Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Poll Shows Senior Military Officers Support DADT

The findings of this CNAS poll are interesting in what active duty and recently retired senior officers think about various proposals to "fill the ranks" of the military:

78% - Expand options for legal permanent residents to serve in exchange for citizenship
58% - Allow a larger percentage of those who have GED but not a high school diploma
47% - Increase enlistment bonuses
47% - Increase the maximum age restriction
38% - Reinstate the draft
22% - Allow gays and lesbians to serve openly
7% - Increase use of criminal, health, and other "waivers" for service

The second and third ideas are worthwhile to examine and in some instances are being implemented as we speak. The first idea makes me wary a bit of following ancient Rome's poor example of accidentally creating a mercenary army composed largely of foreigners, but does provide some benefits as well. I'm also wary of the fourth idea, yet again there are benefits to exploiting the knowledge and skills of older Americans who are able to serve. The idea of resinstating the draft is a non-starter, a bit of a third rail in politics that the current conflicts will not generate enough support to implement. I'm glad to see a lot of skepticism by officers about the various waivers that have been used by the military in recent years. Except for the draft, this idea concerns me the most about the effectiveness of our military.

Finally, we get to the idea of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell to allow gays & lesbians to serve openly. It doesn't really surprise me that among senior officers this garners only 22% support. They tend to be more conservative and first began serving under a very different era than the current climate for homosexuals in our society. We saw the same kind of angst and opposition among all levels of the officer corps when racial desegregation was pushed through in 1948 and later when women were allowed to serve. Such change always brings its own set of unique problems that have to be dealt with, no matter how minute. No officer worth his or her salt generally takes on additional problems in fulfilling their mission unless they are ordered to do so. Some have difficulty adapting to new situations and environments from what they have always known. We saw evidence of this when the Cold War ended in the early 1990s and the military was forced to examine how to perform its mission given the new realities. The idea of large armies battling for control over the Fulda Gap, for example, went out the window. Recent conflicts have shown that the old strategies were obsolete in the face of asymmetric warfare. It should be noted that among the respondents to this poll, 89% are 51 or above in age, 71% of the retirees had left the service 11+ years ago, and only 9.9% "have been to Iraq and/or Afghanistan at least once". It would be interesting to see if the results of this poll differ with the junior officer corps, usually of younger age, as well as a larger sample of officers who have served one or more times in Iraq/Afghanistan. I'm also curious if the number of tours in either conflict for each officer may have an impact on the results as well. Finally, how different would the results be for retirees who left the service in the past 5 years?

If there is one constant in military matters, it is that change is inevitable. The current opposition among senior officers to repealing the ban against gays openly serving may delay its repeal, but in the long run will not prevent it. In my view, the time has come now for the military to take advantage of the change in our society regarding homosexuals and Congress should repeal the ban. The struggle to achieve this isn't over by a long shot, but support for such a move is growing every day and sometime soon full integration will take place in spite of the skepticism. I predict that much of the angst we see now will in the future be looked back upon with great puzzlement.

UPDATE: Oops. I missed the other CNAS poll that was attached to this one. This one had a much smaller sample but of the respondents, all were active duty or had retired no more than 1 year ago, 83% were 50 years or younger, and 30% had served in Iraq at least once while 13% were in Afghanistan for at least one tour. The results concerning DADT were almost the same: only 23% of respondents favored repeal. I'm still curious what factor the other items I mentioned play into the results of both of these polls. While all of this is interesting, this doesn't change my view on repeal.

UPDATE: I must be having an off day today. My apologies. I also missed the disclaimer CNAS put out concerning these two polls. Of particular note is the following that may have some impact on the results:
Like many surveys conducted by the media and other organizations, including past FP indexes on terrorism, the CNAS/FP effort was not a randomized poll. Instead, emails were sent to thousands of individuals, mostly members of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), but also to additional active duty personnel currently serving in fellowships or at senior service schools, as well as to several hundred retired general and flag officers who were selected for their long service and extensive experience...

When we sent out the survey, we were unsure what mix of retired and active officers would respond, particularly through MOAA. As it turned out, although 285 active duty personnel responded, the response from the retired community was much larger, so that 92 percent of the 3,437 total respondents were retired. Some 700 participants had retired within the past 10 years, so that 29 percent of survey respondents were active duty or retired within the last ten years, while 71 percent had retired more than 10 years ago. Finally, and as noted in the FP article, more than two-thirds of respondents had combat experience and 10 percent had operational experience in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

(this is also posted over on Gay Patriot)


Pepe said...

One of the first things we should notice is that only 7% support waivers for criminal behavior, etc. - and that is something the DoD has already tried. I think it may be a reflection of their experience dealing with soldiers who get in the service under these waivers. The problem with DADT is that these officers most likely don't have any experience dealing with openly gay troops so they don't have much to base their lack of strong support on. In fact, if they did deal with gay troops, it was probably to investigate and/or discharge them. The investigation and discharge process is such a negative experience, it could mold their perception of gays in general.

John said...

All good points, Pepe. Thanks.