The Corner

The Best Email On The Subject

comes from a college friend whose judgment I respect:

“I must admit that I was surprised to read your Corner post re: gays in the

military. As you well know, i’ve been opposed since college. In seven years

in the military I’ve seen nothing to change my mind.

“The morale problem is insurmountable. No, no, I don’t mean anti-gay

sentiment. I truly fail to understand how front-line leaders such as myself

can be expected to keep horny 18-year-olds away from each other. I can’t get

these yo-yos to come to drill sober, let alone keep their mitts off of each

other if sexual attraction is present.

“This problem is present with women, too, and for that reason I’d cheerfully

endorse an all-male military. But women are easier to keep segregated. We

can have women’s rooms, women’s bathrooms, etc., and women can be easily

identified as such. Precisely how do we work showers for gay soldiers? And

when Private Boy and Private Girl spend lots of time alone, common sense

tells us that something’s afoot. When Private Boy and Private Openly Gay But

Swears He’ll be Chaste slip away…are they pals, or something more? And if

it’s Private Boy and his supervisor, Sergeant Openly Gay, Etc., then what?

What can a leader do?

“Too trivial? After four lonely, dirty months in the field, it wouldn’t seem

so. And my understanding of human sexuality doesn’t support the notion that

18-year-olds can shower in the nude with other 18-year-olds to whom they are

sexually attracted, and not have bad things happen. The left might buy the

idea that the sexual urge can be flipped on and off like a switch – off when

at work, on when at home. The right should know better.

“It does no good to point to the rules against fraternization, sex with

subordinates, etc. Those rules aren’t obeyed among the heterosexuals, and,

as noted earlier, we have strong measures in place to help hetero soldiers

avoid temptation. And still we have awful problems.

“And do let’s keep in mind that all of these problems are quintupled in the

stress of a deployment, and quintupled again in combat. . . .

“I’m not acquainted with the British experience. But I’d take it with several

grains of salt, as a) the p.c. juggernaut has likely squelched any evidence

that a pro-gay policy has failed, just as the p.c. juggernaut routinely

squelches evidence in the U.S. that women in the military is a failed

policy; b) I’ve heard that many foreign militaries quietly track gays into

non-combat positions, and c) what the hell do Europeans know about fighting

contemporary wars anyway? Britain is the least bad of the bunch, but acting

as the American Army’s valet doesn’t really demand the same uncompromising

quest for the military excellence that we demand out of, say, the 82nd


“It’s probably true that, in a garrison, rear-eschelon environment, gays

(like women) can do as good a job as anyone else. But the military

recognizes that the garrison environment is not the true military

environment. The Army, at least, demands that every soldier be able to fight

like an infantryman under combat conditions, regardless of their ‘real Army

job.’ Every soldier must meet that standard. A soldier sexually attracted to

other soldiers cannot meet that standard.

“Sorry to belabor the point, but I’ve spent much time examining the issue –

and for me, the point is far from academic.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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