Information Warfare: Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Understand

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March 19, 2007: 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 experimentation.

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 (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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