23 September 2010

There is No “Right to Serve”

I just finished reading an article in the NYT which, among other flaws, bears the headline “Military Equality Goes Astray”. (It appears that the link requires registration, which is why no hotlink is presented.) While no form of the word “equal” appears anywhere in the article, the gist is that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is prejudicial in that it precludes openly homosexual persons from serving in the military.

Indeed, it is prejudicial. It is also only one of a myriad of ways in which the military selects servicemen and women. The military also discriminates according to age, intelligence, physical fitness, mental fitness, past behavior, ability to train, and probably dozens of other ways which don’t immediately come to mind. After beginning service, the military discriminates even more, based on the serviceman or woman’s ability to live by the UCMJ and all directives. These include prohibitions against adultery, alcohol abuse (and even alcohol use in some locations), and fraternization.

It is right and proper that the military does discriminate in these ways because in the final analysis, the “right” of a person to serve – if there is such a “right” which can be dreamt up under some lefty bo tree – should always be trumped by the requirements of the military.

What follows is a thought exercise only.
Let’s assume that everyone has a “right to serve” in the military. Let’s suppose that Gene (a completely fictional character) has convinced himself that he really wants to join the Army. Gene has a bit of a colored past…he’s written some bad checks. In fact, he’s written enough bad checks to be charged and hauled into court. Gene is also more than a bit out of shape – running two miles is not on the horizon for him – and has trouble with basic math – he freezes on math tests. Should this hypothetical person be “accommodated” (to use a euphemism from the world of public education) so that his theoretical “right to serve” is not infringed? Given only what is presented here, would Gene make a good soldier? Should he be trusted with a rifle or an artillery piece?

Let’s suppose the answer is yes; the military (whatever branch) gives Gene the opportunity to serve. Pardon me…bows to his “right to serve”. Going further down the road of this thought exercise, let’s suppose that Gene somehow cannot stop writing bad checks. Six months into his service, Gene has written so many bad checks that he is no longer able to write checks on base and is on restriction. The military then chooses to terminate his service, and Gene is discharged. If Gene has a “right to serve,” shouldn’t the military be required to keep him on even if he cannot conduct himself by the rules? How much energy should the military expend to keep Gene in the military so as to support his “right to serve”?

In my view, the hypothetical Gene would best not be allowed to serve if for no other reason than his habitual writing of bad checks. It’s a pattern. If Gene were to habitually get into bar brawls, he probably shouldn’t be allowed to serve, either. That Gene should have a right to serve is counter to the idea of service – where the person serving proves himself worthy based partially on his willingness and ability to live by set rules and regulations. (I would also suggest that this is true of any kind of service, not just military service.)

Now, I’m not equating open homosexuality with writing bad checks or being physically unfit. The point is that there is not, nor should there be, absolute equality when it comes military service; there is no “right to serve.” People who wish to serve in the military must submit to the rules and regulations of the military – rules, it should be noted, that Congress ultimately holds the hammer on. Even though this is completely counter to the current culture of spontaneously generated “rights,” the military is not a non-discriminatory institution, nor should it be.

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