Recently I read a commentary by a civilian pundit (I don't recall her name) who said that civil rights isn't the main issue in repealing DADT, unit cohesion is. She mentioned that that she had never served in the armed forces, yet still stated this "fact" with confidence.
As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, allow me to politely disagree.
Unit cohesion is the responsibility of the unit commander. Repealing DADT may or may not increase the challenge of that charge, but, by itself, will not affect it. That's not the issue at all, period. The issue IS civil rights.
In 1941, blacks were forbidden to enlist in the US Marine Corps. General Holcomb, the Corps commandant at that time, said, "If it were a question of having a Marine Corps of 5,000 whites or 250,000 Negroes, I would rather have the whites." According to Morris MacGregor in Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, "Black enlistment was impractical, he told one civil rights group, because the Marine Corps was too small to form racially separate units." (chap. 4) President Roosevelt ordered the Navy to enlist black troops, and, under orders, Holcomb complied. Under Truman, desegregation continued, and the Korean War was, I believe, the first to see racially integrated units in action. When I joined the Marine Corps in 1979, 30 years after racial integration of the Armed Forces, one of the first scenes I witnessed in boot camp was a fistfight between a white man and a black man – which was, of course, racially motivated. And it wasn't the only one I witnessed. Nevertheless, the leadership I witnessed in the Marine Corps did what it had to do to make sure that, regardless of racial tension, the units worked together. To their credit, they did a pretty good job of it.
The point is that, in a democracy, the civil government takes precedence over the military leadership. The president – a civilian – is the head of the military, for the very good reason that the military should be placed in service to the civil and civilian purpose. As Roosevelt and Truman understood, it is the job of the military to do as the civilian establishment dictates, not the other way 'round.
To show how this basic tenet of democracy has been twisted, according to the Washington Post, three years ago John McCain deferred to the military: "A former war hero, McCain said he would support ending the ban once the military's top brass told him that they agreed with the change."
McCain knows (or should know) about unit cohesion, and he should have a good grounding in the Constitution and the American, democratic theory of government – yet he deferred to the military. The Human Rights Campaign uses the military brass's coming out in favor of repealing DADT as if that were relevant to the issue. And, as noted, the pundit who inspired this post believes that the issue is "unit cohesion," that effectiveness of the military is the concern; she has been so deceived by the recent deferral of civilian leadership to military leadership that she believes that order is correct.
Failure of unit cohesion in the military is not caused by the diversity of the members making up the unit. It's caused by a failure of leadership. It is irrelevant to the issue of repealing DADT, and where it happens, the officer (and/or NCO) in charge should be disciplined and/or replaced.
In fact, there is one issue relevant to repealing DADT: civil rights. DADT is a moral travesty. It is the ethical and moral obligation and responsibility of the civilian leadership of this country, the president and congress, to order the military brass to integrate LGBT people into the military. It is the duty of military leadership to see that it is done without compromising unit cohesion or mission effectiveness.
Believe me, they're up to the task.