower.

Even more beside the point was Mullen's statement to Congress: "No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Huh?  No, Admiral. Gay people are not obliged to lie. Under the current policy they're not obliged to say anything. They simply have to face the fact that their open presence in the close quarters of military life just won't do. No shame in it. The prohibition against open service by homosexuals is not an anti-gay measure. It's a common sense policy.

The overwhelming and obvious reason why openly homosexual men and women should not be allowed to serve is the imposition this would pose on straights in uniform, which will always be 95+ percent of the force, even if openly gay people are allowed in.

As the draft ended in 1973, fewer and fewer Americans, including journalists and politicians who whoop up this insane idea, have had no military experience. So they have no understanding of the close, intimate quarters soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen, particularly the lower enlisted ranks, live in. 

Military life is not like civilian life. During operations it's not a 9-5 job where people go home at night to the privacy of their own homes. The last thing straight service members need is the sexual tension caused by having gays and lesbians showering and sleeping just feet away from them. When I was an enlisted destroyer sailor, under a no-gays-even-in-the-closet policy, I had the comfort of knowing that anyone in the open showers I had to share with my shipmates was only there for the purpose of getting clean.

If we're going to throw gay and straight servicemen into the same open showers together, we may as well go the rest of the way and throw servicemen and women in together. What's the difference? Or are we going to have new combinations and permutations of facilities -- his, hers, theirs, and niche?  

You don't have to be anti-gay to not want to be involved in intimate functions with members of your own sex who might consider you a sex object. This policy would hurt recruitment at a time when America is involved in two wars and the military is having a difficult enough time keeping the ranks filled. People who serve in the military know this, even high-ranking officers (and when they're off the record they'll say it). So does Mullen when he's not concentrating on how to cater to his civilian political bosses. Or has he been away from service on warships and in the Pentagon so long he's forgotten?

This issue may instruct us on whether the Republican Party has learned anything about standing for something rather than falling for anything. To the usual suspects on the cultural left the military is just a huge, expensive ball of clay to be molded to their liking. They'll push for a gay-friendly military using the tired and irrelevant charges of discrimination and homophobia. This nonsense should be resisted, even though the left, with full support from the left-stream media, will go full-goose hysterical and call anyone who opposes this lark a hater.

A strong military is good for America. A militarily strong America is good for the world. We can maintain that strength better without having to sort out and deal with all the various tensions, resentments, and counter-resentments that would be the inevitable result of gays in the barracks. Americans would be thankful if our leadership, civilian and military, would redirect the energy they're now wasting trying to get gays into the military toward keeping Muslim jihadists out of it. 

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.