It’s just not a political issue

Published 6:10 am Monday, February 15, 2010

The armed forces “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military needs re-envisioning rather than repeal as such, I have suggested here. This ought to become a non-issue. Neither gay activists nor those active in opposing gay rights should seek to make sexual orientation a political issue, the former aggressively and the latter defensively.

The armed forces’ concerns need to be, as military doctrine has always stipulated, first the accomplishment of the mission and, second, the welfare of the troops. Both causes are served when everyone focuses on this spirit of the law, rather than being detracted by its formal letter.

On one hand, many political opponents of gay rights have heralded the 1993 compromise as the last bastion of defense against the moral corruption of American youth.

These will view change as defeat, and I expect some will even call a change the ruin of American defense as well as its youth. On the other hand, many political supports of gay rights will hail this as their victory, and I expect some will use it as leverage to stifle all moral and social objections to homosexuality.

Both extreme reactions are wrong, because they perceive it as a political power play: “we win, you lose!” One seems to want every homosexual out of the armed forces with no consideration other than they are homosexual. The other seems to want absolute tolerance as federal legitimization of gay privilege. Both obsess with the letter of the law.

To tolerate homosexuality within the armed forces as a non-issue is one thing; to extrapolate a change into official approval of homosexuality is another. So is it both illogical and unfair to charge that my support of change — and I do advise a change — is acceptance of homosexuality as normal or wholesome. I perceive gays as humans who also have both a right and obligation to military service. I do not consider this a matter of gay rights, but equal opportunity and equal protection under the law.

When Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm Mike Mullen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, its chairman Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich, called his statement “eloquent.” I disagree.

First, his principal argument was the services should not force service members to lie by saying they are not gay. I shook my head at this assertion, wondering if the admiral actually said something so transparently illogical. If a person observes the policy of “don’t tell,” this is saying nothing and not a lie.

I fail to recognize this as his actual motivation.

More serious is that there is a certain convenient disingenuousness about this testimony. As an end matter, I agree with him, but I find his argument unconvincing. Sen. John McCain has famously said he would accept the change when he hears it asked for by armed forces leaders. I don’t think he anticipated this, and now Democrats are calling his bluff. I expect the year-long study ordered to become convincing, but Mullen sounds as if he is dutifully following the order of the president.

Gay activists have been calling Barack Obama’s bluff since he offered as much as a campaign promise but hasn’t yet delivered.

Knowledgeable people have pointed out he could have directed this change by a straight forward executive order, but he now seems trying to share political fallout with congress.

Our thinking should result from logical thinking objectively applied.

Those Republican congress members who oppose a change because Obama is going to get the credit disappoint me. So do those Democrats who support it for the same partisan reason.

In addition to those many earnest and sincere gays in the military who have just wanted to do their duty, too much of the clamor for a law-change has been the assertion of gay rights by political activists for political gain.

Some have pretended to enlist in order to throw their gayness in recruiters’ faces. Gays should enlist, but to serve and not to flaunt. Military service is serious business, often with tragic consequences.

If gays can serve honorably and effectively in our armed forces — and I think they can — let’s recognize this as a military necessity and not a political game.