Wednesday, February 03, 2010
For as many of his policies I so vehemently oppose, I am cautiously optimistic that Barack Obama will succeed in lifting the ban-that-isn't-called-a-ban on service in the military by people who are openly homosexual.
I am particularly impressed with this argument in favor of ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"No matter how I look at the issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Noting that he was speaking for himself and not for the other service chiefs, Mullen added: "For me, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as an institution." [bold added]I served in the submarine force when Bill Clinton was elected President and recall the last time this issue was raised for serious consideration. Among the objections to having gays serve openly was the fear that their presence could damage morale and harm unit cohesion, I presume due to the homophobia that used to be so prevalent in male culture. While you can certainly change the official policy on homosexuality with the stroke of a pen, you cannot change common attitudes quite so easily.
When this question was in the limelight, I could see merit in both the above argument and the notion that if someone is gay and serving in the military, he ought to be able to say so if he wishes. I also recall being unsure that making big changes to the then-current policy quickly would be a wise move and so leaned against doing so. (I did think even then that the ban should eventually be lifted. My concern was that the time was wrong or that the change would be implemented poorly. The latter possibility does give me some pause now.)
I would, some time later, be surprised to learn that there were several gay enlisted men serving with me on my submarine. I even got the impression that practically all the enlisted men and my fellow junior officers knew who they were. As far as I could tell, nobody really cared. So much for my theory that I was probably a little bit ahead of my time on that question! Apparently this issue wasn't really a big deal after all.
Granted, the submarine force is generally better-educated than other segments of the military, but still, that was nearly twenty years ago. Social acceptance of homosexuality has improved drastically since then. Knowing what I know now, and having a better philosophical grasp of the issues at stake, I think it's high time to lift the ban on openly gay individuals serving in the military.
Today: Fixed last sentence. (HT: Jennifer Snow)