Some thoughts on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Posted on October 28, 2010


I’ve been listening to news about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) ever since a federal judge in California overturned it and subsequently had her ruling stayed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I’ve heard about generals who are arguing against it, claiming that allowing openly homosexual servicemen and women will damage the military’s readiness to fight by interfering with unit cohesion. I’ve heard about men and women who were discharged under DADT who filed to rejoin the military one day only to find that their ability to do so was stopped cold the next. And I’ve heard activists complain bitterly that the Department of Justice under President Obama is defending DADT instead of letting it die as Obama would personally prefer.

I have some thoughts on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

The Constitution of the United State says that one of the President’s jobs is to implement federal law. Article II, Section 3 says in part “[the President] shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” and part of executing the laws is defending them when they’re challenged in court. The Constitution does not let the President pick and choose what laws to defend and what laws to let go, and it’s a good thing too. No-one in their right mind wants any President to pick and choose the laws he gets to enforce, either by instructing the Department of Justice not to defend a law or by using signing statements that potentially gut the law being signed. Because if that ever becomes acceptable, federal law will collapse into anarchy.

Imagine this for a moment: Obama sets the precedent that it’s OK to not defend DADT, and then loses the election to Palin in 2012. The same people behind Citizen’s United file suit against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and the existence of the IRS. Palin orders her DoJ not to defend those federal laws. Poof! Bye bye social safety nets, taxes, and everything that those taxes pay for (roads, bridges, tunnels, military bases, food safety, safe pharmaceuticals). Then Palin is understandably tossed out in 2016 in favor of a Democrat, who orders his DoJ not to defend legal challenges to anti-drug laws, immigration limits, and so on. If you think this level of anarchy in federal law is a good idea then you’re either woefully ignorant or you’re dumber than a below-average rock.

DADT is the law of the land, and Obama has a duty to the law to defend it even though he personally disagrees with the law and wants to overturn it. It sucks, but not only is that the way it is, that’s the way it should be.

As for the concerns by some military brass about readiness, I don’t believe them. I think they’re either lying, hypocrites, or they’re ignorant of history and reality. The reasons that contradict their arguments are too obvious for any other explanations to be reasonable.

Let’s start with a little history. In 1948, President Truman ordered the integration of the US military, and while the military remained largely segregate, that ended abruptly during the Korean War when segregated white units were forced to become integrated by replacing dead white soldiers with black soldiers. The result showed that integration worked just fine. The change today would be less disruptive because the combat effectiveness of homosexual soldiers is not in question – they’re already serving alongside heterosexual soldiers. And if the military can integrate blacks and whites during war without affecting “readiness,” then why can’t it integrate homosexuals and heterosexuals during conflict today? I can’t think of any good reason.

Not only does history not bear out the concerns about unit cohesion, the reality is that soldiers, airmen, marines, and seamen are already serving with homosexuals. I’ve met a good number of current and former members of the military who are homosexual, and if the percentage of homosexuals in the military is even close to the percentage of homosexuals in the general population, then there are a lot of homosexuals in the military. You can’t realistically expect that they’re all masters at hiding their sexual orientation. Sure, homosexuals don’t advertise that they’re homosexual (DADT, don’tcha know), but when you live together as a unit for months at at time, most people will be able to figure out or at least suspect who’s homosexual and who isn’t. What’s most likely going to happen when DADT does go away is a massive collective yawn and a whole lot of conversations that go something like this:

“Hey everyone, I’m gay/lesbian.”

“No shit. We figured that out months ago. Now let’s go out on patrol.”

As for honesty, there’s little doubt in my mind that some of the brass who want to keep DADT are lying about their motivations when they say they’re concerned about “readiness.” There are a lot of officers in the military who are members of conservative religious groups, groups which teach that homosexuality is a sin. There’s a lot of people in general who just go “ewwwww” when thinking of homosexual sex, and the military isn’t immune from that kind of prudishness from otherwise reasonable people. I don’t inherently mind either of these reactions to homosexuality, but if officers believe that homosexuality is a sin or just go “ick” when they think of it, they should be honest about the source of their discomfort. I seem to recall there’s something in the military code about integrity.

Which brings us to the issue of hypocrisy. The DADT law runs counter to the military’s demand that its members conduct themselves with integrity and honesty. Closeted homosexuals in the military are living their lives in a way that prevents them from being honest, because being honest about their sexuality would mean that they’re tossed out of the military. The military has only two choices when it comes to a force that serves with integrity – either institute a wholesale ban on homosexuality or let homosexuals serve openly.

There’s no question that some servicemen and women will leave the military over DADT when it finally goes away, and I suspect that there will be some violence here and there committed by bigots in uniform. So yes, there will be some effect on unit cohesion and readiness. But history and the reality of homosexuals already serving in the military says that the effect will be small and short lived, protestations by military officers notwithstanding.

Image Source
Hamburg/AP, via the NY Daily News

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