HOW FAR CAN WE CARRY PRIGGISHNESS?
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nomination be withdrawn.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 firstname.lastname@example.org