The ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve in the U.S. military so long as they don’t disclose their sexual orientation, was a compromise the Clinton Administration crafted in the early nineties after squandering nearly all of its political capital on the issue at the beginning of its first term. It was seen as a step in the right direction by liberals, but the problem was that it accepted one deeply disturbing underlying premise: That openly gay servicemen and -women would pose a threath to troop cohesion and the overall efficiency of the military. Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has said he favors a repeal of DADT, and even conservative Democrats like former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn has called for a ‘review’ of its consequences.
So, is change on the way? The answer of course depends on who wins the presidency in the November election, but even if the progressive Illinois Democrat is sworn in, DADT will only be on the table. The only thing we know for sure, is that DADT has a strong supporter in Obama’s opponent, Senator John McCain. In the widely panned CNN/YouTube debate last year, McCain said he believed DADT to be ‘working’, and he shared a stage with California Representative Duncan Hunter, who answered a question from a gay retired military man, by scaring him with the consequences for ‘troop cohesion’ and ‘effectiveness in combat’ if the policy were to change.
In a recent interview with CBS’s newsmagazine 60 Minutes, Congressman Hunter reiterated these statements, and he even elaborated on them. Apparently, Hunter consider blocking gays from serving openly is some uniqely American value, one that not only preserves the military’s moral high ground (sic!), but also sets the American way apart from their European counterparts, for which this is not even considered a problem. When asked about why important allies like Great Britain have report no problems after lift their gay ban in the military, Hunter dug himself into a long and utterly pathetic monologue about how different military strategies could explain the differing attitudes. To Hunter, the Europeans ‘can afford’ to have gays in their military because their responsibilities are largely ‘peace-keeping missions’, in which the threath to troop cohesion apparently are not as grave. Americans, on the other hands, are fighting real wars, and hence the wimpy gays should be left out, for the good of both them and their straight comrades.
Well, no. It might be that the military is still a conservative bastion, but if the rules are changed, one would expect them to adapt. Young people are known to be more accepting of gays than older, and the public mood is swaying heavily toward allowing gays to serve. The obvious question then, being: Are high-ranking officials using recruits as an excuse for their own outdated values? And by constantly fretting about ‘troop cohesion’, isn’t the military telling people indirectly that a) our soldiers are not as professional as we might think; and b) it’s O.K. to take sexual orientation into account when it comes to solidarity on the battlefield? If either one of these two are right, this is highly disturbing.
The last point Congressman Hunter made was that letting gays serve could damage recruitment numbers. Obviously, this phony argument was doomed the moment it was uttered. The main reason the American military is able to meet its goals even today, is because the scores you have to get to join are constantly lowered. The sign-up premiums have shot up, and now even former criminals are accepted, to help fill the quotas. At the same time, 4,000 gays and lesbians are shut out every year, not because that are unfit to serve, but because they are gay servants. It’s bad enough that conservatives like Duncan Hunter wants to cripple the US military to keep his moral banner high. What’s even worse is that he won’t offer the real reason: He’s a homophobe.
I guess it’s just easier to hire private security firms to augment the military and lower entrance requirements then to piss off the conservatives.
I live in Canada where we’ve gone as far as legalizing gay marriage. Guess what? The world didn’t end. Nazis didn’t ride down the street on dinosaurs. Life went on. If gay men and women want to fight for the same freedoms and equalities the politicians claim to represent then let them. And let them be who they are while they’re doing it.
There, now I can put my soapbox away.
Heh. I know! Gay marriage was recently legalized here in Norway (we’ve allowed civil partnerships for fifteen years), and I can’t say it looks the main pillars of society are crumbling. The debate was rather crass at times, but the vote in parliament was pretty clear in favor.
DADT is not only bad politics, it’s also bad policy.