The issue regarding a homosexual’s right to serve openly in the armed forces of the United States has become quite a controversial topic over the past few months. It started with President Obama’s first State of the Union address, in which he pledged to repeal the current “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was put in place in 1993 by congress under President Clinton, in which gays are allowed to serve in the military as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation.
Recently, Obama has made good on his promise of “change”, and brought the debate on whether or not to repeal the DADT policy to congress and it is currently under review. If the policy is repealed, it would allow for gays to serve openly in the armed forces; which means that not only could they freely disclose their sexual orientation, but could also engage in homosexual behavior without recourse. The important question we as Americans need to be asking ourselves is “would repealing the DADT truly make our armed forces stronger, or would it in fact weaken our country’s military strength? The truth is that although gay rights are an important issue that needs to be dealt with within our nation; homosexuality within the armed forces would actually deteriorate the military effectiveness of our country’s fighting force; and the repeal of the current DADT policy would be an extremely costly mistake for our country to make. A recent poll taken by the Washington Post / ABC news showed that 75 percent of Americans support ending the DADT policy (Capehart, 2010); and a similar New York Times survey indicated that 70 percent of Americans show support for gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces (Sussman, 2010).
The problem with these extremely high numbers in support of the repeal is that it has become evident that Americans are looking at this issue solely as a gay rights issue, rather than the military effectiveness issue that it really is. After all, the true purpose of having a United States military is to protect the American citizens from enemies both foreign and domestic; therefore any policy change that could affect our military’s strength, morale, readiness, and effectiveness should be carefully considered before being put into place.
First and foremost, it is critical to understand that being able to serve in the armed forces of the United States is not a constitutional right. In fact, there are many restrictions that prevent people from joining the armed forces based on a variety of different factors. To name a few, there are weight restrictions, medical restrictions, age restrictions, drug use history restrictions, tattoo restrictions, and the list goes on. Recent studies have shown that of the American youth within the age to serve; only 25 percent are actually eligible to join the armed forces (Stone, 2009).
These restrictions are not put in place to make recruiting and staffing the armed forces more difficult, but are there to ensure that our fighting force is ready and capable to fight and win the nation’s wars. The military has the absolute right to discriminate upon who can and cannot join the service based upon whether or not that group of people will benefit or weaken the force. For example, is it wrong that a 55 year old man cannot enlist and become a Marine if he wants to? Is it wrong that a 300 pound woman cannot join the Navy?
Or a heroin addict cannot enlist in the Army? Absolutely not. The military has the right to pick and choose who they want to join their ranks based upon the needs of that particular branch of service. The issue surrounding gay and lesbian service is no different. It creates obvious logistical problems for housing soldiers in close quarters. The fact that men and women serve together is already enough strain as it is. To illustrate my point I am going to give you an example. In the Army, there is a ratio of how many bathrooms per soldier are required during field operations.
If the unit is made up of all males, the ratio is straight forward, and for the sake of this example let’s call it a ratio of 25 same sex soldiers to 1 bathroom and shower. Now if even one female enters the unit, there needs to be a separate designated bathroom and shower just for her. Now let’s assume that a gay male soldier enters the unit, will he need his own bathroom and shower as well? Or can he simply use the female shower? And now let’s assume that a lesbian soldier joins the unit. Does she shower with the males, or does she get her own shower?
The answer is most likely that each would require their own bathroom and shower so that the rights and privacy of the other soldiers is not violated. The logistical problem occurs because a unit of 14 males that would previously have only needed one bathroom and shower now requires as much as four separate bathrooms and showers for the exact same number of soldiers. It costs more money and it makes our fighting force far less efficient. Sleeping quarters for homosexual soldiers presents an even bigger issue.
As a new recruit to the armed forces, it is very common to share close living quarters with fellow soldiers, even in non-combat situations. Under current policy, the military will segregate soldiers by their sex and assign a living space, often resulting in either two or four soldiers per room. Oftentimes, these rooms share one common bathroom and shower. The obvious problem arises when gay and lesbian soldiers are thrown into the mix. How will the military be able to properly separate gay men from heterosexual men? Will they simply allow the gay men and women to shower and room with the sex that they are physically attracted to?
There is another very good reason why the United States military has, since its beginning, placed strong restriction on homosexual behavior within its ranks, and it is that homosexual behavior has been proven to quickly destroy unit cohesion and deteriorate the morale of troops on the battlefield. The reason for this is best illustrated using two Greek words used to describe different kinds of love. The first being the word philia, which refers to friendship, comradeship or brotherly love; and the other being eros, which refers to sexual, intimate love.
Philia love is typically formed between soldiers on the battlefield who are facing difficult situations together. It is the bond of brotherly or sisterly love and is non-sexual or exclusive. It is essential to unit cohesion and adds to the morale of troops who are serving together side by side. It is the Philia love that promotes courage in the face of danger, and selfless acts of heroism that adds to battlefield military effectiveness. Military commanders spend a great deal of time encouraging soldiers to bond with one another to strengthen cohesion within the group as whole.
On the other hand, eros love actually has an adverse effect on unit cohesion and morale as it promotes jealousy, and selfish behavior within the unit. Eros love, unlike philia love, is typically formed between two individuals and places the needs of those individuals above that of the military unit as a whole. This pertains to both male/female relationships as well as homosexual relationships. Historically, the U. S. military has taken measures on both ends of the spectrum to minimize the negative effects that eros love can have on a unit. For example, the U. S. ilitary has a “no fraternization” or adultery policy that prohibits soldiers from engaging in relationships that will damage the cohesiveness of a unit. The Uniform Code of Military Justice also prohibits sodomy and oral sex, even among consenting adults and married couples within the armed forces. And as previously discussed, soldiers are also housed according to their sex, and some units are even limited to the male sex only to promote philia love and demote the negative effects of eros love. These rules are in place to strengthen military effectiveness as whole by increasing unit cohesion and morale.
Homosexuality within the military creates an extremely difficult situation for military commanders to deal with because it blurs the line between who will and won’t potentially end up developing eros love for one another versus philia love; and it is the strength of our military that is will be at risk. In conclusion, the current DADT policy has served our country for almost two decades without causing any harmful effects to the strength of our armed forces, and as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Homosexual men and women are free to serve in our nation’s military under current policy, but are simply restricted from engaging in homosexual acts during their time in service. Serving in the military is a sacrifice, and not a constitutional right. Homosexuals who wish to join the armed forces simply have to be prepared to make the sacrifice of containing their homosexual behavior during their time in service; or they must be ready to face the consequences of being discharged from the military.
The bottom line comes down to this: homosexuality is incompatible with military service, and the DADT policy is the best way to allow gays to service in the military while minimizing the problems that homosexuality has on troop morale, cohesion, and all around effectiveness of our military forces. The current policy should remain in place. Works Cited Capehart, J. (2010, May 26). Retrieved June 1, 2010, from The Washington Post: http://voices. washingtonpost. com/postpartisan/2010/05/listen_to_the_american_people. html Gutmann, S. (2010, January 31). Telegraph. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from http://blogs. telegraph. co. k/news/stephaniegutmann/100024228/obama-and-gays-in-the-military-if-it-aint-broke/ Stone, A. (2009, March 01). 75 percent of young Americans are unfit for military duty. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from AOL News: http://www. aolnews. com/article/70-percent-of-young-americans-are-unfit-for-military-duty/19260560 Sussman, D. (2010, February 11). Retrieved June 1, 2010, from The New York Times: http://thecaucus. blogs. nytimes. com/2010/02/11/new-poll-shows-support-for-repeal-of-dont-ask-dont-tell/ Swier, D. R. (2010, January 31). Retrieved June 1, 2010, from Red County: http://www. redcounty. com/gays-military-it-a-good-idea/36334