Allowing Homophobia to Have Its Say on Gays in the Military
03/05/2010 by Jim Naureckas
The New York Times features an op-ed today (3/5/10) by Gen. Merrill McPeak, a retired Air Force chief of staff, arguing against allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. It's not much of an argument, really–there's not much more to it than the assertion that “warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other,” and the claim–presented completely without evidence–that acknowledging that not all soldiers are heterosexual will “weaken the warrior culture.” You can't really describe the piece as an attempt at persuasion–it's more a statement of prejudice and a demand that that prejudice be given respect.
McPeak's op-ed does mimic the form of an argument by beginning by stating a premise–but that premise is wrong. After asserting that the discussion over changing the military's anti-gay rules “should start with the question, 'What are armed forces for?,'” he continues, “Assuming the services exist to fight and win wars, those seeking fundamental change in the composition of combat units carry a special burden of proof.” Elsewhere, he restates this idea by saying that the military services “have no higher responsibility than to organize, train and equip formations that are effective on the battlefield.”
But the rationale for having a military is not to win wars; it's to keep your country free. (McPeak may recall that his oath as an Air Force officer began, “I will support and defend the Constitution…”–that's the military's actual highest responsibility.) Even if one believed that an ethnically cleansed military motivated by a racist ideology would be a more effective fighting force–with a stronger “warrior culture” and greater “unit cohesion”–that would in no way justify reorganizing the Defense Department along supremacist lines. No military is a democracy, of course, but a democracy can only have a military that is consistent with democratic values.