. . . is easy to do when you begin with the wrong assumptions. Mac Owens
shows how the Pentagon's report on the likely effects of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell does precisely that: "[T]the report seems to be predicated on the idea that the
integration of open homosexuals into the military is merely the most
recent manifestation of the quest for civil rights that began with
African Americans after World War II."
There are many problems with this approach, not the least of which is the way this assumption hinges on the absurd progressive notion that equal justice to individuals, rather than being the result of objective observations about human nature and politics that demand prudent implementation, is merely a hazy outline that comes into being via some vague and sliding evolutionary scale of cosmic understanding. In this view, one supposes, we will come to a day when all distinctions are finally grasped as nothing more than backward looking and irrational clinging to Neanderthal prejudices. So, whenever sensible people raise specific objections about broad-brushed applications of this kind one-size-fits-all "justice," those who put their faith in the notion of a coming and superior enlightenment can reply with smug self-satisfaction, "Don't worry. Be Happy. It's all good." What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, at the end of this mythical yellow-brick road, when human consciousness has reached this "happy" level of agreement about the equal value of everything, I suppose the thinking is that there won't be much to argue about or to fight for . . . which makes the centering of this particular struggle around homosexual service in the military all the more strange.
But there's even more than this flighty logic to object to in the pro-repeal argument. Denying the distinctions between black soldiers and openly homosexual soldiers in terms of civil rights is flatly outrageous--and it's also insulting to the vast majority of combat soldiers who, today, object to the idea of eliminating DADT. In the first place, it suggests that having black skin and preferring sex with a member of your own sex are, essentially, the same thing. One is an incontrovertible fact that cannot be denied and has no inherent moral consequences, the other--though perhaps an innate trait--is, at best, neither obvious nor important information for sharing and, at worst, potentially damaging to unit cohesiveness when it is shared. A gay man need not share his inclinations with others--a black man can only avoid sharing the fact of his skin color with the blind. It is a stupid and an insulting comparison. Further, it suggests that there is a moral equivalence between objecting to being near a person because of his skin color and objecting to being near a person because of his behavior. Thus, a man who prefers not to shower or live in close quarters with an openly homosexual man is the moral equivalent of a racist.
I have no doubt that gay soldiers today under DADT serve with honor and in close quarters with heterosexuals and do all of that without incident and even do it with the passive "knowledge" of their peers. And no rational or fair minded person would support outright cruelty to any person. But there has to be more nuance to an argument about the fair and just treatment of homosexuals than this argument comparing it to the struggle for the civil rights of blacks suggests.
Finally, Owens argues that comparing the integration of the military under Truman to a proposed integration of openly homosexual soldiers today, ignores one massive, fundamental and important fact: the purpose of our armed forces
. "The 'functional imperative,' i.e. the purpose of the U.S. armed forces is to fight and win the nation's wars," says Owens, "Truman's order was motivated by concerns about military effectiveness, not civil rights." American blacks have fought and died in America's wars since the Revolution (and, yes, I suppose, homosexuals have too). The question then, was not how do we "open up" the service to them to make it fair--for no one was blocking them--the question was how do we make their service most effective? What is the most prudent and effective means of achieving the military's goals? Under Truman, the wise and happy conclusion was integration.
If there is to be any comparison between the situation of homosexuals in the military and the one time situation of blacks in the military then, perhaps it should be this: No one is blocking them. The question is not whether they can serve, but how their service might best serve the ends of the military. Until homosexual activists can show that eliminating DADT would not only not harm military readiness but would actually do something to improve it, they have no argument worthy of consideration. That they cannot demonstrate this has nothing to do with their frustrated whines about bowing to the "backward thinking" among enlisted soldiers and everything to do with the fact that their complaint is completely beside the point of the armed forces.