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Gay Men Can Fight, and That’s the Problem

Posted on March 7 2010 4:30 pm
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Military analyst Max Boot posits two big ideas in support of openly gay military service. Yesterday, I addressed the first of those ideas — the notion that the U.S. military should act to accommodate open homosexuality because other countries’ militaries allegedly have done the same, and supposedly without incident or problem.

Today, I’ll address Boot’s second idea, which is that the U.S. military’s experience with women proves that openly gay military service would be somehow a force multiplier.

After all, Boot argues, women are ubiquitous in the U.S. military and haven’t had an adverse effect on military readiness and combat effectiveness. Therefore, he suggests, open homosexuality within the ranks wouldn’t matter either.

Not so fast. It is true that women are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with honor and distinction. However, women do not serve in frontline infantry combat units. And in air and naval combat units where women do serve, there are double standards and sexual fraternization problems.

You never hear about these problems, though, because to acknowledge or address them is politically incorrect and likely ruinous to a serviceman’s career.

Boot references James Webb’s classic 1979 essay, “Women Can’t Fight,” as somehow illustrative of how traditionalists have gotten it wrong. His argument seems to be that Webb and the traditionalists were wrong about women in combat; and so they must, therefore, be wrong about openly gay military service.

In fact, what’s remarkable about Webb’s classic 1979 essay is how intellectually bold and prescient it really was.

“I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men [tough, earthy, and brash young Marines] with combat leadership.

Furthermore, men fight better without women around. Men treat women differently than they do men, and vice versa.

This is simply and indisputably true — and it is borne out by the recent experience of men in combat units who have been forced to train or serve with women.

But again, you never hear about any problems involving women in combat units because the military has learned that to acknowledge these problems is politically incorrect and unhelpful to a serviceman’s career prospects.

Now, it so happens that much of what has transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade does not involve frontline infantry combat. That’s why, as Boot points out, women are omnipresent in both theaters of operation.

But this experience certainly doesn’t prove the value of women in combat. To the contrary: it shows that counterinsurgency warfare involves so much more than combat.

Of course, gay men are not women. Gay men can fight, and that’s the problem. The problem is that the introduction of an overtly sexual dynamic into combat units is inherently disruptive. And this dynamic becomes all the more disruptive when it has the force of law behind it.

In truth, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t about allowing gay men and women to serve: because they can and do serve now, albeit discreetly, and without drawing attention to their private sexual lives.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is about empowering the courts to promote the agenda of the gay lobby. It is about enforcing public acceptance of homosexuality, legitimizing homosexuality, altering the U.S. military’s culture and traditions, and violating the First Amendment rights of religious believers and cultural traditionalists.

Why, then, try to “fix” a problem that doesn’t exist? Especially when doing so promises to compromise the integrity and viability of our military culture, and quite possibly drive out of military service altogether some of our most important and valuable personnel?

John R. Guardiano is an Arlington, Virginia-based writer and analyst. He served as a Marine in Iraq and is still a military reservist. Follow him on Twitter. Mr. Guardiano has also written an ongoing series — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t Even Pretend to Be Fair” – about willful media bias and distortion regarding open homosexuality in the military.

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