As regular readers know, mono impalito and I have been going on for quite a while about the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy. While we both agree that it is a bad policy which requires military personnel to lie on a regular basis (in direct violation of the the military's policy of honorable service), we disagree in how it should be replaced. Mono, a service member with almost 30 years experience, believes that homosexuals should be barred from serving in the military, and I believe that they should be allowed to serve, just like blacks, women, and other minorities are.
Last weekend, mono wrote two good posts laying out his argument against homosexuals in the military. Here I will respond to his points. I invite others with opinions on this matter to weigh in with their comments and opinions.
Executive Summary... (Click "read more" below to continue)
My main argument* is that by disallowing homosexuals in the military we are decreasing it's effectiveness. A striking example of this is the 80 or so gay Arabic/Farsi linguists ("09 Limas" in military parlance) that have been discharged in recent years. Mono contends that this does not significantly impact military effectiveness and/or if we did allow them to serve, we would lose other service members who would refuse to serve alongside homosexuals for religious reasons. Mono's other arguments against allowing homosexuals to serve could apply (for the most part) to any minority group, so it's not clear to me if he is advocating a further homogenization of our Armed Forces. I still do not know what it is about homosexuals (versus, for example, woman or blacks) that makes their service a detriment to the military. The example of the 09 Limas, which the military readily recognizes as very valuable, makes it clear that disallowing homosexuals to serve directly and negatively effects our military's competence, and during war-time no less.
*Of course, the argument could be made that homosexuals should be allowed to serve simply from an equal rights standpoint, but we haven't really gone down that path yet.
If the Department of Defense were to openly embrace homosexuality, is it your contention that more, not less, native speakers of target languages would leave their communities in the United States to serve abroad in the Armed Forces? I believe it is just as easy to suggest that fewer native speakers would refrain from joining because they do not accept homosexuality on the grounds that it is not a practice that finds much approval in the Koran.
I think it is difficult to predict what individual people will do in general. You are suggesting that the native speakers (what percentage of the military’s Farsi/Arabic linguists [FALs] are native speakers?) would decline to join the military if homosexuals were allowed to serve on religious grounds. I believe there are probably military personnel for whom this is true (people like Maj. Nidal Hassan come to mind), but I’m not sure that fundamental Muslims make up the majority of native Farsi/Arabic speakers in the military. Indeed, those with fundamental Muslim beliefs are probably quite rare in the military. Does your experience contradict this?
you will certainly dissuade many more potential recruits by presenting an insurmountable affront to their religious or social morals. If I can put one homosexual Farsi speaker in uniform at the cost of losing a dozen infantrymen, a medic, three wheel mechanics, two track mechanics, a chaplain, and three MPs, is that a good trade for you?
First, as I said above, I don’t think allowing 1 homosexual into the military will dissuade over 20 from joining, simply because those that hold that fundamental religious belief are not as likely to join the military in the first place (unless you are saying that fundamental Christians would not join). Do you know any soldiers, Muslim or otherwise, that would not have joined, or would not re-enlist if homosexuals were allowed to serve? If so, what proportion of the military would leave? And finally, do you have any evidence other than anecdotal to support this claim. (I am not disparaging your anecdotal experience, it is likely the best gauge we will get on this issue, but it would be good for us to have multiple sources if we can.)
When we begin to push the rights of individuals in front of the mission and the needs of the service, we begin to break down one of the fundamental elements of a functional military.
We are not talking about the rights of homosexuals once they are in the military. No one is suggesting that homosexual soldiers be given special or different treatment. However, homosexual citizens should be afforded the same rights as heterosexual citizens, otherwise the democracy that you fight for (thank you, by the way) is so much lip service.
You may think they can but I can tell you that they cannot simply perform their duties in a vacuum that has no effect on the people around them and it comes back to uniformity. Uniformity isn't simply stating that all things must look the same. They must also BE the same with regard to every like item or person. When I make an exception for one item or person, I must be prepared to do so for all. The Army is not Burger King.
Again, we are not talking about giving special rights or treatment to homosexual soldiers. One could use the words of your argument (“they must also BE the same…”) to argue against blacks or women serving in the military. Is it your position that minorities of any stripe should not be allowed to serve?
Here are a couple of areas where we will inevitably see problems emerge if openly serving homosexuals are permitted in the Armed Forces:
1. Fraternization. This is essentially an argument about preferential treatment and favoritism. The minute an openly homosexual First Sergeant allocates a better billet or better job to a particular individual of the same sex over another, there will be talk of preferential treatment whether there is a personal relationship involved or not. I've seen this situation develop between males and females and it has had a devastating impact on unit morale. An openly homosexual service member could greatly add to fraternization concerns simply because more people would become sensitive to the potential for such discrimination. Suspicion undermines.
This is a bit like saying I shouldn’t have lunch with a single, female co-worker because my wife might think I’m having an affair. The military, like any other organization, should and does have rules governing this type of thing (preferential treatment/discrimination). I can’t believe that allowing homosexuals to serve would produce that much more of a burden on the organization’s human resources infrastructure. If this is such a huge problem, then we should remove women (and all other minorities) from the military, no? There are certainly more women and blacks in the military than there would be homosexuals (were they allowed to serve).
2. "Equal Opportunity". That really means "Equal Outcome" but what can you do? When a promotion board meets and the results do not meet the demographic expectation, results are reshuffled and outcomes magically reemerge with the politically correct flavor in place. Very tidy. At least until a law suit succeeded in reversing one set of board results. Here is just one example: http://www.adversity.net/military_older_news.htm. The bottom line on that case was that the promotion policy was declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Court judge because it gave preference to women and minorities in promotions while passing over qualified white male officers.
And your point is…. what exactly? The lawsuits succeeded in changing the Army’s Affirmative Action policy. How would allowing homosexuals to serve change that court ruling?
3. Marriage. What do you do about a homosexual service member that is married to a same sex partner? [snip]
This is a complete non-starter of an argument. Married gay soldiers would be treated exactly the same as any other married gay federal employee. I.e. the spouse would not be eligible for any benefits.
4. Resources. Time is a precious resource in the military. [snipped a lot of discussion about “[insert minority] History Months”
I can sympathize with you here. What you described does sound a bit overdone. But if you are saying that we shouldn’t allow homosexuals to serve because there is a small chance that somewhere down the line the military will participate in “Homosexual History Month” I have to say that is a pretty silly argument. For one, we don’t even do that as civilians.
It is pretty clear that the incentive to rescind DADT is the politics of groups and individuals that want America to accept homosexuality as “mainstream”, when it is clearly not the case.
I don’t think those who advocate to rescind DADT want homosexuality accepted as “mainstream.” I think especially the more vociferous among the gay community would tell you that they are definitely not mainstream. What they (and I) are advocating is equal treatment and rights.
When the country has not yet come to a common agreement on the status of homosexual marriages, forcing the issue on the military is harmful in so many ways.
I’m really trying to see your side of the argument, but I just don’t see how it would be so harmful.
You've heard some of my arguments about why I don't think it is a good idea to force the military to accept openly serving homosexuals into the ranks. They are not straw man arguments and you would be better served by attempting to find an effective argument of your own rather than to draw incorrect conclusions about whether or not some else has the "the intellectual muscle for the job". Please. The specifics I mentioned are significant in that they negatively impact most if not all service members and that is the key.
First, regarding the “intellectual muscle” comments: I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. Dr. Zaius said that you had it, but up to that point, you hadn’t put forth an argument stating why homosexuals shouldn’t serve. Rather you wrote at length about the actions of an individual which you judged to be detrimental to the military and at odds with the UCMJ. I did not necessarily disagree with you on that point, but it was (and is) irrelevant to the topic at hand. Therefore, I disagreed with Zaius’ interpretation of our debate.
Now you have put forth your reasons for your opinion, and we can have a substantive debate.
I don't think you understand the issue.
In your comments you don't seem to understand the gravity of violating the UCMJ. The Army cannot function if the UCMJ is not enforced. It is that simple.
This seems to be a point on which we are talking past each other, so let me try to make my point more clearly.
I don’t think that Lt. Choi’s actions are representative of all homosexual service men and women. If they were, then there would be stories of hundreds or thousands of people like him (rather than just a handful). I don’t know if his actions are justified or not. I do not know a lot about military law and ethics vis-à-vis the UCMJ, so I can’t really take a stand one way or the other on that topic. But it is not relevant to the discussion about whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to serve. For example, if we stipulate that Choi acted inappropriately and thus should be discharged, that decision would stand whether or not homosexuals were allowed to serve. In other words, if it was decided today that homosexuals could serve, then an investigation into Choi’s actions could still find him in violation of the UCMJ and thus subject to discharge (or whatever).
Does that make sense? I don’t disagree with you on the UCMJ point (which is not to say I agree – I’m abstaining). But it doesn’t relate to the issue of should they serve. Of course they should be bound by the UCMJ either way.
Your interest in the bonus availability for certain languages is answered by an Army Staff Sergeant:
# SSG Neo Says:
November 4, 2009 at 12:24 pm
I am a 09L. the Linguist program for Native arab and kurdish speakers is closed until further notice since recruiting has already met their quota for the rest of fiscal year. so probably there will be no more opening for arabic and kurdish until sep 30, 2010.
as for the 150k Bonus. there is no such thing.
there are bonuses for up to 40k if you have college credits and you enlist into active duty for 6 years.
reserve bonus for pashtu dari and farsi are 20k.
Thanks for finding that. I re-read the Christian Science Monitor article and it seems that the Army considered the $150k bonus, but never actually implemented it. Instead they limited it to $40k, with up to $400 monthly foreign language proficiency pay (see the Army Times article linked to below). Still, that is strong evidence of the military’s desire to retain these vital soldiers. The article also states that (as of August, 2008) the Army had more than 600 09 Limas, which means the 80 homosexual linguists that were discharged represent more than 10% of that force. Though this Army Times article says that “[t]he Army has recruited more than 1,260 09 Limas since August 2003.” I’m guess the CSM figure was the active duty number, while the AT number is the total that have come into and gone out of the program. Still, 80 out of 1260 over 5 years is very significant, given the importance of the job. Also from the AT article:
The 09 Limas are force multipliers, [Army Assistant Deputy for Foreign Language Programs Errol] Smith said.
“The difference between a 09 Lima and a civilian contractor is, a 09 Lima is in uniform,” he said. “They’re considered more trustworthy. They’re in uniform and they’ve been screened by the Army. They will do what soldiers do.”
An 09 Lima is trained to immediately identify a hostile situation by observing a person’s clothing and gestures. An 09 Lima understands local slang terms and sayings. An 09 Lima gives his commander a deeper understanding of the people and culture they are immersed in every day.
And then there is this anecdote from the CSM article, related by the same Errol Smith.
”We've received numerous reports from combatant commanders on the effectiveness of the 09 Limas versus the private contract linguists, and demand is extremely high.”
Yet when it comes to linguistic and cultural expertise, few can compare to a native speaker, defense officials say. "They hear things that are said around them, they are able to see things that others can't see," says Mr. Smith.
Smith tells the story of a commander in Iraq who was using a civilian interpreter, or "terp" in the vernacular of the military, employed by a private contractor, as the American commander spoke to a local Iraqi. During the meeting, the civilian interpreted literally the words of the local Iraqi, who had told other Iraqis to feed the American commander parsley. But an 09 Lima standing nearby heard something different: feeding parsley to someone was a reference to an old expression in which parsley was fed to a bird to choke it to death.
"He was pretty much giving an order to have the commander killed," says Smith. "Right there, a life was saved .... You can see just by knowing a bit of slang, being a native speaker, it can make a difference."
It’s clear that having a military trained interpreter is much better than employing a contractor.