Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) will introduce a bill to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces. According to the Washington Times, a 2005 GAO report stated that almost 9,500 members of the armed services, "including 750 service members with specialties 'critical' to the war on terror, have been discharged since the policy was implemented" in 1993. ABC News reports on 742 such dismissals in fiscal year 2005 alone, and many of them, too, had specialties critical to the War on Terrorism. 322 of them had critical language skills, most notably in Arabic, Farsi, and Korean.
I used to criticize President Clinton for introducing such a half-measure as "don't ask, don't tell"; my view was, either let them serve or don't, but don't force them to skulk around in secrecy. But I've gained some sympathy in recent years. If politics is the art of the possible, then even modest gains represent progress, and a system under which gays can serve if they'll only keep quiet about it is still better than an outright ban, under which anyone with a grudge could torpedo another person's career.
That doesn't mean it's good enough, however, and the War on Terrorism underscores how we would be better off scrapping all restrictions on gays serving in the armed services. 750 service members with specialties "critical" to the War on Terror? Why do we hamstring the war effort like this?
And the chief argument against allowing gays to serve openly doesn't even hold up anymore. That argument says that allowing gays to serve would undermine morale and the esprit de corps among straight servicemen and women. Yet according, again, to the Washington Times, a recent Zogby poll showed that 73% of current servicemen and women would have no problem serving alongside gays. And the experiences of Britain and other Western countries illustrate that our Civilization will not come crashing down just because gays get guns and dogtags. (Besides, which of the following is more likely to enlist anyway: Andrew Sullivan or Andy Dick? Sullivan could surely kick my ass.)
Even if our servicemen and women have a problem with it – so what? We ask them to face "difficulty" all the time; it's in the job description. We ask them to go through hellish training. We ask them to patrol some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the entire world. We ask them to stare death in the face, if need be – but serving with a homosexual would break them? Why do we suddenly lose faith in them? Why do we have so little regard for their emotional maturity?
Remarkably, the first marine to be injured in the Iraq War is gay. Rep. Meehan had Staff Sergeant Eric Alva by his side yesterday to urge lawmakers to abolish the ban completely. His incredible story of heroism tells us just what we're losing by dismissing gays from the armed services.
(Sadly, Sgt. Alva will soon begin working for the Human Rights Campaign, a shrill and hopelessly partisan gay advocacy group. That's unfortunate.)
"Don't ask, don't tell" has been a major issue on America's campuses, too. Many universities, including state universities like my own, refused to allow military recruiters on campus because it would allegedly violate those institutions' policies of nondiscrimination. (It is all too common for university administrators and professors to choose airing their own hard-left political views over providing opportunities for their students. Their high virtue was bought at a cheap cost for them, but at a great cost for their students.) This is why Congress adopted the Solomon Amendment, 10 USC § 983, under which the Defense Secretary is authorized to withhold federal education funds from universities that do not allow military recruiting on campus. I supported the Solomon Amendment, and I still do, because universities receiving public funds should not limit employment opportunities just because it would offend the political sensibilities of administrators and faculty. But even more, I support making the Solomon Amendment superfluous by dropping the ban entirely.