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I Sing of Arms and the Woman Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Sunday, 06 June 2010

There’s a war going on. It’s in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but it’s not the one against the Taliban or Al Qaeda. And it’s not receiving much attention in the media. It’s a war on nature, tradition, and innocence. And it looks as though we’re losing.

Belay that.

We may already have lost.

And the least of it may be the recent decision – by Congress and the president – to end the military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell (DADT) policy (a Clinton Era modification of the previous total ban on homosexuals in the armed forces) and allow gays to serve openly. Technically, the original law remains in force. It’s just that since 1993, questions – and answers – about sexual orientation aren’t permitted. Homosexual behavior, however, remains a cause for dismissal. Technically.

The Defense Department (DOD) asked Congress not to jettison DADT until an impact study of the matter is completed this December, but in their hasty hubris House Democrats pushed ahead anyway, and the measure has also been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee. One hears that U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is not happy with this bit of political micromanagement. But the main impediment left to implementation would seem to be a decision by Mr. Obama to nix the new rule if that forthcoming study indicates a unit-cohesion nightmare, although it’s doubtful he will, even if DOD prophesizes apocalypse. A lively debate is expected in the Senate on the Defense Authorization Bill which contains the DADT repeal, and some senators up for re-election may yet balk, recalling that President Clinton’s push to allow gays to openly serve was one factor in the GOP’s 1994 electoral triumph.

How will openly homosexual servicemen (and women) affect the cohesiveness of the armed forces? Some predictions are dire, but considering that military men and women are a fairly young and somewhat libertarian cadre, it may be that the gloomiest scenarios are wrong. Smack in the middle of wartime seems a lousy point at which to impose high-risk social engineering on soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen (and women). But most will make the best of it, if only because they have no choice in the matter; because “acceptance” will be a direct order.

Proponents of sex-preference integration argue that the gays and lesbians who’ll enlist won’t be a Lavender Mafia, who see the military as a singles club, and, besides, homosexual activity between soldiers – on domestic bases and in combat theaters – will continue to be prohibited. But why? Heterosexual sex is increasingly tolerated, if not actually encouraged, by military policies – even in Afghanistan and Iraq – so it’s probably wrong to suppose homosexual sex will be treated differently.

Yes, there is verbiage concerning fraternization in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but each of the services has blurred the rules about sex between officers, enlisted personnel, officers and enlisted personnel, and any service member and civilian contractors and “locals” (e.g., Afghanis and Iraqis). Individual commanders do the best they can with the stress-and-release, attraction-and-rejection, love-and-death dynamics of the hundreds of young men and women living and fighting together in a war zone,

But you ask: “Okay, I see how sex may be tolerated, but how is it encouraged?” Well, consider this:

In February 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense [approved] emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill,” [for] U.S. servicewomen who are already provided an extensive range of reproductive care. . . Along with the emergency contraception, servicewomen also have access to contraceptive counseling, pelvic exams, HIV testing, condoms, and other contraceptive methods.

Catholics are only too aware that we stand all but alone in opposing artificial contraception, so it may be no surprise to learn the extent to which the armed forces now promote it. From a purely military point of view (one anyway devoid of transcendent moral standards) it may make sense, since – to give a datum from the War on Terror – 130 servicewomen have become pregnant in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One hundred-thirty British service women, that is.

Our DOD won’t release data about American women at war, but it’s safe to assume proportional comparability. One is not comforted by the assurance of a British military spokesman that his high command does “not encourage sexual relationships” in the armed forces or by the Washington Times report of the CENTCOM spokesman who said of the rate of pregnancy among American women in combat support units: “We’re definitely not tracking it.” No, you’re handing out contraceptive devices in hopes that it will help with pregnancy data you don’t want to know.

In a recent survey, 85 percent of female officers in the Navy indicated they use contraception, although enlisted women are apparently less willing to employ birth control: In January of 2000, 8.4 percent of enlisted women serving onboard ships at sea had to be reassigned to shore duty because they had become pregnant. By 2003 (the year that saw the Iraq invasion), that percentage had risen to 11.3. It has been up and down ever since, has never been low as in 2000, and was back up over 11 percent in 2007.

Militarily, those are alarming numbers. Perhaps that’s why, just several days before Memorial Day 2010, the aforementioned Senate Armed Services Committee approved a legislative amendment that would permit military doctors to perform abortions – in the United States and overseas.

Space does not allow thorough consideration here of the First Cause of all of this: women in combat. Note that I don’t write: “women in proximity to combat zones.” No. The modern battlefield is 360°. The front is wherever terrorists choose to attack, and 110 brave American servicewomen have been killed by the enemy since 9/11. The Brits may soon decide to deploy women in combat in keeping with “a wider overhaul of equality laws in Britain,” and the U.S. already has women flying fighter jets and doing combat jobs aboard ships. Female soldiers and Marines are in the thick of it, even if not formally in combat. And the Navy recently decided to allow women to crew in the close quarters of submarines. Airlifting a pregnant woman out of Afghanistan or Iraq is an inconvenience; doing the same for a submariner will be a logistical and security nightmare – and this is to say nothing about the dangers to the mother and her fetus presented by a submarine’s environment.

But maybe the Navy has a pill for that, too. Congress will surely pass a law.

Brad Miner, a former literary editor of National Review, is senior editor of The Catholic Thing and author of The Compleat Gentleman.

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