How Don't Ask, Don't Tell Was Like Catch-22

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22, 1961.

Today, President Barack Obama has signed the recently enacted repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law. I've already had a lot to say on the subject, but I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight this good column from TBD.com's Amanda Hess, who underscores just how stupid the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy really was:

In 2005, a Washington Blade report investigated the U.S. military's wishy-washy stance on DADT. Discharges under the policy rose steadily from 1993 on. But they dropped precipitously after 2001 -- when the U.S. entangled itself in two foreign wars that necessitated strong numbers of enlisted men and women. In 2001, 1,273 servicemen and women were discharged under DADT; in 2004, the figure fell to 653.

Military brass confirmed to the Blade that out gays and lesbians would sometimes be deployed to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, only to be discharged following their tour of service. "The bottom line is some people are using sexual orientation to avoid deployment," an army command spokesperson told the Blade. In the case of Army Reserve and National Guard forces called up for service, the spokesperson said, "if a soldier 'tells,' they still have to go to war and the homosexual issue is postponed until they return to the U.S. and the unit is demobilized."

Channeling Joe Heller, Hess remarks, "In other words, it was OK for out gays and lesbians to continue to serve, as long as they didn't want to."

It's important to understand that as a policy, Don't Ask, Don't Tell didn't work for anybody. If you wanted to keep gays out of the military, the policy didn't work -- they kept joining. If you wanted to get out of your deployment, the policy didn't work -- the military kept you. And what does this say of the whole "unit cohesion" argument? Well, it says that argument was bogus, unless "unit cohesion" only matters when the fighting is done.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is over and gone. Trust me: you're not going to miss it!

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