Sunday, December 07, 2008
Queer Eye for the G.I.
by Jeff Huber
William S. Lind, co-creator of the Fourth Generation Warfare concept and director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, says a lot of smart things about national security, but he doesn't say any of them about the issue of gays and women in the military. My admittedly limited experience of the gay lifestyle hasn't endeared me to it: my older male dog humps my younger male dog, my younger male dog humps my leg, and I pay all the bills; an arrangement, come to think of it, not so different from my experience of marriage. So I don't, so to speak, have a dog in the fight over whether gays or women should be "allowed" to serve in the military, but Lind makes such a cock and bull argument against it I feel obliged to apologize on behalf of the entire heterosexual male community.
In a pair of recent opinion pieces, Lind asserts that we shouldn't let women and gays in the armed services because if we do, "men who want to prove they are real men will not join."
Lind's relative manliness doesn't necessarily add to or subtract from his opinion's validity, but unnamed sources who knew him when assure me that the closest he ever came to wearing a uniform was dressing his G.I. Joe doll in one.
Gays and Dolls
As one might expect a social conservative to do, Lind laces his positions with a number of intellectual subterfuges, not the least of which is filing gay men and women in the same pigeon hole. The go-to argument against women serving in the military is that they are, on average, smaller and weaker than their male counterparts and they can get pregnant, a consideration that doesn't apply to gay men.
If you think that gay men are intrinsically less physically capable than their heterosexual counterparts, and you want to take a trip to the emergency room, I invite you to walk up to a homosexual member of the American Ballet Theater and call him a faggot. I doubt if there's a segment of the population more physically prepared for direct placement into elite commando training than male dancers. (There are such things as heterosexual male dancers, by the way, and they generally don't lack for the companionship of women who wouldn’t give either Lind or me the time of day).
But there's more required of a fighter than physical toughness, according to Lind. "Throughout history," he prates, "some armies have fought a lot harder than others. The specific reasons vary widely, but one way or another they all come down to human factors." The most important human factor, Lind assures us, "is that men fight to prove they are real men." Their membership in fighting organizations is a "badge of honor" that says, "We're not sissies or pansies. We are men who fight, serving alongside other men who fight." An infusion of sissies and pansies among the company of real men, Lind warns, could damage "military unit cohesion."
Mr. Lind has a selective sense of military history and/or a blind notch in his Doppler gay-dar.
As a carrier skipper I served with said when President Bill Clinton enacted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, "Sailors have been rubbing heinies since Sinbad reported to boot camp." Soldiers have been sharing pup tents just as long.
The ancient Greeks believed that physical love between soldiers improved morale, bravery and overall battle efficiency. Plato, the philosophical father of the American political right, considered it utter stupidity to ban physical relationships between soldiers. "Wherever, therefore, it has been established that it is shameful to be involved in sexual relationships with men," he wrote, "this is due to evil on the part of the rulers, and to cowardice in the part of the governed."
In a song honoring the Lelantine War, Plato's pupil Aristotle wrote that, "love…thrives side by side with courage."
The Roman historian Plutarch noted that tribal ties were of little value "when dangers press, but a band cemented by friendship grounded upon love is never to be broken."
Lind cautions that gay and straight men can't mix in "very close quarters" without "serous friction." I've got news for Lind: gay and straight men have been mixing in very close quarters in the American military without serious friction since forever, including those World War II John Wayne types that conservatives like Lind have such a school girl crush on.
They're queer, Bill. They're here, Bill. Now drop and give me fifty pushups (heh).
The notion of women serving in the military is hardly new either. Plato favored it. He wrote in Republic that women must be taught the "art of war, which they must practice like men."
"Is she capable of sharing either wholly or partially in the actions of men, or not at all?" he asked. "And is the art of war one of those arts in which she can or can not share?" Then "let [women] share in the toils of war and the defense of their country… Only in the distribution of labors the lighter are to be assigned to the women, who are the weaker natures, but in other respects their duties are to be the same."
Lind's specific objection to letting women serve is that they might be allowed into "ground combat arms." I'm not sure what he means by that. Women are and will be assigned to war zones in combat support capacities. So what? He may suppose that women inherently lack the "right stuff" for combat, but those Israeli Security Force babes who pull the trigger on those remote control machine guns along the Gaza Strip don't appear to be lacking anything in the killer instinct department. If Lind is worried that women will elbow their way into Delta Force, he is, in Plato's words, "plucking a fruit of unripe wisdom." I don't know of anyone who is seriously trying to make women into commandos, or of anyone who would take the notion seriously. Maybe Lind is confusing that movie where Demi Moore becomes a Navy SEAL with reality. Confusion about reality is, after all, a leading occupational hazard of conservatism.
I don't claim that integrating women in the military has been a tribulation-free experience. In my day, the incidence of young single sailor girls getting themselves pregnant to get out of duties they didn't care for was completely out of hand. We developed a pretty good solution though; all the single mommy strikers got discharged and sent home.
I've also known a fair number of female officers who benefitted from reverse discrimination, but not nearly as many as the number of male officers I knew who got where they got thanks to Uncle Admiral or Governor Grandpa or a godfather who had a village in the old country named after him. And never forget that whatever wartime leadership qualities George S. Patton possessed that allowed him to get away with his vainglorious shenanigans, he was also one of the richest dudes in the Army.
Lind's bottom line isn't that women and homosexuals serving in the military will impair America's war making capability. He's concerned about "cultural Marxism," which is a code phrase narrow shouldered white male bigots intone when they sense that cultural Darwinism is about to bust them another pay grade or two down the social pyramid. By Lind's criteria, emancipation was cultural Marxism, as was the ban on feeding Christians to lions.
There may be good arguments for barring women and gays from military service, but Lind doesn't make them, and I haven't heard any that make an ounce more sense than his do.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.
at 11:42 AM