The Spectacle Blog

DADT and ‘Hard Empirical Evidence’

By on 12.20.10 | 9:11PM

Again, I’m grateful to Aaron Goldstein for engaging the issues surrounding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “gay rights” more generally. However, I’m disappointed with his latest response. He demands “hard empirical evidence” and “studies” to demonstrate what should be obvious to anyone; and that is that sexual attraction and allure affects human behavior and group dynamics.

Has Goldstein ever been, for instance, to a public high school, or even onboard a U.S. navy vessel? Has he seen how young men and women behave and interact with each other? Do I really need explain to him the birds and the bees?!

Sure, public coed high schools often do a perfectly fine and adequate job of educating young people. And the U.S. Navy certainly is fulfilling its mission requirements. But please don’t for a minute pretend that sexual attraction and allure doesn’t create a unique set of problems for both institutions, because it most certainly does.

You don’t hear much about these problems because the public schools and the military have a vested interest in downplaying them and sweeping them under the rug. The Big Media, meanwhile, show little interest in investigating these problems.

But make no mistake: these problems are real. And with all due respect to Goldstein, you have to be singularly obtuse to deny this reality.

I can cite as “hard empirical evidence” incidents from my own modest (and fairly recent, post 9/11) experience as a Marine. But that’s hardly necessary. My experience, after all, isn’t unique or unusual. It is, in fact, fairly common.

So my “opinion” about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t based on “negative perceptions of gays and lesbians.” (In fact, most gays and lesbians that I have known, and know, I like.) My assessment, instead, is based on real-world dynamics, human nature and 2,000 years of human history.

Now, Goldstein may think that these problems -- disruptions to unit cohesion, degradation of morale, and the undermining of good order and discipline within the ranks -- are a small price to pay for “inclusion” and “progress.” That is a perfectly legitimate position to hold.

But let’s be honest about the cost that’s involved here. The introduction of open homosexuality within the ranks is hardly problem-free. Nor is it an unalloyed good to which we all should give thanks and sing hallelujah.

The introduction of an overt sexual dynamic into a stateside office environment may not matter much. But in a combat environment, it truly can mean the difference between life and death. Indeed, sexual favoritism and intrigue can wreak havoc with small-scale military units.

Again, this should be fairly obvious. Will you ever hear much about these problems? Of course not. Congress and the media won’t ask; and the military won’t tell.

James Antle has it exactly right: “The military will muddle through… leading the people who don't understand why things were ever the way they were to confidently declare victory.” But it will be a deeply flawed, if not pyrrhic, “victory.”

And the problem, obviously, is not so much that a gay soldier will make unwanted advances toward a straight soldier. That’s easily dealt with, of course.

The problem is that two gay soldiers might carry on an affair within a unit. It is that a gay commander or non-commissioned officer (NCO) might use his position of power and authority to secure sexual favors -- or that a gay soldier might use sex to manipulate his commander or NCO. It is the potential emergence within the military of a gay subculture.

In short, the problem is the undermining of the military’s unique warrior culture, which makes the Marines and the combat arms attractive to young men and, for them, a source of pride.

Goldstein might think that all of these things are easily regulated and proscribed, but he’s wrong. Human behavior is far more complex and difficult to manage than left-wing social engineers -- or Pentagon planners -- would have us believe.

Goldstein makes two other points that cry out for rebuke. He compares religiously-informed objections to homosexuality with racist attitudes and behavior. This is really unconscionable on his part and the result, I hope, of ignorance and not anti-religious bigotry.

Obviously, racist attitudes of a generation ago were not rooted in Biblical or religious scripture. There are, by contrast, dozens of passages in the Old Testament that unequivocally condemn homosexual behavior.

Moreover, as I’ve noted here at the American Spectator, every major religious tradition in the world -- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, et al. -- has moral proscriptions against homosexual acts.

And again, as I’ve noted here at the American Spectator, and as Colin Powell himself has observed: 

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.

So the idea that religiously-informed attitudes toward homosexuality are somehow a passing fad, or a culturally conditioned construct, is simply wrong.

Goldstein may disagree with traditional religious beliefs about homosexuality, but he should be under no illusions that these beliefs can be eradicated and stigmatized in the same way that racist attitudes of a generation ago have been (mostly) eradicated and stigmatized. That simply ain’t gonna happen.

And one reason it won’t happen is because the “hard empirical evidence” demonstrates that active homosexual behavior often doesn’t lead to a happy and healthy life. Indeed, the incidence of disease and premature death that is associated with active homosexual behavior is disturbingly high.

So there are sound public health reasons to give any fair and open-minded person serious pause before embracing homosexuality as a positive good.

Finally, Goldstein asks whether “a singular remark, [or admission of homosexuality], is enough to disrupt [a] unit’s military effectiveness and ability to complete its mission”?

No, of course not. But what’s Goldstein’s point?

I’ve already explained that the problem is not individual homosexuals per se, many of whom are fine soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The problem is the introduction of an overt sexual dynamic -- backed up by the full power of the state, the full force of law -- into small-scale military units.

That’s why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was such a brilliant and unheralded compromise measure: Because it allowed lesbians and homosexuals to serve discreetly, but without disrupting the unique warrior culture of the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Forces.

Unfortunately, the brilliance of this compromise measure was no match for the raw political power of the activist Left and the cowardly silence and stupidity of the inert Right.

Still, I hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, Congress will revisit this issue and exempt the Marines and Special Forces from the requirement for openly gay service. This is the least we could do for the men now fighting and dying on our behalf. Their code and their culture mean something great. And we wreak havoc with what they have achieved only at our peril.

Update: This post previously listed the wrong author.

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