President Obama and “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.”

 I wonder if Obama realized how difficult it will be to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the US military and to legalize their sexual practices in the context of the US armed forces.

A few observations:

– I suppose most people know by now that the present policy is not merely a DoD policy.  It is written into federal law.  This means that Congress must repeal the law. The Democrats now hold a majority in both houses.  That does not mean that repeal will be easy.  Many Democrats are from parts of the country in which this issue will cut deeply in the mid-term election along with all the other grudges that the electorate seems to be harboring against the Democrats.  If this were not so, medical reform would have passed months ago.

– Gates and his sidekick Mullen announced today before the senate that they will collect data over the next year to inform them of the impact that the legalization of homosexual behavior will have on the armed forces.  At the same time they announced as had the president their unequivocal support for the legalization. Senators asked how they thought that they would collect valid data after they and Obama have announced their own decisions to achieve this change.  Clearly the data should be collected and analysed by Congress on an anonymous basis.  

– A senator asked what kinds of relationships and behavior would be accepted by DoD under this new policy.  For example, if a group of homosexual service members want a set of military married quarters in which to live as a "community" (perhaps with civilians), would that be acceptable?  Would the former lovers of service members be entitled to permanent family member benefits paid for by the services as are heterosexual married survivors today?  How about participation in uniform or some costume in Gay Pride Day parades?

– Present American military law  (UCMJ) establishes restrictions on sexual behavior for service members.  Adultery, for example, is illegal.  So is polygamy or polyandry. If legal restrictions on unmarried (or married) homosexual behaviors and relationships are removed, will it not be necessary in fairness to remove all such restrictions.  Will "anything go?"

Many will say that is all to the good.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps it is not.  I am representative of my generation.  There were then, as there are now, many homosexuals in the military.  It was expected that they would keep their sex lives a private matter.  I have no idea what the actual attitudes are now towards homosexuals in the population from which our soldiers are actually recruited as opposed to Obama's "supporter world."  Will this change lead to a falling off of recruiting among those actually willing to serve?  Will the armed forces become heavily homosexual as a result of the creation of a "protected minority" status for them.  Those who have served know that in the past homosexuals have tended to "colonize" units and ships that they favored.

It is a mistake to think of armies as analogs of communities like college campuses. Obama will learn that.  

I suppose that some will raise the issue of racial integration as an example of how well such a change will go…  pl 

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54 Responses to President Obama and “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell.”

  1. dws says:

    “Adultery, for example, is illegal. … will it not be necessary in fairness to remove all such restrictions.”
    Doesn’t the answer depend on the exact reason used for ending DADT?
    As an analogy, the gov’t can’t tax use of Virginia tobacco, but it can tax all tobacco use even though that tax harms one state more than another.
    I think laws that prohibit polygamy or adultry are like the latter case. Likewise prohibiting military service below a given age. *If* it’s true that prohibiting service just between open gays is like the former case, then this doesn’t have to lead to polygamy. Everyone could be forbidden from picking more than one spouse at a time because it’s everyone.
    (I’m not talking right or wrong here. Just precedent.)

  2. Patrick Lang says:

    Since gay people can not marry in most jurisdictions, then all military people will not be allowed to marry? Does that not follow from the principle of “evening out” the rules. pl

  3. Guamguy says:

    Other nations (the UK and Australia come to mind) have lifted their former bans on open service by gays in the military, and have seemed to muddle through without too much trouble. Why do you think that things would turn out differently with the US military?

  4. Patrick Lang says:

    not at all.
    i was a member once of a board in the 8th SF Group in which we had to contemplate what to do with a SSG (real SF) who was caught receiving oral sex from a Spec 4 from our attached MI detachment by the Canal Zone police in a parking lot. The SSG’s defense was that the other guy was “queer.” We boarded them both out of the Army. How sad. They were probably both good soldiers.
    We are not the UK nor Australia.
    I have many other tales to tell. My point is that this change will be a profound trauma.
    Is your community worth that trauma? Will you die for us?

  5. Allen Thomson says:

    I have to agree with Guamguy: If such things were just to be relegated into the “not worth worrying about” category, things would probably work out just fine.

  6. Jackie says:

    Col. Lang,
    I find your attitude on this matter more open minded than some in your generation. Certainly, more open minded than those non-military men O’Hanlon and Kristol of a later generation.
    The military should keep the best of the best for the job, be they straight or gay. The UCMJ may need to be tweaked a bit until marriage is universal for all.
    I’ve always thought gays and lesbians should be able to marry and be as happy or miserable as their straight counterparts.

  7. Nicollo says:

    I believe it to be a fact, fairly well established now, that people known by the label homosexual don’t choose to be as they are, but are made that way — by their Creator if you will. Certainly I’ve not encountered one in 45+ years who chose the “orientation.” The existence of a so-called “gay lifestyle” is another issue, I think, related to prejudice and persecution over time. Almost none of the gays and lesbians I’m acquainted with practice it.
    Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, not to his own facts.” I expect that even among the populations the American military recruits from, facts about this subject are starting to battle successfully with ancient opinions.
    I agree with the Colonel’s view that armies (and navies, etc.,) aren’t analogous to college dorms. But, as POTUS apparently knows, we have to begin somewhere, and perhaps it’s here and now.

  8. Patrick Lang says:

    “I believe it to be a fact, fairly well established now, that people known by the label homosexual don’t choose to be as they are, but are made that way — by their Creator if you will”
    Established by what? I would welcome definitive scientfic proof. Sometime ago I saw a TV production that argued that homosexuals are the products of variegated fetal production. Is that your position? I can accept that. pl

  9. Grimgrin says:

    I can see one major legislative challenge quite apart from the difficulties of amending the UCMJ:
    It will not only be necessary to amend the UCMJ, but also DOMA. Modifying or repealing DOMA opens up a potential nightmare of litigation between the states who have passed different interpretations of what marriage is.
    My personal rule of thumb would be “can you describe the regulation in gender neutral terms?” If yes, it’s not incompatible with allowing same sex partnerships.

  10. dws says:

    “Since gay people can not marry in most jurisdictions, then all military people will not be allowed to marry? Does that not follow from the principle of “evening out” the rules.”
    Perhaps it might! Ouch.
    If gays could marry, this incongruity wouldn’t exist. The problem is that we are asking the military to make an adjustment that America as a whole is still uncertain about.

  11. Bobo says:

    I think the answer here is to let the Military Personnel vote on this. If it fails then put it up for a vote every few years as eventually it will pass. Granted allowing them to vote is a little unorthodox but they have earned that right over the past decade.
    As to Polyandry…..I learn something new every time I look at this site.

  12. lina says:

    You say “I suppose that some will raise the issue of racial integration as an example of how well such a change will go.”
    Do you discount this analogy? Why or why not?
    BTW, there’s plenty of new research about homosexuality not being a choice:
    Penalizing people for just being who they are has never been a winning policy.

  13. Cameron says:

    What a glimpse into the bigotry of our time! This was like reading an article in a history book about the horrors that would ensue from allowing women into the corporate workplace. (“Would ANYTHING go?”) Or the dangers of allowing a full vote for an inferior slave race.

  14. Patrick Lang says:

    Why should we care in an institution that is about national survival and not about social justice? pl

  15. HankP says:

    Col. Lang – It’s been decades since the armed forces were about national survival and not an extension of foreign and economic policy. Be that as it may, I think the parallel to integration in the armed forces is quite close. Recall that anti-miscegenation laws were in effect in certain states until the 1960s. There is already a variety of regulations controlling who in the armed forces can have sex and when, I don’t think it’s an insurmountable problem to adjust them for a few new situations.
    I think in 20 or 30 years we’ll look back at this controversy the same way we view integration today.

  16. Redhand says:

    Some of the greatest military minds in history were homosexuals, or bi-sexual. Think Alexander the Great and Caesar (maybe). Consider also the Emperor Trajan, and Hadrian, who was very military minded.
    And, for armies of homosexuals, who can forget the Spartans and the Sacred Band of Thebes? There is also increasing archeological evidence that the Amazons were real, not myth.
    Admittedly, these examples are all from the Classical World, when the main issue was not so much the gender of the person being penetrated, but rather the perceived virility of the penetrator.
    Of course, we don’t live in the Classical World, but it seems to me that if the U.S. Navy can now handle women on carriers, limited experimentation with gays in the military might be tried to see just how “prejudical to good order and discipline” they might be in combat.
    Regardless of gender, one proscription must be maintained: no fraternization among people linked in the same chain of command.

  17. Grimgrin says:

    “I think the answer here is to let the Military Personnel vote on this”
    Does that strike anyone else as an insanely bad precedent to set?

  18. Patrick Lang says:

    yes. the SSG I talked about said that since he wasn’t sucking he was not queer. It was the other guy. Do you agree? pl

  19. dws says:

    My father is black and has described integration back in WWII to me. It was a great moment in our history. But, much of the country was at war in some way or other including at least some sacrifice at home.
    I support gay rights including the right to marry and adopt children, but do we want to ask more of the military now? Blacks were told to “wait” for decades leading up to the civil rights movement.
    That is a shameful tradition. (My father had to travel to a different state to be allowed to marry his white wife who was then disowned by her Jewish family.) However, a picture of me explaining to a soldier why he needs to adjust right now looks pretty bad. That isn’t narcissism. Any action of Congress comes from us.

  20. Redhand says:

    yes. the SSG I talked about said that since he wasn’t sucking he was not queer. It was the other guy. Do you agree?
    Er, no. But thanks for asking: your comment gives me a great excuse to link that timeless piece by “Bruce Heffernan” in The Onion, Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?
    I admit this topic–gays in the military–is out of my labor grade. I don’t know the difference between an “SSG” and an “SF” for example. I’ve also never been shot at in combat or elsewhere, so can’t opine on the effects that having a gay foxhole mate would have on one’s ability to fight. The closest I’ve seen to discussion of this was in all the grunts’ homoerotic comments and jokes in HBO’s “Generation Kill,” and of course that was “fact-based” rather than fact. It certainly raised the question whether uber-macho Rudy Reyes would have been accepted if he was openly gay.

  21. COL,
    I guess I am ambivilent overall on this one. No question there is a generational split inside the services itself (along with the the splits along racial, regional and class lines). Also unquestionable is the prospect of turmoil and internal conflict that will precede the official changes that come.
    This ultimately comes down to good order and discipline. Not unlike in gender integrated units. This is a dynamic problem, heavily dependent upon the leaders and their styles, and best managed at a unit level.
    One thing Mullen said yesterday, something long on the minds of me and my peers, is the inherent conflict DADT establishes with the services’ core values among which is integrity. On this I am in violent agreement.
    That said, POTUS scored a cheap political point in his speech (making up for past missteps with a vocal special interest), Pentagon leadership saluted and said “yse sir” and now the clown show in Congress has a new topic to distract them from really being a partner in our government. In short, mission accomplished.
    Sadly, all of this could have been done much easier by simply directing Gates et al to administratively slow roll DADT discharges (eg, make the documentary standards higher for a DADT discharge) under the premise of avoiding attrition (especially in high demand, low inventory skills like linguists). There was no need for public flailing, hearing spectacles and reviving culture wars.

  22. Patrick Lang says:

    Staff Sergeant = SSG
    SF = Special Forces

  23. Patrick Lang says:

    Integration of the armed forces took place during the Korean War. pl

  24. R Whitman says:

    I come from a generation even older than you, Pat. I can remember a Major being discharged from my outfit for being caught in a homosexual act. Most in the unit thought it was a shame, since he had 19 years, 9 months in. Only 3 months away from the magic 20.
    Two comments that I have:
    1. The culture has changed quite a bit. My place of residence, Houston(not known as a bastion of liberalism) elected a Lesbian mayor this past year. Her sexual status was not even a minor issue in the race. A few wingnuts tried but they were ignored.
    2.My grandaughters who are 23 and 19 consider homosexual behavior about the same way they consider lefthandedness.(adapted from George Will).We need acceptance data from newly enlisted recruits and newly commissioned officers, not long serving individuals before the military makes any changes.

  25. Patrick Lang says:

    Neither of them was Latino but the attitude was the same and shared by some members of the board. pl

  26. Andy says:

    Col. Lang,
    I think there really is a generational divide on this issue and there are studies to back that up. The so-called Gen-x and Gen-y (I’m part of the former) are much more egalitarian in regard to a lot of social “hot button” issues, homosexuality being one of them.
    My experience in the Navy and Air Force indicates to me that these two services will have few problems with repeal of DADT and by “few problems” I mean things that will damage military capability.
    The one area were I do have some concern is in the National Guard. Guard units are much less diverse than the active forces and those units which draw personnel from socially conservative areas may have some problems. Guard units are more cliquish and insular as well which could make this kind of social change more difficult.
    Finally, I have to express some disappointment in the military leadership for not getting ahead of the game on this one. They should have updated the 1994 RAND study last year – not over this next year after the political decision was made. I have to wonder how ADM Mullen can be so confident in his assertions with 15 year old data.

  27. dws says:

    “Integration of the armed forces took place during the Korean War.”
    Wasn’t it an on-going process? Even before the executive order, my Dad describes an order coming down where my Dad was stationed in Mississippi. Blacks were to be allowed to watch movies with whites and sit where they want and use the same facilities where previously they had been separated. He’s always described it as a huge change. He shipped out sometime after that, about a year before the war ended.

  28. Nightsticker says:

    Colonel Lang,
    “This was like reading an article in a history book about the horrors that would ensue from allowing women into the corporate workplace.”
    Couldn’t tell if this was unintended humor or a sly warning against changing the current policy.
    I understand that in certain circles Mullen is now known as “old Mike Mullen, the cocksucker’s mouthpiece”.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  29. Patrick Lang says:

    Yes. You are correct. There had been a gradual change over quite a few years. I was thinking of the Executive Order that really finalized the process and got rid of the last all black units.
    Yesterday, Senator Burris of Illinois said something about there having been a time when blacks could not serve in the military. I am not sure what he was referring to in that statement. Blacks served in the US Army from 1863 in segregated units, USCT regiments in the Civil War and in the 9th and 10 Cavalry Regiments and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments thereafter. These were very good units. The US Navy always enlisted blacks as seamen in the 19th Century. pl

  30. BillWade,NH says:

    Upon entering the services, instead of having to check the male or female block have them check two blocks, physical sex and mental sex. This will let both the SF SSgt and the Spec 4 off the hook, however they should still be charged with public indecency.
    Being that I was in Air Force Personnel, in my early days I once in a while had a part in the process of discharging found out homosexuals. Ironically, some of my peers who also processed the paperwork were themselves homosexuals.

  31. jedermann says:

    “I believe it to be a fact, fairly well established now, that people known by the label homosexual don’t choose to be as they are, but are made that way — by their Creator if you will”
    What is very well established is that many populations of sexually differentiated, non-human species have a very stable percentage, generation to generation, of homosexual individuals. Most of these species do not even have gay bars, gay pride parades or other cultural inducements to the gay lifestyle.

  32. Patrick Lang says:

    after watching a some interesting TV on fetal development I have reached the conclusion that at least some homosexuality is the result of defective embryonic development and is therefore not a choice on the part of the individual. ;p

  33. Jackie says:

    I really don’t think homosexuality is a choice. Who in there right mind would choose to be discriminated against, get beat up or killed for their sexual orientation?
    My brother has known since he was 3 or 4 that he was different than most of his peers. I don’t know why he is gay, but we all love him very much and he’s a great guy.

  34. Patrick Lang says:

    As I said I now think you are right about some homosexuals. I think there are others for whom that is a much more problematic idea. How do you account for people who are bisexual in your formulation? pl

  35. sixpacksongs says:

    Good afternoon, Col.
    I believe that the biological and psychological disciplines see sexual identity and sexual attraction as existing on a spectrum, resulting from a complex sequence of hormonal events in utero as well as some adaptation and response to developmental events in maturation. There could even be events much later in life which could alter an individual’s place on the spectrum. As with any complex biologic program, while clearly strongly biased towards heterosexuality as a consequence of our nature as a sexually reproductive species, that particular outcome is not guaranteed for any individual.
    In this formulation, bisexual attraction is just another range on the continuum.
    Thanks again for your site – always something to learn and/or ponder.
    — sixpack in houston

  36. Jackie says:

    I always figured bisexuals wanted to have twice as much fun or have no moral compass, whatever feels good at the moment. That is something else altogether.
    My brother would have made a good military man, very strategic thinker, but the draft ended before his time. He would have gone if called and been hell on wheels as a drill sargeant.
    As for the flamboyant gays, I’ve run across many who just want to be out there. That is just exhibitionism, they are so cute a pretty.

  37. Well I guess the real place to start if you want a military that has no interest in anyone’s sexual orientation you would have to start with the admissions officers at the service academies? Not with those already in the enlisted ranks or serving officers? Understanding that cadets are in fact in the military! Discrimination is discrimination-whether or not justified. Equal opportunity is just that–equal opportunity! Personally whatever the choices made I believe that the current US military has many many other hard choices to make long before worrying or taking on sexual orientation! The problem for the military is that there really is never a truly “off-duty” situation! And off-duty conduct cannot be distinguished between on-duty and job performance. That is the current culture and by design. So an entirely new culture will have to be designed to deal with issues of sexual orientation [and perhaps sexuality–have you notice the extensive tailoring of some female soldiers dresses? Why any dresses?] in the military and adopted across the board. Probably beyond the ability of the current administration or civil or military leadership to deal with! But hey light the fuse and see if it all blows up?

  38. optimax says:

    As for wearing military uniforms in gay parades, there were a lot of men wearing sailor uniforms in the S.F. Gay Pride Parades I’ve seen. I doubt if any were in the Navy though. What is really disconcerting is to see a 6’5″, 350 pound man with a red beard and long red hair wearing a Girl Scout uniform. Wonder what his Viking ancestors would have thought of that.

  39. dilbert dogbert says:

    Col Lang,
    I respect your concern.
    I got the following from another blog.
    From the New York Times of August 8, 1948:
    The problem of race relationships has been a problem of this nation for a century and a half, and it is likely to be a problem for decades to come. It cannot be solved quickly; it will require the patient good will of many generations. It cannot be solved by fanatic mouthings of either race or by pressure politics; least of all can the Army solve it.
    Above all, the Army must remain the Army. Its goal must be efficiency and high morale and any steps needed to attain those twin objectives must be taken. It would be fully as unwise to require by law or edict a general compulsory intermingling of the races in all tactical units as it would be to require by law or edict, as once was done, complete segregation by divisional or regimental units.
    The article was written by Hanson Baldwin, the long-time military reporter for the New York Times. Baldwin was a Naval Academy graduate and won a Pulitzer for his reporting in World War II. He had strong connections within the military, which gave him access to stories he might not otherwise have gotten.

  40. Patrick Lang says:

    I should make it clear at this point that i don’t care if there are openly gay people in the military. I have known many and most were god soldiers. I am only interested in whether or not this will work.
    It works in other armies? So what?
    I look forward to seeing an interview of Mullen after the naval contingent marches in the DC gay pride parade led by the USNA gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered club. pl

  41. Patrick Lang says:

    What ARE you talking about? pl

  42. Cold War Zoomie says:

    …after the naval contingent marches in the DC gay pride parade led by the USNA gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered club.
    I don’t ever see this happening even if they do allow gays to openly serve. Those parades are freak shows and I just can’t imagine a midshipman donning some outrageous outfit and prancing through the streets!

  43. Patrick Lang says:

    Oh, come now. Once the restraint provided by present closetting is removed? Good taste? That is in the eye of the beholder. pl

  44. rjj says:

    Oh, come now. Once the restraint provided by present closetting is removed? Good taste?

    Which would lead to the nightmare scenario of escalation into ever more flamboyant displays of heterosexuality. Military bases would become absolutely Aristophanic.

  45. Patrick Lang says:

    You PC people are amusing in your group think.
    Which play are you thinking of? pl

  46. rjj says:

    How about Wasps. The image was from Birds.
    PC? Think (group or otherwise)? Moi?

  47. rjj says:

    I was merely being fanciful.

  48. Nightsticker says:

    Colonel Lang,
    “I just can’t imagine a midshipman donning some outrageous outfit and prancing through the streets!”
    Certainly not. Nothing that has gone on there recently could lead one to imagine this as a next step on the continuum downhill.
    USMC 65-72
    FBI 72-96

  49. Patrick Lang says:

    Good one! I remember a navy lieutenant who was a “star” in the pages of the Post when I was in DC in the early ’60s. He was arrested in a fracas in a gay bar in Georgetown. Unfortunately he was wearing a tutu at the time. The photograph on the front page was hilarious. pl

  50. optimax says:

    The Vikequeens were known for their ferocity in battle, expert seamanship and love of Busby Berkeley musicals.
    Would I be disciplined in the new military for this joke? The brass are probably more worried about the possible disciplinary nightmare of dropping don’t ask, don’t tell. Young men with high levels of testosterone, some with sexual insecurities or confusion, will create problems from both straights and gays. How much, no one can predict. I know this generation is more tolerant than previous ones but education has not completely harnessed male sexual self-control or self-esteem.

  51. J says:

    I just don’t see the hostile foreign intel honey traps that have caught up ‘stars’ like the navy ‘lietienant’ you describe going by the wayside anytime soon even if homosexual/lesbian behavior were to become an accepted norm by the brass. Ergo the ‘white hairs’ would not disappear from the CI types craniums.
    Oh geez.

  52. Jackie says:

    Your comment yesterday to Optimax was the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I almost fell off my chair laughing. Where did you get Viqueens? It’s priceless.

  53. Patrick Lang says:

    In my long ago time in the infantry some of the best guys were gay. They had nothing else beside their profession and the people they picked up in roadside bars, etc.
    I think that I have mentioned my first platoon sergeant in the infantry (2/2 Infantry). He had spent a lot of time in Korea and had been twice selected by Eighth Army there as the best infantry platoon leader in Korea. There were a lot of officer shortages there in that period.
    “Joe” mentored me a couple of years. I learned more from him about small unit leadership and tactics than ever from anyone else. He and I and my radio operator spent many a miserable New England night in the field huddled together in some rocky hole in the ground. Joe had three silver stars. Soldiers will understand that. When I got married,
    Joe was invited of course. It was a John Ford moment. He declined the invitation. I asked one of my squad leaders why he had done this. This SFC looked hesitant and then asked if I did not know that Joe was in love with me.
    I asked why I did not know this. The SFC said that I must be blind, but that Joe took his personal life “off post.”
    When he retired from the Army Joe became a state policeman in the entering grade of corporal. pl

  54. Jackie says:

    You may have been uncomfortable when you heard why Joe wouldn’t come to your wedding, but really, that is a lovely story. I told you the other day that I thought you were alot more open to gays in the military than most in your generation. And that is a compliment!

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