More on DADT

I received a great deal of feedback on my NRO and Wall Street Journal articles about the ban on open homosexuals in the military. For the most part, the responses from both anti- and pro-ban folks were civil. Moreover, I have to say that the following response from a serving gay officer was very persuasive. It points out that most homosexuals serving in the military do so for the right reasons. For them, service, not sexual orientation, is the key. Here is the e-mail: 

Dear Sir,

As conservative libertarian a gay military officer who has served for over 15 years now, I am understandably biased in opposing this policy. However, your article is the only sensible one I have read defending it. But I must conclude from it that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly, just not in combat units. In other words, impose on them the same restrictions under which women currently serve, as per the other models you mention. This would be a reasonable policy, so long as it is reasonable for women.

However, in my opinion, the “unit cohesion” argument was destroyed in the 90’s when the Clinton administration expanded women’s roles on ships and ground forces. Being on a ship before then was quite different. Since then, with or without DADT it is a sexual free-for-all aboard most ships and most forward ground locations. People cheat on their spouses, ignore all fraternization rules, and sexually experiment. So long as you can keep quiet about what you do and it causes no scandal, most people look the other way. Regardless, I think one would say that most of those units are effective in achieving their missions. My point: The military ethos was sexualized long ago. Adding open homosexuality to the mix will not make a difference so long as everyone obeys (or is punished by) the normal sexual misconduct rules. I can tell you as a leader that I spend most of my time managing my “straight” people’s personal problems resulting from their sexual choices — divorce, single parents, two working parents, etc. I don’t like it. It is disruptive, but it is the military we have today and I have to take care of my people. Most homosexuals don’t have any of these kind of disruptive problems — all of which indirectly impact the military ethos and a unit’s cohesion.

Finally, based on my own experience, I don’t think the combat unit argument will ultimately stand the test of time either. I know many gay guys in such units. Most no one would would even suspect. Most of them are quiet professionals who simply want to be left alone but don’t want to get kicked out of the military because someone saw them in the wrong place. None of them want to be coddled. If someone can’t make it through the rigorous screening and training process, then they should not be in such units.

I hope my anecdotally informed opinions will provide you more points for discussion in future articles. While the left-wing arguments are radicalized and ideological, in essence, they are correct. The right’s opposition seems unprincipled and bigoted. I think most military people agree that homosexuals should be allowed to serve freely but no one wants to be subjected to more sensitivity training and forcibly told that someone else’s behavior is right or good. Any kind of evangelizing is unwelcome. Most people in the military just want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit, and to do the job for which they get paid and risk their lives.

Here are my own thoughts on this very reasonable note:

Part of the problem is that those who wish to make homosexuality, rather than service, the issue will insist on the things you say should be avoided — sensitivity training, etc. The Spartans were only able to avoid the problem of eros unleashed in an environment based on philia by rigorously enforcing an unbending discipline. As you know, the Spartan fighting formation required one’s shield to protect not oneself but the next man over — cohesion based on trust. As our experience with women demonstrates, it is unlikely that our society would allow such discipline.

Mackubin Thomas Owens — Mackubin Thomas Owens, the associate dean of academics for electives and directed research and professor of strategy and force planning for the Naval War College, is a contributing editor to ...