Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why the GOP Should Repeal DADT

by Bret Stephens, WALLSTREET JOURNAL, 21 Sep 10

“Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years.” The line is a bit of satire from the Onion. But it came to mind after Lady Gaga released a video last week urging Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or DADT. “We’re asking you to do your job, to protect the Constitution,” says the 24-year-old professor of jurisprudence.

Great. Maybe now that Harry Reid plans to bring repeal to a vote as part of the 2011 Defense bill, advocates can enlist Marilyn Manson to make a personal approach to Senate Republicans James Inhofe and Jim DeMint. That should win them over.

For a more sober view of the subject, turn to Dennis Laich, a self-described “old, bald, straight guy.” Mr. Laich has none of the glamour of Lady Gaga, but on this subject he has one valuable credential: He retired from the U.S. Army in 2006 after a 35-year career in the reserves that began in field artillery, included tours of duty in Honduras, Germany, the Netherland, Kuwait and Iraq, and culminated in a command position at Ft. Devens as a Major General. Unlike Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman who has also expressed reservations about the policy, he has no liberal political masters to please. But he still thinks DADT is nuts.

The strength of the general’s case is that it’s not about “rights,” gay or otherwise, much less whatever Lady Gaga happens to think is in the Constitution. It’s about the interests of the military itself, starting with its values. “If you talk to most theologians, ethicists or philosophers, they’ll tell you there are two kinds of lies, of commission or omission,” he says. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell represents a lie of omission that is inconsistent with the values of a military organization that presents itself as values-based.”

The values argument isn’t the half of it. Since DADT came into force in 1993, some 14,000 service members have been discharged under the policy-the equivalent of an entire division of war fighters. Investigating and processing each case has its costs; so does recruiting and training each replacement. How much? A 2006 commission organized by UCLA;s Palm Center and led by former Defense Secretary William Perry put the total cost of each discharge at $42,835, meaning the policy has now cost the U.S. taxpayer around $600 million.

That’s not pocket change, especially for a military scrounging for savings. It’s also no small matter at a time when the military’s recruitment standards for age, education, physical fitness and moral standards have been steadily declining. In the last two years alone the Army and Marines have granted an unprecedented number of “moral waivers” to recruits with previous felony convictions.

The result, Mr. Laich acidly notes, is that “we would rather have in our military middle-aged, overweight, undereducated felons than fully qualified, experienced patriots who happen to have a sexual orientation that some people find troublesome.”

Nor does it help that DADT has given top universities a handy alibi to exclude ROTC from their campuses, and the students at those schools a reason not to serve. Would lifting DADT increase recruitment at schools like Harvard and Yale? Probably only at the margins. But it would help end the poisonous estrangement, with all its larger political consequences, between America’s military and our intellectual elites.

But what about the argument that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military would harm recruitment, morale and unit cohesion? Mr. Laich doesn’t buy it. Existing military regulations strictly prohibiting or regulating sexual conduct would still apply, and violators would continue to be punished. NATO militaries, as well as Israel’s, have integrated gay service members without issue. And similar arguments to the ones being made now against repealing DADT were made when African Americans, and later women, were integrated into the army.

“Five years from now we’ll look back at this and say, what was all the fuss?” he says. “These young soldiers, sailors and Marines come from a society where gays and lesbians are readily accepted and work with them and go to school with them.”

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America’s security, it its, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow war fighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That’s no way to run a military.

Republican senators are now bellyaching that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to jam the repeal amendment into a bill they have no real choice but to vote for. They should be silently thanking him. He’s giving them the chance to do the right thing while blaming the Democrats for it. It’s a GOP twofer, plus a vote they’ll someday be proud of.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to see you AND Lady Gaga at the victory party when DADT dies. Maybe she can teach you a few dance moves and you can teach her how to look good bald !