Ryan Sager at the "realclearpolitics.blog" links to the following story from ABC News on how an Arabic-fluent Army serviceman was discharged because he is gay. The story is obviously sympathetic to the discharged serviceman and unsympathetic to the military's don't-ask-don't-tell policy instituted by the Democratic Congress and approved by Bill Clinton in 1993. It states matter-of-factly that 67 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to serve in the military but does not cite any specific survey; I wonder about that.
It takes as true the discharged serviceman's statement that he did not tell anyone he was homosexual and behave inappropriately while on duty, which is entirely plausible. The Army officer says the discharged serviceman announced he was gay in "public forums"; the serviceman says he was outed by an anonymous informer who somehow got hold of E-mails he sent on his personal account.
Whatever the particular facts, however, I wonder just how wise it is to discharge Arabic-speaking and -reading military intelligence personnel for being gay. It strikes me, as it does Sager, that this is not the most effective way to fight against Islamofascist terrorism. It also leads me to raise the question: Is the don't-ask-don't-tell policy still appropriate?
As the discharged serviceman notes, it was adopted 13 years ago, when military officers, led by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, argued that allowing open gays to serve in the military would damage unit cohesion. After all, no one has a right to serve in the military, and the military has a right, and arguably a duty, to limit service to those who enhance military effectiveness. But if the military is discharging Arabic-speaking service members for off-duty conduct, does that really enhance military effectiveness? I think a lot of people, including many who do not support the entire agenda of gay rights groups, would say not.
Polls of young Americans show a high degree of toleration of homosexuality and acceptance of gays. It may be argued that those young Americans inclined to join the military are less likely than others in their age cohort to have such attitudes; I am guessing that that was the argument made by military leaders in 1993. But even if it was true then, is it true now? That's a factual matter, and I think it's a question members of Congress and civilian officials in the Department of Defense might want to ask our military leaders today. The don't-ask-don't-tell policy leaves room for persecution of service members who strive not to violate the policy-which seems to have happened in this case, if the ABC News story can be trusted. It also provides an out (pardon the expression) for enlistees who decide they don't want to serve after all and decide that the honorable discharge to which service members like the one in the story are entitled is worth enduring what is increasingly a minor stigma in the larger society or in very large portions of it.
In World War II, our military leaders argued that racial segregation was necessary for military effectiveness. Today, no one would think to make that argument, and the military is the most racially integrated sector of our society. In 1993, our military leaders argued that exclusion of open gays was necessary for military effectiveness. I think it's a fair question whether that's the case any longer. Especially when the Army is discharging Arabic speakers for off-duty conduct.
By the way, the ABC News story is reporting that the discharged soldier is now studying for a master's degree in counseling at East Tennessee State University. Counseling? If he's fluent in Arabic? Why doesn't he apply for some civilian government or private-sector job in which his Arabic could help enhance national security? Why doesn't someone in a position to hire people for such jobs give him a call?