In a landmark vote, the Senate on Saturday ended the Clinton-era ban on gays serving openly in the military, marking a major triumph for President Obama, liberals and the gay community.
The final vote to end the Pentagon's 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" policy was 65-31, drawing support from eight Republicans.
With the vote comes my last chance to state my opinion on the policy, and the debate that centered around it, so I will take a few moments to do so here.
To the left DADT is a discriminatory policy, one that has unfairly punished patriotic service members. To the right it is a mixture of things, ranging from something that protects homosexuals who wish to serve, to a policy that makes our fighting forces stronger. However, for the most part this is nothing more than hyperventilating on both sides. Both ignore facts, such as:
- The policy has forced relatively few people from service, accounting for roughly 13,300 discharges between 1994 and 2009, or roughly 831 a year. There are currently 1,445,000 active service US military (and before 1999 the US military also applied DADT to reservists). Assuming that even 2% of those service members are homosexual (a number which is probably slightly low) that puts us at 28,890 active duty homosexual service members at any given point. Meaning less than 5% of the total gay, active duty service population is being forced from service per a year.
- Homosexuals openly serve in several countries with strong militaries, most notably Israel and Great Britain. Obviously neither nation has suffered from any sort of handicap by having homosexuals integrated openly within their military systems.
Both arguments are lacking in simple common sense as well.
The liberal agenda is painfully obvious, this isn't about DADT being an abomination so much as it continues to change the culture, and set give gay right's a victory they've desperately needed, even if it is merely symbolic (in the direct sense). To go about this they have unfairly framed DADT as something that prevents gays from serving, directly trying to represent the policy as oppressive. What Don't Ask, Don't Tell does is allow gays to serve, it simply draws a line with expression of sexuality, which should seem fair to any reasonable minded person (although that doesn't necessarily mean you agree with it). Liberals also ignored common sense in the timing of the appeal. Even if repealing DADT won't reduce combat efficiency in the long run, it's hard to ignore the effect it will have on morale - during wartime - when 60% of Marines believe that it will have a negative impact. The point being that even if it's not harmful to our military, the perception that is by our soldiers will harm morale.
On the flip side, conservative have made arguments that DADT protects homosexuals within the military. While homosexuals may find that the military isn't exactly a friendly place for them, the argument ignores that it's not uncommon for soldiers to already know who around them is gay. Ignoring that, it's offensive to assume that our armed forces would be unable to restrain themselves from violence against a homosexual service member, and in some ways echoes the disingenuous belief that segregation kept blacks safe. (Disclaimer: This is not me saying that conservatives are anti-gay the same way segregationists hated blacks, but merely using an uncomfortable fallacy that stuck out in my mind)
It was this uncomfortable combination of valid and invalid arguments from both sides that shifted my position from against DADT repeal, to being truly neutral on the whole thing. If it stood, or if it failed, I didn't particularly care, perhaps giving it up as a lost cause on the right and a potential area for compromise (something the GOP failed to capitalize on). My only source of discomfort comes from knowing that this will most likely make the culture war against gay marriage that much harder, a fight which I'm already finding increasingly depressing.
At the end of the day both sides turned this into an incredibly sad display of absurdity over a policy which, in and of itself, was inconsequential.