Don’t ask, don’t tell

It looks as though Congress is going to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Should they? Well, I think DADT is a good policy and the military is better off with it in place, but I also think it doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things.

The basic problem is romantic relationships — real or imagined — between service members. Service members who form relationships with one another are prone to do stupid, dangerous things. When I was in training with the Army Reserve, I knew one male soldier who was infatuated with a female soldier. The relationship was entirely in his head, but that didn’t help the problem; it might have even made it worse.

Once we were on a field training exercise, and we were manning the perimeter in anticipation of an enemy attack. This soldier thought he heard his would-be paramour screaming for help. (He didn’t, but it doesn’t matter.) He decided he needed to abandon his post to go find her and save her. The rest of us on that part of the perimeter were, shall we say, strongly against his plan. But he went ahead, leaving his zone unprotected. Shortly thereafter the OPFOR penetrated our lines and “killed” us all.

My experience is not at all unusual. The lesson is that men and women should not mix on the front lines. As a practical matter, that means that women should not serve on the front lines, since an all-female combat unit doesn’t seem like a realistic option (outside of fiction).

The problem posed by homosexuals is simultaneously harder and easier. Heterosexual relationships can be prevented by segregating men and women, but that won’t work for homosexuals. (The only way to handle the problem by segregation, to place at most one homosexual in each unit, is obviously not a workable arrangement.) However, while gender cannot be kept secret, sexual orientation can. Doing so gives us a workable arrangement that allows homosexuals to serve in the military. Indeed, this is the essence of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

That’s why DADT is a good policy. It allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military while limiting the problems caused by relations between them.

That said, I don’t see this as a particularly important issue. The lion’s share of the problems come from heterosexual relationships; the homosexual contribution to the problem is miniscule. And, unfortunately, the heterosexual problem is going to get much worse, since the government seems determined to mix genders throughout the armed forces, even in front-line units. Next to that, any damage done by repealing DADT is insignificant.

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