This first appeared in The Havok Journal July 28, 2017, but the topics discussed remain apropos today.
For all those not living under a rock, the big story in the military community this week was President Trump’s tweeting of a “ban” on Transgender people in the military.
In light of the fact that nearly everything related to the subject of LGBT is a giant powder keg of hyperbole on the internet, it should come as no surprise that this particular action set off a firestorm from nearly every possible angle.
On the one hand, you have Trump supporters suggesting that, especially during war time, we shouldn’t be spending money on things like transgender surgeries and psychological care. Many have pointed to the possibly unstable mental state of those going through a type of gender transition being grounds for outright denial of serving in the military.
Opponents of Trump were quick to point out, however, that the Department of Defense spends an exorbitant amount of money on Viagra and similar erectile-dysfunction medication for active duty personnel. To say that they can’t afford transgender care while shelling out truckloads of dough for men’s sexual health is blatantly illogical, they argue.
What do we make of all of this? Is there a point of rationality we can grasp onto while everyone else screams louder and louder?
I argue that there are a few issues to consider from the perspective of military readiness, and maybe a few other thoughts on our socio-political sphere, as well.
First, for the Trump supporters who are jumping up and down for joy at this, stop and ask yourself: have you been up and arms about other reckless spending by DoD, or are you just tweaked about this one because it has to do with LGBT? I think this is important because, in the grand scheme of things, transgender surgeries would probably rank pretty low on the “fraud, waste, and abuse” scale of military spending. So if fiscal responsibility is your main concern, I suggest being consistent and start looking at just how many millions of dollars are routinely set on fire by just about every branch.
Second, for the Trump opponents, although I applaud your efforts to point out inconsistencies (or at least wasted money), it makes very little sense to justify one thing based on another that may be equally wasteful. So if X is a poor use of taxpayer dollars, it shouldn’t be done just because we’ve already been throwing our money into Q. If a policy, program, or piece of technology is inefficient or detrimental to the warfighting effort, it should be denied or stopped on those merits—it should never be approved and moved forward simply because another inefficient or detrimental program is already in place.
Third, although this doesn’t need repeating to our nation’s warfighters, it certainly warrants a mention to everyone else—we are still at war. Remember that Afghanistan place? Yeah, that’s still a thing. And while I, personally, advocate for us not being there anymore, I also appreciate the reality that we are, in fact, still operating in a hostile environment.
The point being that the military isn’t just a sounding board or test subject for social justice efforts. Yes, it falls under civilian control (hence Trump’s authority to do this), and as well it should. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But we also need to appreciate the expertise of those in it to best determine fighting effectiveness—listen to the boots on the ground.
What does someone like, say, James Mattis think of this? Although he has not specifically addressed this topic, he did make an interesting move. After recently ordering the military to thoroughly review “requirements for mandatory force training that does not directly support core tasks,” the former General stated that he wants to “verify that our military policies also support and enhance warfighting readiness and force lethality.”
As most of us know, there are extraordinary amounts of time wasted on non-warfighting issues in the military. From “equal opportunity” briefs to SHARP training, there are significant numbers of service members who have spent more time in front of a PowerPoint slide show telling them that they’re terrible than they have behind their rifle, learning to fight, or getting in shape.
In other words, before getting apoplectic about this story, it’s worth waiting to see whether or not this effort is part of a much larger one designed to trim the fighting force down to the bare essentials instead of assuming outright that it is a nefarious plan to “marginalize” or “discriminate” against a certain group of people.
Could it be the latter? Sure. But is it worth losing our minds over before we know that for sure?
I don’t think so, but then again it takes a lot to get me riled.
© 2021 The Havok Journal