Bioethics Blogs

From Binary to Countless Fragments

In the Republican presidential debate on August 7th, former governor Mike Huckabee was asked about the federal government’s plans for inclusion of transgender people into the military. In a less-than-articulate objection, Huckabee stated, “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.” He did in fact then add, “The purpose of it is that we protect every American.”

Indeed, the purpose of the military is to defend the citizens and nation of America by using all necessary force; but the expectation of the American citizen is that its military conduct itself in a manner consistent with the values of the nation. While what those values are precisely could be long debated, it is evident that the notion of character distinguishes Americans who engage in war from those of other groups or nations, such as ISIS, or the Japanese military during World War 2.

This is a difficult standard to keep. To maintain integrity and courage in the most extreme situations requires a level of character beyond what America expects of its average citizen. This is because consequences of failure to do so become intolerable, as we’ve seen in My Lai and Abu Ghraib.

The question then becomes whether the federal government should endorse transgender behavior as neither obtrusive nor burdensome to military functions and operations, including relationships and therefore unit morale and cohesion. This includes all potential intense military situations and relationships of any contingency to which servicemembers may be called. It is a question of whether transgender behavior is perfectly normal.

That the transgender community has achieved a standing in enough minds so as to gain the ultimate political advocate—the President of the United States—is a remarkable success for it.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.