Thanks for indulging me once again. This is Part IV in a 6-Part piece on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the US Military’s policy barring openly homosexual servicemembers. See here for Part I, Part II, and Part III.
We’ve discussed previously why some arguments for repealing the ban on open homosexuals in the US Armed Forces have fallen so far on deaf ears (see previous posts). So how can we get the policy changed? I’ve argued we need to frame the debate in such a way that those who are dedicated to the mission of the military will sit up and take notice. Which is to say, how can we show that the policy of actively barring open homosexuals from serving puts the military’s mission in jeopardy?
I have a couple ideas:
First of all, there’s no such thing anymore as compelled service. I don’t just mean the draft, of course. I also mean that anybody currently serving can walk into his commander’s office, declare his homosexuality (whether it’s true or not), and if the commander is convinced his troop is telling the truth, he gets to stroll out, ditch his commitment, and nary a sly word is spoken. This argument needs further development, but the idea is there to present a position about how wantonly allowing people out of their commitments to the military is definitely harmful to the mission. We’d also need some strong numbers.
Another, much more formidable argument comes from seeds of thought planted by Grandpa Patrick, who commented on an earlier post, and it goes like this (please have patience with me, I’ve tried to set this up in a logical fashion):
National Security will be enhanced through a stronger Armed Forces and America will be safer by allowing openly homosexual members to serve because the current policy unnecessarily and unreasonably puts Classified Intelligence at risk. Here’s why:
The current policy, (10 USC 654), does not disallow homosexuals from service. Rather, it states that acts of homosexuality are grounds for discharge. These “acts” have been defined and simply put, you can’t say you’re gay (or bi), nor have sex with another dude (or with another female if that’s you). But you can do all sorts of other things, like going to gay bars, hanging out with other gay folks, participate (in civilian clothes, of course) in Pride parades, subscribe to gay publications, have tons of gay porn even. Basically, the only things you can’t do are have gay sex or say you’re gay.
What’s even more curious (and more the point of this post), is that since they Don’t Ask anymore you can have been gay all your life before you enlisted. You can have engaged in all sorts of gay sex and even have self-identified openly as being gay and they’d never know because they’d never have inquired and you’d never been compelled to divulge.
On a tangent is the topic of security clearances. On August 2, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12968. Section 3.1.c-d states that “[n]o inference concerning the standards in this section [that of granting a clearance] may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the employee.” This means they can deny you a clearance if you’re some sort of sickie pedophile, but not just because you’re gay.
Security clearances are given on the basis of, among other things, the likelihood of the subject’s being the target of blackmail. The idea being that we don’t want to trust National Security secrets to someone who is likely to be blackmailed for the information: “Comrade, tell us what you know or we’ll expose you to your commander, wife, friends, business associates, etc.”
Where the two policies (DADT, and security clearances) collide is in the practice. A servicemember can be living by the rules (not telling anybody, and not engaging in sex), but still be at risk for blackmail.
Here’s a scenario to illustrate the point: While in college, Bob figures out he’s gay, comes out, and engages in numerous consensual sexual acts with other, of-age, guys. After college he decides to join the Army, which doesn’t inquire about his sexual past (Don’t Ask), and he doesn’t divulge (Don’t Tell). Bob further decides that four years of celibacy is worth the pride he’ll feel by serving his Country. So he makes himself a pledge that he’ll refrain from any homosexual activities and won’t tell anybody he’s gay during the term of his enlistment. Bob has chosen to follow the rules explicitly. The MOS he gets carries with it a Top Secret security clearance, and in the course of his investigation, Bob continues to follow the rules by being frank about his past (he’s also aware that, according to policy (see slide 13), security clearance investigators are barred from sharing any of the information–including about homosexuality–with Bob’s chain of command, or anybody else for that matter). He’s granted the clearance and proceeds with life and his service. Down the road, a foreign agent looks into his past and uses it as blackmail knowing that its exposure would end Bob’s military career. Choose your own ending to this story, because as a servicemember dedicated to the defense of my Nation, from my perspective the damage has already been done: Whether Bob caves to the spy or not (in my mind’s scenario he doesn’t), Classified National Security information has been put at risk.
See, when someone is granted a security clearance, he has gone through the ringer with investigators inquiring as to what about him may put him at such risk. Having gone through this ringer, he lives with the fair presumption that if he lives by the rules, he’ll be good.
DADT (and more specifically the barring of openly gay servicemembers) destroys that fair presumption. One can be following the rules and not in breach of any of his obligations and still be at risk of blackmail. What’s worse, he’s at risk expressly because of the policy, not because he’s broken any rules. Which is to say, were it not for the policy, Bob (who’s dedicated to following the rules) would not be at risk of blackmail whatsoever (presuming of course, he’s not breaking any other rules).
Keep in mind, from the military perspective, I’m not concerned about Bob so much as I am about the secrets with which he’s been trusted. This is what military leaders will hear: Not that Bob’s been put on the spot or that he’s being unfairly targeted, yadda, yadda…But that national security information is at risk even though the person charged with keeping it secure has followed all the rules. Here the rules, not the servicemember, have created an untenable situation of putting National Security at risk. Q.E.D.
The beauty of this proposition, from my perspective, is that any servicemember can hang out at the O’Club or the E’Club and make this argument without “looking like a fag” (depending, I suppose, on what he’s chosen for a drink, ha ha) or being “some sorta fag-lover“. Also, even a gay soldier or officer can discuss this with his peers unemotionally, because the argument itself is based solely on national security, and not platitudes about individual servicemembers and their “rights”. Oh, plus, it’s based on facts.
Commanders ask not for problems, but solutions. In that spirit, coming in the penultimate post in this series, we’ll discuss how we could implement a new policy, some of the problems we might face with integration, and what the new service might look like if openly gay individuals were allowed to serve.