Sorry in advance for the huge post today. This is Part III in a series I’ve decided now will come in 6 parts. Link here for Part I and Part II. (If you’re jumping in right now, I’d suggest reading the others–and the comments, too!–before continuing. There’s been a bit of set-up so far.) Again, thanks in advance for not allowing this to get personal and keeping on topic with all your great feedback and comments.
The numerous insightful comments to Part II gave me many more ideas, and actually helped me develop a great argument for changing the policy. We’ll get to good reasons for changing the policy in Part IV, but today this one’s going to piss everybody off because I’m going to take the hard-line military perspective and explain why many arguments made against DADT don’t help the cause because they don’t sufficiently finish the thought I mentioned earlier, that being: “National Security will be enhanced through a stronger Armed Forces and America will be safer by allowing openly homosexual members to serve because…”
By the way, please keep in mind, I’m doing a little Devil’s Advocate on most of this. We’re all on the same side here, I’m just trying to help prepare us for the battle. No good argument is going to be developed in a vacuum and we have to consider the other side of things if we’re ever to make any headway. So here goes:
Show me the money
I’ll only briefly touch on this because I already addressed this as a comment on a previous post. An analogy of the $360M spent over the past decade discharging gays under DADT is to suggest going into the CEO of a Fortune 5 company and telling him you can shave off 0.01% of his budget, and all he’d have to do is make a radical and sudden change to his entire HR department including new standards for recruiting new employees as well as what would be expected of them. Oh, not to mention, the lives and liberties of 300,000,000 people are directly effected by how well his company operates. Although he’d appreciate your concern for the bottom-line, it’s not likely he’d take such a risk for such a small gain.
*Another interesting concern here would be the cost involved in having to develop (and more importantly enforcing) new standards for “Conduct Unbecoming”. All would agree showing up at the unit in drag would be out of the question, but how far into the personal lives and actions of gay servicemembers would commanders have to go to enforce good order and discipline? Before you object to this train of thought, have you been to a gay bar recently? This is a huge can of worms.
What will we ever do without him?
In an attempt to appeal to the mission-oriented folks, one argument against DADT is that we’re losing precious resources in, to name just a couple in vogue, the medical and linguistic fields. This is a good argument in that it actually does pose a question about the mission: Since we’re so in need of these career fields, DADT is directly negatively impacting the mission. Unfortunately, similar to the preceding argument about money, the numbers aren’t really there to back up the rhetoric. For example, as a graduate of the Defense Language Institute myself, I can attest to the rigorous nature of the curriculum. I started in a class with two sections and a total of about 30 students. By the end of the course, we were down to one section, and a dozen graduates. Linguistics is a demanding field of study and a recent call I made to the registrar’s office confirmed what I had recalled from my time there: Far more students wash out of these courses due to poor academic performance than for DADT. In fact, the wash-out rate is upwards of 50% overall, even higher for Arabic linguists. DLI graduates several hundred Arabic linguists a year. Currently there are several thousand Arabic linguists in the Armed Forces and about the same number of civilians working for the DoD, FBI, CIA, and other government departments. The loss of 54 of them to this policy over the past decade is not likely to ruffle many feathers. Again, good point, thinking along the right lines. It’s simply not enough to take such a risk from the military perspective.
Well, Canada does it
One of the most often repeated arguments is that other militaries around the world allow gays to openly serve. This is certainly undeniable. The argument continues that there are no problems in these militaries relating to their respective policies. This has not been shown to me, but even if we accept that as true, what difference does it make? Surely we learn from other nations’ militaries, so a precedent in another country isn’t to be ignored. However, this argument really is only of use when it comes to, say, the implementation of a new policy (how would we do it?) rather than an argument for changing the policy. We don’t take cues on which policies to emulate as much as we view tactics and strategies and measure their applicability. This is because from a broader perspective (which is where the DoD views a policy such as DADT), sure, another military might do something well, or have a great technique we’d benefit from learning, but when was the last time one of these other nations’ militaries liberated anybody or convincingly led a coalition, let alone won a campaign on their own? They could be doing all sorts of great stuff in Canada, but, no offense to our neighbors, who really gives a flip?
A surprisingly common argument is that the military should “reflect” the society it shelters. This, from a military perspective is preposterous. Sorry to be harsh, but take a look around you: there are handicapped people, old people, infirm people, weak and out-of-shape people, people addicted to drugs, criminals and people of questionable moral fortitude. This list of characteristics making individuals unfit for serving could go on and on. Not to (necessarily) compare gays to these other groups, but the suggestion that the military needs to be representative of the Nation as a whole is so full of obvious holes (from a mission perspective), it hardly needs but the example of its absurdity already shown herein. It’s not the military’s mission to “reflect” its sponsor (it never has been), and its ability to do so has nothing to do with its ability to win wars (its actual mission).
You Know You Want It
Polls these days show an increasing comfort among soldiers with gays and there have even been some internal studies done (.pdf link) showing a growing acceptance for serving alongside homosexuals among certain audiences (qualification needed here, as the cited study was very limited). This is actually a very good argument to counter the position taken by DADT defenders that a change to the policy would break down unit morale. Of course, simply countering that point won’t be enough. It’s good, but probably not conclusive enough (what with the soft-science nature of it and all).
That Whole Truman Thing
Desegregation of the military is often used as a model for changing the policy on homosexuality. Indeed, it should be, but the circumstances around that policy change are often misunderstood. When Truman changed the policy (and Eisenhower really did most of the implementation…President Eisenhower, that is, not General Eisenhower), there was a clear and pressing mission-oriented reason for it: Maintaining two separate militaries (albeit, one of them sorely underfunded) was simply not fiscally possible. In 1948, with the military in drawdown after WWII, the infrastructure requirements of two militaries were unreasonable, especially as the face of war and war-fighting was changing with the further expansion of the Soviet Bloc. The need for better flexibility and a new way of fighting demanded more funds than the policy of a segregated military could spare. Although Truman was a good guy and a forward-thinking leader, to suggest his reasons for desegregating the military were purely righteous (in 1948?!) is hardly telling the whole story. This, by the way, also puts the lie to the argument on the other side about “good order and discipline”…the reason it wasn’t really implemented until Ike was president was due to wrangling by the top brass. They saw their way fit to do it eventually, which just goes to show: If there’s a good solid mission-related reason for doing it, it’ll get done even if it pisses everybody off. That’s how the military works, after all.
Hang in there, gang, because in my next post, I’ll present an argument that I believe will show how DADT and barring gays hurts the mission of the US Armed Forces. Play nice in the meantime…