The Armed Services of the USA have two seperate missions, a peacetime mission of standing around looking so fierce and frightening that we don't have to fight and, when that fails, to kill the other side's people and blow up their stuff until the other side gives up. Everything else we do with the Services is secondary to those two missions.
Over the last few months a LOT of people have been talking about whether or not openly gay men and women should serve in the Armed Services. The trouble is, it's the wrong people. I hear arguments both for and against from talk show hosts and callers, politicians, activists both for and against, retired Generals, dozens of bloggers and the odd DOD official.
Everyone but me has an opinion and, as a citizen and veteran, I should. The trouble is, the people I hear and read don't give me the information I need to form an informed opinion. The activists are interested in their agendas, the mission of the Armed Services is secondary. Most everyone else either has an agenda, too or is, like me, trying to come up with an informed opinion without the relevent information.
I remain monumentally uninterested in whether or not the current policy, or any proposed change in that policy, is "fair". There are a lot of people who would like to have the option of uniformed service who cannot. Is it "fair" to exclude someone because of the height or weight requirements?
I don't know what the seventeen year-old kid thinking of enlisting thinks. I don't know what the eighteen and nineteen year-old E-3 thinks and I haven't heard from any E-5s and O-1s, the young leaders who are the first steps in the chain of command.
The Editorial Writers from the NYT and Wapo are no help, what do they know about the attitudes of a kid in his or her late teens who hails from Resume Speed, North Dakota? Rush Limbaugh or Randi Rhodes talking on the radio are no help for the same reason. Even my own experience as that 19 year old E-3 is useless. Not only is that experience so long ago that trying to recall is difficult but my attitudes have changed so much in forty years that I can't trust my memory. My attitudes today color my memory of yesterday.
I enlisted sixteen years after President Truman signed that executive order desegregating the Armed Services and we still weren't fully adjusted to that. Lives were lost because of it. Still, looking back, there is an almost universal consensus that integrating the Services was the right thing to do. In the long run it was good for the Services and the country as a whole. Yet, in that short run, say 1948 to the early '70s, it took the Draft to make that integration work. Can integrating open gays work without a Draft? If we, the nation, go that way it durned well better because there ain't gonna be no Draft.
I flat don't know. Worse, in our all or nothing society, there's no way to do the only thing that makes sense to me. We've formed sides and neither side would allow us to have each Branch of Service form a unit to give the idea a real-life test. If both sides would climb down from their soapboxes we could form an experimental unit, call it the Fifteenth Lets See if This Works Mech Infantry Division. Run that test long enough to see how it works in garrison and in combat. The Navy, Air Force and Marines could form similar units.
It's bad enough that I don't even have a cat. Just that alone has me on thin ice with the Amalgamated Association of Bloviating Bloggers, AFL, CIO. I'm dead meat when the AABB finds out I can't even form an opinion on a controversial issue.
Update 5/3/05 I an aware that the attitudes of the young people that are in the Services or the ones who will be enlisting have and are changing. I simply don't know how much. I served with a few men whom we all *knew* batted for the other team. About half of them fit in after an initial period of them proving themselves, the others were disruptive from the getgo. I can't say if the disruption was because of them or us. It's too long ago.