Saturday, January 06, 2007

General Shali on military don't ask don't tell


John Shalikashvili, who retired in 1997 after four years as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Clinton, has now changed course and argues for repealing, for the most part, “don’t ask don’t tell”. Here is the AP story.

There were a couple of other major editorials recently:

"Rethinking Don't Ask: Military Closet" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, NJ “Gays Serving in Military Shouldn’t Have to Hide.”

Of course, those who have followed the policy for the past 14 years know there is a lot to tell here, as some commanders turned it into “do ask, don’t tell.”

This whole debate in the 1992-1993 period gave me a wakeup in the idea of equality, as HRC symbolizes it with the blue and yellow logo often seen on car bumpers everywhere.

In September 1992, after a book signing at Lambda Rising in Washington of Joseph Steffan’s Honor Bound (Villard), in which the former midshipman accounts for how he was discharged from the Naval Academy for “telling” in 1987 when he would have graduated about third in his class, -- and after reading the book in one evening -- I came to see overturning the ban as a beginning to equality for myself. I had undergone a similar experience at a civilian college (William and Mary) in 1961, and the parallels seem striking to me. My review is here.

Even with a volunteer military, I saw the capability to serve in the military as a marker of social equality. That attitude was a leftover from the days of the Vietnam draft and the furor over student deferments. (Now, we have the backdoor draft in Iraq, and even remote talk of restoring the draft.)

Somehow, if someone like Steffan, who had repeatedly proved himself, even spending a summer on a submarine, could serve in the military, semi-covertly (to avoid disturbing the “privacy” of other soldiers in a forced intimacy environment), that would be a major step toward equality and redemption for me.

That’s a long way from real equality, of course. We really see the equality idea come up with gay marriage. But the listing of benefits misses a major point. Heterosexual sex can lead to procreation and a “natural” access to responsibility for others, which can sometimes lead to the supposed “right” to make hidden demands that impose on the freedom of others who don’t create the same responsibility.

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