Concerning “unit cohesion” and the art of rhetoric

A former tank platoon sergeant turns tough-guy military rhetoric back on itself in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” debate.

R. Stanton Scott, former tank platoon sergeant, writing at Foggy Bottom Line

Those who argue that some citizens should be excluded from military service because their presence would hurt “unit cohesion” are saying that current soldiers should be able to decide with whom they serve. This is bravo sierra—the military is not a country club whose members should be able to blackball undesirables.

I think that’s right, substantively. But I’d also like to draw your attention to its elegant rhetoric. It completely turns the “This is the Army” argument for excluding gays back on itself, by making the current ban seem like an undesirably soft concession to the comfort of the troops, rather than an admirably hard refusal to let civilian values of equality and respect for human rights dominate military decision-making. “The military is not a country club.” It’s not well-crafted to persuade me, or most readers of this blog. But it’s brilliantly unanswerable by exactly the people who need to be de-mobilized in order to enable the change we want.

Extra points for “bravo sierra.” Hadn’t heard that one. And, again, just perfect in context.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: