Sunday, February 08, 2009

Pragmatic president Obama treads carefully, building a case to end "don't ask don't tell"


Derrick Z. Jackson has an article (Feb.3, 2009) in the Boston.com site, “Obama’s Pledge to Gay Soldiers,” link here. “DON'T ASK too soon, our new pragmatic president says, if you want to do away with "don't ask, don't tell." True, Obama seems to want to tackle this as a systems analysis problem, or perhaps a preliminary hearing case, building up an overwhelming case before going to Congress. Some gay activists had thought that Hillary Clinton would pursue this more quickly.

There is, in fact, a copy of the 1992 GAO report on Fordham University’s site, link here. The article says that gay discharges dropped in 1994 and 1995 (when the Pentagon Policy actually written in early 1994 in response to the somewhat strident 1993 law turned out to be somewhat conciliatory) but then rose rapidly toward the end of the Clinton administration. In many cases in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders have not been able to afford investigations and discharges when soldiers are badly needed, so the experience during the Bush years seems erratic and varied.

But the most telling observation is that over 75% of Americans say that (openly) gay soldiers should be allowed and even encouraged to serve, in a world where burdens of defending democracy need to be shared. That may be the strongest pragmatic argument of all.

There is also another area to explore: the possible indirect effect of the military ban in civilian areas, like security clearances (with the build up of legacy discrimination over time), and even in other areas requiring some forced intimacy like some teaching scenarios.

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