(To read the rest of "On Violence’s Most Thought Provoking Foreign Affairs Event of 2012", please click here.)
Here’s one civilian’s take on why the military is less effective than the private sector: you can get fired for cheating on your wife.
Though we hate writing about sex scandals--as we wrote last Monday--this Petraeus fiasco has way too many interesting subplots. The most important, most telling detail that came out of the whole thing was the revelation that our innovative, technologically-superior, thoroughly-modern military still adheres to a set of rules and regulations that 18th century Puritans would find reasonable. Apparently, in the 21st century military, you can still get court martialed for cheating on your wife.
Here’s a copy of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, article 134, paragraph 60. Two sections stand out. First, it opens by explaining, “(1) That the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person; (2) That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else...” It ends by stating, “Maximum punishment. Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year.” In layman's terms, prison. For a year.
Now, one could argue that the middle section is somewhat more nuanced. Again and again, it points out that, “To constitute an offense under the UCMJ, the adulterous conduct must either be directly prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting.” Except that the sentence above it reads, “Adultery is clearly unacceptable conduct...” So it doesn’t matter if the next section says that it has to affect good order; all adultery affects good order.
Somewhat softening the law, in 2002 George Bush...
“...further discouraged adultery prosecutions by issuing an executive order that clarified the circumstances that might necessitate legal action. Although the order maintained that "adultery is clearly unacceptable conduct," it also listed a variety of factors that commanders should take into consideration before proceeding with a court martial. These include the accused's rank, the impact of the affair on the involved parties' job performance, and whether any of the hanky-panky took place while the accused was on the clock.”
Except that, in 2003, the military charged Captain James Yee with adultery, not because his affair affected good order, but because they couldn’t pin anything else on him. If a law is on the books, it’s on the books. Until the military removes the law, it hasn’t really entered the 21st century.
Imagine if we applied this 18th century law to the rest of America. First off, there goes the NBA. Since they work in the public sphere, adultery actually would be “discrediting”. The NBA then wouldn’t exist...or it would and Jimmer Fredette would be its LeBron James. And in the NFL, Manti T’eo would be this year’s number one draft pick.
Hollywood? Goodbye actors. And directors. And producers. And everyone associated with filming movies from the production assistants to studio heads.
We’d have no books for kids to read in English class.
I’d guess that, at least, thirty percent of the corporations in America wouldn’t have CEOs. And at least four American presidents would have been fired. (To be fair, we tried this in the nineties.) Hell, a lot of church pulpits would go empty.
It all made me think of this quote from the Simpson’s episode where Milhouse's dad gets a divorce.
Cracker Factory Executive: Kirk, crackers are a family food, happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers, we don't know. Frankly, we don't want to know. It's a market we can do without.
Kirk: So, that's it after 20 years? "So long. Good luck?"
Cracker Factory Executive: I don't recall saying "good luck."
In short, the military is the executive at the cracker factory. Soldiers are adults. And adults have affairs. I don’t condone cheating. (Among people my age, I am more against cheating than most.) But that doesn’t mean I support laws enforcing anti-adultery regulation.
Now, I can see the counter-argument: the private sector does have checks and balances on sexual conduct. Mainly, bosses can’t pressure subordinates into having sex with them, which is a good thing. Sexual harassment is illegal and should be. Officers can’t have sex with subordinates because that’s sexual harassment. And both the public and private sector have laws against that.
But regulating everything else? Well, it’s just another example of our traditional, staid military not changing...for the worse.