Friday, August 11, 2006

Silenced Soldiers

Via Andrew Sullivan, we hear of a West Point cadet who wrote an essay arguing for the abandonment of the military's exclusionary anti-gay policies. He received an award from the acadamy. Some Christian groups are livid:
Apparently, [Elaine] Donnelly says, when [2nd Lt. Alexander] Raggio wrote his thesis, he was saying the ban on homosexuals serving in the military should be lifted. "That is a very unusual view," she asserts, "and he is certainly entitled to his opinion." However, the military readiness expert observes, studies have clearly shown that homosexuality and military service are not a good mix.

Raggio is entitled to his First Amendment rights of free speech and expression, Donnelly says. "However," she adds, "I question the judgment of the leadership at West Point, who would recognize such an essay and give it an award that can be used for a purpose contrary to military policy."

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Ms. Donnelly, the view is no longer "unusual", being held by 60 to 80% of the country. But I'm more concerned about the objection Ms. Donnely has to dissenting opinions in the military. Yes, Mr. Raggio's view is one that is currently "contrary to military policy." But any view that seeks to change a policy is going to be "contrary" to that policy until the change occurs. Trying to stifle or discourage views that challenge prevailing orthodoxy is indistinguishable from saying change should never happen.

This anecdote from a gay former servicemen well demonstrates Barry Goldwater's (!) excellent maxim on who is qualified for military service: "You don't have to be straight, you just have to shoot straight."

More from Pam Spaulding.

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