Fresh off their election defeat for foisting a health care bill they didn't read onto voters who didn't want it, congressional Democrats are pushing repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) on services that don't want it. This is a shortsighted attempt by liberals to bolster their base by delivering on a campaign promise based on the self-interest of a few while disregarding its impact on the whole of the military. Now we must demand Congress not force implementation prematurely and unwisely.
Despite being lauded as the right thing to do, repeal will struggle for legitimacy because the process was clouded in dishonesty. We were told the military wants repeal, even though the chiefs of the Army, Air Force, and Marines told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they oppose it during wartime, and the DADT survey, per Secretary Gates' testimony, deliberately did not ask servicemen if they supported repeal. Proponents assumed that because servicemen said they had no problem serving with a few suspected homosexuals, they would have no problem serving with many more who were openly homosexual.
In reality, almost sixty percent of Marines and nearly half of Army respondents predicted a negative impact. Those in combat units, where privacy could be an issue, were more likely to predict a negative impact than those with administrative or support duties. We are being told that those who fight for us deserve respect, but the war-fighters are being ignored. What do they fear, and what is being done to address these fears?
Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen said they would not certify that the military is ready to implement the repeal before regulations and training are in place. If they can't be honest about what the survey indicates, how can we trust them to be honest about the military's readiness for change? In a rush to implement, will the administration or Congress force the services to act prematurely?
Arguments promoting repeal were questionable. One "benefit" is that repeal by Congress gives the services more time to implement it than would repeal via judicial fiat. This isn't truly a benefit, but an outrage -- an outrage that a judge would legislate thusly and that Congress and the commander in chief would allow an activist judge to override Congress' Article I, Section 8 powers to govern the military.
Another questionable "benefit" is that repeal will help fill the shortfall of Arabic translators. Some claim that hundreds have been discharged because of their homosexuality. They don't ask if Arab translators who are Muslim might consider leaving the military rather than serve along those who violate their religious laws. Nor did they explain why the military would want homosexual Arab translators who quite likely would be deployed to countries that have severe penalties for homosexual behavior.
Some falsely claim this is no different from arguments about women serving; however, their solution does not mirror the gradual integration of women into various career fields. Women are still denied access to many military jobs where minimal privacy would increase sexual tensions. The military doesn't plan to deny homosexuals access to those same jobs where privacy is an issue, nor could it, since it plans to continue the "Don't Ask" half of the policy.
If homosexuals are to be accepted while intolerance of their lifestyle will be punished, why keep the "Don't Ask" policy after DADT is repealed? Instead, DADT should be replaced with "Must Ask, Must Tell" so the military can identify openly homosexual servicemen and avoid assigning them to duties and units where their presence could create problems (i.e., integrate them prudently, just as it did women).
Congress and Secretary Gates appear insensitive to the fears of the servicemen. Under their implementation plan, military members won't be able to refuse having a homosexual roommate. The burden rests on the heterosexual to be "tolerant." Will servicemen be disciplined for refusing a mandatory drug test when the person assigned to observe them urinate is openly gay? Will the military create a hostile environment for those who don't accept homosexual behavior due to religious, moral, or natural biological aversions? Society already, through its widespread acceptance of the pejoratives "homophobe" and "bigot," intimidates those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle.
The military believes that it will resolve these issues through "education and training." What does this encompass? Will it teach servicemen that their moral and religious beliefs are wrong?
How much will repeal cost the military? Will Congress budget for this, or will the military be forced to use its training and operational appropriations? If Congress will appropriate money for the costs, will other programs be cut, or will we borrow more money from China to make this happen?
Almost 24 percent of those who responded to question 81 in the DADT survey said that they would either leave the military (12.6%) or consider leaving the military (11.1%) sooner than planned. Some religious denominations will force their chaplains to leave, too. This will create additional recruitment, training, and retention costs. Admiral Mullen's answer -- "We should let them leave" -- did not address the impact on the military, and it insults those who serve honorably but have moral or religious views that conflict with this radical social change. How will we resolve the retention issues and costs that will arise when the value of one's service and the opinions of those who serve are cheapened by such a dismissive attitude from the top?
If too many opt to leave, will some be forced to stay under some form of stop-loss, against their will and their values? And what of those who don't want to sacrifice their values for leadership positions? Since leadership experience is a prerequisite for advancement, what will be the cost of replacing the leaders we have cultivated when they take their potential elsewhere?
The military must change the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Will some religious beliefs now violate the UCMJ, and will the UCMJ now violate the Constitution? A stronger constitutional argument could be made for safeguarding religious freedom than for sexual choice. Are we just changing who must serve uncomfortably in silence from the minority to the majority?
Liberals want to further mainstream homosexuality by forcing its open practice on a right-of-center military they know will respond professionally even if Congress doesn't. Even though they are less likely to enlist in the military and are often hostile towards it, they want to force their values on those in the military who don't share them but must live with the consequences. Liberals have a track record of placing their own values above military effectiveness. There is little reason to believe that they will handle repealing DADT any differently. We must hold Congress accountable and insist that these issues are considered and resolved before they implement this repeal and allow homosexuals to serve openly.
Elizabeth Herring is a retired lieutenant colonel, USAF.