Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pentagon Journal Airs Criticism of DADT

The winning essay from the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition criticizing the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) ban against gays openly serving in the military appears in the upcoming issue of Joint Forces Quarterly. This journal is "published for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and with regards to this essay, The Boston Globe reports:

The views do not necessarily reflect those of Pentagon leaders, but their appearance in a publication billed as the Joint Chiefs’ “flagship’’ security studies journal signals that the top brass now welcomes a debate in the military over repealing the 1993 law that requires gays to hide their sexual orientation, according to several longtime observers of the charged debate over gays in the military.

While decisions on which articles to publish are made by the journal’s editorial board, located at the defense university, a senior military official said yesterday that the office of Admiral Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman who is the nation’s top military officer, reviewed the article before it was published.

You can read the essay in its entirety for yourself here (pdf). I found it to be an interesting and fair examination of issues involved not only with the effectiveness of DADT but also with possible results of repealing this ban. The issues addressed for repeal include not only leadership required from command personnel and some heterosexual servicemembers resistant to such a change in policy, but also the need for behavioral changes from some homosexual servicemembers when it comes to "violations of the military regulations governing fraternization between ranks". While the essay's author acknowledges that the ban against open service may have to led some condoning this behavior, he rightly states the principle that all proponents of repeal I know of agree with: "Ultimately, homosexuals must be held to the same standards as any others".

Perhaps most powerful in this essay is the author's conclusion regarding DADT, which while it may echo much of what proponents of repeal have stated over the years since the policy's adoption, it carries more weight in my view given the forum in which it is expressed:
The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Furthermore, after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. In fact, the necessarily speculative psychological predictions are that it will not impact combat effectiveness. Additionally, there is sufficient empirical evidence from foreign militaries to anticipate that incorporating homosexuals will introduce leadership challenges, but the challenges will not be insurmountable or affect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see if White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will continue parsing his responses to questions regarding DADT as the Obama Administration still punts this down field.

(this is also posted over on Gay Patriot)