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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Right Thing To Do is Nothing

Former military personnel wearing 'Fired under 'don't ask, don't tell' tshirts
It's a situation where the most consequential move may be doing nothing. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction barring the enforcement of the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell." As a result, that policy is -- for all intents and purposes -- dead. It can't be enforced here, it can't be enforced overseas, and -- one would assume -- it can't be applied to astronauts in space. We now live in a universe where the US policy of DADT cannot be applied. Not surprisingly, some are having trouble accepting this new reality.

Associated Press:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that abruptly ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a federal judge has ordered would have enormous consequences.

A day after a judge in California ordered the Pentagon to cease enforcement of its policy barring gays from openly serving in the military, Gates told reporters that the question of whether to repeal the law should be decided by Congress, and done only after the Pentagon completes its study on the issue.

Continued after the jump

"I feel strongly this is an action that needs to be taken by the Congress and that it is an action that requires careful preparation, and a lot of training," said Gates. "It has enormous consequences for our troops."

I think at this point we should make one thing clear; DADT doesn't bar lesbians, gays, or bisexuals from serving in the military. It keeps them from telling other people they're lesbians, gays, or bisexuals. So what Gates is saying is that the military may not be able to handle the already common knowledge that they exist within the military. I'm going to go ahead and call BS on that one. The argument that we can send them into live fire, we can send them into burning cities, past exploding vehicles, into antiaircraft fire and down mined roads, but the knowledge that Lance Corporal X likes to kiss boys is too much for their fragile psyches to bear seems more than a little iffy to me. It just seems to me that if the mere presence of a homosexual makes you incapable of fulfilling your duties, then maybe the military isn't really the place for you. You really don't have any mental toughness at all.

Twenty-one US Senators have come to the same conclusion and have written the president urging him not to appeal the ruling. To do nothing. If there is no appeal, then the injunction becomes the law of the land. The executive branch of the US government is the only entity with standing here. If the White House declines to appeal the ruling, it's done. The fight is won. DADT is dead.

I've seen some analyses that say this puts President Obama in kind of a pickle. Here we are, just weeks before the midterms, and a federal judge in California drops a bombshell in his lap. The Democratic base -- who Obama needs to turn out in November -- wants DADT gone. The Republican base -- already fired up -- believes DADT is literally a check against anarchy. Obama can't avoid making someone extremely unhappy, the argument goes, so he's kind of screwed here.

But can Obama possibly make the Republican base happy enough to either stay home or vote Democrat? Those people are gone, gone, gone -- so screw 'em. And the GOP base is about as committed to voting as they'll ever be. So long as Barack Obama sits in the White House, they'll turn out to vote. They're convinced he's pure evil. End of story.

Besides, the general consensus is that the economy is driving this election cycle, so DADT would be kind of a sideshow. And, GOP and dem bases aside, DADT is an unpopular policy, supported by a mere 22% of the public. If polling ever showed a riskless position, then letting DADT died a judicially mandated death is it.

"Don't ask, don't tell" is on its deathbed. Heroic measures are contraindicated. It's lived longer than it ever should've anyway, so just let it go.


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