Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A battle of enormous portent is about to begin on Capitol Hill. One thing is certain: When the fight to fulfill President Obama’s oft-repeated commitment to repeal what he misleadingly persists in calling “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) is over, either Mr. Obama’s presidency or the U.S. armed forces will be mortally damaged.

This fight begins against the backdrop of mounting public awareness of, and anxiety about, Mr. Obama’s inadequacy as commander in chief. Consider several illustrative grounds for such concerns:

• Team Obama is severely reducing the power-projection capabilities of the United States with program cuts and a just-announced change in strategy that will embolden America’s enemies and compound the distress felt by its allies about our growing unreliability. Banking on Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’ Republican credentials and relatively robust reputation, the Obama Pentagon has formally abandoned the nominal planning guidance to size and equip the force to fight and win major conventional wars (originally two simultaneous ones, subsequently two nearly simultaneous ones, then 1 1/2 of them).

Instead, the new direction seems to be: Don’t worry about or prepare for any major wars. From now on, Team Obama thinks the U.S. military needs to be able to manage only “overseas contingency operations” along the lines of today’s counterinsurgency campaigns. Bad timing: China is responding to what it perceives to be our declining power by becoming ever more well-armed, assertive and contemptuous - a formula for serious and possibly “major” conflict ahead.

• Then there is the problem of Mr. Obama’s protracted dithering about Afghanistan, which produced transparently half-hearted efforts to prevail there and now the prospect of a negotiated surrender of the place to the Taliban. Throw in growing evidence that our devil-take-the-hindmost abandonment of Iraq is translating into that country becoming little more than an Iranian puppet state, and the feeling is palpable: Confidence in presidential leadership is declining, among both the troops and those who truly support them.

• Finally, the public has been horrified by the succession of debacles on the home front as Obama’s team of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan seem ever more inept, if not actually mal- feasant. Scott Brown is senator-elect from Massachusetts today in no small measure because of the popular fury felt on that score.

Incredibly, Mr. Obama evidently thinks this record is one on which he will be able to persuade already skittish Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans with a greater affinity for the needs of our military to go along with him on the repeal, not of President Clinton’s DADT executive order, but of a statutory prohibition on openly homosexual individuals serving in the U.S. military. But is he really up to the job of arguing that the 15 findings why such a ban is necessary that were enacted solemnly and deliberately with Mr. Clinton’s signature somehow no longer apply?

Clearly, having abandoned his left-wing base on issue after issue (most recently by walking back Mr. Holder’s truly lunatic idea of bringing Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and friends to trial in civilian courts in lower Manhattan) - usually conforming thereby to policies and decisions of the endlessly reviled President George W. Bush - Mr. Obama has a problem. He evidently perceives no choice but to deliver for his supporters by forcing the military to accept not only homosexuals, but bisexuals and even “transgender” and hermaphroditic individuals.

To this end, Team Obama has been bludgeoning the Pentagon into line for more than a year. And, at a hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Mr. Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are expected to sound as though they have gotten their heads around the myriad logistical, operational and personnel obstacles associated with such an initiative. Taken together with what we are assured is overwhelming public support for ending “discrimination” against homosexuals in the military, these representations are supposed to be sufficient to get the law repealed. We’ll see.

My guess, though, is that the first tangible steps toward this radical left-wing social experimentation with the only military America has - an all-volunteer one, at that - will trigger a massive backlash against the administration and its allies on Capitol Hill. Rightly so. The public will come to understand that repeal is not a necessary corrective to an irrational matter of discrimination (like the long-repudiated practice of keeping blacks out of the armed forces).

Instead, the current law is an appropriate and necessary reflection of the realities of human nature. Sexual proclivities, especially in circumstances of forced intimacy (such as foxholes, barracks, submarines, etc.) do interfere with the “good order and discipline” required if the military is to be able to recruit, retain, prepare and employ effectively in combat the sort of armed forces we must have in a dangerous world. This case will be made by more than 1,100 senior retired military officers (see FlagandGeneralOfficersfortheMilitary.org) who will speak for colleagues still in uniform who cannot easily engage in the public debate.

When the dust settles on this battle, my bet is that the American people and their elected representatives will continue overwhelmingly to oppose conferring on homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and hermaphrodites a nonexistent “right” to serve openly in the military. We will thus avoid breaking the all-volunteer force, and it will be, instead, Mr. Obama’s standing as commander in chief that will have suffered further grievous and perhaps irreparable harm.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio.”

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