Last night, President Obama said the following:
Our troops come from every corner of this country -– they’re black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. (Applause.) And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation. (Applause.)
Okay, there is one huge problem with this. It's easy to demonize the "elite" universities for not having more ROTC programs, but the reality is that the U.S. military has been the one most responsible for divesting from ROTC programs in the northeastern United States. It's hardly the fault of Columbia University that the U.S. Army has only two ROTC programs to serve the eight million residents and 605,000 university students of New York City. And it's not the University of Chicago's fault that the entire city of Chicago has one ROTC program while the state of Alabama has ten. The U.S. military made a conscious decision to cut costs by recruiting and training officers where people were more likely to volunteer. That makes sense given an ROTC budget that has been slashed since the end of the Cold War. But it also means that the U.S. Army and its sister services are just as responsible for this divide between the so-called "elite" living within the Acela Corridor and the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was one of two Army ROTC graduates in my class at the University of Pennsylvania, but it was not the fault of Penn or the ban on gays in the military that the U.S. Army decided to shutter the ROTC program at Penn after my freshman year and move us all over to Drexel's program. (Go Dragon Battalion, by the way!) The U.S. Army made a decision based on a logical (if short-sighted) cost-benefit analysis, and if there were only two people in my class of 2000+ at Penn (with one of them being from East Tennessee, which is far from Philadelphia's Main Line) who wanted to do ROTC, why did it make sense to fund a separate battalion?
The bottom line here, expressed far better than me by John Renehan in the Washington Post, is that we need to stop scape-goating the elite universities for the lack of ROTC on campus. Instead, we need to ask harder questions about what kind of efforts we need to make to build an officer corps that best represents the American people.
Update: Cheryl Miller of AEI has a response to my post up on the Weekly Standard's website, largely agreeing with what I wrote but adding more. Cheryl is the real subject matter expert on ROTC, so be sure to read what she has to say.
Katherine Miller is exactly the kind of person we need in the ranks of our nation's junior officer corps.
(The fact that she quit the West Point rugby team to run triathlons is the only mark against her, as far as I am concerned. In the words of Kenny Powers, "I play real sports, not try to be the best at exercising.")
"If I am lying by the road bleeding, I don't care if the medic coming to save me is gay. I just hope he is one of those buff gay guys who are always in the gym so he can throw me over his shoulder and get me out of there."
Okay, this is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. This is such a post-DADT military...
I was hoping to leave behind any and all arguments for and against the DADT policy after yesterday's post, but I opened up today's Wall Street Journal to read an op-ed by Mac Owens -- a guy whose writings I always have time for and a man I respect very much -- against gays serving openly in the military. Finally, I thought, a smart conservative writer on military affairs is going to make a coherent case against gays in the military and will thus enlighten the public discourse.
Here's the central passage in Mac's op-ed:
Winning the nation's wars is the military's functional imperative. Indeed, it is the only reason for a liberal society to maintain a military organization. War is terror. War is confusion. War is characterized by chance, uncertainty and friction. The military's ethos constitutes an evolutionary response to these factors—an attempt to minimize their impact.
Accordingly, the military stresses such martial virtues as courage, both physical and moral, a sense of honor and duty, discipline, a professional code of conduct, and loyalty. It places a premium on such factors as unit cohesion and morale. The glue of the military ethos is what the Greeks called philia—friendship, comradeship or brotherly love. Philia, the bond among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together, is the source of the unit cohesion that most research has shown to be critical to battlefield success.
Philia depends on fairness and the absence of favoritism. Favoritism and double standards are deadly to philia and its associated phenomena—cohesion, morale and discipline—are absolutely critical to the success of a military organization.
The presence of open homosexuals in the close confines of ships or military units opens the possibility that eros—which unlike philia is sexual, and therefore individual and exclusive—will be unleashed into the environment. Eros manifests itself as sexual competition, protectiveness and favoritism, all of which undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion, good order, discipline and morale.
Now, the most obvious thing that will jump out at the reader here is that MAC OWENS IS USING ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE AS AN ARGUMENT AGAINST (!!!) GAYS IN COMBAT. This is, obviously and not just for those of us who majored in classics, hilarious.
The second and less obvious thing that readers should note is that Mac's Greek is a hot tranny mess. Those of us of the Christian faith have C.S. Lewis to blame for everyone thinking there is some hard and fast distinction between the Greek words for love -- philia, storge, eros and agape. The reality, though, is that this is an exegetical fallacy. In Ancient Greek texts, these four words for love were used a lot more interchangeably than readers of Lewis might be led to believe. (Just as the line between platonic comradery and sex blurred within many Greek fighting organizations.)
In the end, this op-ed is filled with exactly the kinds of assumptions and assertions about military effectiveness I spent all yesterday whining about. There is precious little hard evidence to back up what Mac argues. And, oh, I guess I should mention this one more time, but MAC OWENS USES MILITARY CULTURE IN ANCIENT GREECE AS AN ARGUMENT AGAINST GAYS IN THE MILITARY.
That, together with the phrase "exegetical fallacy", is just awesome.
I'm listening to Sec. Gates and Adm. Mullen talk about repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell on C-SPAN, and they're a breath of fresh air given the commentary that has recently surrounded the decision to repeal DADT. So far, I've been reading a lot of assumptions and assertions amidst a conspicuous absence of hard data and research. On the one hand, Bill Kristol is saying the repeal of DADT will lead to military ineffectiveness. Now, the assumption that a repeal of DADT will lead to at least a short-term drop in unit cohesiveness or effectiveness sounds like a pretty reasonable assumption, but that assumption needs to be tested. On the other hand, Sen. Levin (who, as chairman of the SASC, knows a lot more about the U.S. military than Bill Kristol) is claiming a repeal of DADT will lead to greater unit effectiveness. That actually strikes me as being a bit of a stretch, but if by that he means more Arabic/Dari/Pashto linguists, yeah, okay, that makes sense. In the same way, supporters of the repeal claim that the younger generation of military servicemen could in general care less about serving with homosexuals. And that seems like a reasonable assumption as well given the fact that all American focus groups -- Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, church-goers, atheists -- are in favor of gays being allowed to openly serve in uniform, and the younger generation of Americans is generally more comfortable with the societal normalization of homosexuality than older generations.
Gates and Mullen, though, are calling for RAND to update their 1993 study on gays in the military (.pdf), and this is the right idea. (Mullen's remarks, in particular, have been laced with much-needed humility.) We need some hard research to support or challenge everyone's assumptions. Sen. McCain -- a man I greatly admire -- is sounding a more like a senator in a tough Republican primary race here than a guy listening to the policy preference of the American people. But he is fundamentally correct when he says that a review of DADT and gays in the military should have preceded any announced shift in the policy. He is also correct when he points out that -- unlike in the 1990s -- a repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military would now demand a change in the law by Congress. (This I learned by reading this excellent article in Joint Forces Quarterly (.pdf) that you'll be hearing senators on both sides of this debate reference.)
But this leads me to my biggest gripe about this policy shift. I don't blame the Obama Administration nearly as much as I blame foot-dragging flag officers. Last year, I sat in on an on-the-record lunchtime talk with Gen. Casey, and the chief of staff of the U.S. Army was asked a point-blank question about the repeal of DADT. Gen. Casey kinda shrugged and said the U.S. Army would study the issue if and when the administration notified it of a change in policy.
I cannot describe how upset I was by this incident -- not because I particularly care about DADT as an issue but because this kind of uniformed foot-dragging makes me angry. Anyone in defense policy circles -- and most especially the chief of staff of the Army -- could and should have anticipated a proposed change in DADT. The time, then, to have tasked RAND or IDA or CNA or whoever to analyze the policy and the greater issue of homosexuals in uniform should have been when Pres. Obama took office. I remember sitting at the table thinking, "Oh, give me a break, sir -- take some freaking initiative!"
Anyway, I do not intend to wade into the full morass that is DADT and homosexuals in the military. But I will say this: Congressmen and members of the public should pay less attention to the many retired flag officers (average date of commission: 1835) who oppose homosexuals openly serving in the U.S. military and should instead poll serving U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. That's who Laura Miller and RAND will be polling. Their opinions, when combined with the desired policy preferences of the greater U.S. public, should be what matters. I could care less what some dude who garrisoned Shanghai in 1932 thinks.
This bit at the end I find to be really compelling. In a combat environment in which U.S. soldiers are working alongside civilians -- not to mention the soldiers from allied nations -- in complex counterinsurgency operations, they are already working alongside persons living openly homosexual lives. So at what point are we just going to throw in the towel and admit, for better or for worse, that homosexuality has been normalized in Western culture?
Several of my colleagues knew I was gay. We lived in the closest possible conditions. When there were showers, we showered together. When we were out overnight on the cold, bare mountains of Afghanistan, we slept huddled together for warmth. It should go without saying that there was nothing remotely sexual about these situations. We had uncomfortable experiences -- we were at war, after all -- but my buddies were never uncomfortable with me.
The reason I didn't come out to more of my comrades wasn't out of concern for morale. I was worried about losing my job. ...
Straight and gay soldiers have been fighting side by side in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond without incident. More than 20 of our closest allies have integrated gays into their ranks, including all of NATO except Turkey. American troops work and live with these forces without incident.
Here at home, every government service is integrated, including the paramilitary sections of the CIA that work hand in glove with the armed services. The presence of gays in these organizations is a nonissue. The idea that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines would have any greater difficulty adjusting is an insult to their professionalism.
...six years of war have clarified priorities. The battlefield has its own values, starting with courage. Sexual orientation falls somewhere below musical taste. What a person chooses to do back stateside, off-duty, in his own apartment is irrelevant in a fight. For months I lived with 12 other American advisers on an Iraqi outpost. There was a single pipe shower next to a hole that masqueraded as a sewer. But the reality of combat dominated personality quirks — nobody wondered about sexual orientation.