The policy known as "Don't ask, don't tell" was
supposed to end the prohibition on gay and lesbian service in the
military, but in reality the number of people discharged for being
"gay" (or for saying they were) actually climbed for most of
the decade after its adoption in 1994. All that changed after 9/11/2001,
for the simple reason that the U.S. military could no longer afford to
lose talented soldiers as it embarked upon one, then two, foreign wars.
From a high of 1,273 in 2001, the number discharged dropped to 906 in
2002 and to 787 last year, reports the Servicemembers Legal Defense
Network. The paradox here is that the rationale for kicking gay people
out is that they detract from military effectiveness (unit cohesion,
etc.), yet it's precisely when the military is on a war footing,
when effectiveness is the order of the day, that it sees fit to retain
more gay people in its ranks. The ineluctable conclusion is that the
desire to eliminate gay people from the military has nothing to do with
their ability to serve effectively, after all.