- - Thursday, June 15, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The first and only mission of an army is to defend the nation. The uncertainty that accompanies the warrior to battle will not be relieved by supplying additional distractions. That’s why Secretary of Defense James Mattis must resist the voices urging him to endorse a policy to enable the “transgendered” to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces. “The fog of war,” as von Clausewitz called it, will only thicken if the ranks are filled with men and women trying to deal with confusion over whether they’re male or female.

It was Ashton Carter, the Obama-era secretary of defense who ordered a change of policy a year ago to enable the transgendered to serve openly in all branches of the U.S. military establishment, effective July 1. It’s up to Mr. Mattis, a tough Marine who has never flinched in the face of standing up to a challenge, to determine whether that ruinous order by a man who never wore the uniform will take effect.

Transgenderism, or gender dysphoria, is a psychological malady that the American Psychiatric Association defines as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.” Men and women suffering the malady are now disqualified from service, and the reasons are well-grounded in the responsibility for preserving the combat readiness of the armed forces. An infantryman or Marine should focus his attention on the proper use of his arms.

Recruiting the transgendered into the military would no doubt obligate the United States, sooner if not later, to cover the costs of gender reassignment treatment, which often includes expensive surgery and psychological counseling. This would necessarily interfere with deployability. This could, and no doubt would, apply to military dependents, including minor children, and all of it at taxpayer expense. There’s nothing there to enable the military to win a war.

This would be unfair to the transgendered as well. A change in gender, or more correctly “sex,” is only a temporary solution, if that, for deeper psychological problems that would eventually surface later. The scarcity of evidence that gender reassignment surgery is an effective treatment for the sexually confused is largely the reason why the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has prohibited the procedure from national insurance coverage.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, the largest-ever study of gender dysphoric adults, found that 40 percent of the transgendered have attempted suicide, nine times the frequency found in the general U.S. population. With the military already struggling with an epidemic of soldiers taking their own lives, to recruit the most susceptible to suicide would be foolish indeed.

Other forms of military dysfunction related to sexual behavior are already roiling the ranks. Trifling with military tradition is never a good idea. Since opening all military ranks to women, the number of sexual assaults has spiked spectacularly. The Pentagon’s 2016 sexual assault report tabulated 14,900 incidents. This surprises only those with scant experience in life. Mix together men and women in the prime of their youth, with hormones hopping and popping like jumping beans, and a cloistered nun would know what to expect.

There are no doubt transgendered men and women serving honorably in the ranks now. Most of them perform duty as they should. Every service member — they were once called “soldiers” — has a unique personal life, and must deal with challenges like everyone else.

Mr. Mattis has an opportunity to reload common sense and prevent the disruptive influence of “transgenderism” from wrecking the U.S. armed forces. This would be his most effective contribution to combat readiness. The sexually confused deserve sympathy, understanding and assistance, but it’s not the mission of the military to provide it.

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