‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is red herring in ROTC debate

To the Editor:

Recent editorials regarding ROTC continue to spin Yale’s rejection of ROTC and military recruitment as a discrimination issue. But it wasn’t “don’t ask, don’t tell” that prompted the Yale faculty to reject ROTC in 1969, and I don’t believe it is that congressionally mandated policy that is the real issue today. If it were, we would be talking about a letter-writing campaign to Congress, not obstructing the ability of our country’s armed forces to recruit and train our brightest young citizens.

Just to be clear, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is not a blanket discrimination against homosexuals. The most flamboyantly gay student can join the military if he is willing to abstain from homosexual behavior in the context of his training and service, just as the most morbidly obese candidate can join the service if he is willing to lose enough weight to meet the somewhat stringent and arbitrary physical standards applied to all active-duty personnel (regardless of their job). The military wants anyone who is qualified and willing to maintain military standards of conduct, and they particularly value the intelligent, competent leaders they find at elite universities.

Soldiers are required to deprive themselves of many civil liberties while in the service of our country. It may surprise civilians to learn that these constraints go far beyond haircuts and earrings to encompass strict limits on free speech as well as social and sexual behavior. Furthermore, this code of conduct is open for review by all three branches of the federal government.

It is true that any other employer would be charged with unlawful discrimination if it enforced a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on sexuality. But note likewise that any other employer would be hauled into court for enforcing such strict and arbitrary physical requirements as does the military, for forcing employees to at times work 100-hour weeks for below minimum wage, or for intentionally putting its employees in mortal danger. Yep, the military is pretty special.

I personally know two homosexual men who discreetly served with distinction on active duty. I believe opponents of military access to the Ivy League cite discrimination as a red herring. I’m sure they have other reasons to despise the military, but it is a shame that they are keeping more of our country’s most talented young leaders from serving in the armed forces.

David Bookstaber ’99

Jan. 29, 3005

The writer, a member of Yale Advocates for ROTC, participated in the program as an undergraduate.


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