Pres­i­dent shouldn’t use Twit­ter to is­sue or­ders

The Star Democrat - - OPINION - LINDA CHAVEZ © 2017 CRE­ATORS.COM

Serv­ing in the U.S. mil­i­tary is a priv­i­lege, not a right. Not ev­ery­one who wishes to serve can be al­lowed to do so, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons — age, phys­i­cal and men­tal fit­ness, ed­u­ca­tion, and le­gal sta­tus, to name a few. The pur­pose of the mil­i­tary is not to ad­vance a so­cial or po­lit­i­cal agenda but to de­fend the na­tion. These sim­ple truths seem to be lost in the de­bate stirred by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s clumsy and ill-timed an­nounce­ment via Twit­ter that trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als are no longer al­lowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

The de­ci­sion to al­low trans­gen­der peo­ple to serve in the mil­i­tary in the first place was barely 2 years old — un­think­able even a decade ago. In 2015, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­re­tary of defense, Ash­ton Carter, an­nounced that the Pen­tagon would move to al­low trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als to serve openly in the mil­i­tary. But per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial as­pect of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s stance was the an­nounce­ment in June 2016 that the mil­i­tary would pro­vide med­i­cal treat­ment for those ser­vice mem­bers seek­ing hor­mone treat­ment and plas­tic surgery to change their sex.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion, gen­der dys­pho­ria “is not in it­self a men­tal dis­or­der. The crit­i­cal el­e­ment of gen­der dys­pho­ria is the pres­ence of clin­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant dis­tress associated with the con­di­tion.” It seems fair to say, how­ever, that those who choose to un­dergo the painful surg­eries and life­long hor­monal treat-

ments nec­es­sary to tran­si­tion their sex don’t do so lightly but are in­deed ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sig­nif­i­cant dis­tress. The ques­tion isn’t whether trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als have the right to live as they choose — they do — but that does not mean they have a right to serve in the mil­i­tary.

All sorts of phys­i­cal and men­tal con­di­tions pre­clude mil­i­tary ser­vice. The rea­sons vary, but the un­der­ly­ing as­sump­tion is that any con­di­tion that might make de­ploy­ment and com­bat readi­ness more dif­fi­cult jus­ti­fies ex­clud­ing cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als. Ev­ery­thing from asthma to plan­tar fasci­itis may be dis­qual­i­fy­ing, de­pend­ing on when the in­di­vid­ual ex­pe­ri­enced the con­di­tion and its sever­ity, and some med­i­cal con­di­tions, such as di­a­betes, are au­to­mat­i­cally so. But so are com­mon men­tal con­di­tions. Peo­ple who suf­fer from de­pres­sion or other mood dis­or­ders — even adults with at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der — can be ex­cluded.

The mil­i­tary re­jects these in­di­vid­u­als not out of prej­u­dice but be­cause their con­di­tions com­pli­cate the mis­sion of the mil­i­tary. In­di­vid­u­als who re­quire med­i­ca­tion on a daily ba­sis are more dif­fi­cult to de­ploy in a war­time situa- tion. Some­one who has di­a­betes quickly be­comes a li­a­bil­ity on the bat­tle­field when there isn’t ac­cess to proper food or in­sulin or other med­i­ca­tion. Trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als re­quire hor­mone treat­ments for the rest of their lives af­ter tran­si­tion­ing. What hap­pens when a trans­gen­der sol­dier runs out of male or fe­male hor­mone re­place­ment treat­ments while de­ployed? How long would a trans­sex­ual be un­able to de­ploy while re­cov­er­ing from surgery?

Those who are ex­press­ing out­rage that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­vert­ing to the pol­icy bar­ring trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als from ser­vice that ex­isted prior to two years ago seem more than a lit­tle disin­gen­u­ous. Some 29 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have di­a­betes; another 25 mil­lion have asthma. But I don’t re­mem­ber any­one sug­gest­ing that these in­di­vid­u­als are be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause they can­not serve in the mil­i­tary.

Pres­i­dent Obama lifted re­stric­tions against trans­gen­der peo­ple in the mil­i­tary, and Pres­i­dent Trump has de­cided to im­pose those re­stric­tions again. These are pol­icy de­ci­sions — and both pres­i­dents were within their au­thor­ity to make them. Pres­i­dent Trump bun­gled the de­ci­sion to change course. He did it as he does ev­ery­thing, im­pul­sively, with­out proper con­sid­er­a­tion for its im­ple­men­ta­tion or how it af­fects in­di­vid­u­als who are al­ready in the mil­i­tary. Twit­ter is no way to is­sue or­ders as com­man­der in chief.

It is cer­tainly fair to ask why he did it now. Was it a way to dis­tract from other is­sues? With this pres­i­dent, who knows? He says he talked to the gen­er­als, but few of them are com­ing for­ward to con­firm any dis­cus­sions, and the Pen­tagon was left flat-footed.

Once again, the pres­i­dent is set­ting up the dy­nam­ics for fail­ure. Per­haps this is a bone thrown to those in his base in an­tic­i­pa­tion of dis­ap­point­ing them on another front. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, stay tuned.

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