Tuesday, March 1, 2005

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” Don’t Work

Sorry for the grammatical gnashing, but it makes the point, and so does this editorial in the Miami Herald:

The Pentagon policy on gays in the military, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” isn’t working. It hurts recruitment, impedes retention and costs too much. That’s the conclusion of last week’s Government Accountability Office report that underlines the need to rethink this 12-year-old policy.

The report found that the Pentagon had to spend at least $191 million to recruit and train replacements for some 9,500 soldiers discharged for their sexual orientation. Of that number, the GAO said, 750 held critical occupations in the military, including translators with skills in languages such as Arabic and Korean that are vital to existing U.S. security concerns.

This is happening at a time when the services are having difficulty fulfilling their manpower requirements. For the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, the Marines failed to meet their recruitment goals in January, and the Army National Guard is 24 percent below its recruitment goal for the last four months.

Most of the discharged personnel wanted to remain in the service. More important, there is no evidence that they were causing problems. They ran afoul of the service rules because their sexual orientation became known, which, under the policy, is forbidden.

The dire predictions of those who said any relaxation of the old, anti-gay rules would cause serious disciplinary and morale problems haven’t come to pass. Moreover, U.S. troops now serve alongside allies who permit gays to serve, including Britain, Australia, Italy and Spain. Five years ago, Britain ended its prohibition of gays, and today the Royal Navy encourages them to enlist.

Perhaps “don’t ask, don’t tell” made sense at one time, relaxing the rule that banned homosexuality altogether. It makes no sense today. The policy should be repealed, and men and women who want to serve their country in the armed forces should be allowed to do so without regard to sexual orientation.

There’s also a bit of dialogue from an episode of The West Wing that makes the point as well. The White House is having a meeting with officers from the Pentagon who are opposed to lifting the ban on gays in the military. Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, who is black, drops in on the meeting.

Major Tate: Sir, we’re not prejudiced toward homosexuals.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don’t want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?

Major Tate: No sir, I don’t.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: ‘Cause they pose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That’s what I think, too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.

Major Tate: Yes, sir.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff… Beat that with a stick.