Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell = Hypocrisy + Lousy Logic

I was catching up on some of my favorite blogs and news sites over the weekend, and came across several debates about the potential repeal of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.  After reading through the thoughts of some very opinionated people on both sides of the issue, the main thing I couldn't get out of my head was the raging hypocrisy and complete lack of logic inherent in this policy.

I'm not a military law expert, but my understanding of the policy is that the military allows gays to serve, as long as they don't openly tell that they are gay. So let me get this straight (no pun intended!)...it's OK to be gay in the military, but only if you lie about it?  Huh?!

Those who favor repealing the policy call it discriminatory and a violation of civil rights.  Fine, but where were these people when the law was being enacted?  The Democrats like to attempt to claim exclusive ownership of the fight for civil rights, when history shows that is simply not true

It was a Democrat president, Bill Clinton, who signed it into law in 1993.  Clinton campaigned on a promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.  When it came time to actually lift the ban, however, Clinton ended up losing nerve and offering up this much watered down version of his campaign promise.  I find it hypocritical to campaign as a gay rights advocate, then turn around and enact a policy that basically tells gays to sit down and shut up.  It's just plain disrespectful.  Obama has also totally wimped out on the issue, giving good talking points during the campaign but crossing his fingers and hoping the courts will do the hard work for him. 

The standard arguments in favor of keeping the policy tend to fall into two categories: (1) concerns about sexual relationships causing drama among those serving together, and (2) the belief that gays in the military present some sort of security threat by endangering a unit's camaraderie or morale. 

The first concern is easily addressed the same way the military handled it when women first began serving: enacting rules and regulations restricting fraternization and setting boundaries for relationships.  The men and women serving in our military are intelligent adults, and they can understand the rules against relationships with their superiors, rules restricting relationships within their own units, rules prohibiting sexual assaults, and they can also understand the consequences for violating those rules.  Gay people are not any dumber than the rest of us wandering around this earth - they can understand these rules too.

The second concern is the one that really drives me bonkers.  If gays in the military are really a security problem, or a threat to a unit's morale, if they are really so "dangerous", then how can they magically not be dangerous anymore if they lie about it?  I cannot think of any other situation where the rule is that a particular prohibited activity is fine as long as you lie about it first.  

Is it OK if someone on the No-Fly List gets on a plane, as long as they have a fake ID?  Is it OK if someone opens a credit card in your name, as long as they've stolen your identity first?  Is it OK for someone to get a well-paid job, as long as they lie on their resume?  Of course not.  So if being gay is really, truly, a "threat" to morale, national security, or whatever, why do we allow them in the military if they lie about it?  Isn't dishonesty a threat to morale and security too?

Now, whether gays are really "dangerous" or "security threats" or whatever, count me among the skeptical.   I don't pretend to have life all figured out.  I certainly don't have all the answers and I cannot pretend to know how we really will be judged in the end.  I do see a distinction between certain radical liberal groups that advocate things like teaching graphic sexual information in elementary schools, and gay couples that just want to buy a nice little house in the suburbs and be left alone to live their lives.  I find myself unable to condemn anyone whose actions are motivated by genuine love for another human being. 

The only thing I really know is that my faith has brought me to the strong belief that the answer to this debate is not judgment, but love:
This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.  John 15:12

Do everything in love.  I Corinthians 16:14
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Matthew 22:36-40 
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  I John 4:11-12.
God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  I John 4:16-18
We love, because he first loved us.  If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  I John 4:19-21
If someone is a good person, a loyal friend, is kind, honest, and fair, then I think our personal policies shouldn't be "don't ask, don't tell," but instead "don't care."  I once compared my feelings about the issue to stamp collecting.  I don't collect stamps myself, it's just never appealed to me.  I don't completely understand why some people like collecting stamps.  I have a feeling that there are probably a number of different reasons why people collect stamps.  But if someone was a good person and I found out they liked collecting stamps, that would have no effect on whether I was friends with that person, whether I was willing to work with that person, or my general opinion about them.  I just absolutely, positively "don't care" if someone collects stamps.

On a related issue, here's Former First Lady Laura Bush's comments on the Huckabee show this weekend, when asked what she thought about gay marriage:
I also know that it's a very, very difficult issue for many people, including for me.  I'm very ambivalent about the idea of it, because it's just so, you know, not how it's been, throughout history.  But I also know that, you know, that when people are committed to each other, they ought to be able to have the right to honor that commitment in some way.
Our current political atmosphere is so volatile and nasty, that any conservatives who don't endorse gay marriage or who oppose the repeal of DADT are painted as homophobic hatemongers, which I find unfair and inaccurate.  The conservatives I know, especially among those of my generation, express opinions much more like Mrs. Bush's words quoted above, than anything based in anger or hate.

We should be able to discuss issues and ask questions before making significant policy changes, especially regarding why a policy was enacted to begin with, and what the likely effects of a change would be.  DADT fails as a policy, and in my opinion should be not be supported by either side, because the actual structure of the policy is in contravention to the policy's stated goals.  We can continue to debate how exactly we would like to define our rights, and how quickly or radically our laws should evolve along with societal changes, but it helps no one on either side of the issue to enact policies like DADT that don't make logical sense.


  1. Hi Sarah (it's Todd from law school). Thank you for this. I really like the post. I really hope that some of your sentiments expressed here become a louder voice within the conservative movement. At the moment, I'm not hearing it on a national stage, but I hope to soon.

  2. Excellent post, Sarah. I agree completely, especially with the bolded statement that you can't condemn anyone whose actions are motivated by love. I never understood the emotional power with which some people oppose gay rights.

    I can tell you from the Democratic side that no one is happy with DADT. It was a lame compromise solution that, as you point out, has no internal logic. Let's hope it gets repealed soon, and that gay and lesbian Americans can serve their country proudly and without shame.


  3. Hi Sarah,

    I found this post from your link from a comment over at Redstate.com. I responded more fully there.

    I just want to reinforce the point, as respectfully as I can, that the way you frame this issue here and at Redstate proves that you don't really have a clue about what it is DADT is about.

    Gays are not a 'threat' in any sense of the word. However, they are banned from serving openly for the same reason that women are banned from serving in combat arms.

    In many administrative working environments in the military I don't think that open gays would be an issue at all since these units do not have a traditional 'combat unit' structure. However, in the combat arms things are different.

    There are very good reasons that men and women in the military are not permitted to shower together, sleep under the same roof, or otherwise engage in inappropriate relationships. The lengths that units have to go to to accommodate women result in a real and tangible breakdown in unit cohesion and causes serious order and discipline issues.

    It would be the same for gays, only what do you do about their living quarters? Have a separate shower tent and living area for all gay men? Or put the gay men with the lesbian women? It makes no sense. We don't allow heterosexual men and women to live together, for the same reason that gay men should not be housed with other men.

    Lastly, the DADT policy works because nobody is allowed to ask, or disclose, a person's homosexual orientation. Thus if nobody knows about it, it won't cause issues, even if someone happens to get private kicks out of 'looking' at someone else in the shower.

    But back to Erick Erickson's point that he made at Redstate, which is where this was linked. The military should not be a political correctness tool for anyone, including conservatives or liberals. The DADT policy is absolutely backed up with sound, reasoned purpose, and that ought to be enough for the rest of the country to leave it alone.

    Bluntly, this is one of the main problems facing the military today. People who have never served in the military, let alone in combat units, offer their 'views' and 'positions' on what it ought to be doing and what its policy should be. The military is a unique organization with a unique mission and unique issues that must often be dealt with in unique ways.

    For the same reason that wars should not be run by politicians, internal policy decisions in the armed forces should be made by the senior professional leadership and not by civilians.

    I would love to discuss this further with you when I get back to Orlando in a few weeks! Our deployment is finally coming to a close.

  4. I found this post after reading what you wrote about the GOP debate. Good, honest take on the issue. I agree with your law school friend Todd above, glad to see young conservatives taking this position.


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