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The Worst Argument You've Ever Read For Banning Openly Gay People From the Military

Is it a sign of naivete that one can still experience a bit of shock when reading things like this in one of our two most "serious" conservative magazines? It's 2009! The words of wisdom below are courtesy of someone named James Bowman, and can be found in a new Weekly Standard essay. Bowman starts off poorly by arguing as follows:

There are all kinds of people--the very young and the very old, the sick or disabled, violent criminals or, in combat roles, women--whom we regard as unfit to be soldiers. The fact that open homosexuals are also excluded cannot by itself be considered an injustice.

But don't worry, because Bowman quickly moves on to the real issue: Manliness.

Yet if reason were to be readmitted to the debate, we might find something in the history of military honor to justify the principle now enshrined in the law decreeing that "homosexuality is incompatible with military service." We know that soldiering--I mean not training or support or peacekeeping or any of the myriad other things soldiers do, but facing enemy bullets--is inextricably bound up with ideas of masculinity. We also know that most heterosexual males' ideas of masculinity are inextricably bound up with what we now call sexual orientation. In other words, "being a man" typically does mean for soldiers both being brave, stoic, etc.--and being heterosexual. Another way to put this is to say that honor, which is by the testimony of soldiers throughout the ages of the essence of military service, includes the honor of being known for heterosexuality, and that, for most heterosexual males, shame attends a reputation as much for homosexuality as for weakness or cowardice.

As if this were not bad enough, Bowman adds:

This is not, of course, to say that homosexuals are weak or cowardly--only that the reputation of manliness, which we know to be an important component of military honor, is in practice incompatible with the imputation either of homosexuality or of weakness and cowardice. Now presumably an argument for the armed forces' being required to accept gay recruits is that it doesn't have to mean this, and that this simple reality is merely the product of custom and convention and no essential part of the moral and emotional equipment of men capable of nerving themselves to face combat. Possibly they are right. But what if they are wrong? Is there any way to find out without taking a real risk with national security? Are the advocates of gays in the military prepared to say, fiat justitia, ruat caelum?

One wants to ask, about the sentence in bold above: What wing of society has decided that "the reputation of manliness" is incompatible with homosexuality? In other words, why is this true "in practice"? Well, because of people of like Bowman, that's why!

Meanwhile, the Latin at the end of the passage is, I'd imagine, supposed to subtly remind the reader that society is going to the dogs. Don't you remember the days when real men walked the earth? No? Well at least you can study ancient times. Bowman, unsurprisingly, has written a book called Honor: A History. (Do conservatives ever get tired of this stuff?) He also works for an outfit called The Ethics and Public Policy Center, which, according to its website, "was established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy issues." Yeah yeah. Can't the Standard move beyond this nonsense? Apparently not, because the piece comes on the heels of the magazine's decision to print Sam Schulman's atrocious case against gay marriage. Readers are invited to debate which article is worse.