Monday, February 1, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

So it's recently out how the policy of "Don't ask, don't tell," implemented in our military as a cop-out compromise to Bill Clinton's efforts to outright allow gays and lesbians in the military, is about to be rescinded. I know our military will take a hit in terms of troop morale on this one, so I had mixed feelings about this, until I heard a stunning statistic. Check this out:

We've lost about 10% of our military's translators of Arabic and Farsi due to the anti-gay policy the armed forces currently holds. (This, as reported on Rachel Maddow's show.) That means that some of our most critical personnel are missing at precisely the time our soldiers need them most.

Now, I'm always cautious of statistics. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics fall even beneath them, as Mark Twain would remind us. I'd like to confirm this. But this statistic makes sense. Fluent native speakers of the dialects of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan would leave their cultures to help us, why? Precisely because a homosexual lifestyle would result in death for them back home! Better to be shunned than dead! So they may choose to change sides to help us in exchange for amnesty, right? But how many more key translators and cultural attaches would we gain if we went from merely shunning gays and lesbians to tolerating them outright? How stupid is it if we refuse to allow them into our military because of homophobia?

Again, I would like to confirm this statistic. But it really is a moral imperative to give our soldiers in uniform every possible tactical advantage needed to achieve victory. And here is a situation where barring gays from the military could literally get our sons and daughters killed, either because they would not have a key translation of imminent danger, or because they might be unable to pick up on local unrest before things get out of control.

I'm always intrigued when there is a conflict between two conservative values. Or two liberal ones, for that matter. Which side one chooses in the dilemma tells a great deal about which values are most important to the individual. For example, conservatives are in favor of private health insurance as opposed to government control, and are opposed to partial birth abortion. Yet private insurers are forced by competition to try to cut costs by denying pregant women under the age of 35 certain tests for mosaic disorders, such as tetrasomy 14, thus putting more women in situations where partial birth abortions are necessary. Which value is more important? Opposition to partial birth abortion, or to nationalized health care? Or for liberals, who are in favor of recycling, even though recycling greatly increases the use of fossil fuels to both transport and remake the recyclable materials. Which value is more important? Environmentalism, or, well, environmentalism?

In like manner, conservatives have a dilemma: Which value is more important? Opposing servicemembers serving with fags, or opposing servicemembers coming home in a pine box?

It'll be interesting to see which one wins out in the end. But I, for one, hope the military has to put up with the fags so that more of our soldiers can come home alive.


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