Mattis’s ‘Don’t care’ attitude: The Maddest Military Social Experiment Yet?
Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis really doesn’t care who people sleep with, especially in the military. He dismissed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s question about LGBT members of the military during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, saying “I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” he replied. (Mattis Shuts Gillibrand down.)
During his occupation of the White House, Barack Obama revised military discipline as a part of his campaign to suppress opposition to the homosexualization of the US military. The language of the 2016 GOP Party Platform gave people who voted for the Party’s nominee reason to believe that a GOP victory would surely end this promotion of the activist homosexual agenda at the expense of military readiness.
We call for an objective review of the impact on readiness of the current Administration’s ideology-based personnel policies, and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action. We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept or continue attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness. We believe that our nation is most secure when the president and the administration prioritize readiness, recruitment, and retention rather than using the military to advance a social or political agenda. Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
Frankly, my readers know that I don’t expect the incoming Trump Administration to take the GOP platform seriously. I see no reason to believe that President Trump will take the rhetoric deployed to achieve his political ambitions any more seriously than he took the language deployed to promote his business ventures. Charged with bad faith in the Trump University lawsuit, he excused himself (through the medium of his legal counselors, of course) with the argument that the promises made in the brochures promoting that venture were “mere sales puffery”, which everyone knows should not be taken seriously.
Experienced politicos often take the same view of Party platforms. The only people who pin their hopes on what is said therein are voters trapped, like an abused spouse, by their emotionally conflicted delusions. Of course, the whole point of the Trump mirage was to encourage the fantasy that he was a new suitor, offering the abused party a way to escape from the unceasing litany of betrayed promises characteristic of the past several election cycles.
This emotional disability induces a combination of fantasy and blindness, tantamount to hallucination. People see and hear what they long for, oblivious to anything that mars the illusion that relieves their anxiety. They eagerly focus their hopes on the words and gestures that promise relief. Even if facts inconveniently contradict their delusion, they stubbornly, even angrily, explain them away. In this emotional dialectic, there is, of course, no room for careful observation or reasoning.
This is how it appears to be, with Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis. The sobriquet suggests the brusque, single-minded toughness combat requires, with nary a trace of the gentility and tenderness people are inclined to insist upon in the presence of children. The battlefield is a venue for monsters, and warriors undaunted by their grim appearance. Which is just the kind of warrior people affrighted by terrorist attacks—in their streets, night clubs and schools—cry out for, in dire need.
Properly trained; and directed by an entirely clear-headed, sane intelligence, mad dog warriors can be very effective, particularly against undisciplined enemies prone to panic. But in general command of a military force, America deserves not only fearsome warriors but leaders forthright in the moral reasoning that yields and validates victory—people who clearly understand what justifies the objectives such victory requires, and who consistently conceive and articulate the stratagems and commands calculated to achieve those objectives. They are not only fearsome warriors, but people forthright in the moral reasoning that allows such warriors to live, in good conscience, with the harm they must sternly inflict upon their nation’s foes.
This is particularly true of a command position, like that of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, which represent the authority of the Commander in Chief, including his responsibility for assuring the morale and allegiance of the body politic
In respect of the sexual practices of our military forces, it was bad enough when we had a specious “don’t ask, don’t tell policy”, which encouraged indifference to truth. It was worse still to promote as truth a monstrous lie, in contradiction with the self-evident truths upon which the special liberty of our nation is founded. But at least in the latter case a façade of discipline was maintained, as a means of enforcing the lie.
But General Mattis’s “I don’t care, I’ve never cared” response appears to abandon both truth and good order and discipline. It abandons truth because it cavalierly dismisses the integrity of the vows of love and loyalty on which the integrity of marriage and the family depends, insofar as they are public concerns, vital to the preservation, welfare and education of individual citizens in our republic.
It abandons good order and discipline because the regulations that govern life in the US military have always taken account of the nation’s vital interest in preserving this integrity. They have always regarded conduct (including adultery and inappropriate fraternization) that disregards the love, and contemns the loyalty those institutions require, as conduct utterly inconsistent with honorable military service; and likely to inflame unruly passions dangerous to the lives of our military personnel, and the mission they are sworn to perform.
So, when General Mattis says “I don’t care…I’ve never cared” about whom two consenting adults sleep with, is he saying he doesn’t care and has never cared about the requirements of UCMJ Article 134? Is he saying that he will not care about enforcing them as Secretary of Defense? But the GOP platform calls for a review that involves how policies that involve this very question “undermine military priorities and mission readiness.” The evidence of his career gives good reason to believe that General Mattis is exactly suited to acquit this responsibility.
During his testimony, he declared military readiness be his primary concern, as well. But if he doesn’t care about who sleeps with whom, how can he recognize and assess the consequences, in this respect, of enforcing or disregarding, regulations that require military personnel to be careful in dealing with this question, or else face punitive consequences? The example of that care must be set from at the top, or confusion and resentment will reign.
The GOP platform emphatically rejects “the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation.” But General Mattis’s “don’t care” approach represents the most pervasively dangerous and revolutionary policy yet attempted. Before Obama, military regulations clearly disapproved and penalized sexual misconduct adverse to good order and discipline. During Obama’s tenure, he promoted misconduct as a requirement of good order and discipline. Absurd as this certainly is, it at least preserves the formal appearance of regard for correct conduct when it comes to human sexual relations.
But General Mattis’s “don’t care” attitude promotes the absurd pretense that it simply doesn’t matter. This leaves it to chance, and the maelstrom of individual experimentation, to determine behavior. Doing so turns the whole sphere of interpersonal relations in the military into a vast, inchoate social experiment, with no criteria for judging its success or failure except statistics that document the damage to good order, after the fact. This is indeed a mad approach. Among God’s creatures, human beings are probably the only ones likely to give it a try.
Exercising his prerogatives as Committee Chairman, Senator McCain curtailed the discussion of what General Mattis’s “don’t care” response implies for policy. But GOP Senators who want to make it clear that the GOP platform isn’t “mere sales puffery”, would be well advised to make sure the platform’s commitment to undoing Obama’s ideological corruption of military discipline is reiterated when the General’s nomination is debated. Otherwise their vote to approve his nomination could make a mockery of the Senate’s Constitutional responsibility to proffer advice that supports the moral discipline of our armed forces, and the moral integrity of the nation they are called to defend.
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