Time to Replace Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with When Asked, Do Tell

Over at Forbes, Melik Kaylan, another columnist, and I have been engaged in a roaring debate over whether the time has come to scrap Don’t Ask, Don’ Tell. In his response to my original column on this issue, Kaylan worried that the Old Whig fallacy that I labor under will force the military to mirror in detail all aspects of contemporary social life.

“An ancient noble instinct urges the soldier to overcome the equally ancient impulse of fear as he engages the enemy, and we have no business making things any harder for the combatant by messing with that simple and coherent sense of duty. How do we square the inclusion of self-avowed homosexuals with that necessity? Such issues may bring up uncomfortably divisive narratives, but if you find them uncomfortable, consider the effect on the highly overstressed psychology of the soldier in and out of combat,” he notes.

Beautifully put, but off base.

I point out that asking the military to scrap a policy for which support is waning within its own ranks hardly means turning it into a mirror of civilian society. One does not have to be a moral relativist to suggest, I note, that whether gays can be assimilated in the military without compromising its cohesiveness depends not on some immutable characteristic of theirs, but the acceptance of people around them. “If that’s the case, then, unless Kaylan has a moral objection to homosexuality, he has to concede that the military ought to admit gays if and when attitudes toward them shift sufficiently.”

Kaylan says he wants to keep DADT because he wants to make gay identity a non-issue. But that’s a pretty stunning claim given that 12,000 gays have been fired since the law went into effect 16 years ago. And not because they were asking for special favors by virtue of their identity, as Kaylan insinuates, but just because they had the temerity to admit they were gay. “If Kaylan genuinely wants to make gay identity a non-issue,” I note, “then he should advocate not Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but something along the lines of When Asked, Do Tell!”

My whole response here.