On March 31, more than 1,050 retired leaders of the U.S. military courageously rallied once again to the defense of their country and the armed forces sworn to protect it. Under a new group called Flag and General Officers for the Military (FGOM), these highly regarded former commanders warned President Barack Obama and the Congress against repealing the current statutory prohibition on homosexual service in the military.
In an open letter, they declared: “Our experience as military leaders leads us to have great concern about the impact that repeal of Section 654, Title 10 would have on morale, discipline, unit cohesion and overall military readiness.
“We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.”
It is hard to overstate the significance of this declaration. It was made in the face of conventional wisdom that repeal of Section 654 was just a matter of time. President Obama has affirmed repeatedly his support for such a step and legislation to accomplish it was recently introduced in the House of Representatives.
More to the point, these retired senior commanders are challenging an agenda that many in civilian life and even some in uniform have come to believe is simply unavoidable.
Gay activists have long recognized that, were they able to make military service a right to which homosexuals are entitled, other societal barriers would fall. The determination with which such ambitions are pursued by homosexual interest groups — and elected officials responsive to their demands — has given rise to a sense of resignation on the part even of many who understand how harmful repeal of Section 654 would be to the military.
Enter Flag and General Officers for the Military. Suddenly, all bets are off. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were beginning to come under pressure to emulate Britain by introducing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender folks into the ranks, the barracks, and other settings of what Section 654 calls “forced intimacy.”
If anything, the public release of the FGOM letter with its nearly 1,100 signatories is likely to unleash an even larger outpouring of opposition to the law’s repeal from many others who have also retired from military service, and perhaps, from those still performing it.
Similarly, politicians who had lately seemed unlikely to muster the kind of bipartisan support, let alone veto-proof majorities, that made possible the enactment of Title 10’s Section 654 in 1993, will now find additional support on Capitol Hill. Even before the FGOM letter, the nomination of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, the lead sponsor of H.R. 1283, to a senior State Department post made the consideration of her repeal legislation uncertain.
With this strong statement, that bill should never get traction.
The arrival of the FGOM creates a dilemma for the Obama administration. The president and his subordinates are committed to their homosexual constituents’ agenda. Yet, they are clearly desperate to avoid what happened to Bill Clinton when he took on the military at the outset of the latter’s first term.
Recall that President Bill Clinton came to office in 1993 as committed as is Barack Obama to the influential part of the Democratic Party’s base that is gay. Right out of the box, Clinton made a top priority of eliminating impediments to homosexuals serving openly in the military.
He ran into a brick wall in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
When confronted with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle for the ban on such service (ultimately enacted as Section 654), Clinton responded by promulgating administrative regulations that became known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Under the Clinton policy and despite the law then on the books, homosexuals would be allowed to serve in the military as long they did not reveal their proclivities and did not engage openly in homosexual activity.
President Clinton’s palpable lack of respect for the military’s judgment (one of many affronts and indignities to which his administration subjected uniformed personnel) and his indifference to the clear will of Congress cost him dearly. Arguably, the fight he picked over foisting homosexuals on the military prematurely ended his political honeymoon and set the stage for the repudiation at the polls in midterm elections in 1994 that gave Republicans control of the House.
With the publication of the Flag and General Officers for the Military letter, President Obama seems unlikely to be able to continue his strategy for finessing the harm Bill Clinton brought on himself.
With luck, thanks to the courageous signers of the FGOM declaration, the U.S. armed forces will be spared, for the duration of this presidency, problems with the all-volunteer force should Section 654 be repealed.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. formerly held senior positions in the Reagan Defense Department. He is currently the president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington.
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