Turning 'Unfriendly Fire' On U.S. Military's Gay Ban Intended as a productive if imperfect compromise, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has resulted in thousands of discharges — many of them involving servicemembers with critical skills. Historian Nathaniel Frank says it's time the ban was ended.

Turning 'Unfriendly Fire' On U.S. Military's Gay Ban

Turning 'Unfriendly Fire' On U.S. Military's Gay Ban

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Nathaniel Frank's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. His first book is Unfriendly Fire. hide caption

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The U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding openly gay servicemembers was intended as a compromise — an improvement over the all-out ban that had existed before 1993, but not a full reversal of that ban. The idea was to allow gay and lesbian individuals to serve without the disruptions some claimed would result if they were allowed to openly discuss their lives.

Historian Nathaniel Frank argues that it's been a disastrous policy — that contrary to intent, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has actually weakened the military, increasing discharges and hampering recruitment. Among other things, he writes, the military has discharged "11,000 capable service members under the policy, including over 300 linguists, 49 nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52 missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen."

In Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, Frank spends more than 350 pages laying out a meticulously argued case for the dismantling of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and for the full reversal of the ban on gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Frank is senior research fellow at the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he blogs about the issue of gays in the military, and an adjunct professor of history at New York University's Gallatin School. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Brown University.

Frank joins Fresh Air host Terry Gross to talk about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and why it needs to be reversed.

Unfriendly Fire
How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America
By Nathaniel Frank

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Unfriendly Fire
Nathaniel Frank

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