Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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.


anne said...

Hey Seda,

You're right on with this one. Good call.

I'm not political, but I am interested in politics in a meta way like you do in your posts. I'm also into protest, which is political, but not from the inside.

Thanks for making us think!

I hope to see you and the K-girl next week.


Black Diaspora said...

Well stated, Seda.

Recently, McCain produced a list of a 1000 retired military brass, ranging in age from 60 to 80 (I think I have the age span correct.), who oppose the repeal of DADT.

Many of the names on the list came from persons who never approved it, but found their names there, nonetheless.

McCain is up for reelection, and I understand he's in the fight of his life. Is he fighting the repeal to beef up his conservative bona fides?

Is he only a maverick when he's not up for reelection? It appears that the specter of reelection makes cowards of them all--at least, many of them.

I served in the military. And I agree: Unit cohesion will undergo no more of an assault, if DADT is repealed, than it presently experiences.

I hear there are plans to bring women officers onto navy ships. Of course the objections, as expected, are the tight quarters, but for now these officers will not share quarters with their male counterparts.

Seda said...

Hey, BD,
McCain never was a maverick - not a real one. He's always been foolhardy, though. He's got impulsive guts and considered cowardice - which is a bad combination. That's why he chose to try to drop his payload when a NVA missile locked on him instead of taking evasive action. That got him shot down, cost the US a good airplane and a mediocre pilot, and I think still didn't complete the mission.

Anyway, who cares what the brass thinks? Their job is to follow the directive of the civilian leadership. That's why we call it a democracy, why we say, "We the people..." I'm sick to death of the way everyone from news reporters seeks the okay of the brass before advocating a foreign policy position.

Which branch of the military were you?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Black Diaspora said...

@Seda: "Which branch of the military were you?"

The Air Force.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our