Ethics in science
Blondie, health care, and Nudge

An unintentional survey of the ethics of gays in the military in the WSJ

Mark D. White

In today's Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens has a piece arguing why the GOP should let "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) lapse in the 2011 Defense Bill, and in it he happens to cover the three mainstream approaches to ethics: consequentialism (DADT forces the expulsion or rejection of qualified, eager men and women from the armed forces), deontology (DADT violates the rights of homosexuals), and virtue ethics (DADT discourages honesty). And, in a consequentialist twist on virtue ethics, he argues (correctly, in my opinion) that this incentive for dishonesty is what weakens the armed forces, not the existence of homosexual servicemen and women itself:

In the meantime, it's worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America's security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That's no way to run a military.

If you'll indulge me my comics habit for a moment, the origin of the new Batwoman included a similar message on DADT, when a young Kate Kane has to withdraw from the US Military Academy after word gets out that she is a lesbian. Her CO asks her to deny the rumor (subtly insinuating that he knows they're true), but she cites the military code of honesty, and chooses to accept a discharge rather than compromise that principle. (This scene can be found in Batwoman: Elegy, written by Greg Rucka and illsutrated by the incomparable J.H. Williams.)

This shows that DADT not only asks our men and woman in the armed forces to deny an essential part of themselves, but also to deny the very principles on which the military is grounded, in order to serve their country. Stephens emphasizes the more basic consequentialist argument (which is certainly valid as well), but I favor the others (naturally)--just ask Batwoman!

Comments

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Outstanding observations, Mark!

Thanks, Jonathan.

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