La Riposte

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Majority of Marines Surveyed are Unconcerned by Potential Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The unique way that the Washington Post has chosen to spin the preliminary numbers on the as-yet unreleased report on the effects of a potential repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is that:
…more than 70 percent of respondents said the effect of lifting the ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent… (but) about 40 percent of the Marine Corps is concerned about lifting the ban…
This makes it sound like there’s something more significant going on here than (at most) a 9% difference in the poll results of Marines versus the other Services, a fact that can no doubt be attributed to the fact that the last 2 Commandants of the Corps have both stated publically that they oppose a repeal of DADT and their opinions carry a great deal of weight in the Corps, and in the press. But what the artfully arranged numbers don’t say can be summed up in a simple sentence:

The majority of Marines surveyed believe the effect of lifting the ban would be positive, mixed or nonexistent in their Corps.

So why is the new Commandant continuing to stonewall progress on repealing the discriminatory measure? Will the Corps really have more problems than the other Services if this policy is repealed? And is the war in Afghanistan a legitimate reason to delay repeal?

History gives us the answer to all three questions.

In 1949, Marine Corps Commandant General Clifton B. Cates was a leading advocate of segregation between whites and blacks. 
Changing national policy in this respect through the Armed Forces, is a dangerous path to pursue as it effects [sic] the ability of the Military Establishment to fulfill its mission. 
Sound familiar?

Commandant Cates found himself faced with the issue in a time of war also – the Marines were fighting their legendary battles in Korea at the time. But in order to establish “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin” and put the new policy  “into effect as rapidly as possible” as required President Truman’s Executive Order 9981, by 1952 the Marines were able to report to the Department of the Navy that they “had no segregated units and while integration had been gradual ‘it was believed to be an accomplished fact at this time.’” This stands in favorable comparison to the Army, which still had segregated units as late as 1954.

In the case of bringing women into an all-male Marine Corps, that too was accomplished during a time of war, and history paints a more enlightened picture of a proactive Marine Commandant acknowledging the advantages to utilizing American volunteers without regard to arbitrary distinguishing factors such as gender. The Marines accomplished their goal of bringing women into uniformed service years before the Army, where even the thousands of nurses in the Army Nurse Corps lacked full military status until almost 25 years later.

History shows that Commandants can effectively slow progress on changing discriminatory policies when they choose to, but it also demonstrates conclusively that once they embrace this type of change, the Corps succeeds in accomplishing the integration and utilization of formerly unwanted minorities more swiftly and smoothly than any other Service.

General Amos is an incredibly talented and gifted man who commands the respect of thousands of Marines, and whose words and actions carry significant weight both in and out of the Corps. Let’s also hope he (and the U.S. Senators who must vote on the repeal) are also students of history.

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