The NYTimes looks at the current state of play on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The official rationale for the policy is that allowing openly gay servicemembers in the military would negatively impact unit morale and cause recruiting problems. But what has happened to the militaries of other countries who have allowed gays to serve openly?
24 foreign armies, most notably those of Britain and Israel, have integrated openly gay people into their ranks with little impact on effectiveness and recruitment. In Britain, where the military was initially forced to accept gay troops by the European Court of Human Rights, gay partners are now afforded full benefits, and the Royal Navy has called on a gay rights group to help recruit gay sailors.
In fact, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell exacerbates existing recruiting problems.
The new debate on “don’t ask, don’t tell” also coincides with multiple deployments that are being required of many American troops by a military that has lowered its standards to allow more high school dropouts and some convicted criminals to enlist.
“Would you rather have a felon than a gay soldier?” said Capt. Scott Stanford, a heterosexual National Guard commander of a headquarters company who returned from Iraq in June. “I wouldn’t.”
Via Yglesias, an article in TNR points out that the Army is still facing severe recruiting problems—it keeps raising the age of enlistment (soon my grandpa will be able to serve again), the percentage of new recruits failing boot camp has been pushed steadily down, “[t]he number of Army recruits who scored below average on its aptitude test doubled in 2005, and the Army has doubled the number of non-high school graduates it can enlist this year. . . . In May . . . the Army signed up an autistic man to become a cavalry scout.”
As a consequence of recruiting problems, often the law is ignored. From the Times piece:
[C]ommanders look the other way when someone is suspected of being gay or even avows it, especially if that service member is valuable. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, discharges of openly gay members have fallen by 40 percent.
So, to sum up, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is morally repugnant, it has no rational policy basis, it’s not being enforced in many cases, and when it is, it’s actively harming military readiness.
Also, not surprisingly given the carnage in the Middle East, the policy is being abused by military members who want to get out of their service commitments.
[T]he policy lets unhappy troops, straight or gay, ditch the military service to which they have committed. About 85 percent of those discharged under the policy had declared a homosexual orientation, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a gay rights watchdog; roughly half that number had volunteered the information simply to get out of the military.
“It lets people kind of get out of jail free,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, that has sided with the effort to eliminate “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Where have I seen that before . . .