U.S. policies on military gays outdated

Freedom New Mexico

It will be argued — it has been argued — that allowing homosexual people to serve openly in the military would inevitably undermine morale and unit cohesion. The essence of the argument, as expressed recently by military historian and Vietnam veteran Mackubin Owens, is that military success requires tight nonsexual bonding, and that allowing homosexuals to serve runs the risk that amorous or sexual relationships could introduce complications and possible jealousy or favoritism into the equation, thus detracting from the primary purpose of winning battles and wars.

It is possible that there is some validity to such fears. It is not merely an abstract argument about equal rights, however, to suggest that the current policy, in which homosexuals can serve so long as they do not allow their sexual orientation to be known — colloquially known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” — carries all those potential dangers and the additional possibility of secret relationships that could undermine unit cohesion even more. It would be preferable to follow the lead of the military services of Great Britain, Israel, Australia and other countries and allow homosexual people to serve openly rather than covertly.

Many people in the military have resisted such a policy, but opinions have changed since the current policy was adopted in 1993. Gen. Colin Powell, who defended “don’t ask” in 1993, now believes the policy is wrong. And, perhaps most significantly, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came out strongly in a reecnt congressional hearing in opposition to the policy.

“I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Adm. Mullen said. “For me personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.

Adm. Mullen said that he had been serving alongside gays ever since he joined the Navy in 1968, and that “everybody in the military has.”

The current policy was put in place by Congress — a Congress in which, as many observers noted, fewer members had served in the armed forces than had usually been the case in our history. The current Congress would do well to listen to our top military leaders and change policies to something more honest.

It may be prudent, as the Pentagon plans, to study the ramifications of changing policy at some length before doing so. But the time has come.