I look forward to the day when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy comes to an end. This will not happen overnight, let alone during the upcoming war, but it will happen. Changing social attitudes continue to move left, and this will lead our political executives to modify the existing rule.
It will not take much for the military to change its policy. Realistically, one president could end the policy, just as Clinton instated this one a few years ago. The legality of Congressional battles could, with the proper social impetus, be relatively easy to work through, as well.
The coming protests over military recruiting at the Yale Law School will not make this change happen more quickly. If anything, they will merely exacerbate the division between academics and the military, while limiting the ability of students to serve should they so desire. Protest is fine, but the means of protest in this case will do harm to progress.
A recent decision by the national administration to enforce the demands of the Solomon Amendment means that Yale could lose a substantial amount of federal funding unless the Judge Advocates General Corps can recruit at the Law School. Students are protesting the decision to welcome the military here, seeing such recruiting as opposed to the Law School’s nondiscrimination policy.
Law students will eagerly sign up for coveted interview slots. Instead of seeking the job, though, they will berate interviewers about the military’s policy. They will fill coveted interview positions for the sake of declaring their passionate disapproval of military policy. They hope to bully the interviewers either not to return to Yale or to pressure their superiors to change the military’s policy toward gays.
These protesters are wrong for two reasons. First, they are denying their colleagues the opportunity to pursue a career in the JAG Corps for political reasons. People who wish to serve in the military do not do so out of some loyalty to the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” They do so because they are interested in serving the nation or because they are interested in the justice system within the ranks.
Presumably students at the top law school in the country should be able to make career decisions by themselves. Indeed, it is particularly ironic that the protesters would fight a policy of discrimination that denies gays the right to choose to be out, by denying law students the right to have interviews and choose their profession.
The more interesting point is the impact enlightened Yale law grads could have on the military hierarchy.
Someday, when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ends, there will still be concern within the military ranks about welcoming gays. Old habits die hard, and many views toward homosexuals are, presumably, ingrained in military life.
A big change will have to be within the military ranks themselves. And the best way to institute a change of attitude that would welcome gays into the corps, could come from those serving in the ranks.
Considering the political makeup of the Yale campus, including the Yale Law School, it is reasonable to assume that many of the law students who will vie for positions in the JAG Corps would support ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Should they work their way through the corps, they might very well be able to instill a new perspective.
Yale Law protesters would better use their time dealing with this issue in Washington than in the interviewer’s suite at the Holiday Inn. Those who support gay rights can better direct their focus at the national level than here. The necessary social impetus for changing military policy will not come from the academy, but from the outside world.
Law students should allow the interviewers to do their job and allow their peers to serve should they wish. Students should be able to pursue careers in the military, just as they hope that some day openly gay men and women will.
Justin Zaremby is a senior in Calhoun College. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.