Friday, March 5, 2010

Merrill McPeak, S. J. ?

I just read argument in the New York Times by retired Air Force General Merrill McPeak for not overturning Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. I am, no surprise, annoyed and disappointed. I think the good general has his head up his ass. Let me tell you why.

But first, let me do something else. Let me defend the man personally. I can see what’s coming. As the word gets around about McPeak’s opposition to the planned policy change now supported by the president, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, and a majority of Americans, gays are going to be all over this guy like stink on the bad stuff. For many of us this is an existential battle and it should be no-holds barred.

At the risk of inadvertently renewing my Uncle Tom credentials, let me urge my gay brothers and sisters to hold back on the personal stuff and just have at his arguments.

Here’s the personal stuff.

• McPeak was arrested for drunk driving a few years back. A total red herring. Leave it alone.
• Conservatives (particularly Robert Goldberg, writing in The American Spectator) fault him for his complaint that American Jews in New York and Miami have too much influence over American foreign policy in the Middle East. And for remarks about a Born-Again/Israeli alliance. And they fault him for making it appear that Bill Clinton attacked Obama’s patriotism when he didn’t. Also red herrings.
• There is criticism of him for his reponsibility in making the Air Force dress uniforms look like airline pilot uniforms (they changed back after he retired). Nothing to do whatsoever with his ability to think clearly on military policy.
• Some will want to fault him for his support for the bad guys. He was the Oregon state chairman of Bob Dole '96 and of Oregon Veterans for George W. Bush. They should remember that he also became disenchanted with the Republican administration after the war in Iraq and became an Obama supporter.
• He will be criticized for overseeing the delivery of fighter planes to the Suharto government after they massacred people in East Timor. Not a pretty thing to have on your resume, but he was a military man following orders and America was in full support of Indonesia’s government. The problem here lies in the administration’s policies, not this man’s individual responsibility.

So much for the bad stuff, from the progressive point of view.

Here are the arguments he makes in the New York Times article (in italics), with my commentary:

Seventeen years ago, the chiefs — all four of us, plus the chairman and vice chairman — concluded that allowing open homosexuality in the ranks would probably damage the cohesiveness of our combat units.

Yes, and seventeen years ago quite a few people in America still believed that masturbating would give you warts. People reach bad conclusions sometimes, they learn, they move on.

Perhaps young American men and women will fight better when openly gay soldiers are included in the ranks, though I’ve heard no one make this claim.

You’re right. No one has made this claim. The question is would they fight worse if they didn’t have the talents of people like the Arabic translators to help in the battles?

As one might guess, most homosexuality “separations,” as they are called in the Air Force, occurred in the first few weeks of basic training, before the more costly technical training began. And many of these removals would have occurred in any case, since they were the result of unacceptable conduct and not just a declaration of sexual orientation.

Many of these removals would have occurred in any case? That makes removing people for their identity OK? Because some would be removed for their behavior later? Are you serious? Isn’t that why taxis don’t pick up black men on the streets of New York? Because some of them might do bad things?

People cannot serve in uniform if they are too old or too young, too fat or too thin, too tall or too short, disabled, not sufficiently educated and so on.

I get it now. Because people are kept out of the service for good reason there’s no reason for keeping them out for bad reasons as well? Am I on the right track here?

… the integration of blacks in the Air Force is one of the great success stories of the civil rights movement.

The Army and Navy, however, were models of passive resistance. The Air Force had nearly completed integration before the Army really started.

You speak of “integration” as if you were going to put gays into the military for the first time. Gays have been serving in the military since the beginning of time. There is not a military force anywhere where gay men and women have not served. Any effective force works on merit.

Warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.

Tell it to the Spartans. Tell it to Alexander the Great. Have you never seen a friendship between a gay man and a straight man? Is it not at least theoretically possible in your wildest imagination? Think, man!

Didn’t know you got Jesuitical training at Grant’s Pass High School.

Come on, General. Move into the 21st Century.

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