Despite being labeled as another indicator of the "nanny state, over at NRO, I firmly believe that Rep. Paul Broun's legislation to ban pornography sales on military bases is a good thing. This is not an effort to ban the consumption of the vile stuff, only not to be a party to making it available. Some good emails have come into the Corner, making the point better than I could:
Adultery is still a violation of the UCMJ, and sexual behavior is a major factor in unit cohesion. We have long forbidden military members use of government equipment (particularly computers and computer networks) and, while I was in the Navy (’95-’07) the NEX and MCX (Navy and Marine Corps exchanges) did not carry pornography. I don’t know about AAFES. This was typically supported by officers and senior enlisted. Mid- to Junior level enlisted did not like it. The fact is, character matters and it matters tremendously in combat. Encouraging behavior that corrupts character (gambling, excessive alcohol, sex) is contrary to the military’s best interests. I know there are those who think these are "manly" vices and indicate a robust military. I did not find it so.
Of course, I was a chaplain, so I tended to see those negatively affected by these vices. Those "positively" affected didn’t come to see me.
And the reality of life in the military:
I have been in the U.S. Navy since 1988 and I wholeheartedly agree that pornography should be banned from military exchanges. There is no reason for it to be there, as it is widely available elsewhere for those who want it. The military continually tells us that they care about military families and that fostering stable family lives helps personnel to better cope with the stress of long deployments. Peddling pornography does not square with the pro-family message.
The military is hard enough on families. We deploy personnel away from their families for months/years at a time and we station members of the opposite sex together in units, while their wives and husbands sit at home and wonder what is going on. As a Navy Officer, I did a Mediterranean cruise back in ’93. When we returned from that deployment, four of the sixteen sailors in our small department (16 in all) filed for divorce from their wives, due to things that had happened while they were gone. And that was before women served on ships, I can just imagine what goes on now.
Deployments are unavoidable, as is (unfortunately), deploying men and women together and housing them in close quarters during times of extreme stress. It may be a small gesture, but refusing to sell products that unquestionably undermine marriage, is something the military should do.
Having been a navy wife with husband deployed for very long periods of time, I was grateful not to have to even wonder about distractions -- since he flew jets, which comprised an all-male community at the time. Like all JO's, he counseled enlisted men, many of whose lives were often already a complicated mess. Certainly the authorities cannot provide the very materials that add to the problems.
In the end, those who support this legislation are going to have to use and be comfortable with certain language: duty, honour, sacrifice, dignity, integrity, character and (yes) chivalry. There is a manly code that undergirds a stable fighting force. The warrior cult exists -- and without it, the mission crumbles. These notions may be laughable in the wider world, but the military must make some effort to hold onto them, or it becomes just one more government jobs program.
UPDATE: Lisa Schiffren comes back with a defense of immorality of keeping troops in order:
Back in 1991, during Desert Storm, I worked at the Pentagon. I was, at first, taken aback to see routine message traffic cross my desk discussing explicitly the logistical arrangements for "R&R" for the troops. How were the boys at bases in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and how were they going to get action? The problem, I still recall, was that the normal ports of call in nearby Africa were having problems with AIDS, which was still newish. Whichever country was the traditional port was very miffed at losing the business, because those soldiers at the bars and brothels were a big source of hard currency. Almost anywhere in a reasonable distance was under the sway of the mullahs. I bet you're wondering how the military solved this problem. My recollection is a little hazy, since this was something I followed mainly for entertainment (as did my Special Ops colleagues). But I believe the government of Romania made an offer. Eastern Europe was just emerging from the Soviet boot, and a bunch of those countries really wanted the business. Romania was judged to have better resort infrastructure than most. And I also believe that one of the less religious Gulf emirates decided that it would allow a few huge "party ships" to dock just offshore. I suppose we transported our troops to Romania. I don't know who brought the hookers to the ships. Everyone winked and nodded, and the troops carried on.
Yes, Kathryn, we want our forces to be honorable and decent. And mostly they are. Even the ones who go drinking and whoring Saturday night, mutter prayers in a foxhole. That is fairly traditional human behavior, which does not bear excessive scrutiny. Whatever Judeo-Christian values we choose to practice and live among here at home, in peace, we are better off not feminizing or Christianizing the military any more than we can avoid.
So chastity is too feminine or Christian for the US Army. Then you have just sided with the enemy, and I don't mean Al Qaida. You've thrown in with the notion that "boys must be boys," that Romanian whores are better than frustration or "going blind," that "traditional human behaviour" is adequate, and that STD's and divorce will simply have to be the price for American military interests.
I'm wading through A Distant Mirror, an account of the 14th century which is full of death, destruction, pillage and rape. I'm no naif, but "God Bless America" means something. Look at the outcry over sexual attacks from US soldiers in the Japan and the Philippines recently.
This has to be thought through better, but I'm discouraged, knowing the mainstreaming of porn everywhere. This reaction reminds me of the Casey decision that said "women have arranged their lives around access to abortion," so it has to remain available. Same with men and access to "flesh."
UPDATE: another very good comment here.