WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has replaced an old axiom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," with one of its own: "If it ain't broke, fix it till it is." That's certainly what the O-Team is doing to the U.S. military.
While campaigning for the presidency, then-Sen. Barack Obama repeatedly promised to "end discrimination against gays and lesbians" by the U.S. military's so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Last October, he told supporters at a Human Rights Campaign dinner here in Washington, "I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. ... I will end 'don't ask, don't tell.' That's my commitment to you."
Of course, it's not a matter of "policy"; it's the law -- and it's been on the books since 1993. Section 654 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code clearly states: "The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability." Notably, this language became the law of the land -- not just "policy" -- while American troops were engaged in Somalia.
Apparently, someone had partially educated Obama to the law he vowed to uphold, and he made a rhetorical adjustment. During his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, he said, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
Those applauding his revised pledge to the Democratic Party's base evidently missed two important points. First, there is no inherent "right to serve" in our military. Secondly, the law isn't about "who they are." It's about what they do.
By February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., were musing about a "moratorium" on enforcing the law in order to meet "the president's commitment." They eventually decided the Pentagon should undertake a detailed study to determine how to implement a repeal of the law. As Gates put it, "the question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.