No one calls the Israeli Army a pushover. British soldiers aren’t wimps, and certainly not tough Australian “Diggers”.
So why is it these armies can successfully integrate gays into their ranks, while the U.S. is stuck in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?
The answer is commitment from senior leadership, according to the Palm Center at the Univ. of California Santa Barbara, which just released a study of gay soldiers in foreign armies. Researchers focused on Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom. For decades, these nations had maintained official or unofficial bans, which in South Africa extended to chemical castration and chemical shock therapy of gay servicemen.
All five nations lifted bans on gay service members between 1992 and 2000. Despite predictions that military morale and efficiency would collapse…well, would you want to rumble with the Israeli Air Force? The British Royal Marine Commandos?
The study found several common denominators that successfully integrated gay soldiers. Besides support from senior leaders, these nations didn’t force-feed sensitivity training, which would have been a joke in the macho military atmosphere. Instead, simple guidelines made clear that all soldiers were expected to adhere to a uniform code of behavior regardless of their sexual orientation.
Think about it. This is really common sense. Treat soldiers like any other soldiers. And lo and behold, they behave like other soldiers. In fact, the study concludes that ending their persecution actually enhanced military efficiency and increased retention of highly trained personnel who would otherwise have been driven out of the service.
These results are more than illuminating. They are an embarrassing reminder that for 15 years, we have somehow pretended that like being half-pregnant, gay men and women could belong and yet not belong in the U.S. military. Americans like to think that we are different from decadent Europeans. But the U.S. military shares a fair amount of culture and tradition with English-speaking armies like the British and Canadian, and even the Israeli military shares our approach to professionalism and accomplishing the mission, as compared to the toy soldiers and thugs that make up much of the world’s armed forces.
The U.S. military prides itself as a can-do organization. It’s about time it started doing, instead of driving out skilled warriors because of stupid and obsolete prejudices. Senior commanders like Admiral Mike Mullen have indicated that they can live with the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Maybe somebody told them that if the Israelis can do it, so can we.