Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are Marines too prejudiced against gays to fight effectively?

"Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines lives," he said. "That's the currency of this fight."

"I take that very, very seriously," he added. "I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."

That's Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, discussing his opposition to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

As others have noted, though, there are certainly gay men and women serving in the Marines -- DADT only prohibits them from being *openly* gay. So it's certainly the case that gay troops have *already* demonstrated the discipline not (as some have inferred from Amos' remarks) to come onto their comrades-in-arms in a combat situation.

I'm not sure that was what Amos is trying to imply, though. It seems to me that what he's really saying is that his own Marines are simply far too prejudiced to be able to fight effectively with an openly gay colleague at their side. That seems an uncharitable judgment, to say the least -- "I'd like to take aim at this Taliban member with the machine gun, but Tony likes dudes!" -- and moreover, it would seem to reflect an extremely poor assessment of the commanders (like Amos) whose job it is to instill discipline and battle-readiness in those Marines.

And not to let my Mennonite background shine through too clearly here, but that's astonishing when you think about it. The Marines can teach young men and women to put aside thousands of years of civilization and lifetimes of moral training so that they can *kill other human beings* -- which is a huge, huge training challenge -- but their commanders don't trust them to simply *be cool and professional* around gay colleagues who share a commitment to defending the country. Are our armed forces really that fragile? I don't think so.

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