Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Military Policy Persuasive Research Paper

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Military Policy


Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Military Policy

Persuasive Research Essay

The objective of this work is to review the Repeal of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and to incorporate both classical principles of argumentation and elements of the Toulmin model of argument analysis. According to a report published in the 'Army Times' the Pentagon has suspended the military's DADT policy. Specifically stated is "The moratorium issued Friday came after a ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court in California ordering the Defense Department to immediately stop enforcing the law. The court said the law is unconstitutional because it treats gay Americans differently under the law." (Tighman, 2011)

Toulmin states that the first problem in an argument is to make a decision of what things "about the form and merits of our arguments are 'field-invariant' and what things about them are 'field dependent'?" (p.14-15) Toulmin additionally asks the question of "What things about the modes in which we assess arguments, the standard by reference to which we assess them and the manner in which we qualify our conclusions about them, are the same regardless of field and which of them vary as we move from arguments in one field to arguments in another field?" (p.15) According to Toulmin "in some fields of dispute, no doubt, this happens rarely, and it is notoriously difficult to establish the pre-eminent claims of one particular candidate above all others: in these fields, more often than in most, the answers to questions remain matters of opinion or taste." (Toulmin, 2003, p.19)

I. Elements of the Toulmin Model

The work of Newman and Marshall (1991) states that representational schemes have been proposed by researchers to capture reasoned discourses." Stated is that interaction between humans and computers has resulted in researcher's growing interest in task-specific representational schemes embedded in applications with a design that supports idea-processing work including authoring, analysis and design. Most specifically researchers are reported to be working toward developing computational support for the construction, evaluation, and retrieval of complex reasoned discourses." (Newman and Marshal, 1991, p.2)

Representational approaches to supporting argumentation rest on a few key assumptions. First is the idea that argumentation, like other types of discourse, is characterized by structures that can be described independently of specific content. We believe that this assumption is borne out by our and others' success in encoding arguments in generalized representational schemes. In the next section, we discuss our ideas about the types of structure underlying argumentative discourse and show how they define taxonomy of argument representation schemes." (Newman and Marshall, 1991, p.3)

The work of van Dijk and Kintsch (1983), discourse comprehension theorists are reported to "maintain that much of the work in processing texts or oral discourse has to do with recognizing and using various kinds of discourse structure in support of building up models both of the discourse and of the situation that the discourse is about." (cited in: Newman and Marshall, 1991, p.3)

Alternatively, there is some evidence arising from experimentation that arguments, which are presented in a form that is structured, are arguments that are better understood and remembered longer than those which are presented in "a standard linear format." (Newman and Marshall, 1991, p.3) It is reported that Toulmin structures are general enough in nature to "capture the basic inferential structure of most clearly argumentative discourse. Thus we found very few types of arguments which could not be coerced into Toulmin structures." (Newman and Marshall, 1991, p.4)

II. Classical Principles of Argumentation

Argumentation is a reasoning model, which is stated in the work of Amgoud to follow the following steps:

(1) construction of arguments from bases;

(2) defining the strengths of those arguments;

(3) determining the different conflicts between the arguments;

(4) evaluating the acceptability of the different arguments; and (5) concluding. (p.1)

It is stated what serves to distinguish "an argumentation framework for reasoning about beliefs and an argumentations framework for decision making is mainly the last step of the argumentation process." (Amgoud, nd, p.1) It is related that in systems of inference "consequence relations are defined in order to decide which conclusion should be inferred from a knowledge base. Those conclusions are considered 'true'." (Amgoud, nd, p.1) It is reported however, "things seem different with decision making." (Amgoud, nd, p.1)

III. Military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy Examined

The military policy known as 'Don't-Ask -- Don't Tell' can be examined from the view of the Toulmin model as well
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as from the view of the classical principles of argumentation. It is necessary to ask, as noted in the work of Toulmin on his model whether the item under discussion or the focus or the argument is 'field dependent' or 'field invariant' or in other words, if the focus of the argument is information that is necessarily relevant or if that information is actually irrelevant to the subject of debate.

In light of the fact that the military employs both male and female service members then the argument is one that interjects personal information of a service member's sexual choice as an additional or third field variant. In other words, prior to the military's DADT policy, and the addressing of the service member's sexual choice, this personal information was neither sought nor desired by the military because the military is sex and gender neutral. The court's ruling that DADT is discriminatory could have been expected as gender neutrality has been in effect in the military for decades therefore making gender-related questioning and regulating of military service members naturally inequitable and discriminatory treatment.

Logic dictates that if the gender of the individual service member is not to be considered in the individual's fitness for military service then certainly the choice of a sexual or intimate partner and that partner's gender can have no influence on the ability of the service member to perform their service-oriented duties. While the partner's gender might essentially create new problems for wives of service members and may change the face of the military base housing environment, in no way does the service member's partner's gender effect the ability of the military service member in performing their duties related to active service. As well, it can be reasoned that there is great diversity in race, ethnicity, level of education, socioeconomic background, and other diversifying features that exist among military wives living on base that the issue of partner gender should be treated in the same manner as other diversities. Specifically the issue of gender should simply be treated as an individual defining characteristic that should not be the source of any type of discriminatory treatment. In other words, the military service member partner's gender should not be a consideration that reflects on the performance of the service member's active duties and should not be distinguished as this necessarily results in recrimination and discrimination against that service member and their significant other.

While this may create some discomfort for those residing on a military base, just as the integration of the various races and ethnicities must have caused in decades past, the inequity of such treatment should be avoided through classifying those with alternate choices in intimate partner gender as such because this creates and environment of discrimination and inequality While society has long since overcome this hurdle and it sounds inane to consider, the demand that those with same sex partners follow DADT is just as discriminatory as the just stated example. Therefore, the gender of the military service member's partner is field invariant -- or so to say -- irrelevant to the service member's ability to perform their active service duties effectively.

From the view of the classical principles of argumentation, the argument once constructed with the requirement that military service members who are homosexual should not ask and not tell their sexual orientation, reaches the second step of the argumentation principles. The second step is one that involves defining the strengths of the arguments that support the focus of the argument against DADT or for DADT and it is at this juncture that a barrier is met because the strengths of the argument that supports DADT are non-existent when considered in the light of democracy and principles of equality. The conflict between the arguments supporting DADT and those against DADT are evident and are in actuality a conflict between the principles of democracy and equality and the principles of non-discrimination on the basis of gender and specifically in this instance the gender of the domestic partner as related to the gender of the service-member. This results in a discrimination that is both against the service member's gender and the domestic partner's gender and on the basis of the gender of the service member.

The elements of discrimination on the basis of gender are very strong in DADT. When evaluating the acceptability of the arguments that support DADT, from the view of democratic principles applied to classical principles of argumentation…

Sources Used in Documents:


Amgoud, Leila (nd) A Unified Setting for Inference and Decision: An Argumentation-Based Approach. IRIT-CNRS. Retrieved from:

Newman, SE and Marshall, CC (1991) Pushing Toulmin Too Far: Learning From an Argument Representation Scheme. Xerox PARC, Palo Alto, CA. Retrieved from:

Tighman, A. (2011) Pentagon Suspends DADT in Wake of Court Ruling. Army Times. 8 Jul 2011. Retrieved from:

Toulmin, Stephen Edelston (2003) The Uses of Argument. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Retrieved from:

Cite This Research Paper:

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