As for Michael Hastings:
1) He completely ignores women in the service, of course.
2) The troops he observed were clearly on their best behavior around him. Where did he get the idea that women, blacks, Hispanics and Arabs were off-limits?
3) He is totally off base when he calls the military culture of all-male units homophobic. It is homosocial, which can involve homophobia but is more complex, and more malleable.
4) His weak disclaimers, amplified in his comments section, indicate that he thinks repealing DADT is a fairness issue. I don’t buy that. It is a national security issue. We shouldn’t really care whether the military will be more or less fair. All things being equal, that would be nice. But what matters is that the military will be stronger with open gays and lesbians in the ranks. We know it will, because we know that over 90% of people under 30 don’t give a damn about sexual orientation.
Responding to his points, in order.
1)It wasn’t a post about misogny in the service. It was a post about ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ See Michael Peck’s latest on rape statistics in the military. That’s a scandal in its own right.
2)The troops I observed were not always on their best behavior. I’ve heard soldiers make all sorts of slurs against all types of people. But, the most consistent, and apparently socially accpetable, were gay slurs. (And, if as Brian suggests, they were on their best behavior in front of me, is making gay jokes a part of that? Which would mean the soldiers don’t think it’s that big of a deal…which would mean the culture accepts a kind of bigotry…which is my point…)
3) I don’t think I’m totally off base when I say it’s a homophobic culture. The military won’t allow gays to serve openly. That doesn’t sound like a gay friendly culture to me; in fact, it sounds like a culture that fears gays. Fear is another word for phobia. As Brian suggests, I’m sure the dynamics are more complex than simple homophobia–again, see James Jones in The Thin Red Line. I just looked at one aspect of the homophobia, how it’s expressed on a daily basis via humor.
4) I respectfully disagree that it’s not about fairness. Of course it’s about fairness. Our military should represent the best of American principles and ideals. We shouldn’t allow the military (or any federal institution) to discriminate based on sexual orientation. By having DADT, we as country, and the military as a tax payer funded enterprise, are falling well short of our ideals. It’s partly a national security issue, sure. Kicking out well qualified individuals can’t help our national security. But to say that we need to make the military “stronger” by allowing homosexuals to serve openly is not the best argument, I don’t think. We’re talking about an organization that has a budget of $515.4 billion, and that’s a low estimate. We almost spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. How much stronger do we need to be? The fairness argument is more powerful/ethical, in my view.
All and all, the humor I described in the post would be totally unacceptable in almost any other branch of the government. As I said in the comments section, could you imagine a bunch of Treasury Department officials or EPA officials, or any other branch, sitting around and saying those kinds of things while at work?
In his op-ed, Brian writes that “the strongest resistance to overturning “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” may not come from the military.” He puts the blame on “Democratic leaders and strategists” who are worried that it might hurt Obama politically.
Okay, unshockingly the Democrats aren’t standing up for what they claim to believe in. But if the Dems are the main stumbling block, then why didn’t the Bush Administration repeal the rule? Obviously, it’s not just a Dem thing. My sense is that the Republicans, specifically the evangelical wing of the party, aren’t too wild about gay rights. And, as I’m sure Brian can attest, there’s a very significant and influential evangelical community within our Armed Forces who are also resistant to the change.
But, as I’ve repeated many a time, I think DADT is an insane policy. Obama should stand up to the military, the pollsters, whoever, and make the change. On this Memorial Day weekend, it’d be inspiring if Obama and his advisors could even show half the amount of courage of a soldier like Brian Hughes, who not only served his country honorably, but continues to display a fearlessness to speak up for what’s right.