The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military is over. The web is full of renewed interest in the phrase’s history. Who, folks want to know, coined the expression?
Credit goes to the late Charles Moskos, a military sociologist and professor from Northwestern University. The phrase came about during the first term of the Clinton administration. At the time the policy was viewed as a kind of compromise. It allowed gay men and women to serve in the military, provided they did not openly admit to their sexual preference. It also prohibited other military personnel from asking questions. In other words, don’t ask, don’t tell.
When the policy was instituted, it was seen by many as a step forward. It allowed all Americans to serve, regardless of sexual orientation. After the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was enacted, recruiters were banned from asking applicants about their orientation. However, it also put limits on gay military personnel. Should they openly admit to being gay, they could be discharged.
Beyond the controversial policy, Moskos was seen as a highly influential voice in military policy. The Wall Street Journal called him the country’s “most influential military sociologist.” Though he was the person behind the policy, Moskos did recognize its shortcomings. “I always say about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ what Winston Churchill said about democracy: ‘It’s the worst system possible except for any other,’” remarked Moskos in an interview.
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