A battle of enormous portent is about to begin on Capitol Hill. When the fight to fulfill President Obama's oft-repeated commitment to repeal what he misleadingly persists in calling “don't ask, don't tell” is over, one thing is certain: Either Mr. Obama's presidency or the U.S. armed forces will be mortally damaged.
This fight begins against the backdrop of mounting public awareness of, and anxiety about, Barack Obama's inadequacy as commander in chief. Consider several illustrative grounds for such concerns:
- Team Obama is reducing the power-projection capabilities of the United States severely with program cuts and a just-announced change in strategy that will embolden America's enemies and compound the distress felt by its allies about our growing unreliability. Banking on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Republican credentials and relatively robust reputation, the Obama Pentagon formally abandoned the nominal planning guidance to size and equip the force to fight and win major conventional wars (originally two simultaneous ones, subsequently two nearly simultaneous ones, then one-and-a half of them).
- Instead, the new direction seems to be: Don't worry about, or prepare for, any major wars. From now on, Team Obama thinks the U.S. military needs to be able to manage only "overseas contingency operations" along the lines of today's counter-insurgency campaigns. Bad timing: China is responding to what it perceives to be our declining power by becoming ever more well-armed, assertive, and contemptuous — a formula for serious, and possibly "major," conflict ahead.
- Then, there is the problem of Obama's protracted dithering about Afghanistan that produced transparently half-hearted efforts to prevail there and now the prospect of a negotiated surrender of the place to the Taliban. Throw in growing evidence that our devil-take-the-hindmost abandonment of Iraq is translating into that country’s becoming little more than an Iranian puppet state and the feeling is palpable: Confidence in presidential leadership is declining, both among the troops and those who truly support them.
- Finally, the public has been horrified by the succession of debacles on the home front as Obama's team of Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, and Homeland Security adviser John Brennan seem ever-more inept, if not actually malfeasant. Scott Brown is senator-elect from Massachusetts today in no small measure because of the popular fury felt on that score.
Incredibly, Barack Obama evidently believes this record is one on which he will be able to persuade already skittish blue-dog Democrats and Republicans with a greater affinity for the needs of our military to go along with him on the repeal, not of Bill Clinton's “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” executive order, but of a statutory prohibition on openly homosexual individuals serving in the U.S. military.
But is he really up to the job of arguing that the 15 findings why such a ban is necessary that were solemnly and deliberately enacted with Clinton's signature somehow no longer apply?
Clearly, having abandoned his left-wing base on issue after issue (most recently by backtracking on Holder's truly lunatic idea of bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and friends to trial in civilian courts in lower Manhattan) — usually conforming thereby to policies and decisions of the endlessly reviled George W. Bush — Obama has a problem. He evidently perceives no choice but to deliver for his supporters by forcing the military to accept not only homosexuals but also bisexuals and even "transgender" and hermaphroditic individuals.
To this end, Team Obama has been bludgeoning the Pentagon into line for over a year. And, at a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Gates and the Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen are expected to sound as though they have gotten their heads around the myriad logistical, operational, and personnel obstacles associated with such an initiative.
Taken together with what we are assured is overwhelming public support for ending "discrimination" against homosexuals in the military, these representations are supposed to be sufficient to get the law repealed. We'll see.
My guess, though, is that the first tangible steps toward this radical, left-wing social experimentation with the only military America has — an all-volunteer one, at that — will trigger a massive backlash against the administration and its allies on Capitol Hill. And rightly so. The public will come to understand that repeal is not a necessary corrective to an irrational matter of discrimination (like the long-repudiated practice of keeping African-Americans out of the armed forces).
Instead, the law is an appropriate and necessary reflection of the realities of human nature. Sexual proclivities, especially in circumstances of forced intimacy (such as foxholes, barracks, submarines, etc.), do interfere with the "good order and discipline" required if the military is to be able to recruit, retain, prepare, and employ effectively in combat the sort of armed forces we must have in a dangerous world.
When the dust settles on this battle, my bet is that the American people and their elected representatives will continue overwhelmingly to oppose conferring on gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals, and hermaphrodites a nonexistent "right" to serve openly in the military.
We thus will avoid breaking the all-volunteer force and it will be, instead, Obama's standing as commander in chief that has suffered further, grievous, and perhaps irreparable harm.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times, and host of the nationally syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.
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