The Blog

Repealing "Don't Ask" Will Weaken the U.S. Military

The Pentagon's report misses the point.

10:45 AM, Dec 3, 2010 • By MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Long before the Pentagon’s report on the expected effects of repealing the current law prohibiting open homosexuals from serving in the U.S. military was released, the conventional “narrative” had already been established thanks to leaks by anonymous individuals “familiar with the report’s conclusions.” That narrative holds that repeal of the current law would create “few risks” for military readiness, retention, and recruiting.

Repealing "Don't Ask" Will Weaken the U.S. Military

The conventional narrative makes much of the claim that most of the service members surveyed believe that repeal would not have a negative impact on military effectiveness. The key to “overcoming resistance” to repeal of the current law, the report concludes, is “training and education.” Well, stand by for politically correct “sensitivity training” run amok. And the Marines and the Army will get it in spades because as the report shows, those services, the mission of which is to conduct close ground combat, are the most “resistant” of all.

Indeed, the report reveals that 45 percent of Army troops and nearly 60 percent of Marines (67 percent of those in Marine combat arms: infantry, artillery, and armor) who have been in combat zones say that repeal would have a negative impact on unit effectiveness. And this is the crux of the problem with the Pentagon report: it misses the point.

The “functional imperative,” i.e. the purpose of the U.S. armed forces is to fight and win the nation’s wars. Success in combat requires trust and personal/unit bonding. But as a number of commentators have noted, the report does not identify a single benefit of repealing the ban when it comes to recruiting, retention, unit effectiveness, and readiness of the force.

Instead, the report seems to be predicated on the idea that the integration of open homosexuals into the military is merely the most recent manifestation of the quest for civil rights that began with African Americans after World War II. According to this view, lifting the ban against military service by open homosexuals is analogous to President Truman’s executive order racially integrating the military services.

But Truman’s order was motivated by concerns about military effectiveness, not civil rights. For a variety of reasons, segregated African-American units generally did not perform well on the battlefields of World War II. Truman’s actions were in response to military-manpower experts who believed that integration would improve the military effectiveness of black soldiers.

The report repeatedly asserts that the actual difficulties of repealing the law will be less than the survey’s responses would indicate. This is where “training and education,” aka political correctness and sensitivity training, comes in.

The fact is that homosexuals serve honorably in the military. That was the purpose of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy compromise adopted by the Clinton administration after Congress passed the current law prohibiting service by open homosexuals. As a result of this policy, homosexuals who are willing to subordinate their “sexual orientation” to their duty are allowed for the most part to serve without interference.

The claim often found in the New York Times and the Washington Post that homosexuals are the victims of “witch hunts” is without merit. From 2004 until 2008, discharges for homosexuality averaged one third of one percent of all discharges. For instance, in 2008, there were 5,627 involuntary discharges for drugs, 3,817 for serious offenses, 4,555 for failure to meet weight standards, 2,353 for pregnancy, 2,574 for parenthood, and 634 for homosexuality, most of which resulted from voluntary statements, not “outing” by others.

The Pentagon report notwithstanding, the current arrangement seems to work quite well. So why the push to repeal the law and reverse the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy compromise?  The short answer seems to be that this is not about individual homosexuals serving in the military but about a broader homosexual agenda.

What will the likely consequences of institutionalizing this political agenda be? The report doesn’t sufficiently address them but a Marine colonel with substantial command time did so in an e-mail circulated some months ago.

What, he asks, does “serving openly as a homosexual” mean? Is all homosexual conduct permitted, e.g. cross dressing when going to the PX?  What conduct is not permitted? 

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers