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Why NOT to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

In response to the volume of discussion (including a fair number of objections) to Mac Owens' Wall Street Journal op-ed on DADT from last week, Mac again takes up the question and answers the objections in an article we post today.  Again, Mac insists that repealing the DADT policy in the armed forces would be to work against unit cohesion and military effectiveness as it undermines phila by presenting the opportunity for it to be confused with eros but he also addresses those critics who would conflate this observation with simple-minded prejudice and refutes those who suggest that there is no evidence in support of his claims.
Categories > Military

Discussions - 10 Comments

Fine work, Mac.

Another major objection to repealing DADT seems to me to be the invitation of various lawsuits. If legally, the homosexual soldier is not supposed to be there, there cannot be grounds for the sorts of suits that relate to "hostile environment," etc. I assume if DADT was repealed, some of these suits would have merit, indeed would be required to let the gay-baiters in the ranks know that they cannot abuse their comrades. But I also assume that lawyers would seek to push things to the limit, thus foisting a new code upon soldiers wherein openly voiced opposition to homosexual acts, or even the hint of such, would be grounds for discipline.

But then I recall that we have so many female soldiers in border-line combat roles. I have not heard about a undue imposition of speech-code rules in the military at the behest of lawyers seeking to prevent females from facing hostile environments. So maybe I'm wrong about this? Maybe the military is already insulated in certain ways I don't grasp from these sorts of lawsuits?

I know this line of argument is rhetorically tricky, but it seems important not to wind up with a super-PC/super-lawyered military. But maybe it is not plausibly a problem with repealing DADT. Any law and military experts out there know?

See the Doonesbury strips for the past few days.

I like Britain's "Don't fear it, don't flaunt it" policy. I don't think even your esteemed "Mack" could point to any breakdowns in "unit cohesion" when openly gay British troops served side by side, in combat, with American troops in Iraq.

There's a big difference between not caring about sexuality and embracing it. So long as homosexuality itself is not a reason for exclusion from combat, then I think most on the left and in the center will be pleased.

Carl Scott, I am pretty sure that what you mention as a fear is already the case. It is an EO violation to harass someone you suspect is homosexual. Every unit has an E-6/7 who is EO NCO and you can also file complaints with officers, with JAG, or with IG for any racial or sexual discrimination. Under sexual discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination is covered. If you want to get serious, file with IG, those lawyers/investigators will come down hard(or hard enough to cover what you immagine might be the case under hypothetical repeal...of course if you actually are gay and don't want to be discharged do not go the IG route, they will shut everything down to pick up the smallest fact)
What is interesting to me is that already with the election of Obama the number discharged has dropped, I don't have numbers but I guess the number of these that are honorable has increased (but I think honorable discharges for this outweight the others....prosecution for sodomy is almost moot and probably reserved for servicemen who make gay porn and thus bring discredit and ridicule upon a unit...but in any case making straight porn gets you the same result) Also, especially if you taken into account VA upgrades.

It is interesting to note the large fall off in application under Obama and Holder(IG). I am sure Mac Owens has an honest reason for saying that no numbers past 2008 are available, but the wikipedia numbers for 09' have it at 428.

428 is laughably low, at that number I would guess they are getting about 5% of the incomming gays, once you take into account that I doubt the 428 are folks who are necessarily gay (or rather that perhaps all women are potentially so...especially since it is a much surer route than pregnancy(they make BDU's for that)

In fact I think don't ask don't tell discriminates against cowardly men rather than cowardly women, in part because there is little stigma in being a bi-sexual female...I just think this escape route is used more often by people who are not gay than who are and also that among those who are not, more often by females.

In fact all it is in my opinion is an escape route. Mac Owens I think demonstrates this point, and thus leaves me confused about his conclusion.

"He rejected them and advised her that she would indeed deploy with her ship. Finally he received a call from the JAG advising him that she would not deploy because she had confessed to being gay." (just a possible avenue of escape from duty, after all else fails)

Those who really want out probably just fail a drug test, there are various other ways out, but it does seem accurate to me that those who make it past a first enlistment (and generally those who reach the rank of SGT and above) are career proffesionals and really even if gay know the system enough not to get kicked out. What gets the older guys are knee and joint injuries which hamper PT scores get them on walking profiles/cause them to gain weight, bust, al.

Don't ask don't tell doesn't do a good job of getting rid of gays, especially if these want to serve. It probably gets rid of an equal if not greater number straight folks, and among these it probably really helps get rid of females who feel less stigma in being bi-sexual. It wouldn't suprise me if a large number of service women are bisexual (not that women necessarily want out more than men, but being gay is easier and faster than getting pregnant, which really just puts you on a red cycle, CQ desk or trainning room job. They make maternity BDU's.)

One argument for keeping don't ask don't tell, lets women out of potential combat service(if you don't think they should be there in the first place). But if women are to be in the army then I see little problem with them serving more or less fully. In fact to let them serve without combat possibilities makes them soak up jobs that could go to combat men who get physically worn down and placed on profile(s). It doesn't seem right the number of 12-14 year in service drops out from PTSD or injuries.

In fact the main argument for keeping don't ask don't tell is letting people out of commitments they aren't brave or mature enough to handle. It is possible that many discharges including ones for being gay increase moral by getting rid of whinny, lazy people, who are obviously looking for a way out in the first place.

It seems just as plausible to me that a morale drop from repeal of don't ask don't tell would come from keeping folks in who complain and constantly look to evade all responsibility. Alternatively perhaps these will be sorted out by failure of PT, failure of height and weight, too many council statements/AR-15's/failure to adapt, or failled drug tests. It could very well all sort itself thru the bureaucracy in a similar maner.

I am not strongly against repeal of DADT, in fact I think that if morale is important repeal of DADT might do some good just by preventing frivelous escape hatches that more often than not come(I strongly suspect, but am willing to be corrected) with Honorable discharges.

If you want an escape hatch you could build in a general one that came with a non DA reviewable/upgradeable general discharge. Technically the army has some of these in failure to addapt. the whole system of discharges is set up to maintain morale/efficiency more or less bureaucratically.

This really is throwing a bone, because really the president can instruct down the chain of command that these discharges be frowned upon.(If the 2009 wiki numbers are accurate then you can get a sort of quantifiable measure of how much this has been frozen.) So in 2008(wiki) the Bush team let 618 out on DADT in 2009(wiki) the Obama team let 428 out. 428 is only about 1/3 of the 1273 that were let out in 2001. My guess is that those with cush jobs that didn't like the idea of war got out by claiming to be gay when it became clear we were going to war. After this the number fell quite a bit almost every year(the armed forces got wise and decided it was going to require more proof, or that it couldn't afford to let folks go.)

A further argument I think is that discharges scale with wartime needs. It seems to me that some discharges are more strongly linked to unit effectiveness than homosexuality (i.e. the walking profiles, overweight, PT failures, drug habits, alchol abuse, spouse abuse, severe credit problems) and that these sorts of discharges are also restrained during times of combat, because a unit isn't sure to get overweight in a certain MOS...that for this reason depending upon the 1sg and the commander(and who knows how much further up it goes?)

So the question is what sorts of discharges do you really go after, and in what priority and does it depend upon how many deployments are comming down(yes)?

So plausibly you could argue for or against DADT and agree with Mac Owens on importance to unit moral. In fact I suppose you argue for keeping DADT as it stands and allow individuals commanders to make decisions about unit cohesion and combat preparedness. The argument against simply says that it is more efficient to cut/prosecute other forms of slack/discharges. So you purposefully stress PT and weight and you random drug test every week and unit wide monthly, you drop the hammer on credit and drinking problems. At the heighest standards of fitness and character you could eliminate 1/2 a unit, albeit I think it would always be wastefull to drop more than a 1/3...especially since replacements are hardly guaranteed to be better. In all honesty I think commanders do a sort of judge like ballancing test, and I disagree with the notion of pro-gay groups that perfectly good gay soilders would or should be discharged even if open... I do think it will be a factor that will weight against two soilders that are equally bellow standards in other areas...but then eliminating DADT just means that these will be picked up in other discharges(and possibly at a lower discharge level, than the somewhat protected DADT)

Ironically nothing I am saying isn't somewhat known /believed intuitively, a possible reason the translators were discharged must be an unsympathetic commander combined with them pushing the boundaries of irreplaceability a bit too far.

This is really why most of these discharges happen early on, gay or straight in SGT and above in second and third reinlistments folks have found a groove, know a job and understand the system, and in fairness to the gay soilders a first sergeant might be hurting himself if he axes on this basis alone.

Of course there is also some belief/scepticism that the army uses the enlisted and lets stuff slide up until pretty close to retirement eligibility(and then axes gays to cut cost?) that is plausible and that and other issues(PT, height and weight of the broke/profile(s)) involving discharging multiple enlistment career people could have negative effects upon morale, because the attitude trickles down. So a lot of these sort of managerial decisions do have an impact upon morale.

I suppose that depending where you stand in a career the DADT is either something you are seeking, or something that (because you are actually gay) is hanging over your head. Ultimately because you can have maybe one thing hanging over your head, gay soilders must perform to a higher standard(removeing DADT will result in lower performance by gay NCO's/officers no longer having a fear motivation to be perfect until retirement?)

In short getting rid of those who whine and complain is probably a plus, and DADT is mainly used for this, but other tools are available for this. DADT on career servicemen like any other discharge on someone who is close to retirment is really bad for morale. Usefull perhaps because you don't want the unionised/tenured mentality to set in(but this happens anyways) But also really bad for reinlistment because it sends the message that the army will use you and spit you out, so commitment is stupid. It really does violate a sort of promissory estopel/reliance type scheme. Even with NCO's who do coke and hard drugs it can hurt morale. anything less than an ETS with Honorable discharge is bad for morale, so all the other disciplinary discharges are bad. You almost have to hope that you sort out all the bad apples before E-6(95% of the time you do). I suppose some exceptions exist, but getting rid of poor soilders early on probably helps morale, the longer they stick around the worse it is for morale. To some extent it is also a popularity/connections/friends game, but this is not to marginalize, its a fact that morale has to take into account these elements. In so far as gays are less popular it is probably not a huge morale hit sometimes, still I got the feeling that NCO solidarity is impregnable, to get rid of someone on year 19 for anything that wasn't absolutely serious(high field grade/treason)would send serious shockwaves. So I really don't believe that if a gay reporter at the LA times outed a gay E-7, with 19 years that they wouldn't let him retire. The thing is not letting him retire would seem unjust, would hurt morale, would fuel bad rumors and insecurity even among those who are not gay.

The military in terms of how it is run is just way more liberal than the media gives it credit for being.

I also agree that the military not being super PC-super lawyered up is a good thing, but really in being very formalistic the military is probably more lawyered up in terms of UCMJ and dash-10's et al...and this extends to a discussion on discipline and standards. In truth proffesionalism is close to PC and rank tracks being lawyered up. PC-within reason, and faithfull adherence to standards and laws are hallmarks of career soldiers. A very tricky argument to make realistically.

In general I support the discretion of 1SG and commanders to make determinations about combat effectiveness and discharges generally... these will have different philosophies and may be unjust or unreasonable in some cases, but they know best(in reality I assume they all do a sort of ballancing test on discharges) To use a lawyered up analogy: Anything else is like an appelate court making determinations about facts. Of course the reality is that certain weights are probably given to these from the top, that under certain administrations certain discharges are more or less favored, and that a sense of these priorities trickle down to commanders.

But really for a unit shapeing tool(something that allows leadership to get rid of homosexuals) it was only used 619 times in 2008 and 428 in 2009. At this low level of use, the argument actually shifts in favor of maintaining the policy, since it is more likely that it is used for morale reasons Mac Owens points out, reasons that past muster even when commanders feel the influence of and must apply more scrutiny under Obama as commander in chief.

At 1,273 in 2001 I think it was a shameful escape hatch for cowards+inefficient targeting of homosexuals. At 428 it is potentially still inefficient, and it is still an escape hatch! But as the number approaches zero, getting past commander bias(all else being equal) each discharge makes a whole lot of sense. Of course as the number approaches zero the justification for discharge gets so good that other tools and causes are available for achieving the same outcome.

At any given time, in any given unit a commander always has a soldier on the most wanted to get rid of list, that person will be discharged. Because standards can be enforced at a higher level by discretion, commanders could still find reasons to get rid of people who are gay even if DADT was cancelled. The truth of the matter is that this is doubtful to be the actual case, because commanders can never get rid of all the people they want to in order to raise standards, and in general gay people aren't more likely to have bad PT, be fat, fail at the shooting range, have bad credit or do stupid stuff. But really I wouldn't be suprised(especially if you don't count women who could be bi at the drop of a hat) that DADT gets rid of only a marginally greater percentage of homosexuals as the other forms of discharge not targeted towards this factor.

One needn't take this issue to the battlefield to prove or disprove this argument. The military needs to live by an ethic of duty and loss of self, notions increasingly alien to civilian society. For that reason, rightstalk of this sort subverts the military mission. Pro-homosexual cliques would arise, just as they have for others--West Pointers, regional ties, women, and so on. But the erotic bond is unique among such cliques. That is the central problem.

One needn't take this issue to the battlefield to prove or disprove this argument.

But isn't that the point of all of this - how do we keep an effective, disciplined, and cohesive military?

When our soldiers live and fight alongside the openly gay troops from other countries without incident, doesn't that help to discount this ridiculous idea that an "erotic bond" is necessarily counterproductive to military might?

John Lewis, wow. Thank you. I hope other civvies take the time to read your very informative comment.

One can see that the line of argument I'm proposing is even more rhetorically tricky than I thought. What Ken says still seems the crux of what I'm proposing, though. Increased rights talk (in an already fairly rights-policed environment) + newer and more intense cliques = decreased overall effectiveness.

John Lewis's comment does provide evidence, in any case, that if the repeal of DADT happens, the military has the tools to muddle through. I think for conservatives, the issue is a bit like the legalization of pot. The idea is quite bad, it will bring greater headaches to a society that already has too many of them, but we probably can muddle through. You just know some conservative pundits are going to roar at top volume about how this totally insults the military, but John's post shows the variety of military perspectives possible on the repeal, even if I suspect most enlisted are against repeal. In any case, I think one must know how to use the volume control on one's roaring.

Obamacare--roar at 10.

Gay marriage, via jurisprudential fiat?--roar at 9

Gay marriage, via popular vote?--roar at 5.

repeal of DADT? --somewhere around 3 or 2, I'd think. Hey, it's still a roar. We still vote against it when given the chance. But if an LBJ-type wants to cut a deal, give us something major in return, maybe we can "reason together." Obama isn't that type, of course.

And don't even ask me about the ongoing travesty, moral and constitutional, that is Roe v. Wade. Way, way, way past "11."

Now that I think about it, the fact that the Air Force stole the song "Fell In Love With a Girl" (by The White Stripes) makes even more "sense":


In a statement on their website, the duo said they took "strong insult and objection" to the use of the tune in an ad during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Their hit Fell In Love With A Girl was re-recorded for the commercial for the Air Force Reserve, the group claim.

They said they will "take strong action to stop the ad containing this music".

The statement said: "We believe our song was re-recorded and used without permission of the White Stripes, our publishers, label or management.

"The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserves presenting this advert with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support.

"The White Stripes support this nation's military, at home and during times when our country needs and depends on them.

"We simply don't want to be a cog in the wheel of the current conflict, and hope for a safe and speedy return home for our troops."


I don't doubt that the Air Force's misuse of the tune will inspire some intellectual at National Review to put the song on a new list of conservative rock songs or some such nonsense...

John Lewis makes an intellectually honest and reasoned analysis..if you stipulate that morale and discipline in the Army isn't already AFU.

A good starting place for understanding what PC, condoned by careerism have done to the Army is to start with reading, "Crisis in Command". It was written back in 78. What was then described as the problems rotting the Officer Corps has now spread throughout the NCO Corps as well.

The extent that combat arms have resisted the rot is the extent that they've been insulated from PC. The support arms are ate up with it. The problems described in that treatise are only exacerbated and extended by PC.

The essential problem with all PC directed intervention in the military is the proverbial 300 pound gorilla in the room. In this case, multiple standards.

These standards include the obvious as well as the not so obvious. And no responsible military person wants to seriously discuss them in any kind of public forum; either from not seeing it, personal agenda, or from fear of damage to their careers.

A simple example of the obvious. Physical training tests have sliding scores for age, and totally separate scores for women and men. Though there might be a case for saying that older soldiers are usually higher ranking, with less physical demands on them; ( a premise I disagree with for leadership by example reasons for those under flag rank). There is absolutely no, repeat no, justification for different scoring by sex for personnel holding the same MOS. Either the job requires a certain degree of fitness, or it doesn't.

The same rationale that can justify different PT standards, a very obvious inequity (who gets to carry the heavy stuff?) is refined and reused to justify inequalities across the PC spectrum.

Wear a hat in the barracks that says "white power" and you are a racist; wear an "X" hat, not so much. Obvious, but just one surface manifestation of the multitude of underlying double / multiple standards.

I'm all for letting anyone at all in the military, if they will abide one standard of treatment, and one standard of performance. Job performance by MOS, ethical performance consistent across the board. This won't happen under the kind of pressure currently involved in the DATD arguments.

Almost no one in or out of the military is having honest debates on this in major forums. The fact is: the Army has been Balkanized.

I could write on this "for days" on detail, but want to stick to the main point. Anyone who looks at even the surface issues honestly, may delve on their own and find the extent of the problem. Military discipline and efficiency are breaking down in the Army, and PC combined with careerism are two major factors in that.

Another easy one: Look at how many contractors there are supporting our troops doing what soldiers did 30 years ago. Not only because there are fewer support troops, but because even the ones we have aren't doing the job well.

As our society struggles with whether or not to return to being a meritocracy, it is imperative that the military do so. Otherwise it will not be capable of defending us in need. If we continue to allow the military to be eaten away by multiple standards, and careerism that won't address it, it will collapse. That is the desired result of some, but I'm not for signing on to mutual suicide pacts.

That was good, really good. Thank you.

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