Thursday, December 9, 2010

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Don’t Change It

The U.S. military has been embroiled in two foreign wars for much of the last decade. Now it faces an internal conflict over whether to allow open homosexuality in the ranks, and it is not a fight many military leaders are looking for. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony last week from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and Marine Commandant General James Amos. Both oppose repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), which prohibits open homosexuality in the military.

Casey said changing the policy would “add another level of stress to any already stretched force.” Amos said that “assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat.”

Amos’candor, a breath of fresh air in a politicized debate that has been filled with more smoke than fire, was not appreciated by his superiors, most notably Commander in Chief Obama, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. All three are pushing to overturn DADT. The Associated Press (not to be confused with the Ministry of Propaganda) touted the recent Pentagon study as proof that enlisted members support lifting DADT. But the report failed to directly ask whether the ban on open homosexuality should be repealed. Of course, truth is the first casualty in war.

Other findings of surveyed soldiers not widely reported for reasons unknown: Thirty-seven percent believe the presence of a homosexual service member in a combat unit negatively affected or did not help the unit's combat performance. Nearly 44 percent object to sharing bathroom facilities with an open homosexual in their unit. And 61 percent predict a negative, very negative or mixed outcome for the unit's ability to "pull together to perform as a team.”

What isn’t proved by the study or any other argument is that overturning DADT is necessary to make our military stronger. Nor is it suggested that the change will help unit cohesion, strengthen morale or improve combat effectiveness. So why the strong push for open homosexuality in the ranks?

We live in a highly individualized age where self actualization reigns supreme. Army slogans haven’t helped either. “Be All You Can Be,” and “An Army of One,” are far cries from self-sacrifice and teamwork needed to protect the country. Should DADT be dropped, the next slogan might be “Half the Effectiveness, but Openly Embracing Your Lifestyle.”

Embracing open homosexuality in the armed forces raises many questions. Will army chaplains with moral convictions that homosexuality is a sin be dismissed? Will the military have to accept enlistments from gay couples who hold marriage licenses from other states? What will become of family housing? Such questions only get in the way of those who view the military as a playground for social engineering. After all, soldiers are supposed to play nice.

The truth is that soldiers don’t play nice. Their job is to fight and win wars, and rules are in place to achieve the best chances for success. That’s why the armed forces have all kinds of restrictions on who can enter (it is not a right to join). They also have numerous expectations and regulations for enlisted soldiers (they lose their civil rights once enlisted). So to lower a standard thought to be critical to success for centuries in order to appease the gods of self-actualization and political correctness should be shot down, figuratively speaking of course.

As it is, approximately 200,000 soldiers are discharged (mostly honorable) from the armed services every year. Only 428 were discharged for open homosexuality in 2009, and roughly half of those are discharged during their initial training.

It is interesting that the fight to legitimize open homosexual behavior in the armed forces is couched in terms of respecting one’s personal privacy, which is of course lavishly afforded via the current policy of DADT. Overturning DADT is something entirely different and makes sexuality in the military a very public venture.

As one of my old high school friends who is in the army recently said, “I don’t want to know about your sexuality.” Neither does most of the general public who are concerned more about policies that promote the strongest fighting force we can muster.