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.”