The Washington Post is reporting that Navy officials are banning all smoking on Navy submarines and letting women join submarine crews despite the overwhelming opposition of Navy members:
Of all the pending changes, the introduction of women seems to be igniting the strongest reactions, according to interviews with active-duty and veteran sailors. The complaints often fall into two categories: first, that female sailors will invariably become pregnant, potentially compromising missions during which submarines can remain submerged for months at a time; and second, that submarines are not built for the mixing of the sexes, given the tight passageways, shared berths and lack of privacy.
Joseph Shook, a retired submariner from Texas, responded to Bruner’s blog with defiant comments, arguing that “over 99% do not wish to see it happen, all knowing it will not work as envisioned by whatever idiots have thought it up.” Some of the backlash stems from a desire to preserve one of the few remaining public institutions in America where adult men can openly act like, well, young adult men. (Women sometimes board submarines as guests or as technicians on short-term assignments but are not assigned to crews.) [...] “I’m worried that if you add women and remove smoking, some people will say, ‘Too much is changing; this isn’t what I like, and I’m going to get out,’ ” he said. “I don’t think you can remove cigarettes and add women and it not have some effect on the retention rate.”
Republicans and conservative military leaders should be outraged. They have insisted that the Pentagon poll military members and their families about replacing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and warned about the implications of adopting new social policies while the country is at war. Why aren’t they concerned that the Navy is about to institute some very unpopular policies?
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been particularly cranky, recently telling reporters that he opposes ending the ban on gays and lesbians in the military because a majority of servicemembers believe that the current policy is still working. Similarly, Army Chief Of Staff Gen. George Casey has said that openly gay and lesbian troops could offend midlevel members and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway argued that marines are so opposed to allowing gays serve openly that they would have to stay in separate housing.
But in this case, the critics are silent, apparently cognizant of the fact that military policy should be determined by the needs and values of the military, not opinion surveys. This tacit acceptance undermines their concerns about DADT and suggests that their support for the policy has little to do with the needs of servicemembers. As one anonymous members observed, allowing gays to serve openly is small apples compared to taking away cigarettes and integrating women. “Everybody knows there are already homosexuals on our force, and I don’t think them being open about it will change anything on a boat.”