Thursday, February 16, 2006

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I ran across and interesting post on a weblog about the Theban Sacred Band, an ancient and elite Greek military unit consisting of 150 pairs of homosexual lovers. They were slaughtered at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C.

Most people are completely ignorant as to the reasons behind our military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I saw nothing in the post that led me to believe the author was any different. Here's our brief correspondence:

Dear Mr. Carpenter, Very interesting piece on the Theban Band. However, no one who is taken seriously doubts the bravery or skill of soldiers who are homosexual. Obviously, purging homosexuals who are badly needed translators or in other non-combat roles may be counter-productive. The problem is with homosexuality in combat and the breakdown of the unit and the chain of command.

Men do not run into machine gun nests for duty, country or honor. They do it for their unit. A great part of the training of soldiers is developing this unit.

Soldiers having sexual relations with others soldiers breaks down the unit. Even worse is officers having sexual relations with select members under their command. I'm sure you can imagine many scenarios where solders might question their commander's orders if his lover's fate was in question.

Since I highly doubt you would suggest a modern day Theban Band in the U.S. Armed Services, there really is no lesson from this episode except as an interesting part of history. Your comment "...the peculiar modern American notion that homosexuality is incompatible with military service" is incorrect on all counts. This notion is not peculiar, modern, or American. Suggesting that the policy is in place because of bigotry or stereotypes regarding cowardice are not an accurate depiction of the issue. Most unfortunate from a man with your intellect, is the unfair slur against those who have very solid reasons to support the policy backed by years of training, study and experience. I hope you see, they deserve better.

San Francisco
Mr. Carpenter was kind enough to write a thoughtful response:

Thanks for your note. My Valentines post wasn't intended primarily as a comment on DADT, but as a comment on the dignity of same-sex love in historical perspective. The question of allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military is a complex one, raising many issues, including the ones you mention. The American policy is "peculiar" in the sense that, among our peer Western nations, we're on a dwindling list in this regard. Of course, in theory American policy could be both "peculiar" and justified.
I, in turn replied to Mr. Carpenter by thanking him and saying we are in agreement. But, I couldn't help concluding with the following line:

I would only add that among our Western peer nations, America is on a dwindling list that actually takes defense seriously. (:
I'm suspicious of his claims that this was not intended as a comment on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". After all, he's an associate professor of Law and was writing on a weblog dedicated to the Law. Nonetheless, he seems like a reasonable man and I think he'll be more considerate of his opponents arguments in the future.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship

Recently, Google decided it would censor the searches on its Chinese server, to appease the communist Chinese government, thus retaining access to the Chinese market.

Of course just days before, Google was hailed as courageous for its stance against assisting the U.S. Justice Department's attempts to quantify child pornography searches on the internet.

This is what amounts to bravery in the Left.

I thought about this when I first read about the controversy over the Danish newspaper 's publication of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad. No images of the prophet are allowed even if favorable. Curious, I googled "Prophet Mohammad" and clicked on the "images" link.

immediately my screen was filled with various drawings, paintings and other images of the Islamic Prophet. At the bottom of the page were links to undoubtedly many, many more.

A few days went by and I kept wondering if this might create a problem for Google, as the controversy over the cartoons has spread. Well, this morning I was going to ask this question to a couple weblogs that might be interested. I googled "Prophet Mohammad" again, only to find nearly all of the images, now missing.

Brave to the end.