Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

This morning's Washington Post contains an editorial calling for the end of the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy governing gays in the military. I am still thinking about where I stand on this, but I have a few thoughts on the subject.

First of all, the notion that gays are somehow being hunted down and rooted-out of the military is just not true. In the ten plus years in which I served in the military under the policy, I did not witness nor was I even tangentially associated with the discharge of a gay person that didn't ultimately start with a freely made admission of homosexual conduct. That is, the person in question came forward and voluntarily admitted to homosexual conduct. In this position, a commander has little choice; the policy has been violated and so the person must be processed for discharge. Not once did I see or hear of an investigation of any kind that "outed" someone serving honorably and quietly carrying on their personal sexual life.

Secondly, admitting to homosexual conduct is a virtual guarantee of discharge with little or no besmirchment of one's record (unlike testing positive for drugs). "Coming out" is a relatively pain free way of breaking one's enlistment contract when one comes to realize that military service might not be exactly what the recruiter sold them. (See also under this method of breaking one's contract: suicidal ideation. I used to drive my senior enlisted adviser nuts when he would bring me an "I'm thinking of hurting myself" case and I would say something like "You're full of s--t. You love yourself too much to do something like that.")

Thirdly, if any sex is hurting our readiness, it is heterosexual sex. In my crew, that meant Seaman Timmy and Seaman Tammy schtupping each other resulting predictably in Seaman Tammy's pregnancy and loss to the crew. Because the personnel system couldn't send us a new Tammy for six or seven months, we'd be shorthanded. Eight pregnancies in the sixty days before our deployment (six months away from home)...I wrote my entire crew an email citing statistic after statistic on how disadvantaged single parent raised children were. Boy did I raise a stink! My boss sent it to his boss as an example of the innovative ways waterfront captains were using to stem the tide of this problem...the big boss thought I was being to harsh and controversial....

Finally though, I do think it is probably time to just trash the whole policy. I honestly believe that young people today (i.e. those who make up the vast majority of our military) are a lot more accepting of deviant behavior (and by that, I mean deviating from the norm--this is not a value judgment) and that fears in a decline of unit cohesion are overblown.

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