The Efficacy of - Palm Center

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The Efficacy of - Palm Center

PRAKASHThough the epigraphs echoarguments made againsthomosexuals serving openly inthe Armed Forces, they are thewords of Senator Richard Russell of Georgiaand General Omar Bradley in oppositionto President Truman’s 1948 executive orderto racially integrate the U.S. military. 1 Thediscourse has gone beyond what is best for thecombat effectiveness of the military to becomea vehicle for those seeking both to retract andexpand homosexual rights throughout society.It has used experts in science, law, budgeting,and military experience in an effort to settlean issue deeply tied to social mores, religion,and personal values.A turning point in the debate came in1993. Keeping a promise made during hiscampaign, President Bill Clinton attemptedto lift the ban on homosexuals serving in themilitary. After strong resistance from theleadership in both the Pentagon and Congress,a compromise was reached as Congress passed10 United States Code §654, colloquiallyknown as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). 2This law, which allowed homosexuals to serveas long as they did not admit their orientation,survived the Clinton and Bush administrationsessentially unchanged. Repealing theban on homosexuals serving openly was also acampaign promise of Barack Obama, thoughhis transition team stated that they did notplan to tackle the issue until 2010. 3 As thisdebate reignites, it is worthwhile to reexaminethe original premises that went into formingthe DADT policy, explore the cost and effectivenessof the law, and finally, with 16 yearsof societal drift, revisit the premises on whichit is based.There are five central issues. First, §654has had a significant cost in both personneland treasure. Second, the stated premiseof the law—to protect unit cohesion andcombat effectiveness—is not supported by anyscientific studies. Strong emotional appealsare available to both sides. However, societalviews have grown far more accommodatingin the last 16 years, and there are now foreignmilitary experiences that the United States candraw from. Third, it is necessary to considerthe evidence as to whether homosexualityis a choice, as the courts have traditionallyprotected immutable characteristics. To date,though, the research remains inconclusive.Fourth, the law as it currently stands doesnot prohibit homosexuals from serving in themilitary as long as they keep it secret. ThisOpposition to homosexuals serving openly inmilitary is reminiscent of opposition to PresidentHarry Truman’s desegregation of militaryhas led to an uncomfortable value disconnectas homosexuals serving, estimated to be over65,000, 4 must compromise personal integrity.Given the growing gap between social moresand the law, DADT may do damage to thevery unit cohesion that it seeks to protect.Finally, it has placed commanders in a positionwhere they are expected to know everythingabout their troops except this one aspect.OriginsDuring the 1992 campaign, Presidentialhopeful Bill Clinton made homosexuals in themilitary a political issue, promising to changethe Pentagon’s policy that only heterosexualscould serve in the military. 5 On taking office,it is necessary to considerthe evidence as to whetherhomosexuality is a choice, asthe courts have traditionallyprotected immutablecharacteristicsPresident Clinton initially assumed the bancould be lifted with an executive order, similarto the method President Harry Truman usedto racially desegregate the military. He metfierce opposition in Congress led by SenatorSam Nunn (D–GA), who organized extensiveHouse and Senate Armed Services Committee(HASC and SASC, respectively) hearingson the ban of homosexuals in the military.Two other factions emerged in Congress, onearguing for a complete repeal of the ban. Athird compromise faction finally prevailedwith the position that went on to becomeDADT, allowing homosexuals to serve as longas it was done in secret. 6Aside from the fierce divide in opinions,the debate also turned into a contest betweenArticle I and Article II of the Constitution.Previously the ban on homosexuals was aU.S. ArmyPentagon policy, subject to the executiveorders of the President. As a companion to theDADT policy, Congress permanently stifledthis route, to the chagrin of the President.To preclude any future action to lift the banvia executive order, Congress wrote into law,“Pursuant to the powers conferred by Section8 of Article I of the Constitution of the UnitedStates, it lies within the discretion of the Congressto establish qualifications for and conditionsof service in the armed forces.” 7RationaleDuring congressional debate, therewere three components to the argument supportingthe ban on homosexuals serving inthe military: health risks, lifestyle risks, andunit cohesion. 8The Army Surgeon General offeredstatistics showing a homosexual lifestylewas associated with high rates of HIV/AIDS,hepatitis B, and other sexually transmitteddiseases. Aside from the increased health risk,statistics also showed a homosexual lifestylewas associated with high rates of promiscuity,alcoholism, and drug abuse. 9 Ultimately,neither of the first two arguments made itinto the rationale offered in §654—ostensiblybecause these risk factors are not uniquelyassociated with homosexuality and could bescreened for and dealt with in a manner otherthan determining sexual orientation.The central argument, and the onlyone that made it into law, rested on unitcohesion. The final language adopted byCongress stated:One of the most critical elements in combatcapability is unit cohesion, that is, the bondsof trust among individual service membersthat make the combat effectiveness of amilitary unit greater than the sum of thecombat effectiveness of the individual unitmembers. . . . The presence in the armedforces of persons who demonstrate a propensityor intent to engage in homosexual actswould create an unacceptable risk to thehigh standards of morale, good order anddiscipline, and unit cohesion that are theessence of military capability. 10Associated CostsBefore the inception of DADT, the ratesof discharge for homosexuality had beensteadily falling since 1982. Once the law waspassed, rates climbed, more than doubling by2001 before beginning to fall again. 11 Sincendupress.ndu.edu issue 55, 4 th quarter 2009 / JFQ 89


ESSAY WINNERS | The Efficacy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”military members: “I wish I could decide whoI fell in love with; if someone thinks I wouldconsciously choose such a life where I amforced to live in hiding and fear, knowing thebulk of the population is against you, is justcrazy. I can’t help who I am.” “Why wouldI choose to suffer like this?” Ultimately, it isprobable that sexual orientation is a complexinteraction of multiple factors, some geneticand some developmental, and that elements offree choice exist only to the same degree thatthey do for heterosexuals ignoring powerfulbiological urges.Taking another step back, the problem isfurther complicated by individual identificationof sexual orientation. Frequently, individualmen who have engaged in single, andsometimes numerous, homosexual acts do notidentify themselves as homosexuals. Dependingon the circumstances, such as prisonpopulations that preclude sex with women,individuals treat certain events as occurringoutside their sexual orientation. 29 The issue isfar more complicated with women. Researchsexual harassment regulationsand sensitivity training wouldneed to be updated, andguidance from leadershipwould be necessaryindicates women’s ranks include primary lesbians,who are exclusively attracted to women,and elective lesbians, who shift back and forthdepending not on the gender but on the personalqualities of a particular man or woman.This is a behavior not generally observed inmen. 30 Such studies give insight and suggestsome practical steps if homosexuals are to beintegrated into the military.There can be strong similarities betweensettings such as prisons and the Spartanfield conditions Servicemembers must attimes endure and the relatively weak correlationbetween isolated homosexual acts andself-described sexual orientation. This canmanifest itself as homophobia and severe selfdiscomfortfrom conscious or subconsciousclashes of sexual desires with values gainedfrom society, family, or religion. 31Though many scientific experts will nodoubt be called to testify during any futuredebates, lawmakers will not yet find any solidground on which to base conclusions on theimmutability of homosexuality. Ultimately,the question of whether homosexuality is achoice can be treated as irrelevant. If the ban islifted, basic respect of privacy will be requiredjust as when women were fully integratedinto the Services. Previously, the militaryfound a lack of sexual privacy, as well as sexbetween male and females, undermined order,discipline, and morale. 32 Dorm and facilitiesupgrades will no doubt be required. Sexualharassment regulations and sensitivity trainingwould need to be updated, and guidancefrom leadership would be necessary. Thesewould not be insurmountable obstacles.Disconnects and ChallengeAs social mores shift toward a greateracceptance of homosexuals, we slowlyintroduce cognitive dissonance into Servicemembers.Consider that a Washington Postpoll stated 75 percent of Americans pollednow believe that homosexuals should beallowed to serve openly in the military, upfrom 44 percent in 1993. 33 A 2006 Zogby pollof military serving in Iraq and Afghanistanfound 37 percent disagreeing with the ideaand 26 percent agreeing that they should beallowed. 34 The poll further found that a largepercentage of Servicemembers are lookingthe other way, with 23 percent reportingthat they are certain they are serving with ahomosexual in their unit (59 percent of thosereporting stated they were told directly bythe individual). 35 Growing numbers, in boththe Services and those considering service,see a gap between the traditional Americancreed of equality for all and the DADT law. Tounderstand the moral dilemma this creates formany, consider the likely reaction if the forceswere again racially segregated. Even formerChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GeneralPeter Pace, who publically stated his opinionthat homosexuality is a sin, also said, “Arethere wonderful Americans who happen tobe homosexual serving in the military? Yes.” 36General Charles Dunlap, Jr., USAF JudgeAdvocate, points out that those serving wantto serve honorably for what they believe to bethe right causes. 37The law also forces unusual personalcompromises wholly inconsistent with a coremilitary value—integrity. Several homosexualsinterviewed were in tears as they describedthe enormous personal compromise inintegrity they had been making, and the painfelt in serving in an organization they whollybelieved in, yet that did not accept them. Furthermore,these compromises undermined thevery unit cohesion DADT sought to protect:“I couldn’t be a part of the group for fearsomeone would find out, I stayed away fromsocial gatherings, and it certainly affected myability to do my job.”DADT also represents a unique challengefor commanders. Normally chargedwith knowing everything about their troops,commanders are now trying to avoid certainareas for fear of being accused of conductingwitch hunts 38 or looking as if they areselectively enforcing a law they have moralreservations against. Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan,USN, stated, “Everyone was living abig lie—the homosexuals were trying to hidetheir sexual orientation and the commanderswere looking the other way because theydidn’t want to disrupt operations by trying toenforce the law.” 39In the case of integration of the sexes,the U.S. military found lack of sexual privacy,as well as sex between males and females,undermined order, discipline, and morale. 40These concerns were solved by segregatedliving quarters. Here the issue becomescomplicated. Those opposed to lifting theban point out that the living conditions of themilitary would at times make it impossibleto guarantee privacy throughout the spectrumof sexual orientation. But would suchmeasures actually be necessary? Consideringthat estimates put 65,000 as the number ofhomosexuals serving in the military, 41 wouldrevealing their identities lead to a collapseof morale and discipline? Many top militaryofficials do not believe it would. For example,Representative Joe Sestak (D–PA), a retiredNavy vice admiral, currently supports liftingthe ban. He stated that he was convinced bywitnessing firsthand the integration of womenon board ships as he commanded an aircraftcarrier group. There were similar concernsabout privacy and unit cohesion that provedunwarranted. 42 Paul Rieckhoff, executivedirector of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veteransof America and former Army platoon leader,illustrates an additional point: “Just like inthe general population, there is a generationalshift within the military. The average 18-yearoldhas been around gay people, has seen gaypeople in popular culture, and they’re not thisboogeyman in the same way they were to PetePace’s generation.” 43What to ExpectIf the ban on homosexuals was lifted,it is worth considering what impacts there92 JFQ / issue 55, 4 th quarter 2009 ndupress.ndu.edu


PRAKASHU.S. Marine Corps (Michael J. Ayotte)President Obama seeks to repeal the“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policywould be on the Services. There are potentiallessons to learn from other countries that havelifted the ban on homosexuals serving openly.There was no mass exodus of heterosexuals,and there was also no mass “coming-out”of homosexuals. Prior to lifting their bans,in Canada 62 percent of servicemen statedthat they would refuse to share showers witha gay soldier, and in the United Kingdom,two-thirds of males stated that they wouldnot willingly serve in the military if gayswere allowed. In both cases, after lifting theirbans, the result was “no-effect.” 44 In a surveyof over 100 experts from Australia, Canada,Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was foundthat all agreed the decision to lift the banon homosexuals had no impact on militaryperformance, readiness, cohesion, or ability torecruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIVrate among troops. 45This finding seems to be backed by the2006 Zogby poll, which found that 45 percentof current Servicemembers already suspectthey are serving with a homosexual in theirunit, and of those, 23 percent are certainthey are serving with a homosexual. 46 Thesenumbers indicate there is already a growingtacit acceptance among the ranks.As pointed out above, basic respectof privacy will be required just as whenwomen were fully integrated into the Services.47 Dorm and facilities upgrades wouldbe needed. Sexual harassment regulationsand sensitivity training would need to beupdated, and guidance from leadershipwould be required.Aside from the heterosexual population,changes in the behavior of the homosexualpopulation would also be necessary.Several homosexual Servicemembers interviewedreported that given their relativelysmall numbers, and the secrecy they arefaced with, hidden networks have evolved.These networks, built under the auspices ofemotional support, have also led to violationsof the military regulations governing fraternizationbetween ranks. With any liftingof the ban on homosexuals serving openly,internal logic that condoned abandonmentof fraternization regulations would no longerhave even a faulty basis for acceptance.in a survey from Australia,Canada, Israel, and the UnitedKingdom, it was found thatthe decision to lift the banhad no impact on militaryperformanceUltimately, homosexuals must be held to thesame standards as any others.Homosexuals have successfully servedas leaders. There are several anecdotalexamples of homosexual combat leaders suchas Antonio Agnone, a former captain in theMarine Corps. Though not openly gay duringhis service, he claims that “Marines servingunder me say that they knew and that theywould deploy again with me in a minute.” 48Others who have served in command positionshave made similar observations thatthough they were not open about their orientation,they knew some of their subordinatesknew or suspected, yet they did not experienceany discrimination in disciplinary issues. Inmany cases, more senior Servicemembers’concerns went beyond how their subordinateswould handle their orientation to focus onthe legal standing and treatment of theirpartners—another vast area of regulationsthe Department of Defense would have tosift through since same-sex marriages aregoverned by state, not Federal, law. 49 Nevertheless,psychologists speculate that it will notbe an issue of free acceptance. Homosexualleaders are predicted to be held to a higherstandard where they will have to initially earnthe respect of their subordinates by provingtheir competence and their loyalty to othertraditional military values. The behavior ofthe next leader up the chain of command isexpected to be critical for how subordinateswill react to a homosexual leader. 50No doubt there will be cases where unitswill become dysfunctional, just as there aretoday among heterosexual leaders. Interventionwill be required; such units must be dealtwith just as they are today—in a prompt andconstructive fashion. Disruptive behavior byanyone, homosexual or heterosexual, shouldnever be tolerated. 51There will be some practical changesand certainly some cultural changes if Congressand the President move to lift the banon homosexuals serving openly in the ArmedForces. These changes will not be confinedto the heterosexual populations. Education,leadership, and support will be key elementsin a smooth transition even though the culturalacceptance of homosexuals has growndramatically in the 16 years since the passageof DADT.The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law wasa political compromise reached after muchemotional debate based on religion, morality,ethics, psychological rationale, and militarynecessity. What resulted was a law that hasbeen costly both in personnel and treasure. Inan attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembersto serve quietly, a law was created thatforces a compromise in integrity, conflicts withthe American creed of “equality for all,” placescommanders in difficult moral dilemmas,and is ultimately more damaging to the unitcohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Furthermore,after a careful examination, therendupress.ndu.edu issue 55, 4 th quarter 2009 / JFQ 93

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