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Max Boot’s Misplaced ‘Study’ of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Posted on March 6 2010 1:20 pm
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Military analyst Max Boot relies on suspect and irrelevant studies by the activist academic group, the Palm Center, to argue that openly gay military service wouldn’t be a problem for the U.S. military.

Military analyst Max Boot has a new post at Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog in which he argues that openly gay military service really wouldn’t be a problem for the U.S. military. In support of his thesis, Boot advances two big ideas both of which are wrong. I’ll address Boot’s two main points in two separate blog posts. (Here’s the link to the second post.)

First, says Boot, “studies” show that open homosexuality has not undermined “unit cohesion in allied militaries, including those of Australia, Britain, and Israel.”

But the “studies” Boot references were done by the Palm Center, an activist academic group which has been actively promoting openly gay military service for years. Thus, the objectivity and fairness of these studies are in doubt. In fact, there are four big problems with the Palm Center “studies”:

First, other countries militaries aren’t comparable to the U.S. military. No other military on the planet, after all, can or will do what our military does — namely, fight and win major wars in multiple theaters of operation over a prolonged, multiyear period.

Second, the fact that other countries have allegedly muddled along with openly gay military service doesn’t mean that openly gay military service is ideal or helps to promote military readiness and combat effectiveness.

There are some things, after all, that the military suffers and endures — a stultifying bureaucracy, a rigid hierarchy, and women in some combat units — which hinder its performance, but which are ignored or swept under the rug for political reasons.

Third, it is not clear that openly gay military service is really as pervasive as Boot and the Palm Center suggest.

“Indeed, according to Thomas Mackubin Owens, with the exception of the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries,

[our NATO and allied militaries] still discriminate, banning homosexuals from service in ground combat units and special-operations forces.

Owens is a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, a professor at the Naval War College, and editor of Orbis, the journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Owens also cites the late great military sociologist Charles Moskos, who wrote:

There is no country in Europe, much less Israel, that American advocates of gay rights would find a suitable model.

Fourth, the entire effort to “study” the issue and to gather “data” is completely misplaced; yet it dominates the debate — or at least what little debate there now is over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: Because in truth, only one side — those who want to trash “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — is making an argument. Supporters of the current policy are incredibly weak and inarticulate.

The effort to gather data is misplaced because the attitudes or “feelings” of our servicemen and women aren’t at issue.

What is at issue is the introduction of an overtly sexual dynamic into military units, and whether that will help or hinder military readiness and combat effectiveness. And for that we don’t need “data”; we simply need to understand human nature and our recent (but much covered-up and ignored) U.S. military history.

In my next post, I’ll refute Boot’s second point, which is that the military’s experience with women shows that accommodating open homosexuality would not be a problem. Boot misconstrues the role of women in the military and thus is wrong about open homosexuality within the ranks.

John R. Guardiano is an Arlington, Virginia-based writer and analyst. He served as a Marine in Iraq and is still a military reservist. Follow him on Twitter. Mr. Guardiano has also written an ongoing series — “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t Even Pretend to Be Fair” – about willful media bias and distortion regarding open homosexuality in the military.

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