Some Thoughts On DADT

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  • 08/20/2022

I’ve long been conflicted about the move to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy concerning gays in the military.  Sometimes it’s hard to write a blog post expressing ambivalence.  The Senate is likely to vote in favor of repealing the policy today… although nothing is certain, and high-profile opponents of repeal, such as Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are not abandoning their efforts.  It seems like this might be the last opportunity to weigh in, even though the scales are still bouncing around a bit in my mind.


We’re not talking about forbidding, or allowing, gays in the military.  They’ve always been there, and always will be.  Provided they comply with the DADT policy and don’t discuss or participate in homosexual activity, there’s no way to stop them, and no reason we should.  I guess we could adopt the Czech practice of wiring electrodes to sensitive areas and showing recruits pornography to find out if they’re gay, but there’s not much chance of that, unless the Transportation Security Agency takes over military recruiting.


“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” always struck me as a clumsy but workable compromise.  The military has the right, and the duty, to restrict any behavior it finds disruptive.  I admire the dedication of gay soldiers who have been willing to serve honorably under its restrictions.


I’ve always thought the opinion of combat troops should have been the deciding factor, and they seem generally opposed to repeal of DADT.  Senate Minority Leader McConnell mentioned 58% of those in Marine combat units are opposed, in comments he made this morning.  If there’s one thing the American armed forces have repeatedly proven, through generations of victory against overwhelming odds and merciless terror, it’s that they know what they’re talking about. 


I’m also not comfortable with the way this particular repeal bill is being pushed.  I was outraged at the idea of folding it into a huge military spending bill, an approach that failed last week.  At least it’s a stand-alone provision now.  I still don’t think this is something that should be hastily approved by a lame-duck Congress. 


McConnell’s criticism about the lack of amendments is also solid.  Sometimes amendments produce bloated and misshapen legislation – I really hate the Extreme Ethanol Makeover given to the tax deal – but they are also a way for representatives to express the concerns of their constituents.  The amendments McConnell mentioned, including a requirement for service chiefs to certify that repeal will not harm combat readiness, sound like prudent precautions to me.


I’ve always understood the basic point made by proponents of repealing DADT.  They feel gay recruits are being singled out in a way no other group is.  The explicit prohibition against them serving openly means they must serve secretly, and it’s no surprise they would find this demeaning.  As mentioned above, I admire those who did it anyway.


If it passes, I hope this repeal bill works out exactly the way its proponents say it will.  I especially hope it doesn’t depress recruitment overall.  The near future will be riddled with moments that only the United States armed forces can fill, and questions only they can answer. 


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