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It's 1993 again, but recruiting's harder
January 4, 2007 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Second thoughts on gays in the military by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili. (NYT link; do the Bugmenot thing if you need a username and password.) M/I
posted by pax digita (41 comments total)

 
For those of you who can't be arsed...

TWO weeks ago, President Bush called for a long-term plan to increase the size of the armed forces. As our leaders consider various options for carrying out Mr. Bush’s vision, one issue likely to generate fierce debate is “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that bars openly gay service members from the military. Indeed, leaders in the new Congress are planning to re-introduce a bill to repeal the policy next year.

As was the case in 1993 — the last time the American people thoroughly debated the question of whether openly gay men and lesbians should serve in the military — the issue will give rise to passionate feelings on both sides. The debate must be conducted with sensitivity, but it must also consider the evidence that has emerged over the last 14 years.


This caused me to think about the last time the US armed forces had to go through another paradigm shift.

It’s amazing how a bunch of 19-year-olds can be encouraged to focus on the mission and not treat their sitch like it’s MTV’s “The Real World,” and when everybody’s tired, hungry, overworked, too cold or too hot, filthy, bored, and even occasionally worried or even terrified, they can maintain a lot of unit cohesion despite differences over how much melanin certain people are packing or who wants to put what where recreationally. I’m not sure that putting women in combat-arms ground outfits is ever going to work quite the same way, but that’s down to some physiologic differences that aren’t as easily compensated for as cultural and psychosexual ones.

It’s hard not to wonder whether Shali is saying this merely because the Excedrin headache will be Shelton’s and not his – he pretty much says he didn’t want to have to deal with it himself even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Tacit admission of failure of leadership?

And as for “…the 110th Congress…developing a more effective strategy in Iraq…,” I didn’t realize the legislative branch formed military strategy in ongoing operations (well, there *was* this Committee on the Conduct of the War thing during the US Civil War)…
posted by pax digita at 4:42 AM on January 4, 2007


Probably just a lead up to get as many kids drafted to fight Iran as possible, gay or straight. The US military is spread dangerously thin and we can't risk our Senators' and CEOs' children.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2007


You know what would be cool? American heteros not invading people, just like American gays have apparently managed for a while.

Yeah yeah, I know.... I'm only kidding...
posted by pompomtom at 5:11 AM on January 4, 2007


"Close the door, I feel a draft!" Ahem.

Not sure I see this as a back-door way to reinstate the draft (the largely non-issue liberals love to hate most) -- most of the senior ossifers and NCOs, esp. those who remember the '70s, really don't want to deal with junior EMs who don't want to be there in the first place. But the military will get told whether they have to take draftees; it'll be up to a sometimes capricious and/or clueless Congress and whatever Administration to decide how to deal with manpower issues.

pls excuse sexist lingo

If you're suggesting that Iraq etc. has more to do with recruiting difficulties than DADT, I 'spect that's probably the case.
posted by pax digita at 5:27 AM on January 4, 2007


We've already broadened the recruiting standards to include old fogies, dummies, and gang members, but we've been firing gay Arabic translators despite a drastic shortage that's been a problem for years.

President Bush is expected to call for sacrifice in his upcoming speech on escalating troop levels in Iraq. How about sacrificing anti-gay bigotry? If we're really in "a struggle for civilization," we need all the help we can get.

Or maybe the solution is Star Trek-style universal translators (including one that looks like it's straight outta The Simpsons).

Link via New York Times Link Generator
posted by kirkaracha at 5:31 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, crap, brain cramp...not Shelton; Pace. How could I forget the novelty of a Marine CJCS? CRS is a bitch.

On preview...don't forget the non-citizens too, although that's not really a new development. I think we had an FPP on that very subject recently.
posted by pax digita at 5:37 AM on January 4, 2007


The current US policy is more like "don't ask, don't tell, but watch out for gay". How else can you describe it when a gay serviceman can attempt to be in the closet, and fail? If he's not telling and they are not asking, then they must be looking. (And once they see that Sgt Smithers flames, when then they're actually asking too, but that's another matter)

This brings up an interesting point if the draft is reinstated. I think there is a sizable percentage of young people who would become out as bi if drafted. Another percentage of that who would look at the necessary "things to do" to make it official. Here in the northeast, it seems like a no-brainer: have a period of young experimentation, or go to Iraq. It's not like being gay makes you a social outcast in Massachussetts.

Would we then have the double standard, where if you're trying to hide being gay, they look for it, but if you're trying to be out as gay, they don't believe you?
posted by cotterpin at 5:37 AM on January 4, 2007


Catch-22 much?
posted by pax digita at 5:48 AM on January 4, 2007


Oh, and: kirkaracha -- hint taken. TYVM.
posted by pax digita at 5:51 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm ambivalent about it. I think allowing open gays in the military is probably 'do-able' but I think it will cause a lot more (and unexpected kinds of) problems that a lot of liberals would like to think.
posted by empath at 6:07 AM on January 4, 2007


gay Arabic translators

But gay Arabic is basically the same as hetero Arabic, right? Only with a bit more of a lisp?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm ambivalent about it. I think allowing open gays in the military is probably 'do-able' but I think it will cause a lot more (and unexpected kinds of) problems that a lot of liberals would like to think.

From the link:

And 24 foreign nations, including Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism, let gays serve openly, with none reporting morale or recruitment problems.

But America's just different.
posted by Epenthesis at 6:16 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Surely allowing gays to go to iraq is one of the best ways a bigot could communicate their dislike. It'd be like sending them to pre-hell.
posted by srboisvert at 6:18 AM on January 4, 2007


It is all about leadership Shalikashvili wasn't willing to be a leader. Maybe someone else is now.

Having been a gay woman in the US military, back in the mid 80's, it was obvious to me that in well-led units, being gay wasn't an issue. In poorly led units, it was. Incidentally, same thing went for being female.

This is overdue. There have always been gays in the military.
posted by QIbHom at 6:29 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shali pretty much admitted he passed the buck on this one, yeah. He had a pretty solid rep; maybe he was getting tired and decided, screw it, he was "short" anyway?

FWIW, Shali on Shali, mea culpa department:

When I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I supported the current policy because I believed that implementing a change in the rules at that time would have been too burdensome for our troops and commanders. I still believe that to have been true.

Look at his tenure vs. now and draw your own conclusions about "burdensome."

A Vietnam-era Navy vet who's bi made me aware of the FPP-linked article in the first place, btw. BZ, James.

Good book on the subject, if slightly dated: Conduct Unbecoming by Randy Shilts.

On preview: I once knew a lesbian Army E-9 I'd've followed into the very gates, etc. I'd like to be her when I grow up.
posted by pax digita at 6:48 AM on January 4, 2007


The real problem is, in todays society, a draft would be impossible unless the rules are changed, With no stigma for being gay people will just claim to be gay to get out of the military.
posted by delmoi at 6:58 AM on January 4, 2007


in todays society, a draft would be impossible... With no stigma for being gay people will just claim to be gay

Hmmm, I dunno, delmoi, you really so out of touch with Mainstreet U.S.A. as to say there's no stigma? I mean, I'd like to think you're correct, but...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm ambivalent about it. I think allowing open gays in the military is probably 'do-able' but I think it will cause a lot more (and unexpected kinds of) problems that a lot of liberals would like to think.

Like what? They successfully integrated blacks into the military decades ago. Sure, there is still plenty of racism, both in and out of the military, but the presence of blacks in a unit does not damage the unit's effectiveness. The military was way ahead of the rest of the country on this. The fear of showering with guys who might be checking you out is silly, and the fear of gays hitting on you is even sillier. The time has come. Of course, delmoi is right, it is a necessary prelude to a draft.
posted by caddis at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


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. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.

Wow. The General seems to have conntracted sanity.
posted by jonmc at 7:13 AM on January 4, 2007


caddis,

What you say is largely true from the 50 thousand foot view, but there were some pretty bad racial problems in the uniformed services during and after 'Nam.* The wartime draft and drug problems exacerbated a lot of it, but some of it was wider racial strife expressed in the ranks, too. I've been told that (ovewhelmingly white) Navy officers wouldn't go unescorted into EM berthing and some working spaces aboard some ships; even heard a sea story about some alleged Black Panther sympathizers who tried to take over an engineering room and a couple of SEALs who quietly killed them all. I've heard of flat-out race riots in some Army posts. Dunno about the Marines, and I think the USAF was pretty heavily white back then, so I doubt they had quite the same degree of discontent.

I'm trying and failing to imagine gender-orientation based rioting, but I've read of & heard some anecdotes about gay-bashing going on in the service. I'm guessing that would stay retail rather than going wholesale and it would gradually go away, but as I say, I'm guessing.

*(Sorry if I don't have links to show you to document any of the above. Your location shows you're USian, so you can ask around and if you hear differently from people who were "in" then or afterward, I'd be interested to read counter-anecdotes.)
posted by pax digita at 7:30 AM on January 4, 2007


The real problem is, in todays society, a draft would be impossible unless the rules are changed, With no stigma for being gay people will just claim to be gay to get out of the military.

I've had a plan for a few years. If/when a draft is formally announced, I'm going to start up DontDraftMeImGay.com. Anyone who wishes not to serve can send me an image of their draft notice, and I'll send them rainbow bumper stickers and pride pins that they can take to the draft office.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:44 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm trying and failing to imagine gender-orientation based rioting,

why not? it's happened before. They're gay, not neccessarily pacifist.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm trying and failing to imagine gender-orientation based rioting,

Stonewall
posted by Autumn Dandy at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2007


What if they threw a war and nobody came?

Just asking (and showing my age)....
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:15 AM on January 4, 2007


I wonder precisely how the military would deal with potential draftees who try to "gay-out" of service. I suspect that more than just, "I'm here, I'm queer, let me out of here" would be required. *wavy image, harp sounds*

Nick: You see, sir, I'm not really eligble to serve, because I'm ... gay. I haven't even told my mom.

Lt. Thomas: Are you now? Private Banks!

Private Banks steps forward

Pvt. Banks: Sir, yes sir!

Lt. Thomas: Private Banks, drop trou. Nick, we'd like to see a little demonstration of this ho-mo-sex-uality. For the record, you understand.

Nick: Uh, well ...

Nick's head drops from the camera view as Lt. Thomas looks on appreciatively.

Lt. Thomas: (to himself) If nothing else, we can put him on trumpet detail.
posted by adipocere at 8:54 AM on January 4, 2007


I was pretty shocked to hear this news a few days ago, and I'm glad I did. If a qualified person wants to serve this country's military, by all means they should.

But part of me wonders at the timing of this. The "surge" (which isn't really a surge at all, but just a prolongation of the tours of existing troops) isn't going to accomplish anything, and we need more bodies to invade Iran.
posted by bardic at 8:58 AM on January 4, 2007


From kirkaracha's link above:

So far, the move has had a minor effect on overall enlistment, with 405 recruits over age 35 and 11 over age 40 joining the Army. Still, the numbers are part of a brighter recruitment picture for the Army that made its quota for 14 straight months, according to Army officials at Fort Knox, Ky.


Damn. They're accepting people my age?

They're in trouble. Seriously in trouble.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:29 AM on January 4, 2007


I'm trying and failing to imagine gender-orientation based rioting,

Stonewall


Oops, apparently I should've further qualified my remark with "...in the services" -- but didn't realize I'd be quoted out of a context different from those of Stonewall or White Night as fodder to grind related yet distinctly separate axes. (Did those events feature uniformed GLBTs a/w/a civvy ones?)

That's why I love MetaFilter...like a rambling three-AM dorm-hallway discussion, only online. Rhetorical rabbit holes and all.

jason's_planet, I think I read or heard an anecdote about a grandmother reporting to Leonard Wood recently for induction.

adiopcere, I've read that the competition to be the "Taps" bugler for military funerals at Arlington and other national cemeteries is pretty...well...stiff...
posted by pax digita at 9:55 AM on January 4, 2007


I trained a couple weeks back with a guy that had just got back from Iraq. He is a captain in the Army. Formerly on the career track. Until three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan (can you imagine that?).

Anyway. Iraq, he said, has broken the officer corpse. He said he knew NOBODY worth a shit, with any experience, who is staying in. Especially if thy have families (he has a wife and two baby girls).

I asked him about recruitment. He said they are desperate for good soldiers. He leaned in and whispered

"Let me put it this way. I used to have to discipline guys for bashing gays. But I haven't heard the word 'fag' or 'dyke' (in a derogatory accusation sense) in over two years in Iraq. Nobody worth a shit really cares anymore."
posted by tkchrist at 10:19 AM on January 4, 2007


Sorry to step on your punchline there, pax digita, but there's a bugler shortage.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:22 AM on January 4, 2007


Whoa, FoB, my info's obviously gotten pretty stale. Wonder if they all got shipped out to the sandbox?
posted by pax digita at 11:02 AM on January 4, 2007


I have a female cousin who's a firefighter in Los Angeles. This may come as a shock, but a lot of the male firefighters are sexist assholes who haze the female firefighters. I don't think it's especially smart to alienate people who you might need to drag your ass out of a burning building someday.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2007


Meh, matter of time.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2007


I have a female cousin who's a firefighter in Los Angeles. This may come as a shock, but a lot of the male firefighters are sexist assholes who haze the female firefighters. I don't think it's especially smart to alienate people who you might need to drag your ass out of a burning building someday.

Especially the good looking ones.
What? Just say'n.
posted by tkchrist at 3:29 PM on January 4, 2007


As amusing as adipocere's 'test' scenario is, let me assure you that although I have made it 36 years so far without a cock in my mouth I would slurp more sausage than a Jimmy Dean warehouse if it kept me from getting sent over to Iraq.

As far as this "no stigma" thing delmoi speaks of, I think you are thinking too narrowly. My brother still lives in Miami and doesn't have a problem getting work - if he looks for jobs on Miami Beach there's even protection against discrimination based on sexual preference. However if he and his partner decide they want to adopt they are still prohibited from doing so by the State of Florida. I don't even mean only one of them could legally be that child's parent. I mean that these residents of one of the 5 cities with the largest gay population in the USA cannot legally adopt a child.
posted by phearlez at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2007


Damn. They're accepting people my age?

They're in trouble. Seriously in trouble.
posted by jason's_planet


I got a call from a recruiter two weeks ago. They not only accept up to age 42, but if you are over 40, you can have up to 38% body fat.
posted by figment of my conation at 5:58 PM on January 4, 2007


I got a call from a recruiter two weeks ago. They not only accept up to age 42, but if you are over 40, you can have up to 38% body fat.

Thanks for the warning.

*heads down to Dunkin' Donuts . . . *
posted by jason's_planet at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2007


Second thoughts on gays in the military by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili.

I think the operative word here is former. Remember Bush is the decider, he don't take nobody's advice, 'cept when the Lord speaks directly to/through him.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:29 PM on January 4, 2007


I clicked into this thread hoping it was about the Web 2.0 job market.
posted by mwhybark at 10:20 PM on January 4, 2007


I'm surprised Gen (retd) Shakashvilli ever made it to becoming a general. He has not even had the balls to admit that his decision 12 years ago to continue the ban on gays in the military was a bigoted mistake. He still stands by his decision back then. He claims now that times have changed and that soldiers would be more tolerant now. What empirical evidence does he have? Perhaps, it is just that one of his grandchildren came out of the closet and he's been compelled to engage in a re-think?

As for gays in the military, while I obviously think it is critical for non-heterosexuals to have every opportunity their breeding brethren have, I am relieved that the lives of the 3,000 odd gays and lesbians discharged since the Iraqi invasion have been spared. One would think the Christian fanatics would want the 'homos' to be sent into combat to die for a futile cause ... maybe they're beginning to realize that and now are beginning to change their tune, starting with ex-generals.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:09 AM on January 5, 2007


Azaadistani, if you're truly surprised, you obviously know little about serving as a commissioned officer in a chain of command. Hint: The boss is always right. Are you unfamiliar with the syndrome of officers waiting to become candid until after they've retired? "A prophet is without honor in his own time, in his own home town" didn't apply only to Jesus.

Also, see my prvs comments. Shali's apparently trying to have it both ways -- to save face, to cover his ass, to assauge his conscience, or any two/all three. As someone once pointed out to me in a different context, carrying a card espousing dedication to a set of values doesn't mean you don't still have feet of clay.

There have been 8 letters to the the editor concerning Shali's op-ed.

I tried the link-generator thing kirkaracha showed me above, but it didn't seem to work for me; if your skilz are better than mine, good on ya! and please post a corrected link. If not, there's always Bugmenot.
posted by pax digita at 4:26 AM on January 8, 2007


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