Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pentagon will have to grapple with practical (and tactical) issues in ending "don't ask don't tell"; watch the social media

James Dao has an important piece on the front page of the Saturday May 29 New York Times, ‘As ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Fades, Tactical Concerns Start to Rise”. Online the title dispenses with “tell” and reads “Ad ‘Don’t Ask’ Fades, Military Faces Thorny Issues,” with the link here.  This sounds like a discussion about chess: positional play (strategy) v. tactics (queen sacrifices, literally, and pawn underpromotions).

What’s a bit striking, to me at least, is the literalness with which people take the concerns about equal housing (especially the notion of “separate but equal” as already proposed by a Marine Corps general), equal spousal benefits (even though federal law will not recognize gay marriage anytime soon, but probably it will eventually) – as compared with older concerns about “unit cohesion” within combat units. Pro-ban “advocate” Elaine Donnelly was especially vocal about the housing issues.

The article also discusses the tragic irony of the military’s having to pursue discharges for at least the rest of this year (until the mandatory Pentagon review before the end of 2010), as of Air Force Col. Victor J. Fahrenhach.

One issue that will certainly need attention as the Pentagon ponders its conduct rules will be the use of social media. We all know how information posted on social networking sites and blogs travels virally (even without search engine hits), and the business and civilian family worlds are finding that individual postings on these sites can prove a tremendous distraction to stakeholders, regardless of being right or wrong.

The Chris Matthews show on NBC Sunday morning pointed out that three-fourths of Americans now support allowing gays to serve openly in the military. (It was only 44% in 1993.) Thirty foreign militaries (including Israel and Britain) allow gays to serve with no loss of effectiveness.

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