2017-07-30

This is why celebrities have handlers

I'd imagine that anyone who's at all interested has seen the tweets by now:
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you
Yeah. Those tweets. Where do I even begin?

Let's start with the first line, I suppose. Who are these "Generals and military experts"? The Pentagon was taken completely by surprise. The existing policy to include transgender service members incorporates input from military leadership as well as medical and personnel experts. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired Admiral Mike Mullen testified before Congress, less than a week earlier, that "inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness" [emphasis added]. Even current Defense secretary James Mattis, who is on record as opposing military inclusion of not just LGBTQ of any kind but also of women, and was apparently on vacation anyway when the tweets came, had only gone as far as pushing inclusion back six months (less than a month ago) to further study the issue, as though it hadn't already been repeatedly studied. So who, if anyone, was actually consulted?

How about those "tremendous medical costs", then? It turns out they're negligible, especially taking into account how large the military budget is. Even the largest credible estimates project a cost of under $9 million annually, an increase of, at most, 0.13%. Another study estimates a cost of under $6 million annually, which it characterizes as "little more than a rounding error". To put that in perspective, the military already spends over $84 million annually on erectile dysfunction drugs. That's not to say those shouldn't be covered, but that calling the cost of transgender care "tremendous" is simply nonsensical. Besides, the bulk of the health care costs for transgender personnel would be for the same things as any other personnel. In any case, health care isn't even a particularly large part of the military budget overall. The F-35 combat aircraft, which still doesn't work quite the way it's supposed to and has been called "flawed beyond redemption", has a projected total cost of over $1.5 trillion. And let's not forget entire weapons programs, like the C-27J cargo plane, M-1 Abrams tank, and Global Hawk drone, that the Pentagon would prefer to cut if Congress would allow it. If you're worried about expenses, maybe start by taking a look at things the military doesn't even want. And fighting off the inevitable lawsuits, assuming this shortsighted policy actually goes into effect, won't come cheap, either.

On a related note, there's the numbers argument. The fact is, no one is really sure how many transgender personnel there are in the military. Most estimates are in the tens of thousands, but it's not really tracked, and with the amount of hostility that still exists, it's not something people would necessarily be willing to be open about anyway. Regardless, the argument I see strangely often, both in this case specifically and in complaints about nondiscrimination in general, is that there aren't enough such people to bother caring about. If there are so few, though, wouldn't that make any hypothetical problems even less of an issue? And if there are too few to bother arguing for, shouldn't that also mean there are too few to bother arguing against? Either way, I've never known the size of a group to be the determining factor in whether that group has the same basic rights as anyone else. All in all, it's a silly angle to take.

As for "disruption", the military has had plenty of time to prepare for integration. They're ready for it. They even have a 72-page implementation handbook, because of course they do. What they're not ready for is a sudden reversal. These tweets took the Pentagon by surprise, remember? No one saw this coming, and now there are likely tens of thousands of service members whose status is suddenly in limbo. And that's not even counting how many might have hoped to enlist, all while the military is struggling so much to meet recruitment goals that they're looking at relaxing their standards. So, who's causing a disruption, again? Meanwhile, take a look at the eighteen countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, that already allow transgender personnel to serve openly. There's been no evidence of any effect on readiness, effectiveness, or cohesion.

So, at this point, I'd really like to see some tweets that go something like this:
After consultation with common sense and PR experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......
....President Trump to tweet in any capacity about the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous costs and disruption reckless tweeting about the military would entail. Thank you 

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