Dismantling “don’t ask, don’t tell”

I’m glad “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) has been repealed. I think that ultimately, we will be better off in the long run, despite the inevitable short-term middling that comes with wide-reaching reform.

I’m glad “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) has been repealed. I think that ultimately, we will be better off in the long run, despite the inevitable short-term middling that comes with wide-reaching reform.

For those in the military already resigned to the change (you’ve seen the polls), the repeal of DADT will yield little remarkable differences in the way the service runs things. For those opposed—those involved in U.S. Army combat arms and the U.S. Marine Corps in general—well, I hate to say it, but we’re just going to have to employ the old mantra, and improvise, adapt and overcome our way through this one.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a very brief look at the debate over DADT as a whole. Without condoning or condemning the act, the debate itself deserves some commentary. Gloves off, free-for-all.

Having gays in the military does not mean there will be an influx of stereotypical, effeminate, Queer-Eye-For-The-Straight-Guy-esque malarkey into the crisp, locked-on military establishment (maybe this goes without saying, but you’d be surprised). The truth of the matter is, regardless of issues around homosexuality, the military has in place standards of conduct that apply to both orientations. Remember how public displays of affection could get you in trouble back in high school? Yeah, we’ve got the same thing in the military. Officially, you aren’t even allowed to hold hands with your wife/husband while in uniform. Same goes for kissing.

Technically, you aren’t even allowed to be openly heterosexual any more than you’re allowed to be openly gay.

The United States military takes great pride in being one of the few major professional militaries left in the world—and part of being professional in the workplace means keeping your mouth shut about your personal life.

Before you say anything: Yes, I’m aware that there is a major disparity between what’s allowed in the books and what happens in the fleet. In my experience, you’d be hard pressed to find an exchange between any two grunts that doesn’t involve talk of %@&*#. True my reference point is decidedly Marine in nature; I’m going to assume it’s the same in the other service branches.

Professionalism, proper conduct, yadda yadda—military is military. Wondering what I’m getting at with this? Simple. “Gays serving openly in the military” doesn’t mean we’re suddenly going to see soldiers or Marines prancing around in pink leotards, grinding and party-boarding to The Village People. Conduct standards are the same for everybody, and will not change any time soon. Believe me, should behavior like that indeed crop up, it will be swiftly crushed by the iron fist of non-judicial punishment—think “Full Metal Jacket,” “Jarhead,” “Heartbreak Ridge,” etc.

Some of you might find this unfair, uncivil or just plain mean. Deal with it. For those of you that have never served, I’ll enlighten you to something that, should you ever take up the call, will become abundantly clear on your very first day of boot camp.

The United States military, though admirably under the auspices of an overarching civilian leadership, is a society in and of itself. Like it or not, the military is, at its core, a fascist society, wherein one is not free to make decisions, where the right to free speech may be subdued and where one can be actively persecuted for errant political leanings.

Sound rough? It is. Get over it. It’s not for everybody. The U.S. military might have an impressive record as an initiator of civil progress—in the Marine Corps, after all, you are no color but green. But the military is not, in and of itself, a progressive, liberal, open society, in keeping with that of the country it is sworn to defend. The bottom line—unless it makes for a more effective soldier, don’t look to the military lifestyle for a standard of egalitarian utopia or social progress.

One more thing that’s been bugging me—you need to determine for yourself the actual pertinence of this. Pro-DADT repealers dig this up all the time. It is true that several countries throughout the world allow gays to serve openly in their armed forces, including every member state in the European Union, NATO (except Turkey), Israel and Australia, among many others. Issues of international peer pressure aside, I would like to clarify something right from the get-go. With the exception of Australia and Israel (and to an extent, the United Kingdom), the aforementioned countries are not, to put it lightly, famous for prowess in armed conflict. Folks, the U.S. Armed Forces are collectively the most fearsome military power in the history of mankind, leading the world in scope of training, professionalism and technological advancement.

Without condoning DADT, which I consider both counterproductive and silly (see the first sentence of this editorial), it makes no sense whatsoever to build off this success by implementing the formulas of less successful contemporaries. Do you honestly think the key to advancing American military preeminence is emulation of the Albanian model?

Inversely, you look at the real heavyweights among world militaries (China, South Korea, Turkey and arguably North Korea) you’ll find that the Draconian practice of banning homosexuals from military service is still quite prevalent.

Are the armed forces of the EU and NATO made weak by allowing open service of homosexuals? No more than China and North Korea are made strong by implementing the opposite. Ultimately, the correlation imputes no real pattern. If there is something to be gleaned from this, it is that the effects of DADT policies, or the absence of the same, are negligible. If there is any discernible impact related to open service of gays, or lack thereof, I can’t see it.

Both sides can take that to heart. ?