104 Generals and Admirals say let gays serve openly
A statement was released Monday by 104 retired generals and admirals calling for the U.S. to end the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy which prevents gays and lesbians from serving in the American armed forces unless they deceptively hide their sexual orientation. The full text of the statement is as follows:
We—the undersigned—respectfully call for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Those of us endorsing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish. Scholarly data shows there are approximately one million gay and lesbian veterans in the United States today as well as 65,000 gays and lesbians currently serving in our armed forces. They have served our nation honorably. We support the recent comments of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, who has concluded that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would not harm and would indeed help our armed forces. As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Such collaboration reflects the strength and the best traditions of our democracy.
By my count, the flag offices who’ve signed the statement have a total of 161 starts on their uniforms (it was also signed by Former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander). The list is topped by Retired 4-star Admiral Charles Larson, a former Superintendent of the Naval Academy and prior supporter of the don’t ask policy.
He thought it was a mistake for Bill Clinton, who was a close acquaintance, to try to lift the ban immediately, and wished he would have worked more closely with the military if he wanted to make the change. “You can’t change the military culture overnight,” he recalled thinking. …
Admiral Larson changed his view after he learned that “there were a lot of witch hunts and a lot of people were turned out on that basis.” He found that the policy was not being implemented as he had hoped, and the military was losing valuable talent. He was also influenced by having a number of people work for him who were gay, and by having a gay daughter with whom he spoke at length about gays in the military.
He now believes the ban should end. “I think the time has come to find a way to let talented, young, patriotic Americans who want to serve their country serve,” he said, “and let’s enforce high standards of personal and human behavior for everyone.”
Initially, opposition to gays in the military was justified on grounds that they wouldn’t make as good soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen as straight people. That argument can no longer be made by any serious person. Now, opposition to gay servicemembers is based on the argument that straight members aren’t mature enough to serve with someone that they know is homosexual. (Though the claim isn’t normally put in such bald terms.)
Larson, the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor of Maryland in 2006, says that a generational shift in thinking towards homosexuality now allows heterosexuals to serve alongside homosexuals. This is exactly what happened with allowing non-whites to serve in the military in an equal capacity with whites: first blacks wouldn’t make good soldiers, then they proved they could so it was argued that whites couldn’t work with them. Then whites proved they could. And now we have a racially-integrated military that works fine. The same thing will happen with homosexuals; it is inevitable. People looking for more information about gays in the military are hereby referred to the very excellent essays and data maintained and provided on the subject by Dr. Gregory Herek of the University of California, Davis.
These changing attitudes can be easily seen in the age demographics in California’s Proposition 8 battle: 66% of 18-24 year olds, 60% of 25-29 year olds, and 50% of 30-39 year olds supported retaining same-sex marriage rights. Only 41% of those 65 and older supported those rights. In ten years many of those people currently over 65 will have passed away and there will be ten years worth of new younger voters who are comfortable with gay rights—and many of those who currently oppose those rights will change their own attitudes.
Between 1994-2007 the military discharged about 12,340 people for violating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; last year, 627 military personnel were discharged. Some of these people have been Arab-language linguists with sklls that are, to say the least, mission-critical at this point in time.
During the primaries, all of the Republican candidates for president favored retaining the present policy; all of the Democrats, Barack Obama included, favored repealing it. However, he has indicated he won’t scrap the policy unilaterally, preferring to lead and work with the Department of Defense and military leaders in developing a consensus to do so. I think this is probably the best approach in getting widespread acceptance for the reform. Pundits are saying that it’s unlikely he’ll make changing the policy a top priority early in his term.
The don’t ask policy doesn’t work and harms our military. Heterosexuals should be given credit for being mature enough, with very few exceptions, to work side-by-side with a gay or lesbian person. This blog strongly favors repeal of the policy and allowing people who can cut it to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation without having to deceptively hide said orientation.