There is a chance that the Lame Duck Congress will repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, thus allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the American military. I confess two reservations. One is this gives Obama, Reid, and Pelosi a significant victory. That is a purely partisan reaction, hence the confession. Let yea who are prepared to cast the first stone first inspect the content of your own character.
The other is that I don’t like major policy decisions being made in this way: hurry up and pass the damn thing while there are still enough Democrats to make it happen. That is clearly an undemocratic maneuver, as the people have spoken regarding the makeup of Congress. But I know too much, I confess, to think that such maneuvers aren’t part of politics in a Republic. Laws and sausage.
I turn then to the last resort of political deliberation: considering the wisdom of the policy. I am not much moved by the fact that the big brass has come out in favor of repealing DADT. The American military is, let us count our blessings, firmly under the control of the civilian government. If Congress wants women integrated into the armed forces, the military will go along. If the President wants the Joint Chiefs to endorse repeal, endorse they will.
I am not more impressed by the Pentagon study that found a low risk of disruption if gay and lesbian persons are allowed to serve “openly” in the military. Again, I suspect that the Pentagon knew what the answer was going to be before they spent nine months answering it. Besides, the Democrats in Congress were prepared to push the repeal well before the study was completed. Why should anyone else take the study more seriously?
What does move me is that I have listened to a lot of debates between proponents and opponents of repeal and the latter always seem at a loss for a good argument. The only significant argument I hear against repeal focuses on “unit cohesion”. If I understand this right, the fear is that enlisted homosexuals will never be fully accepted by their fellow men and women at arms. Thus the unit with an openly gay member will never be the happy band of brothers imagined by Shakespeare’s Henry Five, let alone the band of brothers and sisters imagined by Congress.
This strikes me as a very bad argument. There are all kinds of reasons why one solider might be disinclined to trust another. He’s Irish, or a Democrat. She’s a privileged White girl, or a Red Sox fan. It is one of the jobs of soldiers, sailors, marines, etc., to judge their fellows by their competence and loyalty and nothing else. We expect our armed forces to do their job in harm’s way, which means in the face of a kind of fear that us civilians can scarcely imagine. Compared to that, nervousness about a fellow warrior’s sexual orientation seems like pretty small potatoes.
The men and women who serve in our armed forces must be mentally and physically prepared for the job. They must be scrupulously loyal to the Republic and to the chain of command. If they are otherwise law-abiding, that is enough.
The controversy serves only as a proxy for larger cultural tensions. It is a distraction. It’s time to get rid of DADT.