Quick Fact: Special Report again advances myth that DADT repeal could hurt military readiness
Research ››› ››› MATT GERTZ
For the second time in a week, Fox News' Special Report uncritically reported Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey's advancement of the myth that repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy" could adversely affect "readiness and military effectiveness," ignoring other nations that have allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly have not suffered such adverse effects.
From the February 25 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
MIKE EMANUEL (correspondent): Earlier this week, it was the Air Force chief of staff, General Norton Schwartz, who said now, quote, "is not the time to perturb the force, stretched by demands in Iraq and Afghanistan." The Army chief of staff had smiliar thoughts.
CASEY (video clip): I do have serious concerns about the impact of the repeal of the law on a force that's fully engaged in two wars and has been at war for eight and a half years. We just don't know the impacts on readiness and military effectiveness.
On February 23, host Bret Baier uncritically reported that "Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a change might disrupt the troops and adversely affect readiness."
FACT: Readiness and unit cohesion argument contradicted by evidence of other nations
Unit cohesion argument "not supported by any scientific studies." In an essay published in the 4th quarter 2009 issue of Joint Force Quarterly -- which is "published for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University" -- Col. Om Prakash wrote of DADT "[T]he stated premise of the law -- to protect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness -- is not supported by any scientific studies." The essay won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition.
At least 25 nations -- including many U.S. allies -- allow military service by openly gay men and lesbians. According to the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California-Santa Barbara that studies sexuality and the military, as of February 2010, 25 nations allowed military service by openly gay men and lesbians, including U.S. allies Australia and Israel and the following North America Treaty Organization member countries: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
GAO: Other countries say allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly "has not created problems in the military." In a June 1993 report to Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) studied four countries that allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military -- Canada, Israel, Germany, and Sweden -- and found that military officials said "the presence of homosexuals has not created problems in the military because homosexuality is not an issue in the military or in society at large." It also found that "[m]ilitary officials from each country said that, on the basis of their experience, the inclusion of homosexuals in their militaries has not adversely affected unit readiness, effectiveness, cohesion, or morale." GAO wrote that it chose those four countries to study because they "generally reflect Western cultural values yet still provide a range of ethnic diversity" and have similarly sized militaries.
Palm Center: "No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military." In a February 2010 report, the Palm Center reviewed the experience of the 25 nations whose militaries allow gay men and lesbians to serve and found: "Research has uniformly shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness. No consulted expert anywhere in the world concluded that lifting the ban on openly gay service caused an overall decline in the military."
None of the 104 experts interviewed for study believed decisions to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in UK, Canada, Israel, or Australia undermined cohesion. In a 2003 article for Parameters, the U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Aaron Belkin wrote that the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (since renamed the Palm Center) had conducted a study of the impact of the decisions to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military in the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, and found: "Not a single one of the 104 experts interviewed believed that the Australian, Canadian, Israeli, or British decisions to lift their gay bans undermined military performance, readiness, or cohesion."
Participants in creation of DADT admit "unit cohesion" argument was "based on nothing." In a March 2009 Huffington Post piece, the Palm Center's Nathaniel Frank wrote of the process that led to the creation of DADT in the early 1990s:
One group staffer provided a wealth of research to the flag officers in charge, but said it was never even considered. He said the policy was created "behind closed doors" by people who were totally closed to lifting the ban, and that it relied on anti-gay stereotypes and resistance to outside forces.
Charles Moskos, the renowned military sociologist and close friend of Sen. Sam Nunn, advised the MWG [Military Working Group], and was ultimately credited as the academic architect of "don't ask, don't tell." While he said publicly that the problem with openly gay service was that it would threaten "unit cohesion," he told me privately something quite different: "Fuck unit cohesion," he said, "I don't care about that." For Moskos, the last serious defender of "don't ask, don't tell," the ban was about the "moral right" of straight people not to be forced into intimate quarters with gays. Shortly before he died last summer, he admitted that he clung to his policy, in part, because he was afraid of disappointing his friends if he "turncoated."
The MWG was also supposed to take recommendations from working groups convened by the individual services. Rear Admiral John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General of the Navy was a participant in the talks about whether to lift the ban in 1993. Hutson told me the assessment of gay service was "based on nothing. It wasn't empirical, it wasn't studied, it was completely visceral, intuitive." The policy, he said, was rooted in "our own prejudices and our own fears." Hutson now says "don't ask, don't tell" was a "moral passing of the buck."
Another advisor to the MWG was Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, a deeply homophobic evangelical who became vice president of the Family Research Council. While Maginnis admitted that he found homosexuality "morally repugnant," he cast the question of gay service in terms of "unit cohesion" for what he called "political reasons"--because he knew this approach would be more effective than moral tirades against equal treatment for gays. Maginnis, who believes gays are "unstable" hedonists who can't control themselves and are tainted by something called "gay bowel syndrome," was only the tip of the iceberg: in fact the "unit cohesion" rationale was an elaborate strategy created by a network of evangelical military officers and supporters who knowingly sold an anti-gay policy rooted in religion as though it were essential to protecting national security. And for too long, the nation drank the coolaid.
FACT: Numerous defense experts support DADT repeal
More than 100 retired generals and admirals have called for DADT's repeal. The Palm Center has posted on its website a list of more than 100 retired generals and admirals who "support the recent comments of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, who has concluded that repealing the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy would not harm and would indeed help our armed forces."
Mullen said repeal is "the right thing to do." In February 2 Senate testimony, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.
For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.
I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
Gates: "I fully support" decision to repeal DADT. In February 2 testimony, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated: "Chairman, last week during the State of the Union Address, the president announced he will work with Congress this year to repeal the law known as 'don't ask, don't tell.' He subsequently directed the Department of Defense to begin the preparations necessary for a repeal of the current law and policy. I fully support the president's decision."
Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has called for repeal. During a February 14 interview on ABC's This Week, when asked whether it is "time to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military," former Defense Secretary and Vice President Dick Cheney replied, "I think the society has moved on. I think it's partly a generational question. I say, I'm reluctant to second-guess the military in this regard, because they're the ones that have got to make the judgment about how these policies affect the military capability of our, of our units, and that first requirement that you have to look at all the time is whether or not they're still capable of achieving their mission, and does the policy change, i.e., putting gays in the force, affect their ability to perform their mission? When the chiefs come forward and say, 'We think we can do it,' then it strikes me that it's, it's time to reconsider the policy. And I think Admiral Mullen said that."
Gen. Powell stated his support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve, cited change in "attitudes and circumstances." A February 4 Washington Post article reported: "Retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, whose opposition to allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military helped lead to adoption of the 'don't ask, don't tell' legislation 17 years ago, said Wednesday that he now thinks the restrictive law should be repealed. 'Attitudes and circumstances have changed,' Powell said. 'It's been a whole generation' since the legislation was adopted, and there is increased 'acceptance of gays and lesbians in society,' he said. 'Society is always reflected in the military. It's where we get our soldiers from.'"
Gen. Shalikashvili called for repeal of DADT and open service by gays and lesbians. In a January 2007 New York Times op-ed, John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when DADT was implemented, wrote: "I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces." He also wrote, "By taking a measured, prudent approach to change, political and military leaders can focus on solving the nation's most pressing problems while remaining genuinely open to the eventual and inevitable lifting of the ban."
Gen. Jones: "[Y]oung men and women who wish to serve their country should not have to lie in order to do that." In a February 14 interview on CNN's State of the Union, Gen. James Jones, currently the national security adviser, stated, "I think that what Secretary Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff articulated in testimony is the right thing to do. I think the president has signaled his intent. This is a policy that has to evolve with the social norms of what's acceptable and what's not." Asked whether it's "time to lift" DADT, he replied, "I think times have changed. I think I was very much taken by Admiral Mullen's view that young men and women who wish to serve their country should not have to lie in order to do that."