Thursday, December 11, 2008

Case Study: Gays in the Military

Case Study: Gays in the Military, using faith and reasoning in decision making

I was just listening to an interview with General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, on a wide range of topics, including gays in the military. He is the author of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy currently implemented in the United States. It gave me the idea of doing a “case study” on this topic, of how to logic one’s way through proper decision making, and of course to share my opinion.

First of all, I have always supported gays in the military and I am far from a “Johnny Come Lately,” since support of gays in the military has always been my core belief. I have, actually, proof of that by relaying to you a “date and time stamped” event where I voiced my support. In 1980 I was hired into a certain major petrochemical company. The department manager was a former military guy, I’ll call him B. He was feisty and quite a character, and I admired his managerial skill, and of course his “war stories.” I did not get to work for him very long, as he was there only I guess a few months to a year of my time there. Anyway, in the fall of 1980 when I had a meeting with him, after the quick handling of business he became chatty in that fun way that he had and he commented on lots of topics, including his opinion of gays in the military. He told me he had no problem with them as people, but as a military guy he was very concerned that being gay was fertile source for blackmail by foreign agents. Remember, this is exactly twenty-eight years ago when many gays were still very much in the closet. Now, I disagreed with him then and I have continually. I felt that determined foreign agents will find anything to blackmail a soldier about, if that is their plan, and if they do not have something on the person, they will create something doing what spies call a “honey trap.” B, however, felt that the particular social onus of being gay made it an exceptional risk. So we agreed to disagree. That was fall of 1980 folks. So I have a firm and clear record of supporting gays in the military.

Now, this does not make it an easy issue for humans to solve, just because someone like me is “pro” gays in military, and other people are “against.” This is why it occurred to me to use this issue as a case study.

Let’s start with the Biblical context. Ah ha, caught you! I know that everyone immediately thinks I mean about the morality or sin associated with gay acts. Wrong! What I mean is when you analyze secular policy you must look to the Bible for categorizing secular versus moral issues. Thus one finds that Jesus said, regarding taxes, to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Thus you correctly identify gays in the military as an issue of “Caesar,” and not of God. Therefore God expects “Caesar” to determine policy and take care of governmental, military and other secular matters based on facts, prudence and justice. You can also think of gays in the military as a matter for the “good king.” The Bible underscores that Jesus did not get involved in governmental policy, but expected all humans to behave with justice and prudence (many of his parables underscore those qualities).

So, now that we realize that the Bible points you to a secular decision regarding gays in the military, how does one make a just decision? You do so by analyzing the issue and the alternatives using two measures.

1) What is the best decision or alternative to support the maximum effectiveness of the military?
2) What is the best decision or alternative to provide justice and equality for all concerned?

Let’s look at the first criterion for decision making. There is no evidence that gays fight less effectively or otherwise are a detriment to military service. To the contrary, we know that the military has suffered from the loss of gay service men and women over the years, both in the shortage of sheer number of service people and also from their talents and skills, both as combatants and in support.

Now, remember, the first criterion must be given due dignity of consideration, even in an obvious case such as this. This is because it is a slippery slope to only look at “effectiveness.” For example, young men and women are the strongest, most energetic and thus best recruits, so this is why the age of consent to join the military allows teenagers. However, suppose someone suggested that young children would be very effective additions to the military, because they are “easily trained,” “energetic,” “small and thus cheaper to house and transport,” etc. That would be appalling logic, putting effectiveness over decency. So one must always consider effectiveness in a moral context, one that is subservient to decent societal standards, which is we do not use child soldiers.

The second criterion regards equality and justice for all of the parties involved. Obviously on the “pro” side is that gays are entitled to the same right to service and justice in so doing as everyone else who is qualified to join the armed services. So this seems, like the first criterion, very obvious. However, one must give pause to consider the rights of everyone involved. The allowing of gays to serve in the military just like everyone else should not be viewed as giving approval to situations that create sexual tension in the military. This was, and is, exactly the same problem that had to be considered with permitting women into increased opportunities in the military. I admit, if I were the decision maker, I would want a lot of fact finding, analysis and persuasion by my managers and generals to be assured that undue sexual tension was not increased over that which already exists among ready, willing and able young men and women. I know what it is like to be stalked by both straights and gays, and to be viewed in terms of such “assessment.” The last thing any military person needs is to be viewed by a comrade as either straight or gay "bait," "in person pornography" or "opportunity." This is one reason I continue to be uneasy with the presence of women in certain areas of the military and I extend that uneasiness to gays.

Part of the problem is that extreme feminists and extreme gay rights advocates have, in society at large, had very loud mouths about hedonistic and cruising tendencies. Then they turn around and try to persuade skeptics that they are sober and prudent and not predatory in their demeanor. Just as I have some problem believing that about some women, (and of course the predatory men who would exploit them), I have some problem believing that every gay in the military has proper custody of his or her eyes, to use a religious expression. I think some men (those who assault their female comrades, to the men’s extreme discredit and disgrace) obviously have a problem with “custody of the eyes,” and most certainly with their actions. Likewise I think some women have a problem with “custody of the eyes” and also most certainly with their actions. And, in true equality, I think that some gays have a problem with “custody of the eyes” and also most certainly with their actions. Any decision regarding military membership must always protect the rights of those, men and women, straight and gay, who do have “custody of the eyes” and are there to do their job, and not to cruise among their comrades.

Humans being humans I had very serious concerns about exactly this problem with the expanded role of women in the military. I believe that the military has, however, painfully learned how to deal with predators and exploiters who act inappropriately in both behavior and in having an invasive view of their own comrades’ dignity. Thus while I am uneasy about this aspect of the problem, I could be persuaded by generals and managers who have expertise in this issue that what was learned about women expanding in the military can be applied to dealing with problems that may arise with expanded and open gay participation. This means that I would expect gays to be treated with dignity, and I would expect them to treat their comrades with dignity. It really is as simple as that. Just as predatory straight men or women should not be part of the military in any way shape or form, I would expect the same about gays; either those being exploitive or being exploited themselves. When the military lacks cohesion, dignity and a certain “being above sex on the job” attitude among its members you have a dangerous meltdown, one that results in things like naked pictures of prisoners being tormented in Iraq. A military that does not have detachment, dignity and “custody of the eyes” among themselves creates an exploitive rabble rather than a proud protective force.

Thus, to recap, I have always supported gays serving in the military and have proven this by referencing my stance as long ago as twenty eight years ago. I also wish to underscore that there is a proper way to use both “faith and reasoning” to analyze how to arrive at the proper and best conclusion with issues such as these. It is also important to always bear in mind that in pursuit of justice and equality, one does not need to be blind, in denial or disingenuous regarding implications of equality, and to analyze systems and procedures so that everyone can maintain their equality and dignity during a time of change.

I hope that you have found this helpful.