The whole debate surrounding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came to mind as the comedy theater of the Senate Confirmation Hearings of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan began in Washington. The only real challenges to her nomination centered around her decision as the Dean of Harvard Law School to ban military recruiters from the school. She explained that decision as a reaction to the discriminatory nature of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
The mainstream media always focus on the opinions on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell of the admirals and generals who lead the armed services. Hardly anybody wonders what the typical military officer thinks about this policy. Is it a topic of discussion? Is it a priority?
As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Marine Corps officer for the last 24 years I can tell you that me and my colleagues seldom talk about this subject. The only occasions on which I have discussed this policy was when the law was passed and when some senior military leader brought the issue into the news.
The law was passed right after President Clinton took office in the spring of 1993. At that time many officers vehemently opposed it and said it might lead to a breakdown in unit cohesion. Very few officers would go on record pontificating their views on the subject. I believe the main issue most had with the law was that it was vague. Most believed it should be banned or allowed. The political compromise solved absolutely nothing.
My generation of officers probably had a higher percentage of those opposing the measure but again very few were ever discussing it to any great length. It was a purely political issue, used by opportunistic politicians to get votes. It was far from the everyday thoughts of operational military personnel. The new generation of officers were brought up in a different world and have less opposition to homosexuality.
If you were to poll officers on what issues were a priority to them, the issue of homosexuals in the military would be way down the list. The main issues for military officers today surround the war and how we can continue to fight a war in Afghanistan that seems to have no real end state. Issues such as family separation and long deployments also lead the list of top concerns. Like most Americans, military officers worry about their pay and benefits.
So who really cares about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Very few military officers care enough about it to challenge a change in the law. Most of us know a number of homosexuals serving with us and respect them for their professionalism and work ethic. When the bullets start flying, believe me, no one cares if the person next to them is a homosexual. They care if that person is going to take care of them.