War is great for gays

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 30:  Antonio Agnone help...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The Iraq and Afghan wars may be the best news for the gay community in years. Not that gays like war any more than straights. But the times are a-changin’ when the nation’s top military leaders endorse the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, a make-believe waffling policy that never satisfied any one.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, served a shocker when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee who said he personally believed that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.”

Fifteen years ago, senior officers like Mullen were fighting tooth-and-nail against gays in the service. What changed their minds? Was it the election of Barack Obama? Not likely, considering that Bill Clinton also wanted to end discrimination, and that didn’t stop the generals and admirals from voicing opposition. Could it be that cultural change – the increasing acceptance of gay rights in American society – has percolated into the Pentagon? Perhaps, but fundamentalist Christianity has solidly entrenched itself in the military, so it’s hard to believe that all the men who wears stars on their shoulders suddenly turned warm and fuzzy.

I don’t think it was love that motivated the Pentagon’s change of heart. I think it was fear. Fear that the U.S. military is overstretched, tired and scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel. Gangbangers who would have been booted out of boot camp 10 years ago are now carrying machine guns in Kabul, courtesy of a U.S. government that desperately needs boots on the ground. Somewhere, in some dusty office deep in the bowels of the Pentagon, manpower planners have to be asking themselves, “can we afford to throw away trained, skilled soldiers because of who they sleep with?”

It is true that war is awful. It is also true that the pressures of war enable changes that would never be considered in peacetime. The U.S. military was fanatical in fighting integration during World War II. African-Americans were mostly used as truck drivers and waiters. Yet by 1945, infantry casualties were running so high that General Eisenhower ordered the formation of a few integrated combat units. It wasn’t done out of conscience. It was done to win the war.

There was a reason why African-American leaders during fought so strenuously for the right to fight the Nazis. Those who are barred from defending their country will never be full citizens of it.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Even after the armed forces were officially desegregated in 1948, discrimination against black soldiers was prevalent. It took decades – and race riots between black and white soldiers in Vietnam – to eradicate it. Even if  “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, gay soldiers are in for a rough time.

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8 Responses to War is great for gays

  1. freddonaldson says:

    Your reference to African-Americans is odd. Blacksausee fought in every war from colonial times to the present. Sex is not race. Gay is not color. I fear for gays in the military, because a bullet in the back is easier in Iraq than at the Pentagon where these decisions are being implemented.

    • Michael Peck says:

      African-American soldiers have fought America’s war for 250 years, but not as equals in pay or rank. You’re right that gay is not a color, so gays are not as visible a target. It also means that it will be harder to prove discrimination.

  2. mylesahed says:

    It will come as no surprise (to me) that at some point the right wing will realize that it is to their advantage to not only allow gays to openly serve in the military, but to aggressively promote their recruitment. What better way to finally eliminate the gay situation by sending them off to get blown away in illegal,unjust, self induced military conflicts abroad. They already use that option to rid America of low income,lower educated, disadvantaged minorities and whites alike…

    • Michael Peck says:

      Wipe out gays by sending them into combat? That’s so wonderfully lunatic that I’m sure some fundamentalists will suggest it. In which case, maybe heterosexuality becomes “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  3. mylesahed says:

    Hey! Wonderfully lunatic! I like that!..What’s even more lunatic is the idea some cynical,delusional fundamentalist will propose involving instituting a draft only for gays,and low income,inconvenient, disadvantaged minorities and whites. That’s had to have crossed some minds somewhere…

  4. Jeff McMahon says:

    I think you’re right, Michael, about military motives for widening recruitment, but will repealing DADT bring more gay people into the military or just allow gay people who are already there to serve openly? Is there a large population of gay people who are presently avoiding service just because they would have to serve in the closet?

    • Michael Peck says:

      Most Americans don’t serve in the military, so I don’t know if repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would spark enlistments by gays. If that were to happen, I’m sure there would be a backlash, just as there were concerns that minorities were over-represented in the 1970s after the draft was ended. It would be interesting psychologically to research whether there are any aspects of serving in the military – other than legal barriers – that would encourage or discourage serving.

  5. Pingback: DADT Addendum « coyote blue

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