Consequences of ignorance
Eric Routen | Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Yesterday, I read a frustrating piece in which Michael Falvey recycled a number of debunked arguments against allowing gays to serve in the military (“Consequences of repealing Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” Feb. 15). He talks about the 60 percent of infantrymen who, in their infinite wisdom, have been able to predict how their units would function were gay people allowed to serve with honor and integrity in the military. I know that I don’t need to throw out numbers from the report, as Mr. Falvey has certainly already read it, but he seems to have missed some key statistics: 70 percent of the overall military think that gay service members serving openly would have little to no effect on unit cohesion, and of the 69 percent of service members who responded that they believed they had served with someone who was gay, 92 percent said that their unit’s ability to work together was either very good, good or neutral. There’s also the fact that countries such as Israel, England, Germany, Australia, Italy, Canada and at least 20 others already allow gays to serve openly in the military. Unit cohesion has not been adversely affected in their militaries.
Desegregation of the U.S. military offers a pertinent historical parallel. When the question came whether or not to allow blacks to serve with whites, there was much greater opposition than there is to gays serving in the military. The same arguments about unit cohesion and effectiveness were made then; the same fear-mongering ensued to prevent black and white soldiers from mixing. We have been desegregated for over 50 years, and our military is as strong as ever.
Mr. Falvey also brings up the fact that service in the military entails a life of discomfort about which civilians cannot know. I argue that this is the very reason the military should be able to handle gay soldiers. If servicemen cannot accept the reality that they already serve alongside gay people, how can we expect them to be able to adapt to the stresses of serving in hostile territories among people far more different from them than are their gay compatriots? We expect our military to be resilient and brave, not a bunch of weak-kneed schoolchildren who can’t function alongside openly gay fellow soldiers. As many soldiers have said, in the heat of battle the last thing they are thinking about is the sex lives of the men around them.
The last issue I want to address is the effect that DADT has on gay soldiers. Gay people are attracted to the military for the same reason straight people are — they want to serve their country with honor and integrity. Forcing them to lie about who they are and who they love not only degrades them, but betrays the traditional American values of honesty and decency that our armed services strive to uphold.