The Spectacle Blog

The Marines, the Media and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

By on 12.17.10 | 2:43PM

A Marine Corps infantry captain, Nathan Cox, has a piece in today's Washington Post arguing for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"Sexuality won't matter in battle," Cox argues. "I do not believe the intense desire we all feel as Marines to accomplish the mission and protect each other will be affected in the slightest by knowing the sexual orientation of the man or woman next to us."

Of course, Cox's piece puts him at odds with the vast majority of Marines, who think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has worked out quiet well. It also puts him at odds with the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. James Amos. What, then, are we to make of Cox's brief? Several things, I think.

• First, the fact that Capt. Cox felt free to publish his opinions on this issue, in his capacity as a Marine, is a very good thing which speaks well of the Marine Corps. This shows that the Marines really do champion thought and intellectual engagement by their officers and enlisted personnel. Good for them.

Would that this were the case with the other U.S. military services! Sadly, though, too often that is not the case. Too many military leaders try to squelch and silence U.S. military personnel because they misunderstand the principle of "civilian control of the military."

Civilian control of the military does not mean that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines should be dumb, deaf, blind and stupid. It does not mean that they must avoid the public dialogue and debate.

To the contrary: soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have a constitutional right and duty to help inform the public dialogue and debate. They have a constitutional right and duty to bring their own unique insights and experiences to bear on public-policy questions.

And of course, when policymakers enact a new military policy, our servicemen and women have a constitutional obligation to help enforce that new policy -- irrespective of whether they agree or disagree it.

That should be civics 101. However, I can tell you, based upon my own modest military experience, that it is not. Too many military personnel think that they have no constitutional right to free speech while in uniform; and too many military leaders act as if this is true.

But it's not. Our military personnel have a constitutional right to think and to publish. And bully for the Marines for, as usual, showing the way.

• Second, publication of Cox's piece, albeit laudatory, shows the incredible bias of the Big Media, which refuses to publish any dissenting points of view about open homosexuality within the military.

When, after all, was the last time that the Washington Post -- or any other Big Media outlet for that matter -- published a piece, a serious and credible piece, in defense of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

The answer: who knows?! The Big Media certainly haven't published any such piece in recent memory. Indeed, you have to go the American Spectator and other independent media to find an article or an opinion piece that dissents from the dominant left-wing media narrative about openly gay service.

This is nothing less than journalistic malpractice by the Big Media.

Yes, this is unsurprising, sad to say. However, the Big Media's deliberate effort to slant the news in accordance with its prejudices is still worth noting and remarking upon, I think. If nothing else, this might help to remedy the situation.

• Third, Cox argues that open homosexuality won't have any effect on esprit de corps because, according to the Pentagon's recent survey of the troops, "84 percent of combat arms Marines who had served with a homosexual said there would be no effect, or that the effect would be positive."

But the number of Marines who report that they've served with a homosexual is remarkably low, which makes it difficult, I think, to draw a statistically significant conclusion.

In any case, serving with a homosexual under the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is one thing; serving with him in a more permissive atmosphere in which open homosexuality is countenanced is an altogether different thing. Cox makes a compelling argument for retaining the current policy, not discarding it.

In fact, as Cox himself acknowledges, "58 percent of combat arms Marines said they felt allowing homosexuals to serve openly would negatively affect their unit." And, based upon my own experience and my own reporting, I believe that the number of Marines who think we should leave well enough alone and retain "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is dramatically higher than 58 percent.

• Fourth, Cox says that in combat, "only one thing matters: Can you do your job?"

That's true, but in prepping for combat, and in building a team, there's a lot more involved than technical prowess and tactical proficiency.

There's a sense of shared identity and a shared sense of manhood that causes people to enlist in the Marine Corps in the first place, and which binds them together as brothers. And the question is this: is homosexuality compatible with that identity and that shared sense of manhood? Is "The Few, the Proud, the Homosexuals" as effective a recruiting slogan as "The Few, the Proud the Marines"?

I think not; and the burden of proof is on Cox and other advocates of openly gay service to show otherwise. That's why the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway, has objected to how Cox and the Big Media have framed this issue.

The issue, says Conway, is not whether the U.S. military can somehow manage open homosexuality within the ranks. Of course it can. [The military also could probably manage to fight three wars simultaneously with a 15% budget cut. But that doesn't mean doing any of these things is wise or helpful.]

The issue is whether a change in policy "somehow [will] enhance the war-fighting capabilities of the United States Marine Corps." And the answer to that question, says Conway, is absolutely not.

"My best military advice to this committee, to the secretary, and to the president would be to keep the law such as it is," Conway told Congress last year.

·       Fifth, Cox says that "in the end, Marines in combat will treat sexual orientation the same way [that] they treat race, religion, and one's stance on the likelihood of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl."

Cox' statement reflects the dominant narrative propagated by the gay lobby, the media and the liberal elite, all of which would like everyone to think that sexuality is a benign characteristic; and that "gay rights" is simply the latest civil rights cause. But this is disingenuous.

After all, as Colin Powell observed back in 1993:

Skin color [and ethnicity are] benign, non-behavioral characteristic[s]. Sexual orientation, [by contrast], is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.

Of course, Marines will aspire to be professional and to conduct themselves with honor. That's what Marines do. But to suggest that homosexuality within the ranks won't affect behavior is simply not true. Sexual yearnings and sexual appetites are of tremendous consequence; they profoundly shape human behavior. Two thousand years of human history -- as well as the U.S. military's own recent, but much-covered-up history -- demonstrate this.

• Six, Cox complains that because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," gay and lesbian Marines are now "barred from discussing their identities honestly with their superiors." In other words, the current policy forces lesbians and homosexuals to "lie" and misrepresent themselves.

Of course, this really isn't true. No one is compelled to "lie" about anything. What gay and lesbian servicemen are forced to do is to keep their sexuality to themselves. Big deal.

In fact, if Cox is like most military commanders whom I know, then I seriously doubt he would initiate separation proceedings against a gay Marine unless and until that Marine made an issue of his sexuality. There are, after all, plenty of lesbians and homosexuals who now serve, and who do so without incidence or disruption.

What "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" does, then, is help keep in check an inherently disruptive sexual dynamic. Why change or alter a policy that is manifestly successful?

• Seven, Cox argues that "it is difficult to see how this [openly gay service] could do anything but improve their [lesbians' and homosexuals'] job performance."

But the job performance of individual servicemen and women isn't at issue. What matters is unit performance, unit achievement, and mission success.

And actually, it is very easy to see how sexual dynamics within small military units can seriously undermine their prospects for overall success, even as these same sexual dynamics might conceivably benefit individual gay servicemen and women.

• Eight, Cox argues that many Marines oppose repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because they harbor a "false stereotype, borne out of ignorance, that homosexuals don't do things like pull other Marines from burning vehicles."

As a former Marine myself, albeit one with a far more modest service record than Cox's, I take real umbrage at this statement.

Cox offers no evidence whatsoever for impugning the honor and integrity of his fellow Marines. Yet he purports to read their minds and know what's in their hearts. And what he finds is that most of them are benighted bigots. This is extremely patronizing and insulting. Cox owes all of his fellow Marines an apology.

Let me suggest an alternative explanation for the Marines' opposition to open homosexuality within the ranks: Most Marines harbor a natural and healthy aversion to homosexuality. They recognize that it is unnatural, unhealthy and abnormal. And they recognize that every major religious tradition in the world -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, et al. - condemns homosexual acts.

Cox is free to disparage these views as wrong and misguided; but please don't for a minute suggest that they are mere bigotry and "ignorance." To the contrary: these views about homosexuality are rooted in profound wisdom and human understanding.

Conclusion. And that's really what's at stake in this debate: whether we are going to respect the religiously informed views of our servicemen and women who deign to dissent from the dominant liberal-left narrative propagated by Cox and other elites.

Because, as I observed previously here at The American Spectator,

the point of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't to allow gays to serve. [They can and do serve now, after all. Instead], it is to enforce public acceptance of homosexuality.

It is to supplant the Judeo-Christian tradition with a more modern, secular humanist tradition. It is to put homosexuality on a par, legally and socially, with heterosexuality. It is to infringe upon religious liberty. And it is to replace our traditional understanding of manhood and masculinity with a more sexually ambiguous sense of these terms...

Indeed, that's the more nefarious and underhanded purpose of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which the media never report on or discuss.

I wish that Cox understood this, but alas, he does not. Nor, sad to say, does the Big Media.

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