It's often said that the military is not a democracy, and that's for the best. At the same time, it's important to know what the troops think about any number of things. As it prepares to phase out the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the military has been surveying troops to see what they think about the gay troops currently serving, and the prospect of them serving openly. This has generated some controversy, because some of the questions are of the "Just how icky do you find homosexuals?" variety. Today, Think Progress shows us a similar survey the Army conducted between 1942 and 1946 to gauge servicemembers' feelings about blacks and Jews. Unsurprisingly, the results weren't too encouraging:
At the time, the military — along with the overwhelming majority of the country — opposed integrating black servicemembers into the forces and preferred a 'separate but equal' approach that would have required the military to construct separate recreation spaces and facilities. The survey about Jews was no more promising, with 86% of the soldiers agreeing that "there is nothing good about Jews."
You couldn't get more than 14 percent to appreciate our self-deprecating sense of humor? Or our history of literary achievement? Didn't they realize that every unit needs its geeky guy with glasses, whom the strapping, corn-fed boys from the heartland could nickname "Brooklyn," to lighten the mood on patrol? Anyhow, what this shows is that while this kind of survey can be useful in mapping out a strategy for changing the policy, it certainly shouldn't be used to determine whether or not the policy should be changed. You can bet, though, that the supporters of DADT will do just that if the results show a lot of prejudice toward gays.
-- Paul Waldman