It’s Time To End Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Today, apparently, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be in front of what I believe is called the Joint Armed Services Committee to start the process of scrapping the US military’s policy which prohibits gays from openly serving in the Armed Forces.

There is an irony to it as I understand, in that when Bill Clinton’s administration brought in the policy, ostensibly to be somewhat socially progressive, they replaced an easily withdrawn executive order with actual legislation that is much more complicated to do away with.

The policy just makes no real sense. Even those people who are gay who serve honourably and silent about who they are can have their career ended if outed by their peers. Scores of intelligence specialists, linguists, and decorated people have been discharged from the military under the policy at a time when those people are fairly crucial to US national security.

The arguments made to keep the policy seem overwhelming silly to me. I was a few months ago perusing the website of the “Center For Military Readiness”. The name is misleading, it’s some sort of religious organization whose sole concern is DADT.

One of the major claims is that repealing DADT and allowing LGBT people to serve openly would lead to an exodus of people from the military. Even if the surveys making the claim were real and stood up to scrutiny, which is apparently debatable, I suspect how some would answer and how they would actually act are two different matters entirely.

I remember having a discussion on the issue years ago with a crusty old Warrant Officer (which, in US Army parlance, would equate to a Platoon Sergeant or a Sergeant Major). He laughingly told a herd of young officers his take. He said, “First, they let women in and I thought that was bad, that I’d quit as a result. And I didn’t. Then they decided to let women into the combat arms and I said that was where I’d draw the line. But they came and I stuck around anyhow. Then they told us they were going to let gays in and I said that was it. But I never got around to quitting then either. But I’ve drawn my line in the sand now. As soon as they make it mandatory to be gay – that’s when I’m getting out!”

The anecdote is telling. Even in an organization that tends to lag social policy people adapt. Members of the military value what they do more than just getting a paycheque. They won’t quit en masse because of a change which quite realistically will have next to no impact on their lives.

The fact is there will be people who will be uncomfortable with the change – but being in the armed forces means being able to cope with adversity and soldier on. The only thing that needs to be happen to allow repealing DADT to succeed is that leaders need to do their jobs and lead. The reality is that most who serve couldn’t care less: they care that the person beside them can do his or her job, not what they go home to or do in their private lives!

As I write this in fits and starts I’m looking up info on Elaine Donnelly, who fronts the farcical Center for Military Readiness. One of her better claims is that “civilian activists do not understand or respect the culture of the military.” Funny enough, she has never served, making her one of those civilian activists. Her claims get more and more ridiculous from there.

The fact is, most of the US’ allies and many other professional military forces outside of NATO make no such ban. In fact, most integrate women more fully as well, though the treatment of women in the US military is a whole series of other problems that and various other sites address very well.

I don’t see why something like sexual orientation should be an issue. If someone wants to serve the country they love and has the talent to do so, that should be the sole defining factor. The fact that those who want to keep DADT or replace it with some manner of stronger ban have to resort to ridiculous arguments to justify their views shows just how untenable their positions are. Take a look at the arguments – what if any of them makes rational sense?

Good luck today Mr. Gates. It’s good to see some movement on this issue. It’ll be a small victory President Obama can be proud of.

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