I write much about how it is important for the military to follow the civilians with the civilians having the right to be wrong. Today? Not so much. I don't expect the military to contradict Trump directly on banning transgender people. I am not going to bet on Mattis doing anything.
What do I hope for? Principal-agency theory. Huh? There are lots of questions about this policy that was announced in a tweet. The big one is this: who will be going through the personnel of the US armed forces to kick out the transgender soldiers, sailors, marines, air force folks (have not yet found a non-gendered substitute for airman)? When orders come on down from on high, how will implementation play out? P-A theory starts with the idea that the agents (the folks lower down on the chain of command) have more information than the principals (el Presidente for Life Trump). So, they can choose to be enthusiastic and follow the orders and then some, doing too much (consider the ICE folks). Or they can choose to shirk and do less: "Oops, found no transgender here!"
While the new "policy" is awful, it is not clear what will happen. My best guess is that enforcement will be uneven. The Marines will probably be enthused in general because, well, they have been the most regressive branch of the services. Special Operations? Probably will ignore this rule as they tend to ignore many rules, and there has been at least one transgender special operator who came out in the last year. The more folks know people who are x, the more accepting they are (I think). Will there be much oversight over this new policy? Will Congress make sure that the discrimination machine is in high gear? Probably not as they are too busy trying and failing to pass legislation. Will the Office of the Secretary of Defense spend much time monitoring this? Still understaffed and overwhelmed. So, yeah, officers can shirk. Will they? I have no idea.
And yes, the impact is beyond the military, as Trump gives yet more license to those who hate and fear to bully those who are vulnerable. He did it last night with his speech about immigrant "animals" and he did it this morning with his tweets. Trump continues to surprise me with how thoroughly awful he is--my imagination can't keep up with him.
Yes, this is another day where Trump's awfulness makes me have to try to figure out which conflicting values I want to fight for and which to compromise: tolerance/acceptance/freedom for LGBTQ or good civil-military relations? Kind of like the feeling one gets when saying Sessions should stay for the rule of law. I guess I can compromise my focus on civil-military relations since that is headed into the toilet anyway, as Trump's speech to the sailors last week indicated. Oh and his constant reference to "his generals."
No matter what Trump does, he finds a way to destroy institutions and norms.