Memo to General Peter Pace: Get down from the moral high ground

By Matt Barnum

Why does Peter Pace think anyone cares what he thinks about homosexuality?

General Pace, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, first made headlines last March when he said, “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that [the U.S. military] should not condone immoral acts… I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.” On Wednesday, at a Senate hearing, Pace reiterated those views about gays in the military: “We should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God’s law.”

Now that we all know what General Pace thinks about homosexuality (we got it the first time, by the way), I have a few other questions for him: What do you think about tailgating? Do you think it’s immoral to talk about people behind their backs? What is your policy on re-gifting?

Pace is the Joint Chiefs chair, not some moral arbiter, and frankly, I couldn’t care less what he thinks is immoral and what he thinks is “God’s law,” unless it’s related to military policy. Unfortunately, Pace has made his view of homosexuality connected to military policy by stating in support of the ban on openly gay individuals in the military, “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

Leaving aside the question of whether or not you think homosexuality is immoral, Pace’s logic is fatally flawed from a practical standpoint. Using his reasoning, we should actually get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which Pace supports, because that is condoning—at least under his definition—immorality, just as long as that immorality is concealed.

What other types of people should we ban from military service? How about gluttons? What about people who are mean? What I genuinely don’t understand is what, in Pace’s mind (and those many others), makes homosexuality a greater sin than any other one.

Pace’s argument that immorality in the military cannot be tolerated is even more ridiculous in light of the current composition of the armed services. While rejecting gays, the U.S. military blithely accepts some convicted criminals into its ranks, with 11 percent of last year’s recruiting class requiring special moral waivers for admittance. The military’s implication that felons are somehow more deserving—and capable—of serving in the military than open homosexuals is not only genuinely offensive to gays, but also detrimental to the task entrusted to the armed forces.

Unfortunately, protestors at the hearing who shouted “Bigot!” aren’t helping their cause; in fact, they’re engaging in shortsighted logic similar to Pace’s. A bigot is defined as “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.” Although I strongly disagree with Pace on policy, saying that a specific act is immoral simply does not, under any reasonable definition, rise to the level of bigotry. Their irritation over Pace’s self-styled role as a judge of morality is understandable, but overstating the issue helps no one.

Back to Pace. He seems to believe that because he was appointed to the highest ranking military office that he has some right to impose on others—or at least declare from a bully pulpit—his morality. A note to Pace and all other politicians who care to lecture us on morality: We just don’t care.