Don't ask me, because I can no longer tell why a military policy that has failed us in every aspect for the past 17 years is still intact. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), the result of a compromise between the 103rd Congress and former President Bill Clinton, prohibits openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals from serving in the military. It gives service people the "option" of leading a double life or facing dishonorable discharge.
As challenges to the policy mount again in Congress and the courts, there are no compelling reasons for its continuance. If anything, there is a mountain of evidence suggesting its repeal would be overtly beneficial.
The first reason the policy should be repealed is the most obvious of all: DADT is a blatant form of discrimination. It treats the brave men and women who volunteer to serve their country as second-class citizens. A September 10th, 2010 ruling by Central California Circuit Court Judge Virginia Phillips concluded that the policy to explicitly unconstitutional, violating both the first and fifth amendments. This treatment is unacceptable by any measure imaginable.
Second, DADT is eroding our military readiness. Since its inception in 1993, the policy has led to the discharge of over 13,000 service people. Most notably, DADT has eliminated hundreds of talented linguists from the armed forces. This is critical, as linguists are a key component of translating information that plays an integral role in the country's overall defense. As Representative Kriseman of Florida explains on his website, over 55 Arabic translators and nine Farsi translators have been discharged, putting America at a strategic disadvantage in the midst of the War on Terror. In fact, the New York Times reported on June 8th, 2007 that, "Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11."
Despite this tragedy, the military has not learned its lesson, with a large amount of translator positions remaining unfilled. The Times article went onto state that, "Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers." By maintaining the policy, the United States puts national security at risk, especially since discharge numbers fail to take into account the thousands of other individuals who might have been recruited in the policy's absence.
Third, the failing policy is incredibly expensive. The Government Accountability Office reported that between 1994 and 2003, DADT cost the government nearly $200 million in recruiting and training replacements. Some organizations believe these numbers are low. The California Blue Ribbon Commission, headed by West Point professors and former Defense Secretary William Perry and Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb, argue that, when taking into account additional costs like separation and training officers, the actual cost is over $363 million during the same time period.
Fourth, the arguments for keeping the policy in place are poorly formed and unsupported. The primary point made is that it will hurt troop readiness, as discomfort and strife between hetero military service people and their homosexual counterparts will disrupt troop cohesion. This is simply incorrect.
The New York Times reported on November 8th, 2010 that a soon to be released Pentagon report found that the vast majority of active service people and their families don't care about members of the GLBTQ community serving openly. Former Navy Linguist Stephen Benjamin, discharged under DADT, stated, "My supervisors did not want to lose me. Most of my peers knew I was gay, and that didn't bother them. I was always accepted as a member of the team. And my experience was not anomalous: polls of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan show an overwhelming majority are comfortable with gays. Many were aware of at least one gay person in their unit and had no problem with it."
President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, and a variety of other military advisors have called for its repeal from a tactical standpoint. History even indicates that readiness arguments are false. A 1993 Government Accountability Office Report studied the integration of open service people into armed forces in 29 countries. The report concluded that the integration did nothing to disrupt the troops. Some of these nations had less open and tolerant societies than America, and some, such as Israel, were partially trained by our military.
Even from a historical perspective, this argument does not hold water. When racial desegregation was initially proposed, opponents made the same argument about troop cohesiveness. Though the beginning was rocky, integration of the troops ultimately made the armed forces stronger.
A key difference between desegregation and the elimination of DADT is the concept of public opinion. A report by UC Davis explained that when racial integration occurred, "63% of American adults endorsed the separation of Blacks and Whites in the military; only 26% supported integration. A 1949 survey of white Army personnel revealed that 32% completely opposed racial integration in any form, and 61% opposed integration if it meant that Whites and Blacks would share sleeping quarters and mess halls."
When it comes to repealing DADT, opinion polls swing in the other direction. A February 2010 poll conducted by CBS News/New York Times found that only 28% of the population oppose openly homosexual individuals serving in the armed forces. This is significant, as the members of the armed forces come from the general population partaking in such polls, indicating that the repeal of DADT would not even see the rocky adjustment period witnessed during racial integration.
If you want to go even further back, the Roman empire was built upon the backs of a military that allowed open homosexuality. Just sayin'.
The next big argument for maintaining DADT discusses unwanted sexual advances. Opponents argue that allowing for open service will lead to an outbreak of gay men, in particular, hitting on straight men. The fact of the matter is that unwanted sexual advances between any combination of sexes should not be tolerated. These advances should be handled on the same level, regardless of the sex or gender of the individuals in question. There is absolutely no evidence to support these fears anywhere.
Current Marine Commandant Amos recently came forward saying, "This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness." Well, when all evidence indicates that the policy itself is hindering combat effectiveness, and its removal would do nothing to harm it, it does become a social thing. America, as a country, prides itself on "liberty and freedom for all." When the men and women who defend these principles are not granted access to them, it's time to take a step back and get our priorities in order.