The current flap over sexual harassment in the military and its harsh, specific punishments has reached new highs, or perhaps lows, in the proposed nomination of Air Force General Joseph Ralston as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Secretary of Defense Cohen was about to submit the general's nomination to the Congress, our media released information that said General Ralston had committed adultery. Thirteen years ago, during a time when he was legally separated from his wife, he'd had an affair with a woman who was in government. Based upon the recent discharge of Lt. Kelly Flinn under conditions less than honorable, members of Congress, the press, and some organizations seeking equality of rights for women, have insisted his nomination be withdrawn. Lt. Flinn, a female B-52 pilot who disobeyed an order to cease seeing a married man and lied to her commanding officer about the matter, also committed adultery. In her case, that was incidental to the courts martial she elected to avoid by resigning her commission. The entire matter of Lt. Flinn's case is regrettable, and it is easy to sympathize with her, but an officer cannot be forgiven for disobeying an order and subsequently lying to his or her commanding officer. No military organization can be run that way.

Technically, as a retired Naval Reserve Commander and former navy frogman, I don't give a hoot. If the general were an admiral, I suppose I'd care. Service rivalries do die hard. But as a human being unwilling to label my fellow creatures monsters for indiscretions that have plagued homo sapiens since he descended from the trees, isn't it time for us to really consider what it is we're doing? Perhaps it is time for society to call a halt to these juvenile, moralistic witch hunts. Somewhere back in my formative years I seem to recall the biblical phrase Jesus spoke, "Let him who is without guilt cast the first stone!" In today's society, there might be few stones aimed at either the lieutenant or the general.

If the office of Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff is important to our country, we want the best qualified person serving in that position. Pettiness and vindictive you-gored-my ox so I'll gore yours tit for tats have no place in national defense.

Mankind is totally unwillng to admit it, but we are primates, with drives and instinctive behavior only dimly understood. Perfect conduct between members of the opposite sex is virtually impossible to obtain, and engaging in intimacy while legally separated seems acceptable to most of us. I believe rape, forcible sex, and all forms of sexual harassment should be punishable, but adultery lies in a gray area of unhappy marriages and yearnings for genuine affection. Laws prohibiting it are wise, but their enforcement is difficult.

Without saying that Lt. Kelly Flinn was entirely wrong or General Ralston entirely right, and stating that gender has no effect on my judgment, I believe he is an acceptable nominee. We cannot continue to arbitrarily disqualify men or women from positions of authority because of those kinds of non-criminal transgressions. I won't even bother to mention which of our presidents might have passed such a litmus test. My suspicions are that in our century only Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, and perhaps Harry Truman would have made the cut. To make it perfectly clear, had adultery been the criterion, Ike Eisenhower, a fine man, would not have retained his title of Supreme Commander of the European Theater during WWII. And without that command, he could not have been elected president in 1952 and 1956.

As a nation, do we want to do this to ourselves?

Sam Orr
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)