Today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" showed that the proponents of open homosexuality in the military are confident, articulate, and on the offensive. Religious believers and cultural traditionalists, by contrast, are nervous (or nonchalant), relatively inarticulate, and on the defensive.
That's unfortunate because, as I've argued here at The American Spectator, religious believers and cultural traditionalists have the better argument.
Indeed, they are valiantly trying to uphold their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. They are doing so, moreover, when virtually the entire American establishment -- and certainly the vast majority of "elite" and "respectable" opinion makers -- are arrayed against them.
Their opponents include, regrettably, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, both of whom testified before Congress today.
Gates and Mullen both voiced their "personal belief" that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed; and they announced that they have begun preparations necessary to make that happen.
The Department of Defense, moreover, is convening a "high-level working group" to identify and review all military policies and procedures that will have to be changed to accommodate open homosexuality in the ranks.
Gates and Mullen insisted that the working group will have "no preconceived view"; however, it certainly will have a preconceived objective -- namely, "to accomplish this transition [to open homosexuality within the ranks] successfully and with minimal disruption to the department's critical missions."
In other words, the working group will go about its business secure in the knowledge that its conclusions have already been determined. Indeed, "the question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it," Gates said.
To be sure, he added, the Department of Defense "can only take this process so far, as the ultimate decisions rests with you, the Congress."
Nonetheless, Gates has directed the Pentagon to reinterpret the 1993 "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, with the aim of allowing more open homosexuality within the military.
This prompted Senator McCain to acerbically decry Gates' "bias," as well as Gates' attempt to repeal the law "by fiat." "I am happy to say that we still have a Congress of the United States that would have to repeal the law," McCain pointedly observed.
But the tenor and thrust of McCain's remarks were wholly inadequate. He seemed peeved and defensive; and he conceded too much.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has been an imperfect but effective policy," he said. It "is working, and… we should not change it now."
What does that mean? Does McCain mean that we should change the policy later, when we no longer are making severe demands on our military? It sure sounded like that to me.
In short, McCain and his fellow GOP Senators all seemed incapable of explaining, in a serious-minded way, why open homosexuality in the military is a bad and deleterious idea. They talked instead about changing and dubious notions of unit cohesion, unit morale, and unit readiness; and how these all might be adversely affected if gays were allowed to serve openly within the ranks.
But that won't cut it, which is why the gay advocacy groups who are pushing for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are so confident and so aggressive: They rightly sense that religious believers and cultural traditionalists are tongue tied, defensive, and unsure of themselves and their position -- and they are right to think this, unfortunately.
The reality is that in a rights-based political culture, where one group of people is aggressively asserting its alleged "rights," you are politically defenseless and vulnerable unless you can posit an equally strong and countervailing set of rights.
Religious believers and cultural traditionalists can and should argue from a position of strength: because, quite literally, their rights are on the line in the debate over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The litigious nature of American society, the goals and objectives of the gay lobby, and the unique nature of close-knit military life all make a clash of rights inevitable.
Religious believers and cultural traditionalists have been cowed and intimidated, however, by the forces of American liberalism, which will brook no dissent. Too bad. It's time to speak out, fight back, and be heard -- now, before our rights are taken away and the military's family-friendly culture is destroyed.
Two final points. Admiral Mullen said that he favors allowing gays to serve openly because otherwise they are forced to lie about their sexual orientation. With all due respect to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this simply isn't true. Gay servicemen and women can and do serve without incident, and no one asks that they lie about their sexual orientation.
What the military does ask is that gay servicemen and women keep their sexual behavior and activities private and out of the workplace -- and that they refrain from using their sexuality as a protected status to enforce upon non-gays acceptance and legitimization of their lifestyle choices.
Contra Admiral Mullen, integrity is not at issue; tolerance is -- the tolerance of the U.S. military for religious believers and cultural traditionalists.
Second, we have yet to hear from the other service chiefs, and specifically the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James T. Conway whom I suspect has a different view about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
It's easy, after all, for the Navy -- and a four-star Navy admiral -- to be politically correct, because the Navy really doesn't have to fight anyone; the Navy really isn't at war. Consequently, the Navy can afford to indulge fashionable causes and trends: because if it screws up, no one is likely to die.
The Marine Corps, by contrast, is spearheading the military's most intense and demanding combat and humanitarian relief operations -- in Afghanistan and Haiti, respectively. Thus, they are far less indulgent of politically correct nostrums and ideas. The Marines, remember, must stay focused on mission accomplishment. That means protecting their rights as Americans, and protecting the Corps' unique military culture, heritage, and traditions.
In any case, the debate has been joined. May it be honest, candid, and full-throated; tolerant and respectful; pointed and insightful. And let's hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- about sexual fraternization and gay relations in the military. Our servicemen and women -- and the American people whom they serve -- deserve a fully informed and honest debate. Bring it on.
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