Destroying the So-Called “Unit Cohesion” Argument

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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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.

SOURCE: Washington Monthly

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11 Responses to Destroying the So-Called “Unit Cohesion” Argument

  1. Arizona Leatherneck says:

    The cohesion argument is crap. Bunk tossed into the mix by a small number of old, rednecks in the ranks to keep the status quo alive.

    Like I’ve said dozens of times. I saw gay bulldogs during my 4 years in the Marines. Everyone knew and no one cared.

  2. stradella says:

    If you study the history of Black Americans and the military you will see the unit cohesion argument was used to keep the military white and free of minorities.

    It was only when recruitment levels dropped in WWII and the Pentagon promised to keep the barracks segregated that Black people were courted and embraced.

    Regardless, keeping gay Americans out of the military is discrimination and it needs to stop.

  3. Brigadoon says:

    Of course gay people have served in the military for decades and DADT is blatantly homophobic but until and unless there are survivor benefits that convey to spouses of soldiers killed in the line of duty, I say do not go into the military. This issue never addressed by the policymakers advocating for a repeal of the ban. It’s critically important and must be addressed.

  4. Harry says:

    Unit cohesion is a totally bogus argument. What will the old boy’s network in the Pentagon say next? Gays soldiers will force straight soldiers to listen to Cher and Britney?

  5. Aunt Peg says:

    I think Brigadoon makes a very good point.

    It isn’t enough to end the moronic ban. The Pentagon must guarantee if a gay or lesbian soldier is killed in the line of duty, his or her surviving family receives the same survivor benefits as straight enlistees.

    Otherwise, gay and lesbian families will get kicked in the chops twice. Once, by the death of their spouse and twice, by being prevented from accessing veterans benefits. Great point, Brig!

  6. Charles Gervasi says:

    I agree completely.

  7. Prairiedog says:

    As usual, the troops are way ahead of the curve and the policymakers at the Pentagon, are stuck in the 1960′s.

    Wake up, America. It doesn’t matter if a soldier is gay or lesbian. All people are the same.

  8. dean j. anderson says:

    while in the navy i served two tours in vietnam,on the mekong river .have recieved the silver star the bronze star with oak leaf cluster, the navy cross, the navy life saving medal, one purple heart and one presidential unit citation andfour gov of south vietnam m edals. i was gay then and gay now,the teams i worked with all knew and i never disrespected anyone about their personal feelings. i was not the only one either, in combat it is not what you are that matters, its what you do that counts

  9. bradfrmphnx says:

    Thank you for your service Mr. Anderson, this country is in your debt.

    The irony to me is that it is okay to serve if you are gay, you just can’t say that you are gay. How is that helping unit cohesion? I agree with Brigadoon on this one, I’d stay out if I were gay. Until they can make putting your life on the line for your country count for as much as anybody else’s, why do it? Thanks Uncle Sam…for nothing? The fact that they are willing to serve at all under these conditions, to serve their country, is most admirable.

  10. Randy Arroyo says:

    Repeal the ban. Just do it, for God’s sake and stop looking for cockamamie, bullshit excuses for doing it.

  11. libhomo says:

    Harry: Oh no, not Cher and Britney!

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