Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy: Unfair to Some But Is it Bad?
The issue of gays in the military has reared its head once again as the new Obama administration takes power. Reports are that President-elect Obama will end the Clinton-era DADT policy that requires gays to remain closeted.
Pundits will remember the debacle that ensued in the opening days of the Clinton administration in 1992 when Bill Clinton suddenly declared an end to the long-standing policy that abolished gays in the military. The political firestorm that ensued caused the new president to quickly retract into the famous don’t ask, don’t tell approach.
According to Obama’s transition team:
Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
With the country in economic crisis and fighting two wars, it is curious that Obama would tackle this radioactive issue. With managerial bandwidth at a premium in the White House, each issue championed diminishes the ability to tackle other more pressing concerns.
One suspects (and hopes) that Obama is merely throwing vapid whispers into the arena to pacify the left. There is growing concern among the left flank that Obama is not delivering on his message of change. Throwing political capital at an issue that has remained quiet is a poor choice for the incoming president.
On the merits of the issue, the same arguments apply now as they did in 1992. The US military exists to kill people and deter others from killing us, and to that end effectiveness trumps all other considerations. There is no room for manipulation by the social engineers in the elitist class.
That is not to say that openly gay personnel in the military is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know. The way to find out is poll the troops and solicit opinions from the generals, rather than entering office with an uninformed policy position. If it would be bad for troop morale, it would be a bad policy. That is really all that matters, since the US military can afford to do without the valuable services of the few gay men and women who wish to serve.
And on the other side of the argument, critics of the current policy will continue to compare gays in the military with the racial integration that occurred after World War II. Similarly, social engineers in Washington were chiefly responsible for the change but there is potentially one key difference. The troops largely thought it was a good idea, while it was the old generals who largely resisted.
There are logistical issues as well without easy answers. Do openly gay men shower with their brethren manly men? The idea reminds us of the jokes about soap bars in prison. If gawkers are allowed, do we throw the women in there for more equal fun?
Effectiveness is all that matters when applying standards to the military. Whether openly gay soldiers should serve is a decision best informed by the troops themselves and the military experts who lead them. Regardless, we can all agree there are more pressing issues for the new president to expend precious political capital.