Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Ask; Don't Tell...What Would Gunny Highway Do?

“Improvise, adapt, overcome.” That was Gunny Highway’s raspy mantra in one of my all time favorite Clint Eastwood movies, “Heartbreak Ridge”. It seems to me that President Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense could benefit from some of that wisdom as they review “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

I was flipping through the news channels yesterday morning and came across a couple of reports about a review of this now infamous policy. One of the news stories said that the Department of Defense will now spend a year studying the repeal of this policy.

They’ll study it to death. They’ll ask questions about “good order and discipline”, “unit cohesion”, etc. Senator McCain and others will continue his cantankerous ways in opposition. Why can’t Pres. Obama just do what Harry Truman did on February 2, 1948 and send a message to Congress. Truman’s message said that he had “instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed forces eliminated as rapidly as possible.”

That would be a good start. Except, like in Truman’s case, it would take several years to fully implement the change. But it would be a good start. Then Fox News, neo-cons and all the arch conservative pundits could have a hey-day criticizing it and we could see just how much mettle the president has in taking the right course of action and “sticking to his guns”.

I thought the comments from Lt. Dan Choi were interesting this morning. He said that shortly after he came out, he was cleaning his weapon after a firing range training session. A young trooper from his platoon asked him if he were the officer he had seen on the Rachel Maddow show talking about his homosexuality. Choi said that he was. After a couple of minutes, the young trooper said, “Cool, when can we meet your boyfriend?” And according to Choi the young trooper was OK with it.

Maybe that’s the crux of this whole matter. Today’s 18-25 year olds have grown up in an intensely politically correct educational and social environment. They tend to be pretty blasé about sexuality. If someone is gay, so what? They are far more accepting than those of us who grew up 20, 30 or 40 years ago—or should I say than society was 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

What that might suggest is that now is the time to make this change. If the “command structure” (the senior officers and senior NCOs) don’t like it, well maybe they should either change their own attitude or retire.

I don’t think that Gunny Highway would have much of a problem, just as long as the guy next to him can be trusted to “have his back”. Like Gunny Highway said a couple of times in the movie, “just because you saved my ass doesn’t mean we’re going to take warm showers together.”

Until this policy is changed—hopefully by order of the Commander in Chief--the military will continue to be, in Gunny Highway's words, a “clusterflub” (actual word changed like the movie censors did).

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