The comments by American general
Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concerning the U.S.
military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy concerning homosexuals in
the military, has been shamelessly misinterpreted and distorted in the media.
It also has exposed a lack of understanding among not just the mainstream
media, but among many bloggers who tend to be supportive of the military.
In 1993, there was a controversy over whether or
not to allow homosexuals to serve openly
in the military. The political/social agenda of the Clinton Administration was
inclined to allow that. However, it ran contrary to the best advice from the
generals, largely due to the fact that when alternative sexual orientations
became known, it caused problems. Eventually, the current policy was enacted as
a compromise. That said, one truth in any debate about military personnel needs
to be kept in mind: The purpose of a military is to kill people and break
things, not to serve as a reflection of society or as a laboratory for social
It isn't just homosexuality that the military tends
to have strong regulations against. Adultery is also forbidden. This often is
because of potential negative effects it can have. Fraternization, specifically
officers and enlisted troops becoming involved with each other, is also
forbidden. This is because of the deleterious effects that such actions have on
discipline and morale.
Military personnel, particularly officers, also
give up a number of other rights, including freedom of speech. One Air Force
general was cashiered for taking verbal pot shots at President Clinton in 1993.
In 2002, another officer was punished for the contents of a letter to the editor
that referenced President Bush. This even applies when the officer is in the
right, as General Ron Fogleman was when he vigorously defended the prosecution
of Kelly Flynn when a Senator attacked it. Again, the issues surrounding this
usually involve maintaining discipline by keeping the military out of politics.
These are important because of the context of
military life. Sailors are often on deployment in ships or submarines with
limited space. Soldiers and Marines are often deployed in situations where
there is very little privacy. Adultery, open expressions of political views, or
open homosexuality can create problems in such an environment.
Discipline, unit cohesion, and maintaining morale
are not just good ideas, they are necessities for an effective military. This
is more important in the context of the war on terror. Yes, there are a lot of
restrictions on what military personnel can say or do, but those restrictions
are one of the reasons why the United States military has been effective. If anything,
the burden of proof is on critics of the policy to show that changes would not
make maintaining discipline, unit cohesion, and morale in the united States
military more difficult. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)