With House Democrats now serving up a standalone bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), the debate is once again at the fore — and the Pentagon’s survey of active duty military personnel remains central to the debate.
Both advocates for and against repeal of the policy have found evidence supporting their arguments in the report.
Those arguing for gays to serve openly in the U.S. military are heralding the finding in the survey that 70% of military personnel believe there will be positive, neutral, or “mixed” effects from repealing the law. Opponents are pointing to the fact that up to 60% of combat troops said that repeal would have a negative impact.
California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said after the report’s release that the negative response from those serving in combat units made repeal less palatable.
“If anything, the survey results make a compelling case for keeping current policy in place and avoiding any type of distraction for our nation’s military and its combat mission,” said Hunter. “When breaking down the specifics, more respondents answered unfavorably or remain uncertain about a policy change than those who favor repeal.”
Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray had a much different take away.
“This report gives us just one more reason among many to finally repeal don’t ask, don’t tell. We have heard the stories of the lives this policy has ruined, we have heard from top-ranking military officials that it simply doesn’t work, and now we have heard from service members that they too want it to change,” Murray said.
Despite repeal opponents’ concerns, advocates for DADT repeal say that other fighting militaries, such as Israel’s and Britain’s, have allowed gays into the military without deleterious effects — an assertion supporters of the DADT ban say is irrelevant.
“That’s an unproven assertion,” Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of Defense, told The Daily Caller. “We don’t know what other militaries have had to deal with in military discipline and order. The military leaders I speak to often tell me that DADT discharges don’t come from the discovery that someone is homosexual. They mostly result from other disciplinary problems….The Marine Commandant, General Amos, said that the Marines expected problems with order and discipline if DADT is repealed. He’s a better judge of that than the gay activists — or any members of Congress — are.”
Repeal activists also point to the fact that other militaries that have already made the transition to allowing gays to serve openly also had opposition before doing so. Despite negative poll numbers similar to what U.S. combat soldiers registered, once the ban was in fact lifted, for example in the United Kingdom, there was not a mass exodus from the military.
Retired Rear Admiral Michael R. Groothousen takes issue with that contention. Groothousen told TheDC that what worked in other, specifically European countries, would not work in America, which is culturally more conservative.
“There are foreign navies that are so open about sexuality that some even share heads [among both sexes] and they look at sexuality a little bit different than Americans do,” Groothousen said, pointing to his experience in command of NATO ships and the fact that Judeo-Christian values hold more sway in America than in Europe. “Top-less and bottomless European beaches, that just does not exist here. They are trying to force something down our throats that does not match American society.”
Babbin echoed the sentiment, saying that each country’s military is different.
“One size doesn’t fit all, and one nation’s military is fundamentally different from another’s….Our military culture – especially the warrior culture of the Marines, the special operations forces and others – is a combination of tradition, pride and religion. General Shelton said that repeal of DADT would shatter the combat arms. That conclusion, I’m confident, is right. And it’s right because it’s based on the differences between our military culture and those of other nations,” Babbin said.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 1, Defense Secretary Robert Gates brushed aside concerns regarding combat troops’ negative feelings about gays serving openly.
“This can be done, and it should be done, without posing a serious risk to military readiness,” Gates said. “However, these findings do lead me to conclude that an abundance of care and preparation is required if we are to avoid a disruptive – and potentially dangerous – impact on the performance of those who are serving at the tip of the spear in America’s wars.”