Today, Lynn Woolsey published an opinion piece on The Hill’s Congress Blog in which she wrote, “Enough is enough. It’s time to get rid of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ”
This is not the first time our incumbent has inserted herself into this military issue. In June, she signed a letter, along with others, addressed to President Obama “urging swift action on repeal of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy.”
In today’s blog entry she states, “I’m fully aware that being in the military involves a subjugation of self that is unique, that makes it different than just about any other job.” She then insists however, “But that does not justify ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ ”
This opinion piece includes quite a few statements with which one can disagree. For example, the congresswoman suggests she doesn’t fully understand what this DADT policy requires. She complains that this policy is “deplorable” because it “forces brave Americans to choose between serving their country and having a family.” No, it does not. Not speaking about it is not the same as not having it. At least characterize it properly and don’t exaggerate it. Technically, homosexual persons are not supposed to enter the military to begin with. If they do, they do so fully cognizant of their DADT duty.
Let’s look into DADT’s background in a little more detail. The complete name of this policy is “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t harass, don’t pursue.” It was codified by federal law (the complex history of DADT is thoroughly documented here) during President Clinton’s administration as a compromise already in military regulations. It’s been ridiculed by many ever since for its fence-sitting — not totally enforcing its official ban on homosexuals in the military, but also not lifting that official ban.
The military has always maintained a strict policy that would otherwise disqualify gays from serving the its ranks. The reason (and we need not agree with it to explain it) for this has been that soldiers, who often live together in barracks or foxholes under very tight and intimate conditions, should not have to concern themselves with sexual possibilities. This was especially true before the more general incorporation of women into many parts of the military; now, even heterosexuals often do deal with sexual situations. However, soldiers still are not expected to have to deal with possible homosexual situations when they either enlist or are commissioned, and the military’s ban on homosexuals in its ranks remains — with the added complication legislated in 1993: DADT. Is this an ideal policy? No, but every organization on the planet has some less-than-great policies that people who want to join must agree to abide by.
The armed forces indeed perform a unique and extremely honorable service to our country. We, therefore, are bound to respect their internal values of sacrifice, honor, and duty, which after all, are expended to protect us, our nation. After President Obama took office, Secretary of Defense Gates commissioned a Pentagon study, which is expected to be presented to Sec. Gates on Dec. 1, but which is already at least partially in th public domain. On Sept. 21, the Senate held hearings on DADT and this study was discussed. Sen. John McCain, a Naval vet and former Vietnam War POW, took issue with the study, saying that it should be approaching this whole subject from the perspective of WHETHER the policy should be changed, not “HOW best to change” it. General James Amos, currently the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps and a candidate for commandant, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he seemed taken aback by this criticism of Sec. Gates and the study. However, in his written response he made clear,
“In my personal view, the current law and associated policy have supported the unique requirements of the Marine Corps, and thus I do not recommend its repeal.”
Amos’s primary concerns, he said, include “the potential disruption to cohesion” and that a change in policy would be “a distraction to Marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan.”
We should not run diversity and other experiments on the forces that need unit cohesion above all else when on the field of battle. PERHAPS it might slightly more permissible in time of complete peace, but, as Gen. Amos noted, we have combat troops in Afghanistan, and they don’t need a major change in policy to potentially disrupt their operations and traditions.
Rep. Woolsey states in her blog that her oath to “to do everything possible to protect America” guides her to oppose the wars/occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think most if not all Americans believe we should exit as soon as possible, and the differences then lie in the timing of “as soon as possible.” And many of us agreed with Lynn Woolsey when she opposed our entry into Iraq and the circumstances under which we did that.
However, after she writes about wanting to uphold her oath, she continues:
For those same reasons – support for the troops and obligation to our national security interests – I’m outraged by recent developments regarding the nation’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which forbids gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
She doesn’t make a lot of sense there. She is confusing a social issue with a military one and trying to put them both on the same footing. DADT is not a matter of national security. It is not a matter of utmost priority for our armed forces which have much more vital concerns. It is wrong for any member of Congress to put pressure for major change on the military during this time of war. We can dispute until the cows come home whether we should be at war or how long it should continue, but the facts are the facts. We are currently still in combat conditions in Afghanistan, and that alone must be the priority.
The US Senate understood this priority when, on Sept. 21, it refused to lift DADT. But Lynn Woolsey does not understand this priority. She is so determined to “remake” America in her own image of what is “should” be, that she doesn’t have her priorities straight and wants to engage in diversity training at the wrong time. Life-and-death at the front must be the focus of the military now, and Lynn Woolsey should acknowledge that.
Also, regardless of whether we are at war or at peace, the military, not Congress, should be accorded the right to decide how long to retain DADT. Congress, the administration, and the courts (some of which have recently struck down DADT), cannot put social engineering and activism before the good of our troops. We must not impair our military’s primary objective: to be our first line of defense.
A few more links that provide good material on this subject: