Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Destroying the So-Called “Unit Cohesion” Argument

From the Left: On this Veterans Day, it seemed like a perfect time to destroy one of the dumbest arguments used by people opposed to the repeal of the viciously homophobic, Clinton-era military policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Unit cohesion,” as the argument goes, says members of the military might be uncomfortable serving alongside openly gay and lesbian servicemen and women, and that discomfort means a unit may not function as intended. It’s better, the argument goes, to exclude qualified, well-trained soldiers from service in the midst of two wars than to make homophobic soldiers feel ill at ease.

But the evidence to support repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” keeps growing:

A survey of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan concluded that having gay or lesbian soldiers in fighting units has no significant impact on unit cohesion or readiness.

The data raise new doubts about the underlying assumption of the congressional ban, namely that military discipline will fall apart if gays and lesbians are permitted to serve openly.

“Service members said the most important factors for unit cohesion and readiness were the quality of their officers, training, and equipment,” said Laura Miller, a military sociologist at the RAND Corporation, a private research group that has long advised the Pentagon, which conducted the study along with the University of Florida. “Serving with another service member who was gay or lesbian was not a significant factor that affected unit cohesion or readiness to fight.”

Three-quarters of the veterans surveyed said they felt “comfortable” or “very comfortable” in the presence of gays or lesbians, and nearly one in five said they already knew of a gay or lesbian member in their unit.

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 502 gay and lesbian soldiers have been kicked out of the military since President Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2009.

So, on this Veterans Day, I ask members of the Congress and President Obama, what are you waiting for? Repeal the ban — now.

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