The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy last year did not mark the end of the GOP’s attempt to continue its war on open military service. This year, House Republicans slid multiple amendments into the FY 2012 defense authorization bill to delay the implementation of DADT. Many of this year’s potential GOP presidential candidates, including confirmed candidate Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), pledged to re-instate DADT upon election. GOP Rep. Allen West (FL) bucked this trend, however, by stating he wouldn’t do anything to prevent the DADT repeal. But today, at the Heritage Foundation, he made it clear that he nonetheless does not approve of gays in the military.
Dubbing the military implementation of DADT repeal as “considerable social experimentation,” the Heritage Foundation asked West what top leadership can do “to ensure that force effectiveness is sustained at a superior level.” West opted to “put it very simple,” stating that the military does not conform to the individual or “a very small special interest group” like the LGBT community. When noting that African-Americans were once barred from military service, West said while he can’t change his skin color, gay servicemembers “can change behavior”:
WEST: Let me put it very simple, the U.S. military exists to win the nation’s wars. When you join the military, it takes individual behavior that conforms into the military. Now, if we start to have a perspective and belief in this nation that the military conforms to individual behavior, then we have lost the understanding of what it means to be in the U.S. military. The rules are very clear in the U.S. military. If you don’t want to abide by the rules of the U.S. military, then don’t join.
But the U.S. military is not there as a social experiment and for those who will sit up there and say, Congressman, you should understand because you’re black. Unless I’m Michael Jackson, I can’t change my color. But people can change behavior. And you do not base being a part of the military on adjusting to individual behavior. That’s my concern. And when you look at what our young men and women have to contend with, we’re talking about men and women fifth and sixth tours in combat zones. Now is not the time to appease a very small special interest group and I’ll leave it at that.
West’s belief that gay soldiers can and should somehow change who they are to serve not only flies in the face of American ideals, but in the face of military experience. By insisting the LGBT community jeopardizes the military’s mission, West — who often touts his own military background — directly contradicts the advice and opinion of the military leadership and the majority of the American public who favor open military service. Indeed, the military service chiefs reported that there are “no issues” with implementing the DADT repeal.