Mocking Military Justice

Applying the rules with needless rigidity, the Marine Corps is about to court-martial Lt. Kathleen Mazure, a Navy dentist whose alleged sexual relationship with a Marine enlisted man is seen as threatening the "good order and discipline" of the service. If convicted, Mazure could face up to two years in prison, a dishonorable discharge and the possible loss of her dental license. Former Marine Cpl. Scott Price, who became Mazure's husband last fall, has meanwhile been forced to accept an honorable discharge from the corps. All this be cause Mazure and Price may have technically violated the military law that forbids fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel.

The value of that rule, Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, is not at issue. Fraternization, literally associating on brotherly terms, obviously can be threatening to good order because of its potential for weakening morale and eroding the command system. Clearly, though, this rule was meant to discourage friendly relations between officers and enlisted ranks within the same service. It's hard to see how such relations between people of different services can in any way be regarded as prejudicial to good military order.

Mazure and Price began their off-base relationship in Florida when both were stationed briefly at the same Marine facility. Mazure was there only because the Marines contract with the Navy for dental services. The officer who first looked at the allegations against Mazure recommended that she be counseled or, at worst, discharged. That recommendation was overruled by the commander of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, where Mazure is now stationed. Maj. Gen. Gene Deegan instead ordered Mazure to face a court-martial on May 24.

This recourse to the harshest option of military justice strikes us as carrying concern with the letter rather than the spirit of the law to a zealous, foolish extreme. The essential fact that stands out when all is said and done is that Mazure and Price had no professional relationship that could be affected by "fraternization." Given that, it makes no sense to proceed with a prosecution that threatens to do more harm to good order and morale than does the alleged infraction that it aims to punish.

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