What’s the worst thing about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? It’s even worse than the specter of loyal officers falling on their swords, gritting their teeth and respecting America’s time-honored tradition of civilian command. Even worse than embracing trendy-lefty pop culture feel good sentiments. Even worse than launching a massive social experiment in the middle of a shooting war, with real live soldiers serving as lab rats. Even worse than a shabby manipulation of opinion polls which delivered a contemptuous backhand to those most at risk of death or dismemberment in the performance of their duties.
No, the worst thing about the repeal of DADT was delivered by the Washington Post via email the other day. The Senate, the WaPo announced, had voted to end the 17-year-old ban on gays serving openly in the military. No. That is not true. Gays have been banned from the United States armed forces for as long as there have been armed forces. DADT was Bill Clinton’s attempt to finesse his promise to his leftist supporters with the wholesale resistance of the military leadership to allowing gays to enlist.
Seventeen years later, perhaps society has sufficiently changed, certainly among those young enough to enlist in the military, that being gay no needs to be a threat to unit cohesion and morale. Perhaps young men and women don’t really care one way or the other. Perhaps. However, the fact that combat units were the only segment of the armed forces to respond negatively to the question posed by the manipulative survey cited above, that of the consequences of serving with openly gay soldiers, should have given our elected officials pause. Shouldn’t the opinion of those who are actually laying their lives on the line be weighted considerably higher than those managing the Visitors Center at Davis Monthan Air Force Base?
After all, why do we have armed forces? Isn’t it to protect and defend this country against our enemies? Surely that should count as a higher mission than assuaging tortured consciences or validating a rickety self-esteem? Whether gays are allowed to serve or not, or allowed to “be gay” while serving or not, should be a non-issue compared to figuring out how to get more uparmored humvees into combat zones.
This misguided concern reminds me of the comment I read, made by a professional feminist back when the question of the day was whether women should be allowed to enroll in the service academies. The brass was resistant, arguing that this was the thin end of the wedge which would ultimately lead to women serving in combat. That wouldn’t be such a bad outcome, the professional feminist argued, as that might help the military overcome its then-regnant “warrior culture.”
I laughed out loud at the phrase. Even though I was still in the liberal phase of my transition to adulthood, I readily acknowledged that the “warrior culture” was exactly what I wanted in my armed forces. I didn’t want tastefully decorated barracks. I didn’t want color coordinated tea cozies. I preferred to see troops deploy to strains of Wagner rather than Donna Summers.
Whether repealing DADT will become a problem will be apparent in due time. One hopes it won’t be. No doubt there are gay men serving on battlefields today. No doubt they respect the dictates of DADT. No doubt, even when granted license to tell, they will continue to keep their mouths shut. Unless the policy is further refined to Show and Tell, combat units should continue to function, and that’s the most important thing.
Ultimately, our armed forces will continue to reflect, albeit distantly, the culture they are called on to defend. As that culture grows more tolerant, the armed forces will follow suit. What is wrong is when the officer class manipulates facts and opinion in order to accommodate the whims of ideologues whose ultimate objective is the destruction of American armed forces. It is the willingness to ignore the meaning of words, the distortion of history and the elevation of diversity above performance which serves as the real threat to our troops.