The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell– the 17-year old policy against homosexuals serving openly in the military– is set to pass Congress this weekend. And contrary to triumphant Democrats, this repeal will weaken our military’s combat effectiveness.
The results from the Pentagon study seem pretty clear. 40% of combat troops, including 58% of Marines, believe DADT should not be repealed. Nearly one in four servicemen said they would probably or certainly leave the military earlier than planned if DADT were repealed– a full 8% said repealing DADT would impact their decision more than any other factor, including pay and retirement benefits and combat environment. The number of combat troops saying that an openly gay member in their unit would negatively impact unit cohesion outnumbered those saying it would have a positive effect by roughly 4-to-1.
By contrast, consider the population that would be newly allowed to serve in the military if DADT is passed. Homosexuals make up about 2% of this nation’s population (just ask any anonymous poll). Of these, only about 1 in 6 consider it important to tell those that they are serving with that they are gay (the Pentagon survey found that only 15% of gay servicemen would come out after DADT). All in all, we’re looking at expanding the ranks of our military by probably half a percent, tops.
Even if we suppose that the vast, vast majority of those who say they will leave the military in response to DADT’s repeal are lying, we’re still faced with a fairly ugly trade-off. Considering the concentration of DADT supporters in the front lines, the effect could be even more pronounced, with the small gains in personnel coming in non-combat personnel, and the exodus coming from front line troops.
I’m a fairly big supporter of gay rights– in no way am I praising or supporting the personal opinions of those 1-in-4 servicemen who say they will cut their duty short in response to repeal. But our military is not meant to be a vehicle for social change. Our military is tasked with one purpose– to defend our nation. To subordinate it to any other aim, to politicize it in the service of some sort of social goal, shows reckless disregard for our security.