Senator John McCain was a profile in courage today for stopping the Senate from mandating that the U.S. military sanction and legitimize open homosexuality within the ranks.
It’s important to say this because Sen. McCain is about to be skewered by the elite media and popular culture for what, in their mind, is his inexplicable opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After all, say the political and cultural elite, who other than some demagogic and homophobic bigot has a problem with lesbians and homosexuals serving in the U.S. military?
Of course, that’s not the issue. That’s never been the issue. Indeed, as I’ve reported here at The American Spectator, no one in the U.S. military really cares if someone’s gay. That’s why gay men and women can and do serve now, albeit without explicitly being recognized and legitimized for their sexual inclinations.
What’s at issue is open homosexuality and the power of the state to force recognition and acceptance of the same.
Simply put, sexual dynamics can and do shape human behavior and often in deeply disquieting and unpredictable ways. In the civilian world, this may not matter much; but in combat, where life and death are at play, this can matter profoundly.
As someone imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for more than five years, much of it spent in solitary confinement, Sen. McCain understands this better than most. And so today, he acted out of principle to keep faith with combat veterans, new and old, the vast majority of whom oppose introducing open homosexuality within the ranks.
That’s why, incidentally, Democratic Sen. James Webb, also voted to maintain the current policy. Webb, of course, is one of America’s most highly decorated combat veterans. Thus, like Sen. McCain, he, too, understands the unique exigencies of combat and military necessity.
Unfortunately, like a bad nightmare that won’t go away, this issue won’t die with today’s Senate vote. The proponents of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” have convinced themselves that they are on the side of the angels; and that it is only a matter of time before lesbians and homosexuals serve openly.
They may be right, especially since the conservative movement increasingly has thrown up the white flag of surrender on key cultural issues, especially ones involving homosexuality. But just as the institution of marriage is worth fighting for, even if, ultimately, we lose and marriage is redefined into nothingness; so, too, is the U.S. military worth safeguarding and protecting from radical assault.
Where to, then, from here?
Well, there are two political battles going on. One is obvious; the other is mostly hidden from public view.
The obvious political battle involves the Congress. The House of Representative already has voted to mandate open homosexuality within the ranks; and the Senate came within a few votes today of doing the same.
The liberal Democrat leadership in the Congress is desperate to ram through a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” because it fears big Republican gains in November. And, if that happens, the prospects for mandating open homosexuality within the ranks may recede altogether.
But not necessarily — not if conservatives continue to be highly inarticulate and feeble-minded on this issue. Indeed, if conservatives continue to allow the Left to frame this issue as one of “equal rights,” then we will lose — and deservedly so.
The issue is not one of equal rights; it is one of special rights: because lesbians and homosexuals can and do serve now in the U.S. military. What’s at risk are the rights of soldiers and their families who object to homosexuality and who do not wish to be forced to legitimize and accept homosexuality.
The second political battle going on, which most people don’t fully appreciate, is the battle between and amongst the military services, and between and amongst the military branches or occupational specialties.
Because the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has come out in favor of open homosexuality within the ranks, most people have assumed that the military’s longstanding opposition to the same is now passé and dated. But this is simply not true.
In fact, Admiral Mullen is the anomaly. Every other military service chief — the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Army Chief of Staff, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Chief of Naval Operations — has opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Moreover, the more combat-oriented a military service member, the more likely he is to oppose open homosexuality within the ranks. Thus, the greatest opposition to a change in policy comes from Marine infantrymen, which is to say most of the Marine Corps.
Problem is the military is a hierarchical organization which all too often inhibits free thought and intellectual inquiry. Consequently, the military service chiefs and other military personnel are reluctant to voice their true feelings about this issue because they fear professional retribution. They also fear being viewed as “insubordinate” and “bigoted.” Then, too, there is the (misplaced) concern about running afoul of civilian control of the military.
But make no mistake: most U.S. military personnel — and certainly most combat soldiers and infantrymen — are of the mind that the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has worked out quite well. This policy has allowed lesbians and homosexuals to serve their country, but without requiring official acceptance and legitimization of their lifestyle choices.
Sadly, our fighting men and women are being cowed and intimidated into silence by the political elite. But it is our fighting men and women who are right; and Senator McCain knows and understands them. He is, in fact, one of them. And today, he stood by them in a display of loyalty and political courage that is all too often absent in the United States Congress.
God bless you, Senator, and Semper Fi.