Thursday, September 23, 2010

 

Political Mayhem Thursday: Don't Ask, Don't Tell Lives On


On Tuesday, a bill to allow the President to rescind the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule relating to gay men and lesbians in the military died in the Senate under a Republican filibuster.

There are some technical aspects at play here-- the bill would not have, in itself, undone the policy. Nonetheless, emotions were high on the issue.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell was one of the more unfortunate things the Clinton administration came up with. It was politically expedient but wholly unprincipled. Not letting gays into the military at all might be principled (if, in fact, the presence of gay soldiers undermines morale-- something I don't know), as would be the position that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. Don't Ask, Don't Tell satisfied neither set of principles, and instead promoted dishonest and witch hunts.

Whether or not you are for or against gay men and lesbians in the military, you should be against Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which simultaneously allows them into the ranks and then discriminates against them, fulfilling no one's goals.

In fairness, I should recognize the fact that Bill Clinton now asserts that he was sold a false bill of goods about what DADT would mean by Colin Powell, and was backed into a corner by a Congress intent on excluding gay men and lesbians from the military altogether.

So, which should it be, readers? My instinct is that there is no reason gay men and lesbians shouldn't be in the military, and be public about that status. But, and this is important... I have never served in the military.

What do you think?

Comments:
My entire family is in the military and we have no problem with gays serving openly. To be frank most of the people who have problems with gays serving openly are too old to serve in the military anyways. The younger generation as it were, are not as homophobic.

The military once they accepted women started to accept some people who openly like men. The military has rules against fraternization in the first place to stop most scenarios that a lot of homophobes are worried about.
 
DADT is un-American. It is un-American.

More importantly, however, why would anyone want to prevent citizens who are motivated to serve our country?
 
I can't say I have the best perspective when it comes to this particular issue because I have never served. However, there are a number of issues at play here besides the act itself. Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas and maybe it's because I grew up in an area that is "conservative" and tends to be religiously orthodox, but I don't actually know anyone who's served and feels that letting gays serve openly is a good idea.
Those that I know do not approve, in some instances because they feel it would be unsafe for the gays because of the hazing and backlash from the guys in the unit. Others just feel that it's a morale issue.
But my point is this, because there are religious aspects in play and what can be termed "moral" issues, you will never have a consensus and thus this "compromise" seems to be working in the way it was intended to.
Why is this an issue all of a sudden? Neither the military nor the gay community seems to be negatively affected by the act. In my opinion, the numbers of lost troops hasn't negatively affected the military or their leadership, and the gay community, in general, seems to be making headway in public opinion.
Seems to me, like those seeking change were too quick in trying to get it overturned, especially with an active military in the field. I would suspect it would have been easier if there wasn't so much attention paid to the military in general as there is now.
 
Except that homosexual members of the military aren't allowed to serve openly, and are discharged if the higher brass finds out.
 
One of the more thought provoking exchanges on DADT I've heard comes from The West Wing, where Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Fitzwallace is discussing the issue with some of the White House staffers and a couple of military advisors.

ADMIRAL FITZWALLACE: We're discussing gays in the military, huh?
MAJOR THOMPSON: Yes sir.
FITZWALLACE: What do you think? [No response.] I said what do you think?
THOMPSON: Sir, we're here to help the White House form a possible...
FITZWALLACE: I know. I'm asking you what you think.
MAJOR TATE: Sir, we're not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
FITZWALLACE: You just don't want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?
TATE: No sir, I don't.
FITZWALLACE: 'Cause they oppose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
TATE: Yes sir.
FITZWALLACE: That's what I think too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change.
TATE: Yes sir.
FITZWALLACE: The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... beat that with a stick.

I do have one question, though. Prof., you said that DADT has promoted dishonesty and witch hunts. Has it really promoted witch hunts in the classic sense of the term? Have there been tribunals set up to ferret out the homosexuals and kick them out of the military? I ask because I'm not aware of anything like that and would like to know how much that's happened.

I'm also curious, does anyone know the statistics on soldiers being discharged from the military because they're gay? I'm not trying to say that there haven't been many or that there have been a ton, I just have no clue and am curious.
 
I'm going to toss this out for general thought. Is this more of an issue because we have a 'volunteer' military? And I use the term 'volunteer' quite loosely.

I do not know if this would be such an issue if the country had a draft. They would want all 'able' people to serve honorably.
 
FYI - Nearly 14,000 people have been discharged, mostly because they have identified themselves as such voluntarily.

Also interesting to note:

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday showed that 3 out of 4 people polled believe openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993. The number of Republicans who support repealing the ban doubled from 32 percent to 64 percent since 1993.
 
Pope,

"witch hunts" happen all the time in the military as a result of DADT; just read this piece if you don't believe me. No servicemember should have to lie about who they are in order to defend the values this nation and the values it represents, period.
 
Pope, there is a chart on this wikipedia page showing numbers of discharges:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_ask,_don't_tell#Statistics

It cites articles, and it is on the internets, so it must be accurate!

As far as DADT, I don't care. I don't want to serve, so I fully support anyone that does. God bless those that serve, no matter their sexual orientation.

I will say that I find Clinton's claims about being misled about DADT to be silly. Bubba was no dummy, and he made a politically expedient choice (something he was a master at) and as that chart showed DADT quickly became a means of kicking homosexuals out of the military, so if he didn't like it he should have said something before now, like when he actually could have made a difference. He should just say he made a mistake. But the idea that he was duped is insulting to those that his policy has effected.
 
Thanks for that article JT, and the stats RRL.

Here's the rub that I see. Doing away with DADT won't fix the problems that the author of that article detailed, unless the military commits to going after those soldiers that perform those acts. If this sort of behavior is rampant and not isolated, then enforcement of a new policy could be challenging.

Even with a successful new policy put in place, it would disrupt unit cohesion. I think it's obvious from the story that soldiers on the ground would be affected by a change. But, that's where I find the "fake" situation from the West Wing so challenging. Yes, it would disrupt the unit. It would be messy, probably with more stories like the one JT shared. But the unit will get over it. The unit will change. And that's just fine.
 
Doing away with DADT won't fix the problems that the author of that article detailed, unless the military commits to going after those soldiers that perform those acts.

The policy should allow gays to serve openly, and anyone found guilty of harrassment for any servicemember based on sexual orientation is grounds for dishonorable discharge. No matter how much they may dislike gays, I'd guess most soldiers wouldn't risk a dishonorable discharge on their DD-214 to do anything about it. Maybe I'm wrong.
 
Let's ask Saxby Chambliss' staff what they think...
 
Here's my two cents' worth. Disclaimer - I'm only speaking for myself here, not on behalf of the Army. I'm a mere captain with no authority to set policy.

I think it's time for DADT to go away and for homosexuals to be allowed to serve openly.

Let's talk about the unit disruption or prejudice to good order and discipline. I don't buy it. Will some servicemembers oppose allowing homosexuals to serve openly? Sure. But the West Wing argument holds some water. The military didn't fall apart because of racial or gender integration. It became, in fact, a better fighting force. I think the same will happen if homosexuals are allowed to serve openly. I'm not saying the transition will be seamless, but it'll work out in the end. The military is one of the most diverse organizations out there - give it some credit here.

For what it's worth, I give less than a damn if the people with whom I serve are straight, gay, black, white, atheist, religious, etc. All that's important to me is that you want to serve your country honorably. If you want to do that, I'll gladly serve beside you. (I've heard my share of infantrymen say the same.)

Finally - I'm a judge advocate, not a combat soldier. I haven't deployed. I don't live in the barracks. I get that my opinion may not be that of the average soldier (who has deployed, probably lives in the barracks, and isn't an attorney). But I don't think I'm wrong on this one. Again, just my two cents' worth.
 
Campbell - Thank you for your service and you opinion!

And you remind me of the old saying:
"There are no atheist in foxholes"
source unknown
 
stupid law Get rid of it.
 
why woudl being GAY make you less of a soldier? What the hell?
 
To quote from the late Senator Barry Goldwater: "I don't care if they are straight or not, as long as they can shoot straight." I think that about sums it up.
 
I mean who else shoudl we exclude? Black people? Asians? We are going BACKWARDS.
 
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