Exclusive: Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: A Clear and Present Danger

by COLONEL DAVID F. BEDEY (US ARMY, RET.) February 1, 2010
Long simmering on the White House’s back burner has been fulfillment of a key campaign promise: the repeal of 10 U.S.C. Sec. 654 (commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or simply DADT), a 1993 law that effectively prohibits homosexuals from openly serving in the U.S. military. In a seemingly uncharacteristic display of restraint, the White House has resisted some of its most ardent supporters’ calls for immediate action on this front of the crusade to radically transform America.
It’s all a matter of timing.
Up to now, the White House has focused on an aggressive effort to socialize our economy through de facto nationalization of the auto industry, institution of an impoverishing cap-and-trade regime, massive expansion government through various “stimulus” and bailout programs, and most importantly, a takeover of the health care sector.
But one would be foolish to doubt Obama’s commitment to the gay/lesbian lobby.Once victorious in the economic realm, cultural projects like DADT would become the main effort.
Or at least, that was the plan. Then came Scott Brown’s capture of the Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy.
Facing the prospect of seeing much of their economic agenda derailed and his vision of healthcare “reform” thwarted, the White House is likely to determine that making immediate gains on the cultural front will be necessary.
It is true that the public’s tolerance – not to be confused with enthusiastic acceptance – of homosexuality has markedly increased over the past 17 years. And the electorate is preoccupied with rising unemployment, mounting national debt, and the looming threat of inflation. So in an application of Rahm Emmanuel’s infamous dictum, “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” the White House and its collaborators in Congress may well sense an opportunity to appease the gay/lesbian faction while the rest of the country is distracted.
So look for the move to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to gain steam.
But would allowing homosexuals openly to serve in the U.S. military be wise?
The following case for repealing DADT was helpfully posted on the White House’s website during the first couple of months in 2009:
President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
Variations on this message continue to appear in op-eds and so-called “hard news” reports. Unfortunately, it displays both ignorance of the norms military service and a lack of attention to facts.
First of all, there exists no Constitutional right to serve in the military. The Services routinely (and in my judgment rightly) discriminate in order to preserve the effectiveness of the force. For example, most service members must retire in their forties or early fifties (age discrimination), and failure to meet body-fat standards is grounds for separation (weight discrimination).
Second, the claim that “300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic” relies upon a mendacious representation of data found in a 2005 GAO report that examines separations for homosexual conduct over the 10-year period 1994-2003. Even a cursory reading of that report reveals that few, if any, of the 300-plus individuals could conceivably be deemed “experts” – many didn’t even complete their language training. And of the over 50 (actually 54) ostensibly fluent in Arabic, only 20 achieved any sort of proficiency at all and none of these scored high enough to be considered fluent in the language.
Finally, replacing soldiers separated for any reason is expensive. But the “millions” spent on replacing admitted homosexuals needs to be put in perspective: such dismissals account for less than one percent of all separations. And at any rate, the “millions” can be considered wasted only if the grounds for separation were not justified from a national security perspective.
The misinformation pervading the White House’s earlier-stated position on DADT obscures this central question: Would allowing homosexuals to openly serve compromise the effectiveness of our military? Addressing this question is a matter professional judgment.
On one side of the debate is John Shalikashvili, joined by around a hundred other retired flag officers. Gen. Shalikashvili asserts that the evidence supports repeal of DADT. This opinion is based upon experiences reported by foreign militaries and a rather sparse body of social science research. He closes his argument by claiming that those who support the current law are driven by “speculation or emotion,” rather than “let[ing] the evidence do the talking.”
What Gen. Shalikashvili doesn’t address is revealing. He fails to consider whether lessons learned by other militaries translate to the American case. And he fails to point out that the research he cites in support of his position was produced and/or funded by gay rights advocates. (For example, he insinuates that the well-respected Rand Corporation generated a paper, when in fact it was the product of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Palm Center, hardly a disinterested scholarly enterprise.)
Gen. Shalikashvili’s views ought not be taken lightly. But he is being disingenuous (or perhaps naïve) when he portrays the data supporting his judgment as being definitive. Furthermore, his insinuation that those who hold professional opinions contrary to his own are motivated by “speculation or emotion” – an accusation that he cannot possibly back up – is both cheap and insulting. The general would have enhanced his own credibility had he offered a more balanced assessment of this complicated issue.
Carl Mundy, a retired general and former Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, recently set forth the case for leaving “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in place. Rather than offering pseudoscientific arguments, he approached the topic by revisiting the language of 10 U.S.C. Sec. 654 to see whether or not the principles set forth in 1993 remain relevant. He concluded that service by openly gay or lesbian people continues to pose a high risk to the effectiveness of our military.
Gen. Mundy’s opinion is shared by over 1,100 retired generals and admirals, who have gone on the record in support of the current law. Is their professional consensus to be considered mere “speculation”? Are we to believe that the judgment of this cohort of experienced and dedicated professionals is captive to “emotion” (i.e., they can be dismissed as a mob of homophobes)? No reasonable person could answer either question in the affirmative.
It is clear that, on balance, professional military experts judge the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to be fraught with unacceptable risk to the effectiveness of the U.S. military. This alone should give lawmakers pause. But abolition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” poses another threat to our national security that has not been remarked upon.
To appreciate this threat, consider the following passage from 10 U.S.C. Sec. 654:
Military life is fundamentally different from civilian life in that the extraordinary responsibilities of the armed forces, the unique conditions of military service, and the critical role of unit cohesion, require that the military community, while subject to civilian control, exist as a specialized society; and the military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including numerous restrictions on personal behavior, that would not be acceptable in civilian society.
The key point here is the existence of a military community. The effectiveness of our military is not simply a matter of unit cohesion (although that is important); it is also founded on the cohesion of the supporting military community, which extends to the families of service members. It is an undeniable fact – often bemoaned by the left – that military communities are bastions of traditional values. Among these values is belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage.
Should “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed, it takes little imagination to perceive that the gay/lesbian lobby’s next demand would be for partner rights including access to on-base family housing. The aftermath of the passage of California’s Proposition 8 provides a glimpse at the turmoil that might be expected. This backdoor approach to federal recognition of gay marriage would roil military communities in a controversy that could not but degrade our overall military effectiveness.
Many, if not most, opponents of DADT care less about risking our national security than they do about advancing the homosexual cause. They have an ardent supporter in the White House, as indicated by this posting on the President’s current website:
[President Obama] believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He supports repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Here we see yet another example of Obama making contradictory promises: supporting the homosexual agenda while strengthening our national security. From what we have seen since his inauguration, how do you think he is going to try to resolve this self-induced dilemma?
Serious consideration of the repeal of DADT leads to the inescapable conclusion that doing so would pose a significant risk to our national security.
The drive to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” constitutes a clear and present danger to our nation.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Colonel David Bedey (US Army, ret.) served more than 30 years on active duty with the Army before retiring in July 2008. A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, he served in combat engineer units around the world and spent the last 12 years of his military career on the senior faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He now lives in Montana where he writes on cultural issues.

FSM Archives

10 year FSM Anniversary