Yesterday marked the official end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And to quote Yoda, not too soon its end was.
Ever since DADT’s implementation, gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military have been forced to lie about who they are in a culture that prizes truth and honor, because to tell the truth about who they are would have meant the end of their careers. Every day since DADT’s implementation, gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the military have had to live in fear that one slip, one persistent question too many, one candid conversation too far would have entailed their discharge from jobs they took voluntarily, serving the country they love; the country they paradoxically had to lie to in order to continue serving.
The policy was obscene across the board, and in all respects, but some manifestations of it were especially bizarre. DADT not only affected the troops serving in barracks on the front lines, or serving in close quarters in ships at sea, but it also affected intelligence officers, and translators who weren’t closely intertwined with a unit on a 24/7 basis. No matter how little the issue of unit cohesion may have affected a gay, lesbian, or bisexual service member, that service member had to hide his/her identity, lest he/she be discharged. As a consequence, the military lost deeply talented members, and was impoverished as a consequence.
“But unit cohesion had to be preserved,” cry defenders of DADT. To which the reply is that if unit cohesion was so threatened by the presence of gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members, why settle for DADT? Why not go on active witch-hunts in order to root out any and all non-heterosexual members of the military? Remember, DADT allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to serve, it just didn’t allow them to serve openly. By the logic of DADT, unit cohesion would be preserved if service members just didn’t know that some of their fellow service members were/are gay, lesbian, and bisexual. Open non-heterosexuality would undermine unit cohesion, but somehow, someway, stealthy non-heterosexuality would not, by this line of thinking.
The logic is perverse and ridiculous. If gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were/are a threat to unit cohesion, the threat would exist whether or not they served openly. In a great many ways, of course, stealthy non-heterosexuality should have been found by DADT supporters to do more to threaten unit cohesion than open non-heterosexuality ever could; after all, if non-heterosexuals are a threat to unit cohesion, then it would have been best for their presence to have been perceived by unit cohesion’s defenders, the better to preserve unit cohesion against the non-heterosexuals’ ways. But according to DADT’s supporters, it was fine not to know of the identity of those whose presence would threaten unit cohesion. Only when we were clear on who the non-heterosexuals were and are, would unit cohesion be imperiled.
Imagine that. The United States military likes to be able to identify its enemy in battle. Indeed, if there is anything any fighting force hates, it is a hidden foe. But when it comes to preserving unit cohesion, DADT defenders were essentially reduced to arguing that the military would remain strong, if only the supposed non-heterosexual underminers of unit cohesion escaped the notice of others.
There was never any logic in support of DADT; only a blinkered refusal to recognize reality. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have served for decades in the military–in his testimony before Congress on the issue of repealing DADT, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear that he had served with gay service members, and that he knew it. And yet, the Navy, and the military as a whole did not fall apart and collapse in a fit of non-cohesiveness. Rather, the United States military remains the strongest in the world–despite having demanded that certain of its service members serve while being forced to live a lie.
Think of how strong the United States military will be, now that none of its service members have to live the lie imposed on them by DADT.
The people who have been set free by the repeal of DADT want nothing more than to serve this country. They are willing–eager–to put themselves in harm’s way so that you and I can go about our daily lives with fewer cares than those whose countries are saddled with weaker militaries. The very least that we could do was to allow them to serve without fearing that honesty about who they are would mean an inability to do the jobs they very much want to do.
Oh, and about that unit cohesion issue: By all news accounts, there is no newfound Sturm und Drang in the military as a consequence of the DADT repeal. People are going about their jobs, working as best they can to keep this country safe. Service members are being professional in the commission of their duties. The big, giant, cataclysmic, disastrous, calamitous change that was supposed to have been brought about in the aftermath of the repeal of DADT . . . just hasn’t happened. And while it is possible that the following prediction might be proven wrong, I am quite sure that there will be no stories of upheaval and chaos in the military that is due to the repeal of DADT. One year from now–maybe even sooner–we will wonder what all of the fuss was about regarding this issue.
I criticize the Obama Administration a lot on this blog. But they got this one right, and my hat’s off to Chairman Mullen and Secretary Gates, who helped give the Administration cover with defense hawks in their efforts to push for the repeal of DADT, and to the President, for insisting that the repeal occur. I hope that the Administration does other things in the future that will win my approbation, but if the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell turns out to be Barack Obama’s finest hour in my eyes, well, that’s still something worth writing a blog post about.