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  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Time for Cautious Judgment

    Pentagon (Photo by Newscom)

    As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised last February, the Pentagon’s working group on Congress’s military eligibility law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” has issued a report advocating for and detailing implementation steps of the law’s repeal. After several weeks of media spin occasioned by a WikiLeaks-style drip of select findings from the report, and within minutes of the Pentagon’s release, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) re-embraced his position favoring repeal and pushed for rapid action in the lame duck session now underway.

    The armed forces deserve more than a Harry Reid rush to judgment. The report itself is nearly 300 pages in length, and the Pentagon’s implementation plan is an additional 95 pages. That alone underscores the need for cautious judgment at a measured pace.

    First, consider the media leaks, almost universally reported, that 70 percent of U.S. military personnel believe there will be positive, neutral, or “mixed” effects from repealing the current law on military service by homosexual persons. The 70 percent number is achieved by including within it a sizable bloc—nearly half of that 70 percent—who said that repealing the law would affect them “equally positively and negatively.” The percentage who said repeal would be purely negative outpolled those who said it would be purely positive by a margin of 30 to 18 percent. It would have been equally valid on the basis of this data to leak the following: 62 percent of responding personnel thought that it would have some negative effects or completely negative effects.

    In fact, focusing only on those service personnel who did not view repeal as neutral or mixed, the proportion raising serious questions about issues of morale, recruitment, and retention was significantly higher than the proportion discounting such concerns. For example, on the question of whether a service member would recommend to a family member or friend that he or she join the military, answers in the negative (27.3 percent) were more than four times higher than in the positive (6.3 percent).

    Moreover, members were more than six times as likely to say that repeal would have a negative impact (23.7 percent) on their military career plans as to say it would be positive (3.5 percent). Similar ratios prevailed in the question about the impact on morale (27.9 percent negative versus 4.8 percent positive).

    As the media have now reported, the ratio of negative to positive reaction to repeal is highest among combat units, particularly the U.S. Army infantry and the Marine Corps. Negative views of repeal in these subsets range as high as 60 percent. And this is the result under circumstances where the Pentagon’s ultimate recommendation in favor of repeal was known in advance, if not preordained. If that circumstance had any influence at all, it would lie in the direction of chilling expression of opposition to repeal. When a quarter of the service openly acknowledges the belief that there will be a negative impact on their military career plans, that is therefore likely to be a threshold number.

    Moreover, as the Pentagon’s implementation proposal makes clear, much more than the matter of open service by homosexual persons is at stake in the debate. Topics up for consideration include the military’s definitions of marriage and family—which the Pentagon’s recommendations would clearly undermine—and the religious liberty of military chaplains and individual service members, who face the possibility of limited or no advancement if they decline to treat issues of sexual conduct in the same neutral manner the armed forces apply to non-behavioral characteristics like race.

    In addition, the Pentagon implementation report is perplexing when it states that “for the time being,” it recommends treating homosexual service members as “single” for purposes of military benefits like family housing and health care. The wisdom of placing the U.S. military in the vanguard of the debate over the definition of marriage and the nature of the family is highly questionable.

    Current law is clear: Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, marriage is solely the union of a man and a woman, and that applies fully to the armed forces. Certainly, the Obama Administration’s increasingly shameless attempts in federal court to undermine the Defense of Marriage Act and the current law on open service by homosexual persons inspires no confidence in the intentions of this report’s framers.

    Understanding the implications of a straightforward repeal, as the 2011 defense reauthorization bill contemplates, is a congressional responsibility that should not be delegated to an executive branch that seems predisposed to dismiss such concerns. Far wiser would be the permission of a decent interval, beginning with hearing the candid views of the service branch chiefs who are set to testify at the end of this week, for full assessment and criticism of the Pentagon report and further congressional hearings as needed.

    This would appear particularly appropriate given two facts: First, the military is already operating under an amended policy less than a year old that has resulted in relatively few dismissals for homosexual conduct. Second, we are a nation involved in two foreign engagements, with further instability on other fronts.

    The willingness of our service men and women to give their lives for the nation carries with it the corollary that Congress should be willing to give special weight to their voices on issues of military service. That merits more than one week of consideration in a lame duck session with an expansive agenda of overdue legislative priorities. Preserving religious liberty and the institution of marriage, in fact, are timeless priorities that no session of Congress, lame duck or otherwise, should ever give such short shrift.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Time for Cautious Judgment

    1. Jordyn, FL says:

      I'm rather appalled at the implication that having to treat someone's sexual orientation "neutrally" is somehow at odds with religious liberty. As if being religious somehow makes it okay to treat others unfairly. But then I caught the word "behaviorally" and realized why you would say such a thing. Your view is based on homosexuality being a "behavior" – a choice – rather than part of a person's basic make-up.

      That is incorrect. But do you know what IS a choice? Religion. You have the choice to participate in a religion, and you have the liberty to make that choice. You expect the government to uphold your rights to make that choice, but you think it should take others' rights away.

      Trying to take away someone else's liberty and happiness based on your religious belief is wrong. It's just as wrong as the government taking away your healthcare decisions, your gun rights, your privacy rights. You would be hypocritical to think otherwise.

      You have the right to disagree. You do not have the right to discriminate. DOMA and DADT are both discriminatory.

      How about we treat each other equally while we are on this earth, and let God handle the judgement on an individual basis when that time comes, hmm?

    2. (Mr. Whitney Galbrai says:

      Published locally in Colorado Springs as a Letter to the Editor:


      Leave the Military Alone

      The Gazette, April 1, 2010

      Mr. Laugesen, in his applause of Defense Secretary Gates’ relaxing of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (“Gates weakens ban on gays,” The Gazette, March 27), shows a fatal lack of understanding of and respect for the social culture and personal imperatives that enable our armed forces to achieve what they have in our history and for which they should be highly honored, not subjected to the fashionable political agendas of the day. The military should not be casually tossed off as just another component of society.

      That military culture, Mr. Laugesen, has always been a cut above much of the rest of American society in its individual discipline, group cohesiveness and personal deportment, without which we would have no effective military at all.

      To suggest that a military member’s sex habits, and by implication his or her personal behavior more broadly, don’t matter is worse than naive – it is foolhardy. To imply that a soldier, sailor or airman should be held to no higher standards than other members of society and that no more need be expected of him or her is to indulge in a contempt for the military profession that is patently destructive.

      Service in the military is not a ”right” that may be exercised by all – it never has been. A commitment to military service is prima facie evidence of a person’s willingness to rise above much of society, a dedication to accomplish what others cannot, or don’t choose to, and that demands a very close affinity to an respect for his comrades that must stand the test of challenges that you, Mr. Laugesen, and most Americans will never have to face.

      As a young officer in the U. S. Navy, now decades ago, I held a collateral duty as Summary Court Martial officer, a typical offense for which was a young sailor coming down with the “clap” and for which a typical punishment was loss of pay and a reduction in rating. This was not so much for moral reasons as it was to drive home the imperative that when a crew member is medically sidelined for whatever reason, someone else would be required to do his job for him – violating the most sacred trust of military service. We have now seen a corrosion of this interdependency with pregnant, front-line women in combat. That is evidence enough that we need to leave the military alone and to stop inflicting our social experiments on it and allow it to do the job we ask and expect of it.

      Whitney Galbraith

      Colorado Springs

      CO 719-633-2740

    3. John, Rhode Island says:

      What is absolutely appalling is that we prevent someone from serving their country, potentially dying for this country because of their sexual orientation. If that isn't the most despicable, moral crusading garbage that's ever occurred in this country's history, I'd like to know what tops it.

      You know which other countries prevent homosexuals from openly serving in their militaries? Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan and a whole bunch of other 3rd-world nations. Why would we ever want to rope ourselves in with the likes of them?

      And enough with the Defense of Marriage Act. It's a bad law. I'd like to know where in the Constitution the people gave the Fed Gov the the right to involve itself in marriage. It's more moral-crusading disguised as "liberty". "Marriage" is a religious act and should be left to each religion to manage. To the State, those 2 parties are doing nothing more than entering a business arrangement. Who the parties are should be largely irrelevant.

    4. Patty, Virginia says:

      Morality has certainly died in the United States with the passage of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Since Congress refused to stop gay marriage in Washington DC and the Armed Forces are no longer allowed to discharge people for these acts, our country is definately on a downslide. Wait to see that we will now have Federal legislation encouraging Gay marriage for all states. We no longer count, only those in power that are corrupt and out of touch.

    5. Tom Taylor, Wolffort says:

      The repeal of DADT goes one step further to demoralize straight servicemembers ,at the expense of those who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. So one may argue that a certain percentage of homosexuals being barred from service, reduces the number of potential servicemembers? I would argue, that now an equal number of heterosexual people will not enlist or reenlist because of this new rule. Furthermore, what is a Chaplain supposed to say when in one hand he holds a Bible, Koran which says that homosexuality is a sin. And in the other hand, he holds a ruling which says he must accept the homosexual behavior? Not a very well thought out thing.

    6. Mark C says:

      John from Rhode Island shows just how out of touch with reality he is. He is obviously an historical deconstructionist who is completely ignorant of history. John, history records that as the family goes so goes the nation. Your familial relativism is the cancer eating away at the very fabric of our nation. My question for you John, is, if marriage is no longer an exclusive lifetime union between one and one woman, than who is to say it should be limited to just two people? I'm sure polygamy will go down nicely in the armed services as will as "intergenrational" relationships and polyamorous unions. Through some incest in there too John as we wouldn't to deprive those like Columbia University Prof David Epstein from serving his country with his 24 year old daughter in tow.

      As far as the FED involving itself in marriage, how come people like you whine about that but when it comes time to clean up the mess caused by your sexual relativism you have absolutely no problem going to the FED to ask for special privileges and government handouts? Since traditional marriage is the bedrock of a stable and productive society the government is involved to keep a measure of order and prevent abuses as well as acknowledge the grand benefits of traditional matrimony.

      The bottom line John is that your argument is non-sequitur because under DADT gays could join and serve their country and die if they so choose. But now with the passage of the repeal, my son will be denied that right because with of his Christian convictions he will now become a target by the smug and sanctimonious gay rights crusaders who are never content until they coerce everyone into accepting their loathsome lifestyle. I smell many a military tribunal over this issue.

      My son has already told me any thoughts he had about joining the military went out the window Saturday. I'm sure many more will come to the same conclusion. So let the gays fight and die while my son stays home, along with many others, and fights the a battle of a different kind–the battle against the your corrosive ideas.

    7. G-Man, Virginia says:

      Having served 22 years in the U.S. Navy I am against DADT. The specific reasons that I am against it are because 1) it doesn’t strengthen the Country’s national defenses, 2) the Armed Forces are not a social experimentation laboratory, 3) it creates a special class of individual within the Armed Forces, and 4) it works against formulation of a cohesive fighting force capable of protecting our freedom and liberty. Time will prove these reasons TRUE. I wrote (then) President Clinton and General Colin Powell back in the day when they took the initial step toward total integration … warning of this very thing, but they knew what they were doing. They were setting up this legislation by taking a small, calculated step toward total integration! Sad day indeed for our country.

      I don't glorify my sin, but it saddens me that others glorify theirs. Further, the persistent minority want protected status, and legal justification for their behavior. Christ Jesus, save our Country and save me too!

    8. Bobby Maine says:

      The military has a right to discriminate anyway, It discriminates against people who are out of shape, because they would not perform well in serving their country, it discriminates against people who are less intelligent, and it has race quotas it has to make. Listen to the military on this. If they say it would adversly affect the services to repeal the DADT law, don't repeal it. Wouldn't it be less discriminatory to just have no one say anything about their sexual orientation anyway? If you keep quiet, you know you will not be discriminated against.

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