February 10, 2010

Not Asked, but Told

Justin Katz

Popular wisdom insists that social issues are a political wedge wielded from the right to divide Americans for political gain. Experience suggests that the cynical aggressors, in this sense, are actually more likely to reside on the left. Not for no reason has President Obama played the "don't ask, don't tell" card as his political agenda falls apart on the grounds that it's extremely unpopular. Gotta distract the rabble, you know.

As a political calculation, I think he's wrong. The movement against him, most visible in the tea parties, is not going to take its eye off the economic and civic issues on which the president has us all so spooked just because he shouted "gays" in an active military. And as a policy decision, Anchor Rising contributor Mac Owens explains why Obama's wrong in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

The congressional findings supporting the 1993 law (section 654 of title 10, United States Code) reflect the common-sense observation that military organizations exist to win wars. To maximize the chances of battlefield success, military organizations must overcome the paralyzing effects of fear on the individual soldier and what the famous Prussian war theorist Carl von Clausewitz called "friction" and the "fog of uncertainty."

This they do by means of an ethos that stresses discipline, morale, good order and unit cohesion. Anything that threatens the nonsexual bonding that lies at the heart of unit cohesion adversely affects morale, disciple and good order, generating friction and undermining this ethos. Congress at the time and many today, including members of the military and members of Congress from both parties, believe that service by open homosexuals poses such a threat.

Mac's also got an FAQ of sorts related to the essay on NRO.

The bottom line is that liberals, progressives, or whatever we're agreeing to call them these days want to disallow society from making distinctions between classes of people, even when those classes have relevant differences, in order to make certain political disagreements seem more important. How one bonds with others, and with whom one bonds in what way, has significant implications in the life-and-death situations that military personnel face regularly. But the likes of President Obama find it convenient to leverage the deep, personal feelings involved in sexual orientation, so all else must be treated as secondary.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

On the other hand, Obama definitely believes in "don't ask, don't tell" for his budget and healthcare nationalization scheme.

Posted by: BobN at February 10, 2010 10:38 AM

Just happened to come here and read your post right after reading this Volokh Conspiracy post, and thought I should put up the address: http://volokh.com/2010/02/10/will-allowing-gays-in-the-military-really-impair-unit-cohesion/

Posted by: Jon at February 10, 2010 11:00 AM

I should also note, since I posted that Volokh link, that Mac does address the topic of the Volokh column at the FAQ link Justin posted.

Posted by: Jon at February 10, 2010 11:08 AM

You & Mac have succeeded in building the ‘straw-man’ arguments on this issue.

Not to mention that you partisan-ism has hit new highs (or lows, depending on how you look at it). Consider yourself in the class of Rush, Rachel & Keith in the arena of fair & thoughtful discourse. But I digress … since you link to it, I’ll address a couple of Mac’s FAQ:

He states that Truman’s order to de-segregate the troops was prompted not by a desire to desegregate but by an improvement to the effectiveness of black soldiers. (ignoring the effectiveness of the white soldiers apparently) What a crock. Hmmm, then maybe Obama should order including woman in combat to improve the effectiveness of … woman in combat. Please.

But my favorite is the mention that African-Americans take offense at the comparison between their equality struggles and homosexuals. As well they should, it’s not comparable. The straw man is that this comparison is somehow relevant to this debate. It isn’t. What is relevant is that in the context of military service, the issue IS THE SAME. Military personnel did not want to serve in the same unit as with African-Americans because it would affect unit cohesion. Sound familiar?

Then there are the examples of people using the ban to get out of military service (with an honorable discharge). I fail to see how that is relevant in any way. And neither is the pro-gay argument that the ban prompts anti-gay violence or witch hunts.

It is correct that there is no ‘right’ to military service. But you are saying that homosexuality is the one area where the ‘unit cohesion’ consideration should trump all. If that were truly your concern, then the military should be able to discharge anyone using the ‘unit cohesion’ reason. Maybe someone isn’t liked. Maybe someone has other issues – a stutter, a physical deformity, behavior that ostracizes them from the unit. The truth is there are military guidelines that rule the process of and who can be discharged and why.

My argument against the ban is that it singles out homosexuality (and not by behavior) as being unfit for military service on the basis of the reaction of the other members in the unit. Unlike for women, the ban is not limited to combat which weakens the ‘unit cohesion’ argument. I’m not arguing the ban is illegal or gays have a ‘right’ to serve. Just that the logic behind the ban is wrong.

“Don’t ask don’t tell” is particularly offensive because of its dishonesty about the issue of homosexuality. That one can be homosexual but as long as no one acknowledges it, you can serve in the military. Is that a coherent message? But from your end, it stops short of legitimizing homosexuals, which is your primary consideration.

Do you criticize Sec. Gates for not discharging soldiers outed by others? Do you criticize those military leaders who want to end the ban? Maybe you did – I’d like to read that.

Posted by: msteven at February 10, 2010 12:57 PM

Other nations have allowed gay and lesbian service members to serve in their militaries without discrimination and without impact on unit cohesion or morale. A comprehensive study on this was conducted by RAND in 1993. RAND researchers reported on the positive experiences of Canada, France, Germany, Israel, and The Netherlands and Norway, all of which allowed known homosexuals to serve in their armed forces.

Ending this discriminatory policy will contribute to our military’s effectiveness. To take just one example, dozens of Arabic and Farsi linguists have been forced out of the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” at a time when our need to understand those languages has never been greater. Thousands of troops – 13,000, by one estimate – have been forced to leave the military under the current policy. That number includes many who could help the military complete some particularly difficult and dangerous missions


Posted by: Steve--i was Ghey at February 10, 2010 1:53 PM

oh because our military is so STRONG IN NUMBERS right now that we couldn't use a few thousand more homosexual soldiers? Maybe if the RIGHT didn't use our men and women as plastic toy soldiers for the last 8 years, we wouldn't have to worry about enlisting homosexuals in the military.

Posted by: Jon at February 10, 2010 5:26 PM

Societal acceptance of Gay marriage, and Gays in the military is inevitable

Since western society has evolved to and beyond recognizing people of color and woman as societal equals doing the same thing for gay folks is the next inevitable moral step.

In previous generations Justin would have been the guy advocating segregation, anti-miscegnation law, Jim Crow laws, keeping women subservient to men and even earlier still he would have been the guy claiming that the bible said that Slavery was AOK.

In short, Justin is an antiquated, immoral m____on.

A speedbump on the road to human moral evolution.

The fact that he claims to do so because of his perverted religious beliefs is farking hilarious, of course

Posted by: Manny V at February 10, 2010 6:16 PM

When you start seeing the Pentagon brass testifying that the anti-gay policy is antiquated...
Given the numerous and far-flung commitments of our armed forces, we can't afford to discriminate anymore. It's putting our national security in danger, and I'm encouraged to see the political and military establishment finally recognize that.

Posted by: rhody at February 10, 2010 6:29 PM

One one side I read analyses by top military experts and on the other I read emotional outbursts and personal insults aimed at Justin by anonymous civilians.

Gee, I wonder...how can I decide which group is more credible?

I may lose sleep tonight pondering this.

Posted by: BobN at February 10, 2010 7:36 PM


What about those miltary experts who don't support the current policy? How credible are they?

It is easier to sleep with your eyes closed.

Posted by: msteven at February 10, 2010 9:11 PM

I don't think you ever lost sleep pondering anything.

Posted by: OldtimeLefty at February 10, 2010 10:21 PM

Rhody-as if you would know squat about what goes on in the military.
The fact is,homosexuals have served honorably in our armed forces for as long as we've had armed forces.
I knew,along with everyone else in my unit in Vietnam that there were some homosexuals in the outfit-no one bothered them or ostracized them,but OTOH they didn't exactly advertise the fact either.It was just better off that way.As long as someone doesn't bother me with their sexual orientation,I could care less,as long as they do what they have to.
I don't think what turns you on is necessarily of interest to anyone else.Assuming it's between consenting adults.
My only problem with homosexuals is when they try to make sexual orientation into a political agenda.
I've known homosexuals who have said they wished the activists would just shut the f**k up sometimes and everyone could just live their lives.
These tend to be older people.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 11, 2010 6:28 AM

Settle down, you poor persecuted fundies. Your lives won't change a whit if gays fight, and possibly die, while serving our country . Your just itching for an excuse for more self-righteous whimpering. Why don't we call this "debate" what it really is:
a plea for attention by thin-skinned superstitious morons.

Posted by: Joe in Coventry at February 11, 2010 10:10 AM

Ronald Reagan to Joe Bernstein:
"There you go again."

Posted by: rhody at February 11, 2010 9:16 PM
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