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Unit Social Cohesion in the Israeli Military as a Case Study of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell”

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U.S. military policy “Don't Ask Don't Tell” (DADT) restricted integration of gays in the U.S. military based on the premise that knowledge of gay peers would decrease interpersonal bonds among unit members. Despite the heated debate over DADT, this social cohesion thesis, reflecting the tensions of homosocial desire, has not been tested empirically. The Israeli military provides an operative case‐study for this thesis, given its nonexclusionary policy and intensive combat experience. Measures of perceived social cohesion and knowledge of gay peers were obtained from a sample of 417 combat and noncombat male soldiers using an inventory of interpersonal emotions towards unit members. A MANOVA of social cohesion by knowledge of gay peers and combat/noncombat unit yielded the hypothesized increase in cohesion in combat versus noncombat units. Yet contrary to the DADT premise, knowledge of gay peers did not yield decreased social cohesion. Comparisons with the U.S. military are presented, suggesting in both cases a loose coupling between stated policies and soldiers' experience on the ground. Implications of these findings for the reassessment of DADT and its repeal are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Bar Ilan University 2: University of Haifa and Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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