Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Another Obama Promise on the Ropes

Not so fast on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law and allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to people involved in the discussions.

They said Obama, who pledged during the campaign to overturn the law, does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline. Then, the president hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.

Obama is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open the ranks to gays and lesbians, only to be confronted by fierce resistance from lawmakers and commanders. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton signed an order allowing gays to serve but was forced to back off. A compromise made it illegal for gays to serve openly, but also restricted investigations into service members' sexual behavior.
I know the arguments on both sides of gays in the military and both sides have a point. My problem here is that we see another promise made by Obama, rashly in the heat of an election campaign, made to a specific interest group, in order to garner support. Once again he has to back down.

On the substance of the matter is not just allowing gays to serve (they already do, just not openly) or whether it is fair for the military to investigage service members sex lives. Just so we are clear, servicemembers sex lives, even heterosexuals, can be investigated. Matters such a security clearances, prohbition on fraternization (sexual relations between officers and enlisted personel are frowned upon), sexual harassment, etc. are topics which are open to investigation on the sexual behavior front. There are legitimate questions related to the good order and discipline of the military.

I also don't want to hear about rights of individuals. Yes, for the most part, people must be allowed to live their lives they way they choose. However, servicemembers don't have the same rights as civilian personnel. Service members surrender a fair number of rights (including I might add their right to "life") when they raise their right hand and swear to defend the United States against all enemies foriegn and domestic. There are limits on speech, travel, association, among many others.

So the larger problem is not about the issue of gays serving openly in the military, but the demise of yet another promise. It is the rashness of the promises that creates the problem.

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