REPLY #2 TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
(R) I offered the point about Shilts' book being discreditted because it's all too easy to quote a source as authoritative when you're unaware of a crushing refutation. I haven't read his other book, though I think I'd like to, since I really enjoyed "Conduct Unbecoming". I'm curious what you meant, though, by saying that there's no need to discredit it.
(MB) I merely meant that the case against allowing gays to serve in the military can be made on its own merits.
(R) I noticed on your site that you have a section called 'Homosexuality and other "Lifestyle Choices"', and lacking that essay to read, I feel like I'm missing some premises of your argument.
(MB) Unfortunately, I am currently out of available disk space on my ISP, so I have not yet been able to add that essay (along with several others). However, my personal views on that subject have little to do with my opinions on whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military.
(R) You seem to have already formed the conclusion that homosexuality is, I don't know, 'unhealthy', 'unnatural', etc. I'm unsure of the word to use since I don't want to put words in your mouth, nor create a straw man. But your obviously negative feelings towards a gay lifestyle do seem important to your argument about gays in the military.
(MB) As I said above, my personal views about homosexuality have little to do with the arguments concerning the issue of gays in the military. My arguments on that matter are objective ones. This is as it should be since the needs of the military outweigh my own personal opinions.
Colin Powell said of this: "Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument."
(R) An excellent point by someone I generally respect, but I would add that comparison of the two is relevant insofar as it speaks to whether or not the received opinion in the military should be considered.
(MB) I would disagree with that since you must consider the reasons behind those opinions. The comparison would be valid only if the issues were the same.
(R) You mention that 33% of white military personal opposed integration prior to it happening, but that 78% oppose the integration of homosexuals. The opinion of the 78% should be relevant only so far as their belief is justified, something that is yet undemonstrated to me.
(MB) What would you consider to be a "justified" belief? Certainly, the medical evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of supporting the ban. Also, the needs of the military and the needs of civilian society are not the same. Things that are intolerable in civilian life are not only tolerated in the military, but, often, are very necessary to the mission. Far too many of the arguments in favor of gays in the military overlook that point.
[Re: "One difference is that gays have always served in the military." ] So have people who have been guilty of all make and manner of criminal activity. However, that, in and of itself, does not justify their continued service.
(R) Again, comparing homosexual activity with criminal activity begs the question about the morality of a gay lifestyle.
(MB) My point was not to claim that homosexuality is a criminal activity. Instead, I wanted to demonstrate the fallacy of the argument that all members of a certain group should be permitted to do something which is illegal or prohibited simply because a few already are doing it.
Yes, it most certainly is justified. Prior to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", potential Army recruits were asked on their enlistment forms if they were homosexual. Falsely answering "No" risked the same penalties as deliberately lying about anything else on the forms - felony convictions with heavy fines and jail time.
(R) Shilts leads up to Clinton's policy throughout the entire book, making the (I think) very valid point that it's always been this way.
(MB) It hasn't always been "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- either officially or otherwise. The military is no longer permitted to ask the "Are you homosexual?" question on enlistment forms and now defines more precisely the sort of activities that are permissable. For example, simply possessing gay literature, associating with gays, or attending a gay rally are no longer enough to justify charges against a soldier.
(R) In wartime, when America needed soldiers, prosecutions for homosexual behaviour fell off almost completely. The period in America's military history when such prosecutions were highest was the late eighties, prior to the Gulf War.
(MB) What is often overlooked is that this coincides with the change to an all-volunteer military. When men must be drafted in order to provide enough bodies for a major war, previous rules can be temporarily waived and otherwise undesirable or prohibited individuals can be accepted. However, once the war is over, those individuals are not permitted to continue service. While they do serve, these individuals rarely make rank, they cannot gain security clearances and normally get the
duties that others seldom want.
(R) A historical note: Clinton's original policy was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Investigate". The gay community felt tremendously betrayed by the policy, since they'd lent so much support to Clinton in just the hopes of getting the gay ban reversed. Senator Sam Nunn, then head of the Armed Services Committee (please correct any factual errors I offer) was responsible for removing the last clause of the slogan.
(MB) You are correct. The final version was a compromise that was necessary in order for Clinton to get *any* version of the policy passed. In the end, it was nothing more than the failure of a special-interest group to get everything they wanted.
(R) It's not so much that homosexuals deserve a special dispensation as that the sodomy laws of the military are applied in an anti-gay fashion. Shilts mentions that no heterosexual serviceman has ever been discharged or criminally prosecuted for sodomy, though it's fairly certain that many have practiced it at one time or another.
(MB) It is not true that there are no heterosexual prosecutions for sodomy. In fact, a great many such charges are brought each year -- usually in combination with other sexual offenses, such as rape, attempted rape, or assault.
(R) Of course, why does the military even have a sodomy law, when so little of the civilian world does?
(MB) Several states and communities have similar laws. For example, I lived in Virginia for six years while stationed at the White House and that state has a law against sodomy. Much of military law is based on original regulations that have been around since the Army was first formed two centuries ago. It's only recently that sodomy has begun to gain more favorable opinion among the general public.
(R) What interest does the military have in enforcing a law prohibiting a private act between consenting adults?
(MB) One could just as well ask that same question for civilian society.
(R) And how is it that lesbians are charged with sodomy?
(MB) While the word "sodomy" refers only to anal sex, many of the laws against it also include oral sex or other acts besides good old-fashioned man-on-top-get-it-over-with-quick in the legal definition.
(R) The answer, I think, is that the law is deliberately anti-gay in its application, in which case the argument that homosexuals should be banned because they will necessarily break the sodomy law is circular - they can't help but break a law that specifically targets them.
(MB) The military's regulations against sodomy were in place long before there was any "gays in the military" issue. Therefore, they can not be specifically "anti-gay" in nature. The regulations also do not specifically target any person or group. Just because an individual or group may be more likely to violate a given regulation does not mean that the regulation is specifically targeted against them.
(R) I believe the study was done by examining the evaluation reports of servicemen and women discharged or prosecuted for being gay. Looking at their records prior to their dismissal, they were generally above average in most respects. As the study was an internal study, the investigators would presumably have no problem obtaining the material needed.
(MB) I think I see the problem here. Military evaluations are highly skewed towards the "above average". In fact, anybody who actually gets an "average" evaluation is often considered to be substandard and risks being passed over for promotion. Supervisors know this and, more often than not, they try to make their soldiers look good. Therefore, almost *any* given group can be shown to be "above average" based solely upon their evaluation reports. In reality, however, being "above
average" is the norm.
(R) I question whether the gay soldiers are really substandard, thus impairing the unit, or whether it's the perception of homosexuality that makes such people seem substandard. Certainly one doesn't have to be gay to be a bad soldier.
(MB) Here, I can only speak from personal experience -- which should certainly count for something. In every case I have personally witnessed, the soldiers in question were, indeed, substandard. The fact that the soldiers created problems within the unit just added to the situation. In one particular case, an admittedly-homosexual soldier caused several incidents both on and off duty, culminating in his receiving a rather thorough beating when he attempted to make a homosexual
advance towards the brigade commander's driver. Even at that, he was not kicked out of the Army or prosecuted for homosexuality since it was stated that he actually had to be "caught in the act" before any action could be taken. Instead, he was transfered to another unit.
(R) The point in Shilts' book that I agree most strongly with is that there is a cult of masculinity in the military, a hallowed feeling of the military making the man. While such an atmosphere has its virtues, it also has its faults.
(MB) One could make similar claims about any group or organization whose membership is largely comprised of one sex - not to mention race, color, creed, social standing, etc. The military is also unique because of its mission. When the job is to win on the field of battle, there is going to be a "manly" attitude which prevails. The training and enforced discipline contributes to this. In truth, it *must* be that way for the mission to have any hope of success.
(R) In my own experience, that atmosphere is not only about strength, endurance, loyalty, stoicism, and all the other good and manly traits, but about racism, sexism, and homophobia of the worst kind.
(MB) That simply could not be further from the truth. The Army is about the mission that is to be performed. If something endangers the successful or efficient completion of the mission, it is not permitted. Homosexuality is just one of the many things that have been conclusively shown to adversely affect the mission. That is why there are regulations against it.
By the way, I have a problem with the word "homophobia". It's a cute and "PC" term, but, if you think about it a bit, you'll easily see that it doesn't make much sense. Taken literally, the word would mean "irrational fear of things that are the same". Certainly, among the emotional responses of most heterosexuals towards homosexuals, "fear" is not included. Nor are these responses "irrational" in any way. Lastly, homosexuality can certainly
not be considered to be "the same" as heterosexuality. All things considered, the word "homophobia" really has no meaning other than as an attempted insult.
(R) Another time, a close friend in my unit told me (out of the blue) that I would be beaten to death if the rest of the platoon ever found out I was gay. Since the comment was so directly aimed at me, I got the feeling that it was something that had been discussed.
(MB) At this point, the question must be asked -- are you gay?
(R) My (admittedly anecdotal) point is that this atmosphere, this cult has a way of casting the situation in terms of those who don't measure up to it are obviously inferior because they're not real men. Thus (another point that Shilts makes), those who don't measure up are gay, and those who do measure up, and turn out to be gay, are the worst sort of traitors.
(MB) Those who don't "measure up" can fail to do so for any number of reasons. It's natural to postulate all sorts of conspiracy theories in order to bolster one's own defenses if one becomes threatened with "not measuring up".
Any game has rules. If one wishes to play, but can't or won't follow the rules, it does little good to place the blame for any ensuing consequences upon the game. Maybe Dennis Rodman can get away with it now and then...
(R) At this point I should say that it seems as if we're debating over a cracked table: you seem to feel that homosexuals are not, shall we say, normal enough to serve properly, and I feel they are (I have many friends who are gay, and they seem no less normal for being so). I'd like to read what you have to say on 'Homosexuality and "Lifestyle Choices"'.
(MB) As soon as I have room to post it, you'll be able to read it. However, as I've already said, my personal views on that subject have little to do with the reasons for supporting a ban on gays serving in the military. That support is based on objective evidence and the mission of the Army.
The Army is restricted by law to having a limited number of members. Therefore, it is in the best interests of the Army's mission that those members all comply with the standards that will help ensure the successful completion of that mission. Homosexuality is only one of numerous things that disqualify somebody from military service. The only reason it's even an issue is that the gay lobby is loud and well-funded. There are no similar advocacy
groups for those who can't qualify for military service due to being overweight, overage, unable to pass physical fitness tests, or a hundred other reasons. Yet, for some reason, we are to believe that the military is "inherently biased" against gays. Sorry, but that argument just doesn't wash.