In a recent op-ed for the South China Morning Post, Ziyu Zhang asks the following question: The United States or China, who has the stronger military?
She writes, “China is pushing ahead with plans to turn the People’s Liberation Army into a modern fighting force by 2027—the centenary of its founding—as tensions with the US build.” China, she argues, is very much in the ascendancy. Worryingly, the U.S. Defense Department appears to agree with her. Although the U.S. military is still the most powerful in the world, the Biden administration appears to be doing all in its power to weaken it. By reversing Trump-era policies, the new administration is now allowing an increasing number of transgender members to serve. Not surprisingly, the decision has received praise from progressive outlets. However, Biden’s move is far from wise. In fact, it may end up costing the country dearly.
One month ago, Denis McDonough, the current Secretary of Veterans Affairs announced that the U.S. Army will soon offer transition surgeries for transgender service members. In April, the Defense Department released a statement outlining the ways in which military personnel can, if they wish to, transition genders while serving. Now, it may seem obvious to state the following, but opting to switch genders is a decision that carries serious weight. Do Americans want people, all of whom are being paid to protect the country, distracted by such life-changing decisions? Would you enlist the services of a surgeon distracted by impending lawsuits, or a dentist distracted by thoughts of suicide? Of course not. If and when possible, we place our lives in the hands of competent, highly-focused individuals.
Mental Health and Suicide in the Military
As Psychology Today’s Katherine Schreiber has noted, “individuals who identify as transgender tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population.” 6.7 percent of the general U.S. population struggle with depression, and roughly 19 percent struggle with some form of an anxiety disorder (think PTSD, OCD, panic disorders, social phobias, etc.) With members of the trans community, however, as Schreiber notes “nearly half of all individuals who identify as transgender experience these issues. What’s more, over 41 percent of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide—a rate that’s nearly nine times as high as the rate of non-trans Americans.” These are deeply worrying statistics, especially when one realizes that the military already has a real problem with suicide. Thomas Suitt, a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, recently published an alarming report analyzing suicide rates among members of the military. According to the graduate student, American soldiers are four times more likely to take their own lives than to be killed in combat. As Suitt notes, ever since 9/11, the rates of suicide in America have been steadily increasing. Among the “active military personnel and veterans,” however, suicide rates have been significantly higher, far “outpacing average Americans.” Since 2001, as Suitt writes, “30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans have died by suicide,” four times more than the number of soldiers “killed in post-9/11 war operations.”
Of course, there’s no one reason to explain why more soldiers are taking their own lives. The Anna Karenina principle is applicable at the individual level as well as the familial. Every person is different, and people commit suicide for different reasons. But, as Suitt notes, pre-existing mental health issues appear to play a significant role. Childhood trauma, in particular, is a major predictor of suicide risk. Suitt writes: “Nearly three-quarters of new soldiers in the Army report previous traumatic experiences upon joining the service, and a fifth of those experiences is child abuse. Research strongly links childhood abuse to suicidal behaviors, even when accounting for new traumas service members may experience in the military.”
Which brings us back to the Biden administration’s recent decision. What are we to think? Suitt’s paper is a fascinating read, and there is every reason to believe that more trans individuals in the military will result in significantly more suicides. This is before we even consider the fact that individuals with mental health issues are not just a danger to themselves, but a danger to their colleagues. Those struggling with depression, for example, are more likely to suffer from brain fog, which impairs thinking skills, such as attention, memory, or decision making. If the afflicted individual happens to be a soldier on the battlefield, an impairment of this magnitude could cost lives.
What Is the US Military Becoming?
According to the aforementioned Military.com, the army “exists to serve the American people, defend the nation, protect vital national interests and fulfill national military responsibilities.” Call me a pessimist, but I fail to see how enlisting more trans members will help fulfill this mission. For Democrats, the so-called party of science, the data should really speak for itself. With transgender people twice as likely to serve in the military than non-trans, important questions need to be asked. These are life or death questions, very much existential in nature. While the Chinese regime focuses on building the most powerful military in history, the Biden administration continues to make reckless, ill-advised decisions. The decision to reverse Trump’s transgender ban may prove to be the costliest of all.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of The New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, The American Conservative, National Review, The Public Discourse, and other respectable outlets. He’s also a columnist at Cointelegraph.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.