Friday, June 11, 2010

More on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Yes, I know it's strange for an anarchist to write in detail about needed changes to the internal policies of state agencies. I'm doing so not because I support the existence of those agencies or of the state itself, but for two other reasons:

First, I find the topic interesting.

Secondly, I've still got some personal/social investment in the Libertarian Party, and some Missouri Libertarian candidates are currently discussing their answers to the prospective question "where you do stand on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell?'"

I've addressed one very narrow anti-national-security aspect of DADT in another post, but let's take a broader look at the policy and why it's bad.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the United States managed to live without any policy prohibiting homosexuality in its armed forces for 172 years -- from the formation of the Continental Army in 1775, until 1947.1

Somehow the US managed to win the Revolution, the Indian wars, the Mexican War, the War Between the States, the Spanish-American War, the banana wars, World War I, World War II and a load of other minor skirmishes during that period. The only war during that period that can really be called a US loss was the War of 1812, and I've never seen any literature purporting to tie that loss to an anomalous surge of homosexual enlistees. There's even an argument to be made that the Continental Army would have disintegrated with the Revolution un-won had not a flaming German queen, Baron von Steuben, arrived to teach it close order drill and other basic tasks of a real army.

The record of US military prowess since 1947 isn't nearly as shiny -- losses in Korea and Vietnam, quagmires-cum-losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pyrrhic victory in the first Gulf War, a mixed record in smaller conflicts (wins in Grenada and Panama, loss in Somalia, etc.).

US military readiness and capability have deteriorated, not improved, in the era of "no homosexuals in the US military." Correlation is not necessarily causation, but we can say for sure that the "no homosexuals" policies have -- at best -- not made up for other anti-readiness/preparedness factors (the main one being the placement of military readiness at the service of the military-industrial complex, such that the main purpose of the armed forces is to transfer as much money as possible from your wallet to Lockheed-Martin's bottom line).

Let's think about the mission of the US armed forces for a moment. I'm going to go with the most basic mission, that of the Marine Rifle Squad:

The mission of the Marine Rifle Squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or to repel the enemy's assault by fire and close combat.

The mission of every military unit is either something like that, or something supporting that.

Any military rule which doesn't directly contribute to the accomplishment of that mission is, to use a term that most conservatives love to apply to "liberal" policies, social engineering. It's the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for the purpose of achieving social outcomes which would not take place in the absence of coercive intervention.

To paraphrase a well-known conservative radio host, the purpose of the military is to kill people and blow things up -- not to provide your son or daughter with a paycheck, educational benefits, healthcare, etc., and all in an environment in which he or she can be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone else's son or daughter isn't staring at his or her ass in the shower.

If you're in the military, or thinking of joining the military, and you're concerned that you might find yourself serving next to a homosexual ... get over it. There are homosexuals in the military. There always have been homosexuals in the military, and there always will be homosexuals in the military. If the US government has a legitimate purpose -- and I'm not saying it does, but if it does -- that purpose is most manifestly not to "protect" you from being admired by people of the same sex while you collect a government paycheck.

If you're not in the military but you're paying taxes that support the military, then if the government owes you anything for your money -- it will insist that it doesn't and I think you're a sucker for thinking you'll ever collect, but whatever -- what it owes you in military terms is defense against attack or invasion from abroad, not the enforcement of your prejudices regarding sexual orientation in the provision of that defense. So, like I told the prospective recruit above: Get over it.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a particularly weak, ineffectual and arbitrary instance of a bad, anti-national-defense policy. It's just as silly and useless -- except as a convenient hook to hang demagoguery on -- as the instances that preceded it from 1947-1993, and it needs to go.

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Honorably discharged US Marine infantry NCO

1. At this point, someone is going to pop up with a "nosirreebob -- sodomy has always been against regulations in the US armed forces." And that someone is right. Sodomy and homosexuality are not the same thing. Adultery has always been against regulations in the US armed forces, too -- does that equate to a ban on heterosexuality? The sodomy provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice do need to be updated to apply only to forcible acts or acts with a provable negative impact on unit cohesion/morale, but that's a different subject entirely. Orientation and action are two different things.

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