Why The Marine Commandant Is Wrong About DADT Repeal

Adam Serwer on General Amos’s comments about DADT Repeal, which James Joyner noted this morning:

There are gay Marines serving under Gen. Amos as we speak — they’re simply not doing so openly. Those Marines aren’t going to lose control of their libidos the moment they no longer have to serve in the closet. Among those Marines who believed they had already served in combat alongside gay and lesbian troops, 84 percent said their ability to work together as a unit was not negatively affected. These are the kinds of results that led the Pentagon to conclude that its study revealed “a misperception that a gay man does not “fit” the image of a good warfighter — a misperception that is almost completely erased when a gay Service member is allowed to prove himself alongside fellow warfighters.”

That finding mirrors what the military learned during the process of racial integration. It’s worth remembering — again — that opposition to integrating the military was much higher in the service than repealing DADT is now, with some surveys showing between 80 to 90 percent of the service opposed. American society itself was still sharply divided along racial lines. The U.S. was at war in Korea, and the military was far larger than it is now. By 1951, more than a decade before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, military studies had shown integration to be an unqualified success.

And, given the results of the Pentagon study, I would suspect that DADT repeal will be a much smoother, shorter process than integration was in the 1950s. What strikes me most about General Amos’s comments is that it reveals a profound lack of faith in the ability of the Marines serving under him to adapt to change and to accept the soldiers that they are already serving next to on a daily basis regardless of the fact that they might be gay, straight, or bisexual. His belief that these professional trained soldiers would be so profoundly disturbed by that simple fact that they would be unable to perform their jobs strikes me as being an insult to the troops themselves.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Joe Carter says:

    . . . reveals a profound lack of faith in the ability of the Marines serving under him to adapt to change and to accept the soldiers that they are already serving next to on a daily basis regardless of the fact that they might be gay, straight, or bisexual.

    One of the reasons that OTS is such a great blog is that it (usually) doesn’t resort to silly claims like this.

    If Marines are already serving next to gays and bisexuals without a problem then whey do we need to repeal DADT?

    The reason, of course, is that we are not banning a group of people but a particular set of sexual behaviors. Anyone who doesn’t think that allowing gay sex in the military will be disruptive clearly hasn’t thought about the issue for more than five minutes.

  2. Al says:

    You know, if the US Armed Forces was a bit more up front about troops being allowed to have straight sex wherever and whenever they wanted recruiting might not be so difficult.

  3. Rob Miles says:

    Joe, repealing DA/DT isn’t about the majority of the soldiers who aren’t gay, it’s about the minority who are, and who want to serve without being discriminated against.

    Gay and straight sex in the military has a great potential to be disruptive; that’s why I’m pretty sure nobody is arguing that soldiers, gay or straight, should be able to have sex during morning formation or in the chow line.

    Talk about somebody who hasn’t thought about the issue for more than five minutes, except to constantly remind himself how icky it all sounds.

  4. James Young says:

    I suppose we just have to believe this because, Doug, you know SOOOOO much more about good discipline and order than a Marine General.

  5. I know that working together with people who happen to be gay won’t lead to an orgy like the sex obsessed people on the right seem to think it will. I know that American soldiers aren’t so bigoted that they are suddenly going to be unable to do a job they’ve trained for years to do.

    You social conservatives are behind the curve on this one James, you’re going to lose eventually whether it happens this month or in a year or two

  6. Joe Carter says:

    Joe, repealing DA/DT isn’t about the majority of the soldiers who aren’t gay, it’s about the minority who are, and who want to serve without being discriminated against.

    To claim that they are discriminated against is to say that people in the military have a constitutional right to have homosexual sex. They do not.

    should be able to have sex during morning formation or in the chow line.

    Where should they be able to have sex? Certainly not in the barracks. Or on ships. Or in the field. So where should they be allowed to have sex? Presumably, it would be in a private location where on one would have to know about it. If so, then why does such behavior need to be brought out into the open and celebrated as if it were morally acceptable?

    Doug Mataconis I know that working together with people who happen to be gay won’t lead to an orgy like the sex obsessed people on the right seem to think it will.

    You mean like when women were allowed to serve alongside of men that it didn’t lead to sex-related problems? Oh wait, bad example.

    I’m sure that from you perch in a law office in Northern Virginia that that it seems silly that sexual issues would be an issue in an organization that contains a large number of post-adolescent males. But having served 15 years in the Marines, I can assure you that even heterosexual sex causes an inordinate amount of headaches that are disruptive to good order and discipline.

    I know that American soldiers aren’t so bigoted that they are suddenly going to be unable to do a job they’ve trained for years to do.

    First of all, please refrain from claiming that opposition to homosexual sex is a matter of “bigotry.” It just makes you look ignorant, and you’re not.

    Second, if this is true, then why is Gen. Amos willing to risk his career to make such a claim? What do you know that he doesn’t?

  7. Al says:

    Where should they be able to have sex? Certainly not in the barracks. Or on ships. Or in the field.

    Again, straight people are restricted from having sex in all of those places too. What’s your point?

    Also, “moral acceptability” has nothing to do with why homosexuals were banned from serving since at least the post WW II era. Homosexuals were banned from serving because they were deemed a security risk since someone in the closet could be easily blackmailed. Of course, DADT actually makes that situation worse. The fact that no one seemed to care shows where social conservative’s priorities are.

  8. Mithras says:

    Racial discrimination in the armed forces was sustained by the same kind of arguments made against repealing DADT. Jim Crow in the military was far more vicious than discrimination against gay and lesbian soldiers today – in World War II, the handful of black Army officers couldn’t even get white enlisted men to salute them; black soldiers were regularly beaten for not stepping off the sidewalk when meeting a white solder or for not allowing white soldiers to be served first in civilian businesses; black soldiers were not issued weapons and instead were relegated to non-combat support roles, until the Battle of the Bulge when losses forced the Army to ask black G.I.s to volunteer for combat, so long as they accepted losing all rank in order to prevent them from outranking any white soldier they might encounter. Despite that, thousands did volunteer to fight the Germans.

    Racial discrimination in the armed forces was far more deeply entrenched and yet we overcame it. We will overcome this nonsense, too.

  9. Joe Carter says:

    Racial discrimination in the armed forces was sustained by the same kind of arguments made against repealing DADT.Racial discrimination in the armed forces was sustained by the same kind of arguments made against repealing DADT.

    I think it’s offensive that you’d compare people who were discriminated against because of the color of their skin with people who are simply prohibited from engaging in a particular form of behavior.

    Also, by you reasoning, the military is “discriminating” against handicapped people too. (By the way, can we stop watering down the word “discrimination”?)

  10. Joe,

    Except, of course, you get the issue completely wrong. The ban on gays and lesbians serving openly has nothing to do with behavior and everything to do with outdated rules that ban people from serving because of the gender they happen to be attracted to. There is no rational basis for that.

  11. Joe Carter says:

    The ban on gays and lesbians serving openly has nothing to do with behavior and everything to do with outdated rules that ban people from serving because of the gender they happen to be attracted to. There is no rational basis for that.

    Of course there is a rational basis for the policy. Just because you disagree with it does not make it unreasonable. (Good grief, man, aren’t you a lawyer?)

    I realize that you think that almost every civilization since the beginning of time was populated by bigoted yahoos who didn’t understand why there might be something immoral about homosexual behavior and that it might be disruptive in certain social contexts. I know that you are more enlightened than all of those people. I get that.

    But you seem to have a blind spot for those who don’t share your liberalartarian worldview. I suppose you would also be perfectly fine with having co-ed barracks. Since sexuality shouldn’t be an issue, we should just let young men and women sleep and shower together and it won’t be disruptive at all, right?

  12. Joe,

    Again like most social conservatives on the right you are obsessed with the act of homosexual sex to a bizarre degree. This isn’t about sex, it’s about people who happen to be attracted to members of the same sex and their right to be treated equally.

    And if you’re going to make reference to other cultures I would refer you to the dozens of nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, and Israel where gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly they report no adverse consequences at all

  13. An Interested Party says:

    “Anyone who doesn’t think that allowing gay sex in the military will be disruptive clearly hasn’t thought about the issue for more than five minutes.”

    Anyone who doesn’t realize that being gay isn’t just about sex clearly knows nothing about gay people and needs to spend more than five minutes seeking out correct information on the subject…

    “First of all, please refrain from claiming that opposition to homosexual sex is a matter of ‘bigotry.”’

    Perhaps, but thinking of gay people only in terms of sex and denying them rights that heterosexuals already have is homophobic, a form of bigotry…

    “I think it’s offensive that you’d compare people who were discriminated against because of the color of their skin with people who are simply prohibited from engaging in a particular form of behavior.”

    Actually, what is offensive is thinking of gay people only in terms of what kind of behavior they practice…

  14. Al says:

    Then shouldn’t we ban homosexuals from high school gym class as well, Joe?

  15. Joe Carter says:

    This isn’t about sex, it’s about people who happen to be attracted to members of the same sex and their right to be treated equally.

    Of course its about sex. Would you be in favor of the military allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly but including a ban on gay sex? If not, then it is indeed about sex.

    . . . where gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly they report no adverse consequences at all

    Forgive me if I don’t look to those countries for models on how we should conduct our military affairs. We have almost as many people serving in Iraq and Afganistan as the UK has in their entire military. When they show as high degree of military readiness as we have in the U.S., I’ll consider them to be models that we should emulate.

  16. Joe,

    The UCMJ has bans against fraternization on the books that apply to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Repealing DADT would do nothing to remove those portions of the UCMJ..
    Educate yourself before typing, pleae

  17. Joe Carter says:

    Educate yourself before typing, pleae

    Do you even know what fraternization means and how it applies in the military? Because maybe you should have “educated yourself before typing”: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/fraternization.-ukn.htm

    Notice that it applies only to commissioned and warrant officers. It does not apply to enlisted people—the very folks that will be most affected by the change in policy.

  18. If it doesn’t qualify as fraternization and it is a consensual relationship, then the gender of the participants should be irrelevant. Just as it is irrelevant in the civilian world

  19. Joe Carter says:

    I should note that the Marine Corps has it’s own policy on fraternization that is more strict than the UCMJ. But it only prohibits fraternization across six divisions of rank. It wouldn’t apply to junior enlisted Marines having sex together or two Generals in a relationship, etc.

    I’m not sure why you think that is relevant anyway. Are you agreeing that it would be fine to prohibit same-sex sexual relations?

  20. Joe Carter says:

    <emJust as it is irrelevant in the civilian world

    The military has different standards and rules of conduct than the civilian world for a reason. It is certainly relevant—and usually disruptive—when two members of a small unit are engaged in a sexual relationship. Why are we trying to add to the problem?

    The policy needs to fit the real world, not the fantasy world of liberaltarianism. In the real world, men and woman, women and women, and men and men who are engaged in a sexual relations in a rigid, controlled, stressful, and demanding environment are going to cause problems for a unit. You can’t change human nature just because you want to embrace progressivism.

  21. Mithras says:

    Joe, please articulate for us why homosexual sex between servicemembers (or between servicemembers and their civilian partners) is contrary to good order and discipline, while in contrast heterosexual sex is not. Please be specific about the mechanism. Credible arguments do not include, “straight servicemembers will find it disturbing” to know gay sex is going on (presumably, they know it happens now, and since often the sexual orientation of their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are well known in their units, they know who is having it) or “gay servicemembers will hit on or sexually assault” straight servicemembers (since that’s not happening now).

  22. sgtgaffers says:

    If we are to repeal dadt should we seperate the barracks between heterosexuals and homosexuals like we do men and women?

  23. Al says:

    Any two enlisted service members having sex on duty would be found guilty under the General Article in the UCMJ.

  24. Gustopher says:

    Can we eliminate some of the problems of unit cohesion by creating Bigot Brigades where those soldiers who cannot or will not serve with openly gay soldiers can serve in a more comfortable environment?

  25. sam says:

    I can guarantee you that if the word came down from Headquarters Marine Corps that this is the policy, it’d be a case of shape up or ship out.

  26. Cassandra says:

    Doug Mataconis:

    “The UCMJ has bans against fraternization on the books that apply to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Repealing DADT would do nothing to remove those portions of the UCMJ. Educate yourself before typing, pleae [sic]”

    The UCMJ also has bans against voluntarily rendering yourself unfit for duty/undeployable (not to mention against fraternization and adultery, which is how one generally ends up pregnant during a deployment), but since women are a protected class these laws are currently unenforceable. And should some politically naive General get the idea that he has the power to enforce the UCMJ, Congress will set him straight.

    Please educate yourself before typing, Doug.

    I’m guessing you’ve never actually run a battalion or a regiment. Therefore you have NO idea what a huge problem the military has with accusations (and actual occurrences) of sexual harassment and rape, do you? Of course you don’t.

    Your comment regarding Gen. Amos’ supposed lack of confidence in his Marines is similarly off base. He has said repeatedly that if Congress changes the law, the Marines will comply.

  27. Al says:

    Keep in mind that more and more often the people running battalions and regiments are bending the heck out of the rules to get women into combat roles.

  28. Cassandra says:

    From your NYT link:

    “This quiet change has not come seamlessly — and it has altered military culture on the battlefield in ways large and small. Women need separate bunks and bathrooms. They face sexual discrimination and rape, and counselors and rape kits are now common in war zones. Commanders also confront a new reality: that soldiers have sex, and some will be evacuated because they are pregnant.”

    Of course, as Doug reminded us earlier out of his infinite experience, none of this poses a problem :p

    I am married to a guy who just retired this month after 30 years of active duty as a Marine officer.

    When we married, I was an ardent supporter of women being fully integrated into the military. 3 decades of actual experience, however, caused me to moderate that support for very practical reasons, like the fact that few, if any, women are physically capable of carrying the 70-odd pounds of equipment infantry guys hump around. Even the guys have trouble carrying it all.

    I have known female Marines (officers and enlisted) who were consummate professionals – Marine’s Marines. But there are structural costs associated with integrating women into the combat arms and the fact that some women have acquitted themselves well in combat says precisely nothing about the overall impact of opening up the combat arms to women.

    As a woman, does this bother me? Do I wish it weren’t so? Sure. But reality isn’t much concerned with how I think the world should operate. I’m not a “bigot” for thinking that the costs of opening the combat arms to women are not outweighed by the benefits, though certainly that’s a convenient charge for those whose opinions are blissfully unencumbered by the need to take the real world into account :p

  29. Al says:

    It clearly hasn’t posed enough of a problem to stop commanders from continuing the practice.

  30. Cassandra says:

    And to think you know all this from reading an article in the NY Times. Impressive.

  31. Al says:

    And to think you know me from six comments on a blog. Equally impressive.

  32. Cassandra says:

    I asserted no claim to “knowing” you, Al.

    I referred to the one source you quoted (which is all I know of). If you have other sources to support your assertion that “more and more often the people running battalions and regiments are bending the heck out of the rules to get women into combat roles”, feel free to cite them.

  33. Mithras says:

    But there are structural costs associated with integrating women into the combat arms and the fact that some women have acquitted themselves well in combat says precisely nothing about the overall impact of opening up the combat arms to women.

    Gay and lesbian servicemembers are already serving next to straight ones and don’t need separate accomodations or facilities. And they’re just as physically capable.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    “The policy needs to fit the real world, not the fantasy world of liberaltarianism. In the real world, men and woman, women and women, and men and men who are engaged in a sexual relations in a rigid, controlled, stressful, and demanding environment are going to cause problems for a unit. You can’t change human nature just because you want to embrace progressivism.”

    Policies regarding gay people also need to fit the real world, not the fantasy world of homophobes. In the real world, homosexuals are just as capable of keeping their sexuality in check as heterosexuals. The military shouldn’t discriminate just because people who think like you want to embrace their fears of what gay people might do.

  35. Al says:

    Do your own homework Cassie. While you’re at it find me examples of any military anywhere loosing a battle because they allowed homosexuals to openly serve.

  36. Cassandra says:

    Al, you’re the one making the argument. You can back it up, or admit you can’t do so. My guess it will be the latter.

    In the real world, homosexuals are just as capable of keeping their sexuality in check as heterosexuals.

    My point exactly. The military currently expends significant time/effort on sexual harassment and gender sensitivity training to combat the completely imaginary problem of large numbers of female troops filing complaints of sexual harassment/rape…. even though we keep men and women separate as much as possible because of the whole temptation thingy.

    Al thinks that’s stupid because he read in the NY Times that women are fully equal to men (even though the military now has to have rape kits and sexual assault counselors in a war zone to deal with problems that don’t exist because – as we all know – people can control their sexuality) :p

    But all of this is irrelevant. Although the data tells us that sex between heteros is a big problem for the military, sex between gays won’t be for reasons everyone would understand if they didn’t secretly hate homosexuals.

    Though gays are just like heteros, they are also totally different in that they possess superhuman self control. You know, kind of like the way women are fully capable of defending themselves and handling combat, but there’s an epidemic of rape in the military because the military has failed to protect them from their fully-equal male co-workers….

  37. Al says:

    I got bored playing chase the goalposts long before OTB even existed. So, just out of curiosity do you think women should be in the military at all?

  38. Cassandra says:

    Yes, but not in the combat arms.

    I also think that if men and women are equal and fully interchangeable, there’s no real reason to have lower physical fitness standards for women… and yet all the services do. I wonder why?

    If a woman can meet the standard – the SAME standard men meet – let her serve, provided the services don’t have to expend piles of money, training, time and effort to make special accommodations for her presence. If they do, then the drawbacks outweigh the benefits and practicality ought to kick in.

    We prohibit all sorts of people from serving. People with mild asthma, for instance. Blind people. They could all serve if practical considerations didn’t matter but in the real world, they do. The military isn’t about your individual “right to serve”. If it were, there would be no age limits and no physical qualifications and no discrimination.

    By the way, asking you to support an argument YOU MADE is not moving the goalposts. But then you knew that, didn’t you?

  39. anjin-san says:

    > Forgive me if I don’t look to those countries for models on how we should conduct our military affairs.

    If it works for Israel I would have to call that pretty good proof of concept. I imagine their standards for combat readiness are pretty tight.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    “Although the data tells us that sex between heteros is a big problem for the military, sex between gays won’t be for reasons everyone would understand if they didn’t secretly hate homosexuals.”

    Conidering that gay people already serve in the military without all these problems related to sex, are you saying that if they are allowed to serve openly, there will suddenly be a rash of hot man-on-man and female-on-female sexcapades?

    “We prohibit all sorts of people from serving. People with mild asthma, for instance. Blind people. They could all serve if practical considerations didn’t matter but in the real world, they do.”

    So is this an argument to keep homosexuals out of the military? Because they have the disability of not being able to keep their hands to themselves?

  41. Al says:

    @Cassandra

    You don’t want women to serve in the combat arms yet you wonder why they have lower standards for the PFT? Really? And why is it that it’s OK for women to get pregnant as long as their supply clerks or in the motor pool? Is unit cohesion not as important for the rear echelon?

    As for finding more articles for you, if you’re truly interested look them up yourself. I’m not interested in hearing what media sources you find biased or otherwise insufficient.

  42. Cassandra says:

    Considering that gay people already serve in the military without all these problems related to sex, are you saying that if they are allowed to serve openly, there will suddenly be a rash of hot man-on-man and female-on-female sexcapades?.

    First of all, where did you get the idea that there are no problems with gay sex in the military?

    The 2009 report, like previous reports, included sexual assaults by civilians on service members and by service members on civilians. But Ms. Whitley said a majority, 53 percent, were assaults by service members on other service members. Of all the assaults, Ms. Whitley said, a vast majority, 87 percent, were male on female, while 7 percent were male on male.

    While I realize that you really, really want it to be true that gays are superior beings who don’t commit exactly the same kinds of sexual offenses heteros do, unfortunately the facts don’t support that assumption. But nice try.

  43. An Interested Party says:

    “While I realize that you really, really want it to be true that gays are superior beings who don’t commit exactly the same kinds of sexual offenses heteros do, unfortunately the facts don’t support that assumption. But nice try.”

    Actually, I’m not arguing that gay people are superior to anyone else, but, rather, that they should be entitled to the same rights as everyone else…

  44. Cassandra says:

    Actually, I’m not arguing that gay people are superior to anyone else, but, rather, that they should be entitled to the same rights as everyone else…

    Odd – I could have sworn this was you:

    Conidering that gay people already serve in the military without all these problems related to sex…

  45. An Interested Party says:

    “[W]ithout all these problems related to sex” doesn’t mean any problems at all, but rather, not the huge explosion of trouble that you seem to be implying…

  46. Real Deal says:

    No one in my christian family of 20 eligible males will be joining the military. If being in the military is about being nothing more than a whore orgy then draft all the gays, put them on the front lines.