Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Do

So I heard a piece on NPR today about Obama and McCain having differing opinions on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. Military regarding persons with same-sex attraction (yclept "gays"). In short, Obama thinks it should be removed as a policy, because it has led to some number of good soldiers being dismissed from the armed forces. McCain supports continuing the policy, and -- curiously enough -- cites this as a "gay-friendly" policy. (Apparently, he's referring to the "Don't Ask" part of it.)

I think it's a terrible policy and should be removed, but not for the reasons that Obama presents. I'm opposed to the policy because it posits and ontological character to an epistemological phenomenon. In short, it fails to distinguish between orientation and action. The military has apparently bought into the strange idea -- brought about by a combination of liberal identity politics and the enduring influence of John Calvin in the American cultural landscape -- that "gayness" is an intrinsic part of a person, similar to race, rather than an extrinsic manifestation of an internal disorder.

By way of analogy -- there are certainly a number of U.S. servicemen who suffer from a disordered affection for alcohol. However, alcoholism is not per se grounds for being removed from the military. Chronic drunkenness, however, is reasonable grounds for corrective, remediative, and punitive actions by the military.

Similarly, the Uniform Code of Military Justice already has well-established mechanisms for addressing the negative impact to good order and discipline that arise from extra-marital sexual activity among the troops. It's very good at identifying the types of sexual relationships which mar readiness and morale. There is no reason that this code should be applied differently or exceptionally to those who suffer from same-sex attraction. Adultery and fornication are often contrary to good order in a military organization, and should be addressed uniformly within the military.

The problem isn't whether a person self-identifies as "gay" or not. The problem in the military is behavior that disrupts readiness and order. It is behavior that should be addressed.

I hope clear heads prevail in this arena.


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