Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joint statement from Milbloggers 

Over at BLACKFIVE today, Uncle Jimbo posts a Joint Statement from Military Bloggers advocating an end to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Uncle Jimbo (Jim Hanson as signatory to the Statement) is a Retired Special Operations Master Sargeant, and I believe it is fair to say that he is someone who would self-identify as a conservative. Judging from the mixed comments under the post, there is not universal acceptance.

We consider the US military the greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more from natural disasters. We want that to continue.

Today, it appears inevitable to us that the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual behavior from serving will be changed. And yet, very little will actually change. Homosexuals have always served in the US Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.

The service chiefs are currently studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer. We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.

The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell without compromising its mission. Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.
This is a complex issue, both with respect to attitudes of people inside the military (enlisted and officers), civilian leadership; and, the practical challenges of implementing the change from DADT.

I haven't served in the military. My late father dissuaded me from volunteering for a hitch in the Navy after I graduated from college in 1981, believing that "the peacetime Navy was pretty dull." He had enlisted in the Navy in 1940, received his commission during WWII, saw some action hunting U-Boats, completed his active duty service after V-J Day, and stayed in the Reserves for another dozen years, so he had some basis for comparison. He was an FDR Democrat and had fairly progressive views for someone born before women even had a codified right to vote in the United States, but he was not in favor of having gays in the military, saying, "I can see how it might be detrimental to morale on board ship," which, for some reason, always made me chuckle and think of the classic SNL skit with Michael Palin as the title character and John Belushi as Captain Ned aboard the Raging Queen in The Adventures of Miles Cowperthwaite ("Now, men, I run a mans' ship. I will run it in a manful and masculine way! I will tolerate no men under my command who act in such a way so as to discredit their manhood and manliness! Do I make myself clear?"). Also, my father, while still an enlisted man, once firmly rebuffed an advance made by an officer while ashore stateside, so I think that weighed on his thinking.

I have wondered about a specific hypothetical, and whether combat is the best place to test the bonds that exist between lovers versus the bonds that exist between warriors. Bear with me here, it's just a thought exercise, and your comments are welcome. Let's say that I am in a Marine infantry platoon with TigerHawk, and we are both gay and enlisted men, and have developed a physical relationship, notwithstanding any non-fraternization rules which exist (hey, it's war, it was a crazy time, things happen, we're both good-looking guys). We are on patrol outside of Kabul, and Cardinalpark is on point. Is it reasonable that he would be worried that TigerHawk and I do not have his back to the extent that we would if we were all heterosexuals -- that is, inherent in any relationship involving physical love, is it natural and instinctive to look out for your partner more than you would for someone else, even if that is your duty? Obviously, this hypothetical is also an argument against having women in combat situations, where Cardinalpark on point might be worried that I would be more concerned about my female significant other. The likely response is that the professionalism and training of the Marines overrides the specific protective instinct of a sexual partner, which I would like to believe, but I am not positive.

Setting aside my hypothetical above for the moment (with apologies to fellow bloggers TigerHawk and Cardinalpark for using them as a props without prior notice), I believe that, with respect to non-combat positions, gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military. I realize that distinguishing between combat and non-combat positions is not always a bright line, and that there is both a practical and intellectual inconsistency in that approach. It reflects my muddled current thinking, which I throw open for critique. I do take comfort (borrowing a word used aboard the Raging Queen in the SNL skit linked above) that Uncle Jimbo posted this five years ago:
"If I am lying by the road bleeding, I don't care if the medic coming to save me is gay. I just hope he is one of those buff gay guys who are always in the gym so he can throw me over his shoulder and get me out of there."
Finally, the timing of potential changes to DADT provides an interesting background to the inevitable questions which will arise during the Kagan confirmation hearings, regarding her term as Dean of Harvard Law School and the restrictions on military recruiting on campus. If there are a group of politically conservative Milbloggers who basically now support then-Dean Kagan's position that DADT should be changed, it will tend to undercut the criticism that Senators can make regarding her tenure there.

Fire away.


By Anonymous TIDNCS, at Wed May 12, 04:50:00 PM:

Re your thought experiment: The situation could just as easily arise with a close(heterosexual) buddy on one hand with another soldier that you are not friendly with on the other. Same conflicted ideas of duty.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Wed May 12, 05:15:00 PM:

I think the Millbloggers and other commenters on the letter/post make a strong case that 1) the military has already successfully managed a force that is both straight and gay, 2) they are up to the task of dealing with a repeal of DADT, and 3) what matters is professionalism, not the sexual orientation of soldiers.  

By Anonymous astonerii, at Wed May 12, 05:18:00 PM:

Here is the problem. Silent gay is completely different than open gay. The difference can be seen looking at gay rights marches in San Francisco compared to say A Christmas Parade. Open Gay and Political Correctness will conspire against anyone who is straight. Just look at Nidal Hassen and Open Islamic Extremist and Political Correctness to see where this can lead. Gays will be considered a protected class and when they scream homophobia against one of their team members or bosses, the targeted person will be considered guilty and no chance to prove otherwise. I was on the receiving end of the racist charge, so I know exactly how it will end when a gay person claims someone is homophobic or islamaphobic, it is basically a career ender.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Wed May 12, 05:39:00 PM:

Agreed, TIDNCS, and I had contemplated your point earlier, though I did not post it. I just think there is a shade of difference between a close buddy and someone with whom you have a loving and physical relationship, even given that the Marine on point might be your least favorite guy in the platoon.

Personally, I'm only familiar with the heterosexual physical bond, which I believe is quite strong in the sense that it influences one's thinking; I assume the homosexual physical bond is also strong. I'm also familiar with the emotional nonsexual bonds which men share, and trying to understand the dynamics which might be at play in my hypothetical, or variations of it.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Wed May 12, 05:44:00 PM:

asonerii, I obviously know nothing about the charge against you (and if it was in some sort of military context even); sorry if you got screwed, but I do think the military has procedures in place to try to suss out the facts of any serious accusation, although I acknowledge it can get complicated, as it does already in cases of alleged rape, just to name one. That said, I really don't see the relevance of a gay rights march and a Christmas Parade to the subject, as I'm sure the outfits at both of those events would be considered out of uniform.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Wed May 12, 09:03:00 PM:

I've commented on this topic consistently in the past. Search the archives if anyone is interested.

"I do think the military has procedures in place to try to suss out the facts of any serious accusation, although I acknowledge it can get complicated, as it does already in cases of alleged rape, just to name one."

Oh sure, you will likely be found innocent if you are innocent. But that 'investigated for sexual assault/racial harassment/whatever' stays on your file (or reputation) and serves as a de facto red flag. At a certain point, congratulations, you're un-promotable. This is part of the reason that flag officers tend to be such politically correct weenies; if you've gone your whole career without pissing anyone off it might mean you're a team player but it might also mean you lack fire.  

By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Wed May 12, 09:42:00 PM:

D82, thanks for the insight.  

By Blogger Cas, at Thu May 13, 11:25:00 AM:

Having served in the military recently (retired after 20 yrs) there may be several aspects that most "civilians" do not think about.

One deals with "dependants" or "family members." Currently, when a military member (male or female) gets married or has a family, those family members, which includes almost any relationship you care to name (step-children, parents that you are the primary care-giver for, divorced but not remarried spouses, etc.) are able to access all facilities on military posts, and are eligible for TRICARE (the Military Health System), which also acts as insurance with civilian doctors.

Also, if you remove DADT, does that mean that you ALSO allow that openly gay/lesbian member to MARRY the individual of their choice? Even if that memebr is posted to a base where homosexual marriage is against the law? If an openly gay member marries in a state where it's legal, then gets posted to a state where it isn't legal, how will the authorities handle that gay/lesbian member and their spouse?

There are regulations within the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which prohibit, "...all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces..." (Article 134). How do prosecutors determine what exactly are now considerd those actions that are defined in this article?

These are the questions that AREN'T being either asked or answered, and will cause major problems to our military that is TRYING to fight a war against islamic fascists.

By the way, think of the propaganda value of this policy shift to these jihadists; "These foreign devils permit homosexuals in their midst!" (as if they need any other example of "moral decadence" to use against us)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 13, 04:54:00 PM:

I don't understand.

Everyone admits DADT says there are plenty of gays in the military.

So repealing it would do what to benefit the military?

For every DADT gay in the military there are three people who DADT that they find gays morally or religously repugnant.

Right now these two serve side by side. The gays do their thing while staying silent, the anti-gays have their feelings while staying silent.

You now want to upset the apple cart, and really don't say way other than it makes you feel better about yourself.

Or at best you have compassion for gays, but don't have the same feelings for people whose religous orientation is as important as some people's religous orientation.

DADT is a happy middle ground. Yours chooses sides, and shows your own bias.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Thu May 13, 07:05:00 PM:

Anon 4:54 -

Having gay people serve openly in the military wouldn't make me feel any different about myself. I think it is a good idea for the military to have access to the best people who have a desire to serve their country in that fashion, and if some happen to be gay, then so be it. The issue then becomes -- as you alluded to -- does it make sense for them to be open about their sexuality (as would be likely the case in the civilian world today) or not, and what are the overall effects, good and bad, on the ability of the various service branches to perform their functions?

Having a religious bias against gays may not be uncommon, but, as I understand the Christian Evangelical point of view, you "hate the sin but love the sinner." If what you are saying is that there would be otherwise effective personnel who would not perform their functions as well because the person next to them was now permitted to be open about their sexuality, then the aggregate impact of that would have to be considered in any kind of transition period of a proposed policy change.

I will say your description of DADT as a "happy middle ground" is as positive a characterization as I have ever seen of that policy. My recollection is that is was a compromise cobbled together in the early days of the Clinton adminisitration when Clinton tried to force the Joint Chiefs to change the then-existing policy to one of having gays serve openly, in an effort to fulfil a campaign promise. Clinton backed down, and DADT was a way for him to save face, and still claim that he took a small step forward. In that context, it is worth noting that attitudes have changed significantly since 1993.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu May 13, 07:09:00 PM:

The example I tried to use long ago was of a woman who wished to go to war, but was prevented from doing so because of her sex.

So long as she disguises herself and discharges her duty satisfactorily, does her presence have any logistical or readiness impact to the command?

No, because her performance is adequate and her sexual orientation is unknown.

Now say she one day decides she can no longer live with the dishonesty of pretending to be a man. She whips off her helmet and her breastplate and her fellow soldiers now know she is a woman.

Proponents of repealing DADT will argue that since her closeted female presence did not impact the unit before her sex was known for certain, making her sex known now changes nothing.

I think that's nonsense.

Regarding your hypothetical, I don't think someone's split second battlefield decision is the problem Escort81.

The morale problems we see in commands usually revolve around sexual jealousy, unwanted sexual advances, relationships gone bad and the resulting fallout (accusations, revenge or grudge matches, etc), accusations of favoritism in the ranks with the attending "people taking sides" nonsense. They also revolve around accusations of sexual harassment or rape, sometimes motivated by the desire to deflect a bad performance review or ruin someone's career.

There's been a lot of talk about combat but I think the real problems will occur in support units where people have too much time on their hands and discipline has always been problematic at best. People who are getting shot at don't have as much time to do dumb things. They're too busy staying alive.

But an army travels on its stomach: armies from time immemorial have been hamstrung by logistical burdens. I've never seen anyone explain to me why attrition from DADT (far less than 1%) is unbearable but unit non-deployability rates of 5-26% from voluntary and preventable pregnancy are no problem.

A stuffed marmoset by parcel post to the first person who can explain this one to me.  

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