Well, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is going to be history. The bill — passed during the 1990s and signed by President Clinton — took into law a matter previously covered by the regulations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and took the authority for handling the subject out of the hands of the military and the Commander In Chief.
I’ve always been somewhat of an agnostic on the matter. As a general rule, I support gay rights (every now and then, when I feel the emotional need for attention here, I write another piece in support of gay marriage), but I also understand that the military is a special case. They are NOT supposed to be representative of America, they are supposed to be our best. Their function is not supposed to reflect or symbolize society, but to protect it. The members of the military have voluntarily surrendered many of their rights by enlisting, becoming essentially government property (witness accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning, who’s finding out just how many rights accused soldiers have under the aforementioned UCMJ). Pretty much the only rights they have are those the military grants them.
I’ve never served, so I don’t feel overly comfortable about the issues raised by openly-gay service members. I’ve worked with numerous gay people, and never had a problem with any of them — in fact, I tended to get along better with them. But that was in the Dreaded Private Sector, not in the service, so the parallels are seriously limited.
Further, the repeal does not immediately lift all barriers to gays in the military. Instead, it returns it to where it should have been all along — the sole discretion of the military itself and its Commander In Chief. It is expected to change under President Obama, but that’s entirely up to him.
I do find myself encouraged by the statement of the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, who had argued against the repeal of DADT. General James Amos did what anyone who knows the least bit about the Corps should have expected — stated his objections, then when it became an order, said “yes, sir” and committed himself wholeheartedly to making it work.
I have few doubts that our military can make it work. As noted, they aren’t a fair depiction of our nation, they don’t “look like America,” they don’t reflect our average national character. They tend to represent the best of us. And I believe that they will follow General Amos’ example — salute, say “yes, sir,” and commit themselves to carrying out the orders of their Commander In Chief. (With a few idiots trying to fight it under the “birther” argument questioning Obama’s eligibility to be president and CinC, and getting judicially stomped down in short order — like Lt. Colonel Terrence Lakin)
And yes, there will be cases like what was alleged about former Congressman Eric Massa, who apparently was a serial groper of his subordinates during his career in the Navy. It may take a few years and a few cases to sort out just how to handle such matters, but they’ll work it out.
The only question is, what will be the tradeoff for this accommodation? While the military expends time and energy and focus on this, what will get short shrift? And is “during two campaigns in a major conflict” the best time to do so?
My own theory is to follow the model used for integrating women into the armed services; a graduated process, implemented in stages. The biggest gripe heard was the lost of Arab linguists and other non-combat specialists to DADT regulations, so start off there. Don’t just go whole-hog and dump all restrictions, but work up to it.
With the repeal, the integration of gays into the military is pretty much a done deal. Oh, a future president could undo it, but that’s not very bloody likely unless the implementation is a disaster. The sole question is how it will be done.
And that is where the question of how Obama will act comes into play. He promised to do so, but so many of his promises have shown to have expiration dates — and there’s no guarantee that this one will not also fall by the wayside. Further, Obama is arrogant — he has been told all his life that he’s smarter than everyone, that his intelligence trumps everything, even the intelligence and superior experiences of others. He very well could leave it up to the military to resolve the matter, or he might order them to follow what he (and his cronies, who have a decided lack of military experience among them) believes to be the best way.
Please, just this once, let Obama let his ego take a back seat to common sense and just give the military a general, vague order to “make it so.” Let the commanders figure out the best way to make it work with minimum disruptions. General Amos sounds like he knows the score, and I doubt he’s the only flag officer with that kind of attitude.
They can make it work. I have faith in them. Just let them do it their way.