Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Think
Today's New York Times reports on a data dump obtained by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network about how many people the military kicked out for being gay in 2007. There was a slight uptick in the number of discharges in 2007 over 2006, but what is shocking is the increase in the number of women targeted for expulsion from the ranks. According to SLDN:
In FY 2007 women accounted for 14% of the Army's active duty force while making up 46% of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) discharges compared to FY 2006 when women represented 17% of the Army and made up 35% of DADT discharges. Similarly, FY 2007 data from the Air Force shows women are 20% of the force but made up 49% of DADT discharges. That number is up from FY 2006 when females made-up 20% of the Air Force and 49% of DADT discharges.
. . . According to statistics obtained from the Pentagon for Fiscal Year 2007, the armed forces continue discharging nearly two service members per day. The separation data shows the number of discharges under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" have fallen by 50% since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the beginning of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In FY 2007, at least 627 military personnel were dismissed under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on openly gay service members, up from 612 in FY 2006.
In 2007 the Army discharged 302 soldiers, up from 280 the year before. The Air Force dismissed 91 airmen, down slightly from 102 in 2006; the Navy discharged 166 sailors, the same as the previous year; and 68 Marines were discharged, up from 64 the year before. The Coast Guard, which discharged 11 service members in 2006, has not responded to SLDN's requests for data filed with under the Freedom of Information Act.
A few comments on this story.
First, umm, there's the small fact that we're at war. (Or, at least, the military is at war while most of the rest of us are at the mall.) The services cannot afford the luxury of a ban on openly gay personnel any more than they can afford a ban on smart personnel or fit personnel or good-shooting personnel. Our all-volunteer military needs every American who wants to serve -- period. This law makes no sense. To borrow a great phrase from Lawrence Korb: What matters is that you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.
Second, there's the targeting of women. This is problematic because there are already gender tensions in the military. Introduce the targeting of women for discharge under this law, and you magnify those tensions considerably. I had several straight female colleagues on active duty who faced scrutiny because they were single or athletic or just plain tough (the way you'd expect an Army officer to be), and I think the witch-hunt dynamic is far worse for women than for military men. If we care about unit cohesion, this needs to stop.
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