Politics & Policy

Lurch’s Bright Idea

When his lightbulb goes on, we should all worry.

Al Gore announced today that all officers who do not favor an increase in the capital-gains tax will not be eligible for promotion to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

No, no that would be silly.

Instead, what Al Gore has announced is dangerous. Really, really dangerous. The other night the Vice President said he would “require those who wanted to serve on the Joint Chiefs to be in agreement” with full integration of homosexuals in the military. Agreeing to the word “litmus test,” he said he would make it a “requirement” that every individual appointed to the Joint Chiefs support the policy.

Now, there are several possible scenarios that spin out from this. One is that Gore will find that all the senior officers favor such a policy and therefore it’s a non-issue, just as it would be a non-issue if Gore demanded all officers think soldiers should have uniforms and weapons. This is the second most unlikely scenario. The most unlikely scenario would be if all the senior officers simply admitted they were gay and had a huge Oscar party. However, the most likely scenarios involve a lot of resignations, appointments of less qualified officers, or lying.

Look at the position these officers would be in. If they honestly believed the policy is doomed to failure, they would either have to lie about it or kill their careers. Even for a fully politicized general this would be a real dilemma. If you know the policy will be an unmitigated disaster, the last thing you want to do is take a public position on it. Because then when the blame starts — and the military does love the blame game — the people who said it was a good idea will be the first ones to fall.

Take gays totally out of the equation for a moment. Imagine if the President said, “All officers must agree that the Canadians are a serious threat to the vital interests of the United States (this is no joke. Check this out), in order to be eligible for appointment to the Joint Chiefs.” Eventually, during the intense three-day war between us and those people, our generals would find it very difficult to speak honestly.

At least Bill Bradley had the right answer on the wrong policy. He simply said, the President gives orders as the Commander-in-Chief and soldiers follow them, even if they don’t like them.

How is it a Failed Policy Again?

Now, back to the gays, as they say at the Tony Awards. It is amazing how far the debate has moved in just a few years. Last night, Alan Keyes was the only Republican willing to say that the ban on homosexuals should be reinstated. When “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was implemented all sorts of Republicans said it was a terrible idea. Now, Republicans are falling all over themselves to say that Bill Clinton’s policy is the best one possible.

Of course, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Bill Bradley, and their cheering section at the New York Times think it’s a failure. But why? They cite that more gays have been discharged since “Don’t Ask” was implemented. But most — perhaps 75% — of these discharges were due to self-outing. Some of these men were doubtless not even gay. Also, isn’t it possible that in a booming economy some people may take the fastest, most painless means of egress possible?

Still, obviously some gays are being mistreated, harassed, and even murdered — as in the case last month in Kentucky with Pfc. Barry Winchell. That’s why Bill Cohen announced his review of anti-gay harassment last month. In response to Cohen’s review the New York Times editorialized, “this emergency effort to head off further viciousness is no long-term solution to a problem that can only be fixed by allowing gays to serve in the armed forces on an equal, open basis.”

How does that work? Some thug decides he wants to kill someone because of his suspicion that another soldier is gay. How would this murder have been prevented if the murderer was sure Winchell was gay?

I realize that in this day and age it is very difficult to do or say anything that might infringe on someone else’s self-esteem. But isn’t it conceivable that this is the wrong battle for gays to be fighting? After all, one can be a full citizen with rights in this country and be ineligible for service in the military. People with flat feet, bad inner-ears, or other disabilities are still citizens but can’t serve in the military. I know this infuriates gays who take understandable exception to the notion that being gay is a handicap or a disability. But I thought there wasn’t supposed to be anything wrong with being disabled in the first place? Besides, very tall people, very short people, very near-sighted people are often barred from military service, and one would be hard pressed to call those people disabled. Ultimately, the military isn’t an institution for social experiments.

Besides, why can’t we say that straight young men are the disabled ones? Would that make it easier? We could say that for some reason, by some defect of birth, heterosexual men have a hard time serving in the military with gay men — it’s a glitch in their wiring. Unfortunately, the military needs these defective men to fight and win wars and deter people from attacking us, because they make up about 97.5% of fighting-age men. We wish we could do without them, but social experiments and moral do-gooding come second to military effectiveness.

In the meantime, we can do the best thing possible for normal (i.e. gay) men who want to serve in the military. We can have a compromise called “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” In this policy we ask gay men to make a great sacrifice for the good of their country. They must cater to the ridiculous self-esteem needs of these defective young men, but they get to serve their country. After all, the army isn’t about making people feel better about themselves.


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