Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama's Stunning Failure on Gays in the Military

Readers know where I stand on legalizing gay marriage. I've spoken less about gays in the military, however. My sense is that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is flawed policy, and some research indicates that existing rationales for the policy are not compelling. Moreover, some of the milbloggers I read don't seem bothered by openly gay service. Uncle Jimbo wrote a couple of years ago that:

If I am lying by the road bleeding, I don't care if the medic coming to save me is gay. I just hope he is one of those buff gay guys who are always in the gym so he can throw me over his shoulder and get me out of there.

I will say that given the current strain on the military after 5 years of wartime operations, and the likelihood of a surge in Iraq, now is probably not the best time to implement a full scale policy change. But if I read about one more Arabic linguist bounced for off duty behavior that hurt no one, I'll be pissed.
Since then Blackfive has offered some of the most intelligent discussion on open gay service. See, for example, "Lively Discussion on Gays in the Military." And last week at Blackfive, Uber Pig wrote on President Obama's dismissal of gay inguist Dan Choi. The piece was a response to Aaron Belkin's Huffington Post essay, "Obama To Fire His First Gay Arabic Linguist."

Belkin urged President Obama to sign an executive order ending investigations into servicemembers' sexual orientation. In response,
Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette disputed Belkin on the facts, but then stated his position on gay service for the record:

I'll answer any question regarding my opinion on don't ask/don't tell truthfully and as straightforwardly as I can: Don't care.
All of this is in the news today. In fact, we're seeing a growing controversy over Obama's spineless approach to gays in the military. As the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, "Obama Avoids Test on Gays in Military." According to the article, "As a candidate, Mr. Obama said he would seek to repeal the ban on gays in the military. But since he has taken office, administration officials have been less clear about the matter and its timing."

However, check also the discussion at last night's Anderson Coooper 360. Tony Perkins, who served in the Marines, argues that open service is "harmful to combat effectiveness." See also the trailer below for the documentary, Ask Not. In testimony before the Congress (1990s), Colin Powell argues that homosexuality and military service are "incompatible."

What's most interesting to me is President Obama's stunning failure to lead on this issue: "Worst. President. Ever."

See also, Marc Ambinder, "The Administration's Don't Ask, Don't Tell Strategy."


R. Stanton Scott said...

I agree.

For my take on this from the inside, see my comments on this thread.

Dave said...

obama's "stunning failures" will be reaching encyclopedic proportions in the not too distant future.


Dana said...

The DA/DT policy is horribly flawed, but it is for a reason that doesn't get raised much. When I was checked for a security clearance (a long time ago), I was asked if I had ever cheated on my wife. The reason for the question was clear: if I had, and she didn't know about it, it was a point of potential blackmail.

DA/DT allows homosexuals to serve in the military, but since they cannot be asked about their sexual orientation, they have an automatic point of blackmailability. Further, it is one which cannot be closed by simply saying to the CO, "I'm gay."

Most service members, if they stay in longer than their initial hitch, wind up encountering some form of classified duty. If this point of blackmailability remains, it becomes the perfect storm: the service member has no way to fight the blackmail, whether he gives away the information sought or he does not, without being kickedout of the service.

From a security standpoint, either homosexuals must be excluded completely, complete with thorough investigations into their sexual orientationj, or they must be allowed to serve openly, one or the other. DA/DT is the worst possible "compromise."

smitty1e said...

Having 4.5 years of sea time and three Navy deployments, I can tell you that it's one thing to have a Barney Frank legally elected and serving in Congress, and quite another to have a Barney Frank serving as an openly gay officer on you ship.
We can all argue that, hypothetically, there should be no difference. We can all agree that the disciplinary problems follow similar patterns at all levels, yada, yada.
Ultimately, the question is one of combat power. Are we adding any combat power to units by altering DA/DT? No. A similar argument could also be applied to co-ed warships.
What matters is rounds on target, not anyone's concept of 'fairness'.
Sure, I knew of homosexuals in the fleet. The DA/DT (don't care) attitude seemed to work well for everyone, but then I wasn't on the minority side of the argument.
Changing the policy will reward lawyers, as Commanding Officers will waste no time scuttling personnel whose non-command of their hormones threatens the mission of the unit. It will be that simple, and the brass had f'ing well better back the CO's up, or we have Much Bigger Problems than whether Adam and Steve can safely abdicate manhood together.