Monday, December 20, 2010

Ask And Tell, Fine, But Don't Misbehave

The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In and of itself, this change in policy doesn’t give me a lot of heartburn. But I do think the timing is atrocious and a real indictment on the Democrats’ willingness to put politics ahead of the safety of American soldiers. I also think the real questions remain to be answered. Here are some things to consider.

1. This policy was put into place 17 years ago by the Clinton Administration to bail themselves out of one of their many huge mistakes at the beginning of Clinton’s presidency. To satisfy his gay supporters, Clinton declared the military open to gays. But he failed to get any support for such a change before announcing it. This blew up on him. Afraid to offend either side, Team Clinton (including now-Justice Elana Kagan) came up with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as a way to pretend they changed things, when they really didn’t.

2. If gays think Democrats are their friends, recall first that Clinton fooled you, then that Obama promised to repeal this but made no effort to do so, and that the Democrats did nothing until a lame duck session after they lost the Congress. With friends like those....

3. Eight Republicans joined the Democrats in repealing this policy. John McCain (who has surprisingly become a conservative firebrand since the election) led the opposition. Joe Manchin (D-WV) skipped the vote, something he’s already showing a penchant for doing with votes that will be unpopular in West Virginia.

4. The timing of this change is horrible. Despite seventeen years of arguing over this issue, there has been almost no honest study of how letting gay soldiers serve openly will affect the military. Instead, the debate has been dominated by half-studies using loaded questions and the personal opinions of general officers. Thus, we honestly don’t know how this policy will affect the military. It is therefore rather asinine to change this policy at the stroke of a pen while the military is in the field fighting a war. Indeed, if there was ever a moment for a roll-out of a policy, this would be it.

5. Whether this change turns out to be effective, ineffective or disastrous, will depend on how it is enforced. To the extent the military simply changes the rules to allow gays to serve openly, and it requires them to follow the identical rules of conduct that heterosexual soldiers currently follow, there probably will be few problems.

But to the extent they start demanding changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to accommodate conduct of the type that is associated with “the gay lifestyle,” there will be problems. For example, thousands of years of military experience have shown that fraternization is corrosive of military discipline. If rules like the prohibition on fraternization are eliminated or are not enforced when the conduct is between homosexuals, then military discipline will suffer.

Similarly, the military will need to strictly apply anti-sexual harassment rules against gays just as it does between heterosexual soldiers of the opposite sex. In other words, if the military takes a politically correct stance and decides that only heterosexuals can be harassers or that gays need only comply with a lesser standard of harassment, then expect serious problems.

6. Don’t expect the court challenges to stop. Repealing this policy will kill the current court cases challenging the policy. BUT those who have been discharged will probably seek reinstatement and back pay. To solve those cases, the Supreme Court will be asked to rule on the validity of the policy to decide whether the government acted properly in tossing them out under the old policy. It’s unlikely the Court will make such a ruling (it will instead rule on the basis of "sovereign immunity"), but expect the effort nevertheless.

Moreover, expect a slew of challenges to the UCMJ alleging that rules like the prohibition on fraternization and other “conduct unbecoming” rules are unconstitutional.

7. For those gays suggesting this change represents a civil rights victory of some sort, you are wrong. At best, this is an acknowledgment that gays are more accepted in society. But to call this a cornerstone of some change in the civil rights laws is incorrect. Indeed, this vote has no effect at all on the legality of gay rights laws or the classification of homosexuality as a protected class. This is simply a change in military rules that now allow certain conduct, just as if they said soldiers may openly gamble or own Priuses.

8. Finally, the effects of this policy change need to be watched closely and studied intensely. If this policy leads to a decline in military discipline or the endangerment of soldiers (gay or straight), then it must be changed. AND, most importantly, these studies need to be conducted honestly and without pressure to reach the politically correct conclusion desired by the politicians (on either side). American lives are too precious to let Nancy Pelosi play games with them just to satisfy her supporters.


Tennessee Jed said...

I concur with your thoughts completely and enjoyed the history "reminder" about the Clinton's. If Obama's is the most corrupt administration since Grant's, certainly Clinton's still wins the oscar for lacking any sense of moral conviction other than licking a finger and holding it up to check the wind blowing.

The other point of reminder is that liberals in congress NEVER do right by our soldiers. The long running honor the soldier not the mission is false on so many levels I can't begin to count them.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm glad you agree and I'm glad you liked the history reminder, I think it is relevant.

You're right about Obama being the most corrupt since grant and Clinton lacking any sort of moral conviction. That's the funny thing about the left loving Clinton, he came to power, said he would do a few things they wanted, and then swayed which ever way the majority of the public wanted. He ultimately gave them nothing, except popularity for their party -- something Obama has squandered.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - I think Clinton was so popular for a couple of reasons:

1) He was the first Democrat in the WH in 12 years, and when one considers how abysmal the Carter legacy was, really the first chance for Dem.'s to feel good since the first of LBJ's two terms.

2) Clinton did have a "gift of gab"-- all lip bitin' good old boy charm. Plus, since he triangulated and formulated policy primarily designed to be POPULAR more than doing the right thing, of course he was popular. This was particularly true of a certain variety of 40-50 something modern Dem. women who gladly would have traded places with Jennifer Flowers. I know a lot of conservatives literally hated Clinton. I never could, but neither could I respect him.

In that respect, I have so much more respect for G.W. Bush than Bubba. For that matter, I think even the Bamster will stand on his convictions to a greater degree than Clinton.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think you're right about Clinton. I think the Clinton who came to Washington was a disaster. He let Hillary drive him ideologically, he was in love with the wrong people (Hollywood), and he was intent on playing the "Arkansas Payback" game on a national scale with his supporters. But all of that changed when he realized that the nation was not as forgiving of stupidity or corruption as Arkansas voters. So he stuck his finger in the wind and did whatever a majority of voters wanted.

Plus, he was really good at standing in the way of everything rhetorically, until it passed and was proven popular. Then he ran to the front of the bandwagon and claimed he was the guy who pushed it. So suddenly, things like welfare reform (which he fought tooth and nail) were his idea. And since he only claimed the good policies, this made him very popular -- plus he had a stunning economy because of the internet bubble.

And you're right, he was telegenic and generally likable. I never hated him either. I got sick of seeing him on my television every 20 seconds, but I saw no reason to hate him. And I think the hate is what undid our popularity because our side became obsessed with getting him no matter what charge they could find. The guy had an affair in office and suddenly this rises to the level of impeachment? Give me a break. The sentence for that is shame, ridicule and scorn, not impeachment. (And spinning it as "he lied under oath" didn't hide what was really going on.)

I actually don't think Obama stands on principle, as I don't think he has any. I think he stands on prior decisions. In other words, once he chooses a course (apparently a hard thing for him), he just sticks with it. He will be truly tested by triangulation.

T_Rav said...

I've been in an all-out war with friends of mine on Facebook this weekend concerning DADT, in the course of which I've been called a hatemonger, the moral equivalent of a segregationist, egotistical, etc. I don't wish to rehash the thing all over again, but I will say this: This is not a civil rights issue. Homosexuals do not have a "right" to serve in the military, any more than you or I do. If everyone was being conscripted, that would be one thing, but it's a volunteer force, and as such has always, with good reason, placed restrictions on who it will admit into its ranks. If the military leaders have good reasons for excluding open homosexuals, those reasons need to be respected or at least be given serious consideration, not simply dismissed as reactionary and hateful as so many leftists have been doing.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

Andrew, what kind of effect, if any, do you think this action will have on recruitment? I for one wouldn't go anywhere near the military now. Not because of gays, but because of the political correctness that seems to be increasingly infecting the military. Before the gay issue, it was rules of engagement that go further to protect the enemy than our own soldiers. I wouldn't feel safe in this current military, because I think political correctness has become more important than the individual soldier's well being.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I'm not too worried about what goes on when the guys and gals are off-duty and off-base, and that's theoretically what the purpose of the repeal was. I doubt the Spartans were getting it on in the trenches, and they were way too busy killing Persians at Thermopylae to be bothered bumping uglies. What I am concerned about is the sorry state of the non-fraternization rules already obvious among heterosexuals before the repeal. The number of pregnancies while on active service is appalling. At least we won't have to worry about that with the guys.

The live-and-let-live concept is one of the best in civilian life. But in the military, discipline and good order are absolutely necessary. I'm not convinced either way that the repeal will accomplish allowing only gays in who are not self-defined by their sexual orientation and "lifestyle." It certainly hasn't been that simple in civilian life, but "unit cohesion" isn't exactly a big deal at the hairdressing salon at Macy's. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. The military is not the place to "do your own thing."

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, I agree with you on all points.

First, no one has a right to serve in the military... the end. And if your conduct or personality is disruptive, they have the right to keep you out. It's the same thing with mental patients, people who are too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, too old or too young.

Secondly, I don't see being gay as a civil right in any way. Whether being gay is genetic or not, the fact of the matter is that these people are choosing to define themselves according to conduct. We have never allowed a civil right to be created on the basis of conduct. These people have all the rights you or I have, provided they don't engage in this one conduct. It's the same thing like the military saying, we'll take you unless you take drugs, or have sex with animals, or engage in cannibalism. Those people too will claim that they were born that way or that this is something inherent in their make up. But that's irrelevant. You can be any of those things, you just can't engage in the conduct if you want to serve.

What gays are after here is to enshrine in law as a civil right the right for them to engage in certain conduct. We've never condoned that and we never should. We are conscious creatures and we have the power to decide how we act. If you make certain choices, then you face certain consequences.

Now that said, it's clear that being gay is becoming more acceptable to the country. Ok, fine. So laws against sodomy are going away and states are (wrongly in my opinion) allowing gay marriages. But these are issues of tolerance, not issues of rights. There is no right to be gay in the Constitution any more than there is a right to have sex with anything else you feel compelled to do.

AndrewPrice said...

Pitts, I think it will be a problem, but I'm not sure how big of a problem. I think it will depend on how they handle this. If they strongly enforce the UCMJ in a non-politically correct way, then the effect should be minimal as you'll rarely hear about this again... except when gay activists complain that the military is unfair to them because it doesn't allow them to engage in certain conduct.

But if they do become politically correct and they only target heterosexuals, then I think it will hurt them a lot. Young people have choices, and past recruitment stats have shown that the more the military gets away from the military ethos, the harder it is for them to meet their recruitment goals. This is yet another log on that fire -- as are the new rules of engagement and the prosecutions of soldiers for things like slapping a prisoner.

So, at this point, the best answer I can give is that it will depend on how they implement it.

What do you think?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, It's very possible that this change will lead to no change at all, if gays self-select and choose "occupations" other than combat. I can't see how it will matter to anyone if a file clerk at the Pentagon is gay. But I can see it mattering a lot if a soldier in a trench is gay, especially if they do get the right to bring "the gay lifestyle" with them.

Like I say, I think we'll see how this will play out when the challenges start coming to the UCMJ. When you get challenges to the requirement of wearing the uniform of the appropriate gender, challenges to the prohibition on sex between military personnel on assignment, etc., that's when the rubber will hit the road and we'll see how they will enforce this.

If the military takes the approach, ok, you're gay, fine, you act like everyone else when in uniform... then I think all will be ok. But if they go the other route and say, you now have the right to act in ways we've never allowed and which cause tension in your units... then there will be problems.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Check out this article on why I think gay marriage is wrong. I think it explains why being gay is not a civil right.

Why I Oppose Gay Marriage

Unknown said...

Andrew: I agree. It's the second paragraph in your response to my comment that worries me the most. As the political generals and admirals in JAG act more and more like Eric Holder in the civilian arena, I can foresee a lot of trouble on the horizon. It took almost twenty years of my time in labor relations in San Francisco to get something even close to a common agreement on "gender-appropriateness." And that was before we had to deal with the question of which sex a transsexual actually is.

Like you, I'm neutral but cautious on the issue.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, thanks for posting that very good article! I'll surely be referring back to that in future arguments.

As far as the "slippery slope" concern at the conclusion goes, I think this extends to a point. After all, when my friends are arguing why gay people should be able to marry, they say that these couples love each other and are consenting adults, so who are we to stand in the way of that? Which sounds reasonable, on the face of it; but as you mention, this means that every relationship, not merely homosexual ones, which meet such criteria would have to be granted the status of married. As I've told my friends, this would include polygamy, group marriages, and even, I think, cases of incest where both individuals are of age, such as a brother and sister or father and adult daughter. As gross as that sounds, I think it would fit under these new legal definitions we're making up.

The real tragedy, if it ever comes to that, is that the people currently advocating gay marriage know that these more extreme cases are wrong, and would never dream of allowing such relationships to be turned into marriages. But should such a case ever come up, they will, by their own hand, have robbed themselves of the ability to rationally oppose it.

DUQ said...

I agree that this is not the kind of change you make all at once while the military is fighting a war. They need to watch this very closely and change it if it even hints that it might get people killed.

CrispyRice said...

Good analysis. I figured this wouldn't be the end of the lawsuits. Any chance of those succeeding in changing the UCMJ?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, We'll see. I don't think the military is as ready to be politicized as it used to be, especially with a rightward shift in the electorate. But we won't know until we see how they respond.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I think, whether you agree with the policy or not, you have to admit that it's a bad idea to make these kinds of change suddenly and at a time of war. This is social engineering at the expense of lives -- a Democratic specialty.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, Thanks! I don't see the challenges succeeding because the Supreme Court won't sanction conduct. Even if they decide that being gay is somehow a state of being rather than a state of doing, they still won't hold that this means the military must adopt to allow specific conduct.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, There is no rationality to their position and that's the problem -- it's also why you can't win with them.

They have decided that they don't see anything wrong with being gay and therefore, they don't understand why people are being so mean to them, and therefore gays should get what they are asking for. The attempts at logic are farce.

In fact, if you seriously made the case for an incest marriage (which fits all of their "criteria") they would attack you. First, they would accuse you of just hating gays. But let's put that aside and assume that they believe you are serious about allowing incest marriage... you would hear them give all the reasons you are giving against gay marriage, and they would never see the difference between that and gay marriage -- because they aren't being logical, they are feeling. And what they are feeling is that they "like" gays but they don't "like" incest.

In other words, what they are doing is disclaiming that the issue of marriage should be bound up in morality, but then they are applying their own morality standard. That's why you can't win against them, because their position is not logical or based on greater principle, it's based on situational morality.

CrispyRice said...

Thanks, Andrew. I hope the Supreme Court doesn't let the start creating a double standard, one for gays soldiers and one for non-gay soldiers.

Ed said...

I have a hard time caring about this issue. I think your points are valid, but I don't see gays as a big issue.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, That's the key -- no double standards and no lowering the requirements/rules of conduct. Otherwise, there will be trouble.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I suspect that a lot of people don't care about this issue, which is why it passed so easily.

Notawonk said...

line that made me spit from loling: "if gays think Democrats are their friends..."

i heard a buzzer sounding in my head as a decisive NOPE! as i read those words. but do you think the left understands that? understand? yes. willing to face? NEVER!

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I don't know if they get it or not. They've been sold the idea that the Republicans are their enemies, so they may believe that if the Republicans are their enemies, then the Democrats must be their friends. But at some point, they must realize that they aren't getting anything out of the Democrats.

Ed said...

Good point. I don't think this would have passed 15 years ago, even if the Democrats were in charge.

Writer X said...

I must admit that I don't get this whole issue. I can't imagine a bunch of guys announcing their sexual preferences in the military barracks or on the battlefield. It might make the far left feel good but does it really matter in the bigger scheme of things? That Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and their ilk think that this is the biggest issue facing military men and women just goes to show that they are (once again) totally clueless.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I don't think it would have passed then either.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I think this is basically an issue driven by interest groups. They are pushing to get gays put into the same class as racial minorities for purposes of the civil rights laws and they see this as just another step.

And I suspect that anyone who is spending their time on the battlefield announcing their sexual preferences instead of paying attention to the combat around them probably isn't going to make it as a soldier.

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