This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are . . .
NYT, Obama Urges Repeal of Ban on Open Gays in Military, 27 Jan. 2010
Obama Mispronouncing the rank of "Corpsman" at the White House Prayer Breakfast, 4 Feb. 2008
The agenda of gay activists today is to, one, mainstream homosexuality, eliminating completely the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct and two, at least on the far left, to actively promote homosexuality. They are pushing their agenda wrongfully through the Courts, as any claim to "civil rights" based on sexual preference has no basis in the Constitution. They are pushing their agenda insidiously through our public schools - Fistgate being possibly the most egrigious recent example. And they are rightfully pursuing their agenda in the political arena. The far left of the movement is virulently anti-Christian. As in all victim class movements emerging out of the far left, many seek to demonize and delegitimize any who disagree with their agenda or who express moral qualms with homosexuality - the vicious attacks on Carrie Prejean being a prime example. The two grand prizes that gay activists seek at the moment are the end to the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and the right to marry. This post deals with the former.
1. Historical Foundation Of The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy
The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy came out of extensive Congressional hearings in 1993 that examined whether homosexuals could serve in the military consistent with the military's overriding need for unit cohesion. The answer that came from those hearings was yes, qualified with a finding that open homosexuality would effect unit cohesion and be detrimental to military effectiveness. Having been an Infantry Officer and having spent years in the military, I concured in those findings at the time. This from then Sen. Coats, speaking on the Senate floor in 1993 as to the findings of the hearings:
Senator Nunn designed a process that was fair and balanced. Staff interviewed thousands of military personnel on 21 bases. In six hearings, including field hearings, talking with soldiers, sailors, airmen where they live and work, thousands of pages of testimony were collected. . . .
Let me address this in a topical way. The most important criteria was this whole question of cohesion and morale. In the Armed Services Committee, we devoted a great deal of attention to the importance of cohesion in the military. It is something that those who have not served need to understand before they can render judgment.
Dr. David Marlowe, a military psychiatric expert, gave cohesion a very clear definition. He said:
In its simplest form, cohesion could be viewed as that set of factors and processes that bonded soldiers together and bonded them to their leaders so that they would stand in the line of battle, mutually support each other, withstand the shock, terror, and trauma of combat, sustain each other in the completion of their mission and neither break nor run.
Dr. Marlowe concluded:
I think it was best put by a soldier I knew once who said the flag, patriotism, mom and apple pie are what bring you into the army. When the first bullet comes down the range, the only thing you are concerned with are your buddies.
Experts then told us that cohesion between those buddies is based on trust and shared values. They stressed over and over the importance of the shared-value system that is necessary to form the unit, the cohesion, the team that can effectively do what Dr. Marlowe has said, and that is withstand the shock, terror, and trauma of combat.
Dr. William Henderson testified before the committee:
A significant characteristic about a cohesive unit is the constant observation and evaluation of the behavior of unit members. Any deviation from unit norms, values, or expected behavior brings immediate and intense group pressures to conform to group norms. If the behavior is not corrected, then cleavage results in the group and cohesion is weakened.
One submariner with 12 years in the Navy commented: `Every sub I've ever been on has been like a close-knit family. If you feel uneasy about somebody within the family, you separate the family.'
As I said, this is not something that we normally relate to in our everyday lives because we live and work in an entirely different atmosphere, an entirely different way than those in the military. Those on deployment, those living in close quarters on submarines and ships, those living in tents overseas, those in training experience a far different living relationship, working relationship than those of us in civilian life. It is important to understand the distinction, and it is important to understand the difference, and it is also important to understand the concept of unit cohesion which can only be formed through, as these experts have testified, shared values and a unique type of bonding.
We heard that in the development of cohesion, the needs of the group must be placed ahead of the rights of the individual. Most of our work on the Senate floor and most of the legislation that we evaluate have to do with individual rights, and when we talk about military units, we subrogate individual rights in favor of group rights. It is something that is foreign to a lot of our thinking and a lot of our evaluation. . . .
[I]t is important to understand the uniqueness of military life, the uniqueness of unit cohesion, and the reason why the rights of the unit need to be placed ahead of and have priority over the rights of the individual.
Dr. David Marlowe said:
The primacy of the individual ceases once one becomes part of the military service. The individual who puts himself before the group is an individual who will be excluded by the group. The issue, in terms of policy, is what are those conditions that lead to maximum strength for the group. From my point of view, whatever those conditions are, they must lead to maximum strength because that gives us the fewest long-term combat psychiatric casualties and the fewest broken bodies. It is the group that is responsible for the survival of the individual in combat.
Again, a situation unique from what we normally face in our civilian occupations.
We were told in the committee that homosexuality disrupts the development of cohesion. Gen. Calvin Waller commented:
These men and women want to be associated with individuals who they can trust under combat conditions; individuals they consider as a family, where teamwork has been forged and tested under the most adverse conditions, and that is simulated combat or, combat. Most surveys indicate that this type of cohesion and teamwork cannot be attained with avowed homosexuals in their midst.
It was General Schwarzkopf who commented--and General Schwarzkopf, I might note, was commander of personnel during the eighties before he advanced to his assignment as commander of our forces in the Persian Gulf, and so he had some very direct experience with personnel policies--and commenting on that he said:
In every case-- Not most cases-- in every case where homosexuality became known in the unit, it resulted in a breakdown in morale, cohesion, effectiveness-- With resulting dissent, resentment, and even violence. . . .
The policy that arose from those hearings was to allow homosexuals to serve in the military so long as they kept their homosexuality private and out of the work place. By all accounts, the policy has worked effectively since, protecting the all important unit cohesion while allowing gays to serve without being subject to witch hunts. Today's movement to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not about allowing gays to serve in the military, it is about allowing gays to "tell." Thus it is an issue with foundations largely in the arena of social engineering.
2. Civil Rights Arguments For Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Was Obama right in his statement at the State of the Union, that homosexuals have a civil right to demand repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Constitutional civil right can only arise from the text of the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights and subsequent Amendments to the Constitution set forth the limits on government power in relation to the individual, thereby creating in their mirror image our individual civil rights. Thus to determine the existence of a civil right relating to homosexuality as well as its scope, we refer in this instance to the laws in place throughout our country when our Bill of Rights was approved in 1791, and thereafter when the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was approved in 1868. We must look to whether and to what extent it was accepted at those times that the government exercised power to limit homosexual conduct. The historical record clearly establishes that, at the time the Bill of Rights was approved and the near century later, when the 14th Amendment was approved, our government exercised unchallenged power to restrict homosexual conduct. The record shows "20 sodomy prosecutions and 4 executions during the colonial period" and numerous records of prosecutions for homosexual sodomy thereafter. To quote Justice White, writing regarding homosexual sodomy laws in the 1986 case of Bowers v. Hardwick:
Proscriptions against that conduct have ancient roots. See generally Survey on the Constitutional Right to Privacy in the Context of Homosexual Activity, 40 U. Miami L. Rev. 521, 525 (1986). Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights. 5 In 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was [478 U.S. 186, 193] ratified, all but 5 of the 37 States in the Union had criminal sodomy laws. 6 In fact, until 1961, all 50 States outlawed sodomy, and today, 24 States and the District of Columbia [478 U.S. 186, 194] continue to provide criminal penalties for sodomy performed in private and between consenting adults. See Survey, U. Miami L. Rev., supra, at 524, n. 9. Against this background, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty" is, at best, facetious.
A 2002 activist Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas finding modern sodomy laws unconstitutional notwithstanding, the government has the power, both on moral and prudential grounds, to define limits on homosexual conduct so long as doing so has a rational basis. Our Constitutional Scholar In Chief was not telling the truth when he claimed otherwise. Homosexuals do not have a civil right to demand repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
3. Political / Moral Arguments For Repeal Of Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Has the morality of our nation strayed far enough from our Judeo-Christian roots that we are prepared to morally accept homosexuality into - or at least more fully into - the mainstream of society? Most polls of civilians indicate that the answer to that is yes. This from the Washington Post:
Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.
Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike now believe it is acceptable for openly gay people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Shortly after he took office in 1993, Clinton faced strong resistance to his campaign pledge to lift the military's ban on allowing gay people to enlist. At that time, 67 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives opposed the idea. A majority of independents, 56 percent, and 45 percent of Democrats also opposed changing the policy.
Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.
For many of those promoting the gay agenda - and the far left politicians who support them as a victim class entitled to special treatment - the issue of whether to allow gays to serve openly in the military is purely political. They give short shrift to the pragmatic questions of what effect allowing openly gay soldiers to serve will have on our military or they have no basis in knowledge from which to judge such an effect. Exhibit 1 in this category is President Obama.
The degree to which Obama is utterly clueless about the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines he commands was brought home the other day when, as shown in the youtube video at the top of this post, he repeatedly referred to a Navy Corpsman as a "corpse-man." How devoid of any familiarity with the military must a person be to have spent nearly four decades in America, yet not be familiar with the pronunciation of "corps" - a term used in many different contexts in the military - i.e., Corps of Cadets, Marine Corps, etc. True it is anecdotal, but the last time I observed this degree of disconnect between a President and the people he leads was when, in 1991, George H.W. Bush visited a grocery store and expressed his utter amazement at bar code scanners. But while Bush's statement indicated to me a person with no feel for life of the average American, Obama's is far more insidious. He is commanding our troops in time of war, yet he has no understanding of whom he leads. Thus when Obama calls for gays to serve openly in the military, it is beyond question that his agenda is purely political. I think it safe to say he has zero feel for the very real issue of unit cohesion, and he is pushing a political agenda irrespective of what impact it could well have on our volunteer military.
Exhibit Two are those flag officers who have embraced repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell on purely political grounds with little to no reference to the very real pragmatic issues raised by gays serving openly in the military. This includes General Shinseki, Collin Powell, and most recently, Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen:
The military's top uniformed officer [Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] on Tuesday made an impassioned plea for allowing gays to serve openly in uniform, telling a Senate panel it was a matter of integrity and that it is wrong to force people to "lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
. . . President Barack Obama has called for a repeal of the policy, although he did little in his first year in office to advance that goal. If he succeeds, it would mark the biggest shake up to military personnel policies since President Harry S. Truman's 1948 executive order integrating the services.
"No matter how I look at the issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens." Noting that he was speaking for himself and not for the other service chiefs, Mullen added: "For me, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.". . .
As a threshold matter, Mullen gives a false description of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. The policy explicitly does not require a gay soldier to lie about his or her sexual orientation. It simply requires that they keep it private. The way Mullen frames this issue is wholly inappropriate. He does not address whether the existing policy is effective. He does not address the pragmatic issue of whether this would help or hurt the overall military effort - and since we are at war and he is the Chief of Staff, that should be his sole concern. He has not called for a 1993 style hearing to determine whether allowing gays to serve openly would negatively impact our volunteer military today. Instead he frames this as an issue purely of fairness - and even then, only as an issue of fairness to gay soldiers. He has bought wholly into the political arguments for promoting the gay agenda and jettisoned his responsibility to our military in time of war. It is despicable and unforgivable.
It is unfortunate but true that much of our flag officer ranks are populated by people who are political animals moreso than they are soldiers. For a shining example, take the recent stomach churning display of political correctness coming out of the very top echelons of military leadership in response to the act of Islamic terrorism perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Ft. Hood. Recall the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Casey's reaction to the terrorist act at Ft. Hood, where he seemed much more concerned with "diversity" than he was with force protection and dealing honestly with all of the issues raised by that incident. Is it any surprise that the incident occurred because of political correctness, or that in its aftermath, the Army would issue an 86 page report on the incident that fails to mention Major Hasan or the religious motivation for his massacre.
The reality is that for every Petraeus, for every Grant, for every Pershing and Patton, there are a multitude of others such as Casey, Mullen, Powell, Clark, Custer, and McClellan who have been promoted to flag officer rank based on their political skills and connections. Indeed, that has long been a problem endemic to our military. The general rule has been that in peacetime, political animals rise to the top while most of the warriors seem to top out at Colonel. It takes a year or more of war to weed through the political animals and to find those few fit to actually command our troops in the theatre of battle. As an aside, the sole historical exception to that rule in the past century that comes to mind was WWII, where Gen Marshall was given carte blanche to hand pick the generals he wanted to fight the war. He forced retirement on or otherwise passed over "hundreds" of senior officers to promote Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, Stilwell and others of their ilk.
Thus, when an Adm Mullen or Gen. Powell calls for an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell on the grounds of "fairness," it is something that will no doubt impress many with no feel for military life nor the realities of promotion to flag officer rank. It shouldn't. These flag officers' calls for a policy change based on "fairness" are far removed from anything that should be dispositive on the issue.
4. Arguments Against Allowing Gays To Serve In The Military Because They Do Not Make Good Soldiers
Historically, this argument has no basis in fact. Some of the most famous military men and units of history were either homosexual or bisexual - Julius Caeser, Alexander, Friedrich Von Steuben, the commonality of homosexuality among the Sparatans, and the Thebian Sacred Band, a prestigous military unit composed soley of gay lovers, all come immediately to mind. As to our modern military, for myself, as a former infantry officer, I both commanded and served with a few men in the military whom I strongly suspected or came to know were gay. They were all good soldiers and I was proud to have served with them. Being gay has no bearing on whether a man or woman can be a good soldier.
5. The Argument That Our Government Should Not Make The Military A Laboratory For Social Engineering
If you leave aside for the moment that we are in an active war with a military that is stretched thin, the fact is that the military has been used quite successfully as a tool for social engineering. In 1948, Harry Truman, by Executive Order 9981, desegregated the military. That was a truly major development. And, over time, it has turned into a great success. I am aware of no appreciable effect on unit effectiveness in the afterthmath of that decision. Moreover, the military today is the most integrated and color blind institution in our society. My own belief is that the military has been the single greatest driving force of integration in this land for over half a century.
But the issue here is not racial integration. It is injecting overt homosexuality into units. It is injecting sexual tension into combat arms units where it has never been before. Indeed, one of the reasons for limiting the potential assignments of women in the military is precisely to keep sexual tension out of combat arms units. And as important, this is not a peacetime military as it was in 1948, it is a military involed in an ongoing war, not to mention a military stretched thin by nine years of war. Thus, while social engineering has worked wonderously in the past as to race, there are significant differences that counsel against using the military today as a tool of social engineering to further the agenda of gay advocacy groups.
6. The Effect Of Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell On A U.S. Military At War
That is the alpha and omega of this issue. Polls of civilians don't matter. People pushing the political agenda of gay rights don't matter. The dispositive question, particularly in wartime, must be whether allowing gays to serve openly in the military will enhance or detract from our military's effectiveness. To the extent that there is a fairness issue here, it is not merely a question of what is fair to gay soldiers, it is equally a question of fairness to every single one of our soldiers who have volunteered serve in our military today. It is also of critical importance to remember that ours is not a conscript military. It is a wholly voluntary military. And just as our young men and women can volunteer for the service and re-up in very large numbers, they can also decimate our military should a large percentage of them decide that they do not wish to further serve.
In assessing the likelihood that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed in the near future, Daniel Blatt, writing at Pajamas Media, pointed out:
A Military Times poll in December 2008 found that 58 percent of U.S. troops do not want gays to serve openly in the armed forces, with nearly a quarter of respondents saying they would leave the armed forces — or consider doing so — if the ban were lifted.
That should stop every single person who advocates immediate repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell dead in their tracks. It alone should counsel that before lifting a ban on gay soldiers serving openly in our wartime military, it is absolutely incumbent on our political leaders to honestly and objectively determine whether allowing such will hurt or enhance today's military. The answer is not to be found in the agenda of gay activists nor their enablers in government, nor is it to be found in the personal opinion of a few political animals wearing the uniform of flag officers, but rather it is to be found in the reality of military life of our soldiers at the squad, platoon and company level. Unfortunately, as Mr. Blatt also wrote in his PJM article, in dispensing with the fundamental concerns expressed by our soldiers in the 2008 poll:
Yet polls of British soldiers “found that as many as two-thirds of soldiers said they would consider leaving the service if gays were allowed in,” yet when the ban was lifted in the UK, “few soldiers actually chose to depart.”
That is how many who are arguing for immediate repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell are dealing with what should be the dispositive issue in this case. They discount the effect on our volunteer military and attempt to dispense with the issue by pointing to the experience of Britain and other nations. It is a travesty.
We are not Britain. We are a much more conservative and religious nation than any to be found in secular Europe, and indeed, I think it safe to say that many of the things that have happened in socialist Britiain over the past decade - from restrictions on free speech, open borders immigration, and enforcement of political correctness on an insane scale - would have led to blood in the streets in America. Indeed, the decision of the British government to transfer British sovereignty to the EU without a promised referendum of the people would have led to full scale civil war if that had happened in America, yet it barely drew a peep from the people of Britain. Anyone who points to the experience of Britain or other European nations as a means to short circuit debate and forego a searching and throough period of fact finding before allowing to serve openly in the military today is being disingenuous at the very least. They risk doing mortal harm to our volunteer military for purely political reasons.
To reiterate, the issue of allowing gays to serve in the military is not what is at issue for those seeking repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Gays can and do serve today, and they do so without having to lie about their sexual orientation. It is a political agenda - a move that may enhance our military, but based on the current attitudes of those in the service, would seem much more likely to be disasterous to our volunteer military. That is a gamble that we should not take in time of war. That said, attitudes towards homosexuality have changed in our society, and it would not be wholly unreasonable for the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be revisited in hearings. But under no circumstances should Don't Ask Don't Tell be repealed unless and until our lawmakers can state with a high degree of certainty that it will not undermine our volunteer military. That should be the sole criteria. Somebody please pass that on to Adm. Mullen - along with a request for his resignation.