Don’t worry, I’ll shut up soon. This is the fifth in a series of six posts on DADT. The final one is coming either Friday or over the weekend. To catch up, enjoy the previous posts here: Post I, Post II, Post III, and Post IV.
Based on the comments on the earlier posts, it seems clear we’re not all in agreement as to the best approach for arguing the case for lifting the ban on open homosexuals in the US Military. In fact, some readers aren’t even in agreement that it should be lifted at all. That’s fair. But for the moment, I’d ask to suspend doubt at this point and think rather about how (if if happened) a change in the policy could be implemented.
I suggested earlier that no change ever just happens in the military, and great care is taken whenever a policy adjustment is made. In that spirit, we should begin with a study. I propose the US Military conduct a study of how well our straight soldiers interact with their gay counterparts. Which gay counterparts, you may ask? Well, two of our strongest allies in the current engagement liberating Iraq, England and Australia, allow openly gay men and women to serve. I’m not familiar with the policies of these two nations’ militaries, but I presume homosexuals are currently supporting the mission in SWA. Inasmuch, I can’t imagine they’re quarantined from their countrymen nor from the American troops. So, simply, how’s that all going? How does it work? Are special accommodations deemed necessary? And if so, how is that arranged? How do our troops work with them? What are their attitudes? How (if at all) is it impacting the mission? See, when the rubber hits the road, so to speak, some pertinent questions do come up. Let’s take advantage of the incidental interaction of gay and straight troops to determine, if possible, what sort of complications may arise.
Now about the actual implementation of a policy, here’s how I think it could work:
Similar to a uniform change, we could launch a pilot study. I suggest the military authorize a couple units (probably non-combat, non-deployable, probably office-environment) to allow their existing homosexuals to come out. These servicemembers would have a window (say, a year?) to come out to their commanders. Nobody would be compelled to do so, but all in these units would be welcome to if they so desired. After the window closed, it’d be back to DADT and the current policy (at least until a determination was made as to the benefit of changing the policy). After a period of time, we can assess the impact to the mission. From that impact, we can determine if it’d be in our best National Defense interest to broaden the scope.
The issue with this analogy is that, if a uniform change is not made, after the pilot study is finished, those participating go back to the old uniform and put away the prototype forever. Obviously an out servicemember can’t just go back in the closet. Therefore, all the soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines who came out during this time would be protected from discharge for their admissions for the rest of their careers. They’d not be compelled to tell anybody else after the window was closed (i.e., future commanders). Since the cat would already be out of the bag, perhaps they’d be allowed to be out to their future leadership as well, but any attempts to kick them out for being gay would not be permitted regardless of whether the policy changes or not. To enforce this, the servicemember in question (during that window) would have to submit his homosexuality in writing to his commander if he wants to participate. This way, after the pilot was over, he couldn’t be accused of missing the window.
Now, I’m sure there are many potential problems with this argument and hopefully we can work through some of them in the comments section (I know you’ll come up with many ;-)) Here are a couple I’ve come up with, and arguments hopefully helping out:
1) How do you keep commanders down the road (or even during the pilot) from targeting these troops unfairly for discharge (i.e., drumming up charges)?
My reply: Well, you can’t. We have to rely on the professionalism of the officers in charge to play fair. What’s to keep them from doing that to anybody for any petty reason now or any time anyway? Yes, there are bad apples, but I have faith in these officers. Those who don’t will find it hard to argue with me about any military subject.
2) Why should this be only for some units? If you’re not in one of the units participating, you’re out of luck. That’s not fair.
My reply: Yes, I know.
3) What if they’re harassed by other troops, before or after the pilot?
My reply: This goes to order and discipline in a unit. Just as it sickens me that gays (or those presumed to be gay) on rare occasions are beaten up by their fellow troops these days, it’s incumbent on the commanders (regardless of the policy on homosexuals) to foster within their units the (common-sensical, in my opinion) atmosphere that it’s never acceptable to beat up or harm your fellow servicemembers for any reason. Ever. To this end, I again rely on the professionalism of the officers in charge.
Feel free to add to this list of possible issues and hopefully together we can work through them (that’s the idea here).
Coming up in the swan-song post in this series, I’ll change gears and speak more from my cold, black, military heart. I promise everybody will find something objectionable there. Till then, again, please play nice.