Now that President Bush is trying to find another 20,000+ troops to send to Iraq in a hurry, he may finally be thinking in terms of how to reduce the limits on who can serve in the military. Specifically, the administration should look toward lifting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
I have posted a few times about DADT. Any regular readers know that I think that reversing DADT is a more pressing concern than the right to marry. From a Gay rights standpoint, Gays and Lesbians should be able to participate openly in any career in the United States for which they are otherwise qualified-especially those jobs provided by government. From a national security standpoint, Gays and Lesbians should be allowed to serve openly because it allows a greater pool of qualified candidates to serve our nation proudly. This larger pool allows for a larger, stronger, more effective, and better military.
A recent editorial in the New York Times written by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John M. Shalikashvili, criticized DADT and declared that it may be time to reverse the policy. What is remarkable is that Shalikashvili was instrumental in establishing the policy during the Clinton years. The retired general has fully changed his mind in light of the 24 other nations that currently allow Gays to serve openly in the military and the recent polls showing that the men and women currently serving would not have a significant problem if Gays and Lesbians were allowed to serve alongside.
Supporters of DADT have argued for years that allowing Gays to serve would undermine unit cohesion, harm recruitment, and lower morale. Shalikashvili has unequivocally stated that while he believes that DADT was necessary in 1993, the time has come when the United States no longer needs to consider homosexuality incompatible with military service. This may come as the greatest strike against DADT yet!
The Bush administration needs at least 20,000 more soldiers on the ground, by their own count. While the military has never actually been very successful at preventing all Gay people from serving, DADT has very effectively prevented openly Gay men and women from entering military service. While it is unlikely that 20,000 qualified, young Gay and Lesbians would immediately enlist, the Bush administration would certainly have an easier time meeting recruitment needs.