Many gays and lesbians serve honorably in today’s military. That is no secret. It is also no secret that open homosexuality within the ranks could hinder unit cohesion, reduce war-fighting capability, and place our troops at greater risk. No wishful thinking, edict, or State of the Union speech can alter this reality. Closeted gays do not cause a disruption in the military precisely because they are closeted.
There is no constitutional right to serve in the Armed Forces. For readiness reasons, the military is selective about who serves based on age, weight, education, family status, physical fitness, and drug usage. Extensive training, good order, and discipline are required. Compromise any of these elements and our casualties on the battlefield will be higher, and our chances for success will be reduced.
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) works, and overturning it is not a change the public is desperately seeking. It is not a change servicemen and women are clamoring for either. A recent survey by the Army Times found that 51% of solders oppose gays serving openly, with only 30% in favor.
As Congress noted in 1993 when the policy was adopted, active gays would pose “an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”
Enter Barack Obama and the splintering coalition that got him elected in 2008. In his State of the Union speech, Obama offered his moderate supporters a partial spending freeze and promises of nuclear power, clean coal, and offshore drilling. Progressives, however, are his base and are disillusioned with his failure to pass a health care plan or Cap and Trade. No president can be reelected without his base.
Obama is therefore compelled to appeal to progressives by the elimination of DADT, and for open homosexuality within the military. Politically, he has little to lose. Everyone knows he has no allegiance to the military. All should understand that this issue is a political calculation for him, and nothing more.
Obama’s only explanation for his proposal is that, “It’s the right thing to do.” Military effectiveness is not his utmost priority. When Bill Clinton raised this issue in 1993, a firestorm erupted. The DADT policy forged at that time, however, has worked well over the years with readiness maintained with fewer gays involuntarily discharged than before.
Nobody says that gays cannot fight. There are many examples through history where they have done so effectively. The real question is what impact openly homosexual soldiers will have on other soldiers.
As it is today, peers of a gay soldier who “minds his own business” often know about his status and choose to ignore it, unless the gay soldier gets pushy or gets someone angry with him. Straight soldiers knowing, but not caring, about a gay soldier, if he does his job, suggest this issue is less about being gay and more about the individual and the way he handles himself.
Current DADT policy allows room for interpretation by commanders at all levels, which could lead to inconsistencies. Perhaps a review board could be established for such cases and thereby reduce the number of separations rather than leaving the decision up to a commanding officer, as is current policy. There is a big difference, however, between fine-tuning existing DADT policy to see that fewer gay discharges occur, and declaring that open homosexuality acceptable within the ranks.
Military life, especially on deployment or in a combat environment, is marked by a forced intimacy that is not found in civilian life. No one goes home at night to his private life. This 24/7 ‘Band of Brothers’ type intimacy does not always function perfectly even in the best of circumstances. Allowing openly gay soldiers into this environment would be tenuous at best.
Such exclusionary attitudes may seem old-fashioned, but no amount of political correctness will change them when the bullets start to fly. When a soldier’s life is on the line, little else matters to him but success and survival. It is tight unit cohesion that saves lives and carries the day on the field of battle. Lessen it in any way, and we invite calamity.
Once gays are allowed to serve openly, we can soon expect dependent benefits and military housing for a domestic partner, and to bring that partner to unit family functions. This is all very normal in the civilian world, but it would still be a bit shocking in today’s military culture.
And once the legal precedent of DADT is removed, we can’t be surprised when an operative from the gay and lesbian movement enlists in the military with the deliberate motive to force the gay agenda on the military, and have a platoon of ACLU lawyers at the ready when someone objects. The military could lose control to the courts with commanders becoming afraid to risk their careers for something as intangible as unit cohesion. In the end, it would be America who loses by way of a degraded military.
If allowing gays to serve outside ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ lessens the ability of the military to perform its function — to fight and win wars — then it is wrong. While some further accommodation with gays may be possible, military policy should not increase the inherent risk facing those who do the fighting.