“I will end ‘don’t ask-don’t tell,'” Obama claimed Saturday night to a standing ovation from the crowd full of gay activists at the dinner for Human Rights Campaign in Washington D.C.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Service members Legal Defense Network said he was encouraged to hear Obama’s pledge but added “an opportunity was missed tonight.” He said his group “was disappointed the president did not lay out a timeline and specifics for repeal.”
At the very least Obama is beginning to recognize that not only his detractors but also his supporters are also growing impatient with his empty promises.
“I appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough,” Obama said “our progress may be taking longer than we like.”
Personally I get fed up with the “he said she said” stuff during the campaign season. I think it is still too early to burn Obama for his unfulfilled goals and expectations. It is however reasonable to question him on what he plans to do and how he plans to do it.
With respect to Section 654, Title 10, U.S.C. or “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, Obama has pressure from his supporters to pacify the Human Rights Activist. These activist are growing skeptical after the Defense of Marriage Act debacle where Obama promised to fight for its repeal then turned around and championed the act a few months later.
Recently an article was published in the Joint Force Quarterly that may help Obama and his cause. The article carries no weight but may signal a change in demeanor of the military. It was written by an Air Force colonel, Om Prakash and it won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay competition.
Prakash argues that the law has been costly, about 12,500 gay men and lesbians have been discharged from the service as a result. He says there is no direct scientific evidence regarding homosexuals serving openly, but there is empirical data as several North Atlantic Treaty Organization Allies have lifted the ban. A survey from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom found that the decision to lift the ban had no impact on military performance. In closing he argues:
The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Service members to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather, it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.
But opposition to changing the law is still strong. Recently the Supreme Court turned down a challenge to the Defense Department policy forbidding gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military as unconstitutional. Flag & General Officers for the Military has a list of over 1,050 distinguished retired military leaders from all branches of the service who have shown their support for the 1993 law with personal signatures received by regular mail prior to March 20, 2009. They issued this statement to the President:
Our past experience as military leaders leads us to be greatly concerned about the impact of repeal [of the law] on morale, discipline, unit cohesion, and overall military readiness. We believe that imposing this burden on our men and women in uniform would undermine recruiting and retention, impact leadership at all levels, have adverse effects on the willingness of parents who lend their sons and daughters to military service, and eventually break the All-Volunteer Force.
I have a traditional view when it comes to this issue. From my little experience in the military I have seen the law work. I also know that having an openly gay soldier serve next to me would affect the mindset of everyone around. How that would change the mission’s outcome? I have no idea – so I defer to John McCain and Military leaders. “They say, ‘It’s working.’ And right now we’ve got the best military we’ve ever had — the most professional, best trained and equipped, and the bravest. And so I think it’s logical to leave this issue alone. I really do.”