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Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Bringing U.S. Military Culture Into the 4th Century B.C.

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The United States House of Representatives has voted to end the Clinton-era fudge of a law "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the bizarre compromise between liberals and conservatives that allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they did not acknowledge their sexuality.

This law, born from the bungled efforts of a young Clinton White House to court favor with its gay supporters, and the resulting backlash of conservatives, basically institutionalized lying in the military.

This law has harmed America's national security by creating a military culture of secrecy, punitive outings and expelling thousands of highly patriotic, dedicated and talented Americans from our nation's volunteer armed forces at a time of a global war.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is, of course, a fruit from the tree of homophobia. Coming from a government that is supposed to be the global defender of liberty, equality and democracy, this law has been an embarrassment.

The armed forces of many of our major allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Israel, are fully integrated.

Interviewed by the BBC, Head of the British Army General Sir Richard Dannatt, said that: "One of the Army's six Core Values is 'Respect for Others' and it is therefore our absolute duty to treat our fellow soldiers as we would wish to be treated ourselves ... Discrimination against those in the Army who are lesbian, gay and bisexual does not give them a chance to contribute or to play a full part in the teams that are vital for our success on operations."

Eight years after the 1992 integration of gays into its military, Canada found no deleterious effects on military effectiveness or morale. An academic study published in 2000 by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CSSMM ) reached these conclusions:

Lifting of restrictions on gay and lesbian service in the Canadian Forces has not led to any change in military performance, unit cohesion, or discipline.

* Self-identified gay, lesbian, and transsexual members of the Canadian Forces contacted for the study describe good working relationships with peers.

* The percent of military women who experienced sexual harassment dropped 46% after the ban was lifted. While there were several reasons why harassment declined, one factor was that after the ban was lifted women were free to report assaults without fear that they would be accused of being a lesbian.

* Before Canada lifted its gay ban, a 1985 survey of 6,500 male soldiers found that 62% said that they would refuse to share showers, undress or sleep in the same room as a gay soldier. After the ban was lifted, follow-up studies found no increase in disciplinary, performance, recruitment, sexual misconduct, or resignation problems.

In another CSSMM study, conducted 17 years after the integration of gays into the formidable Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), researchers found:

There is no evidence that the inclusion of homosexuals in the IDF has harmed operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion, or morale in the Israeli military. In a security-conscious nation, this is simply not a concern among military personnel or the public more generally.

* Contrary to the claims of some American experts, some Israeli soldiers in combat units do come out of the closet. Even in these cases, Israeli officials report no deterioration of unit cohesion or performance.

* Security and mental health officials for the IDF have found that sexual minorities adapt to military life as well as heterosexuals. Scholars studying the issue have also determined that gay combat soldiers adopt similar methods of adjusting to military life as their heterosexual colleagues. Homosexuality appears to be peripheral to these soldiers preoccupations, and they reveal few problems associated with their sexual orientation.

In short, integration of gays has produced positive effects for these military forces.

Now the United States is poised to join its major allies -- in going back to the 4th century B.C. Of course, different cultures and epochs have different customs, but the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" formula would be quite puzzling to some of history's greatest military forces and their leaders.

Famously, Alexander the Great traveled with both his wife and male lover, the great General Hephaistion, as they conquered the most powerful empire of its time.

Ancient Greece's most feared warriors, the Spartans, were trained to fight to the death -- fighting alongside their bisexual partners.

The Romans, at least until the Emperor Constantine decreed Christianity as the Empire's official religion, were accepting of the wide spectrum of human sexuality -- in their armed forces (Julius Caesar perhaps being their most famous openly bisexual leader) as well as in society at large.

And at least until the 19th century, Japan's warrior class, the samurai, practiced ritualized bisexuality as part of a mechanism of unit cohesion and accountability.

So now we are poised to see this ridiculous law ended. Patriotic Americans will be able to serve their country regardless of sexual orientation. Institutionalized prejudice is dealt a heavy blow in our country's armed forces. And we will finally battle global war with all hands on deck.

The 4th century B.C. is finally here.

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