The attempt to transform America into a kinder, gentler version of the rest of the world, where political compromises are made in the streets, proceeds at warp speed. The first task is to emasculate the military that has always won its wars, so that the fighting regiments of Syria, Lebanon, San Marino, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates won't feel intimidated.
The civilized world will always have Saudi Arabia — to which Barack Obama's Defense Department is about to sell $60 billion worth of new and improved weapons the Saudis can pay for but don't need — as the last line of defense against evildoers forever plotting to snuff out the candle of freedom.
Certain girlie men in the Pentagon, pushed by various community activists and connivers in Congress, have been trying to feminize the warrior class for years, first by finding ways to sneak women into combat and now by opening the ranks to homosexuals. The gay blades found a judge in California (where else?) to declare "don't ask, don't tell" unconstitutional, but enforcing the spirit of gay law won't be as easy as those who get their understanding of the military culture from Harvard seminars and congressional budget hearings imagine it will.
Changing the rough-hewn military culture, which regards the ultimate military mission as killing people and breaking things if that is necessary to protect the country, will be particularly difficult because soldiers have always regarded lightfooted gaiety in the barracks as something, not to put too fine a point on it, very icky. The military draws many, if not most, of its recruits from what one observer delicately calls "the socially conservative parts of the country." Without the benighted rednecks and unsophisticated blacks for whom man-to-man romance is slightly more repulsive than a man honeymooning with his horse, there wouldn't be enough soldiers to fight the nation's wars.
"The real issues will be not what happens on the battlefield," says David R. Segal, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who writes and lectures extensively on military personnel policies and recruiting, "but what happens on the posts. Many troops don't mind suspecting their colleagues are gay, but they don't want to know for sure." Such a soldier will suppress suspicions, as long as they remain merely suspicions, but he's not likely to abide the man looking wistfully at him in the shower or trying to climb into the sack with him when the lights go out.
The courts traditionally have left it to the generals and admirals — and the sergeants and chief petty officers — to make the rules for making the military work. Only recently have the judges, relying on "experts" who may or may not (and usually not) know what they're talking about, insisted on getting into the act. Virginia A. Phillips, the federal judge in San Diego who declared "don't ask, don't tell" to be unconstitutional, is a pretty little thing but appears to have not a clue to what she has wrought.
"Honestly, I did not expect it to get as much attention as it did," says Judge Phillips, 51, appointed to the bench by President Clinton, of her ruling. "During the course of the case there wasn't much attention paid to it."
She issued a permanent worldwide injunction on Oct. 12, ordering the Defense Department to "suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation and other proceeding that may have been commenced [under 'don't ask, don't tell']." When the Obama administration, reluctantly going through the motions, asked her to stay the injunction until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals can consider the case, she stamped her little foot (which looks to be size 6 in a spike heel) and said jeepers creepers, nothing doing. The 9th Circuit overruled her the next day and set a hearing of its own for Monday to see whether the judges will allow the military to run the military, as it always has done.
Judge Phillips held that gays have a constitutional right to serve, that it's up to everybody else to conform to homosexual wishes and dreams; rules based on long experience and custom be damned. Other classes of citizens are still denied the "right" to serve: The doddering old, the infirm on walking canes, the peg-legged and the one-armed might make soldiers, too, but the military culture has — so far — not been required to make room for them. Discipline and good order have always counted for a lot. But maybe not much longer. Fortunately, we can always call in the Saudis.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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