July 24, 2008

On "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

I've said it in the past, and I will say it again now -- the current policy on homosexuals in the military is an absurdity that does not serve the best interests of the United States.

Now Congress is considering the issue again -- and maybe, just maybe, sanity and common sense will prevail.

For the first time in 15 years, members of the House are holding hearings about the policy which is aimed at maintaining discipline and unit cohesion in the military. Last year, Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee tried, but were prevented by members of their own party who were not eager to revisit the issue. This year the Military Personnel subcommittee manage to put it back on the calendar.

Now let's consider the views of Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, a recently retired military professional who served our country for over three decades.

A hearing of a House Armed Services subcommittee yesterday offered a critical opportunity to break the silence surrounding how military preparedness has been hurt by the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gay men and lesbians from serving openly. The military has spent more than $363 million since 1994 to throw out gay men and lesbians whose expertise we desperately need, including expensively trained and hard-to-recruit linguists, jet pilots, cyber-warriors, doctors and combat-tested master sergeants. This purging of talent takes place at the same time the military, in order to meet its manpower quotas, feels compelled to increase the number of waivers it grants to people who have had problems with the law -- in some instances almost twice as many as in years past.

* * *

"Don't ask, don't tell" also damages our nation's ability to recruit the best and the brightest. Competing with industry is hard enough already. The military estimates that only three in 10 high school graduates are qualified to serve; the "don't ask, don't tell" policy further reduces the pool of eligible recruits.

And that is a serious reality check for anyone concerned with national security -- we are throwing away qualified volunteers who we need because of their sexual practices. It makes no more sense to disqualify someone for consensual homosexual activity that it does for masturbation or preferring something other than the missionary position.

And add to the above statement the signed letter from 28 retired flag officers, and you start to see a pattern.

“We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” their communiqué reads. They argue that “As is the case in Britain, Israel,” and other countries where gays may serve truthfully, “our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Such collaboration reflects the strength and the best traditions of our democracy.”

Indeed, as I pointed out some time back,

we have an all volunteer military. Nobody is "forced" to be a part of it. Individuals voluntarily chose to submit themselves to military discipline and military policies.

If anything, [the pro-DADT] argument is much more suited to arguing that the desegregation of the military by Harry Truman was unwise and inappropriate. After all, that happened during the days of the military draft, when there wre thousands of American men involuntarily serving and being forced to live in circumstances not of their choosing. Many of them, especially those born and raised in the segregated South, had no desire to live and work as equals with blacks -- much less find themselves under the command authority of those they had been raised to view as "niggers" who were inferior to any white man. Truman ordered desegregation to happen, and made it clear that those who could not accept the policy should be prepared to leave the military. And it worked.

Now for this to work, there would need to be certain rules in place -- but one's based upon common sense, not fears and biases. Deroy Murdock put it very well in National Review.

Sexual orientation should be irrelevant while inappropriate sexual conduct — gay, straight, or otherwise — should be punished.

I don't know anyone, from the most flaming gay activist to the most prude supporter of DADT who can reasonably argue with that notion. Let's set reasonable boundaries -- no sex in the chain of command, no sexual harassment, no sexual assault, etc -- that apply to every member of the US military. Any one with a normal set of moral values knows roughly what those boundaries ought to be -- we need to make them explicit and enforce them.

But what we don't need is folks like this driving the policy question. And if Elaine Donnelly is correct, that there are religious members of the armed forces who could not serve with homosexuals, then I would submit that they are lacking in their patriotism, unfit for duty, and deserving of a dishonorable discharge -- just like Donnelly's faux national security organization.

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