The US’s Baffling Stance on Gays in the Military (Updated)
I have ignored Obama’s refusal to take concrete steps to end formal discrimination against gays and lesbians, because it’s not really the subject of this blog. But I have followed his gradual abandonment of his campaign promise to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with increasing concern. It seems clear that he has no real stomach for taking on the military brass — as today’s statement by Adm. Mullen indicates:
“I’ve had conversations with [Obama] about that. What I’ve discussed in terms of the future is I think we need to move in a measured way,” Mullen said.
Mullen said he has discussed with his staff what steps might be taken to implement a change in the policy.
“I haven’t done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my — give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times,” he said.
By “our people,” Adm. Mullen clearly wasn’t referring to the more than 13,000 soldiers who have been kicked out of the military because of DADT since 1993. The military couldn’t care less about the impact of DADT on them.
There are many things about the US military that I do not understand, but its counterproductive hostility to permitting gays and lesbians to serve openly has to be at the top of the list. The military’s “defense” of DADT gets increasingly bizarre with each passing day. Here is another Adm. Mullen classic:
President Barack Obama’s top military adviser Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said that the Pentagon would comply if Congress repeals the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, but added the U.S. armed forces are already stretched thin fighting two wars.
Perhaps someone smarter than I can explain how allowing highly-skilled soldiers to continue to serve their country — such as the 58 Arab linguists who have run afoul of DADT — will exacerbate the military’s personnel problems.
And then, of course, there is Robert Gates:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that if the ban were lifted, it would be difficult for the military to restructure its units to accommodate homosexuals.
This “rationale” makes me the angriest of all, because it not only insults gays and lesbians — who, of course, are serving in military units as we speak — it also insults average soldiers by assuming that they could not possibly cope with the idea that some of their comrades might not be heterosexual. Indeed, that’s what baffles me the most about DADT: the US military’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the experience of numerous other militaries around the world, which somehow manage to allows gays and lesbians to serve without losing their ability to fight. Here is a (partial) list:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea
- United Kingdom
Israel, for God’s sake! I think the IDF has done okay despite the presence of gays and lesbians.
I once asked a very high-ranking officer in the New Zealand military whether its inclusive policies — even transgendered soldiers can serve — had caused any problems in terms of military readiness. He looked at me like I was from Mars, as if he literally didn’t understand the question. (And note that gay marriage is not legal in New Zealand and is opposed by a majority of New Zealanders.) I reminded him of the US miiltary’s position on allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. He laughed and said, “we don’t understand many things the Americans do.”
Neither do I.
POSTSCRIPT: I don’t want to give the impression that all high-ranking military officers in the US share Adm. Mullen and Robert Gates’ retrograde views. See here for a statement opposing DADT signed by 104 retired Generals and Admirals.
UPDATE: Being gay — disqualifying. Being autistic, not so much…