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Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America Hardcover – March 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312373481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312373481
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mr. Frank has also been offering succinct five-minute synopses of his argument as he makes the rounds of the talk show circuit. So why does his book, “Unfriendly Fire,” need nearly 300 pages of text to make the same relatively simple points? Because he makes them so discerningly, so substantively and so well....“Unfriendly Fire” offers a sharp, vigorously framed analysis of this state of affairs....
The main attraction in “Unfriendly Fire” is the agility and tough-mindedness with which Mr. Frank presents his arguments."--The New York Times

“In 1993, when I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I felt that the policy was right for the times. Frank makes a compelling case not only that there has been a shift within our society, but that the time has come to look beyond our preconceptions and focus on capabilities. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in the state of our society or the readiness of our military.” —General John Shalikashvili, former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Armed Forces

“This book lays out clearly, fairly, dispassionately, and accurately the terrible cost to our national security of this insane policy.” —Andrew Sullivan, author of The Daily Dish blog and of The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back

“Frank’s lucid and timely book should put to rest any lingering doubt about whether ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is working—it’s been a failure from day one and should finally be put behind us.” —Congressman Patrick J. Murphy, member of the House Armed Services Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, and former captain in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division

“Here is a book from a leading scholar that cuts through the ignorance, the denial, and the prejudice to explain how we got stuck with a policy that was doomed to fail. Our military and our nation owe Frank a debt of gratitude.” —Dr. Lawrence J. Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan

“Frank puts a human face on the flaws in this policy.” —Marty Meehan, Chancellor of University of Massachusetts Lowell, and former congressman

“This is a valuable contribution and worthwhile reading for all who care about justice and equality. On behalf of the clients we serve and all service members who wear the uniform and must serve in silence, I salute Dr. Frank and his distinguished colleagues at the Palm Center.” —Aubrey Sarvis, Esq., Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

About the Author

Nathaniel Frank is a senior  research  fellow at the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and teaches history on the adjunct faculty at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. His publications on gays in the military and other topics have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Slate, Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Lingua Franca, and others, and his research and opinions have been cited on the Congressional floor, in syndicated columns, in the blogosphere, the New York Post, The Advocate, National Review Online, the AP, and other venues, including university syllabi and media roundups. Frank earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at Brown University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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Customer Reviews

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This book is the tool they need.
David A. Appling
Mr. Frank could have, I suppose, made more of the impact this had on Bill Clinton's ability to act as Commander in Chief.
Robert D. Harmon
Very well researched and written book.
J. OHearn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert D. Harmon VINE VOICE on March 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As someone who was involved in the 1993 battle over gays in the military, albeit in a minor way, and who was in the military, I was curious how the story would read, now, 15 years on. This book rings true. Mr. Frank tells the story of how the U.S. got to that point, how Congress skewed its hearings on the issue, and how Bill Clinton ultimately, under duress, signed on to Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

He doesn't neglect the corollary issues: the mindset of both sides, the experience of gays in the military prior to 1993, and the experience of other militaries who lifted the ban. He helpfully lists the evidence for and against the ban, so far. (He may be one of the few to have actually _read_ the 1993 RAND study on the issue). And, he shows the anti-gay policy's contribution to pervasive male-on-female sexual harassment in the military.

He follows DADT in subsequent years, and it's a complicated story: I knew how "Don't Ask" became "Search and Destroy" in some commands, but hadn't heard, till now, of how many gay soldiers stayed on and continued serving well.

Mr. Frank could have, I suppose, made more of the impact this had on Bill Clinton's ability to act as Commander in Chief. This spat may have had something to do with his weak initial response to the Balkan wars from 1993 on. Certainly, the RAND study said that the gay ban would have fallen if the military thought Bill Clinton meant it. But, this a minor quibble.

Indeed, Mr. Frank does show how, with the military wearing out its active and Reserve forces with second, third, and fourth tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He not only shows how personnel needs got so dire that the military was recruiting poor-quality, even ex-felon, soldiers, but shows the mayhem that would cause.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jake on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
He lays out the case for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a very compelling way. Some of the "reasons" that the military has used in the past to justify discrimination have to be read to be believed. And the behind the scenes political maneuvering that went on is fascinating. It's a great read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By wrappedupinbooks on March 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Nathaniel Frank has written THE book on this issue. No one can read it and still think the gay ban in the military is anything but foolish - and counterproductive. One need not be gay to see the wisdom in this definitive history and expose.
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Format: Hardcover
But it wasn't until after reading it I realized just how insane it really is. It's not a good idea the execution of which was flawed (as some thought).

It was a wrong, bad idea, which could never have worked. And the cost of trying to make it work has been high upon our military, whose service to our nation we should be trying to make easier, not impeding.

This book has the human stories, but it also has the numbers, combined together to reach an irrefutable conclusion:

The gay ban needs to be lifted, and lifted now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AcornMan on May 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book begins with a fascinating historical overview about gays in the military and how the military's stance toward gays took shape over the years, up to and including the current "don't ask don't tell" policy. This alone made the book well worth reading. But the author is by no means finished at that point. He goes on to completely and methodically dismantle every single rationale used to continue the current policy of discrimination. Along the way he tells numerous personal stories about the experiences of actual soldiers. It is a fascinating enlightening book that everyone should read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David A. Appling on June 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First my own identity: straight retired Army officer, opposed to DADT from the beginning.

Dr. Frank has written a truly admirable work - complete, compelling, and convincing. It should be mandatory reading for military and Congressional leaders. DADT will be repealed only when our leaders come to understand its history and its results, and dispel the pervasive myths surrounding gay military service. This book is the tool they need.

Pace Dr. Frank, though, not all proponents of DADT are bigots. I think most simply subscribe to the "conventional wisdom" of the past and wrongly see repeal -- especially in wartime -- as a risky and imprudent leap into the unknown. It is those decisionmakers and influencers who, above all, need to read and internalize the message of this fine book.

Repealing the DADT law and other barriers will not be easy. I believe President Obama will address these issues in due time, but I applaud and encourage his caution. DADT became Federal law, instead of mere policy, because the Clinton administration underestimated the difficulty and made the classic rookie bridge mistake of failing to clear trumps. Nor can we simply ignore the religious right, well represented in today's armed forces. Our country can ill afford to lose this battle again through excessive haste.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. OHearn on May 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Very well researched and written book. Really hard to understand this ban when the military is streched so thin!
Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
New presidential administrations always offer a chance to lead the nation in a different direction and Nathaniel Frank's terrific new book, "Unfriendly Fire" may just help tip the balance of removing the ridiculous "Don't ask, don't tell" policy set up in 1993. Unwarranted from the beginning, this policy has caused tremendous harm to both gays and straights in the military.

Frank underscores how much the United States has changed in its collective views on homosexuality since the policy went into effect, and this, perhaps more than anything else, will one day very soon overturn it. But the narrative of "Unfriendly Fire" takes us through the entire fifteen-year course...from Sam Nunn's pre-determined Senate hearings and the weak response by the new Clinton administration...to the testimonies at present of the men and women in uniform....straight and gay...regarding their attitudes towards serving with each other and the tight cohesiveness of their units which is tantamount to military success.

Perhaps it really took wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to let in the light about gay service, especially after many thousands of gays were tossed out of the military at a time when their service was desperately needed. Frank really hits home when he describes the loss of translators...without replacements...and what that did to the units who lost those people. As a further point he tells of convicted felons being allowed in to beef up "the numbers".

"Unfriendly Fire" ends on an upbeat note, reflecting the positive change in attitudes of both military and non-military people who look at the gay ban today. Yet I couldn't help but wonder if men and women in uniform might be subject to dismissal just for reading Frank's book. I hope not.
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