Congress, not the Courts

There was big news out of California yesterday. A federal court judge ordered the military to stop enforcing its ban on gay men and women serving in the military. The Department of Justice and the Pentagon were both reviewing the ruling and had no comment. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to questions about the order by commenting that “The time is ticking on the policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'” He didn’t have much to say beyond that though, and punted reporters to the Justice Department and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s policy rollback review (which should be complete in December).

Gates for one has already spoken out about the ruling. He said that there would be “enormous consequences” for troops if the policy were ended abruptly. The choice to end don’t ask, don’t tell should be made by Congress, not a court order, Gates said.

The defense secretary is still in Asia, meeting China’s defense chief for the first time since Beijing cut off military ties with Washington. That’s not to say relations are all rosy. China is not participating in a naval exercise (which the United States is heading up) aimed at preparing to stop the potential transfer of WMDs that started today. Yet a few days ago, China took part in naval exercises in the Yellow Sea with the Australian navy, neglecting to invite Washington the event.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Kosovo today trying to convince leaders there to begin talks with Serbia to sort out differences on a slew of issues from energy and transportation to the return of refugees and the status of Serbs in northern Kosovo. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent state but is willing to talk about how to improve life for people living in the area. After meeting with Kosovo’s prime minister, Clinton said, “we believe that it is in Kosovo's interest for this dialogue to begin and to conclude in as expeditious a manner as possible.”

Looks like Richard Holbrooke was right about the perils of exaggerating Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s contact with the Taliban. A spokesman for the Afghan Taliban said today that they weren’t doing any talking: “If you think that a minuscule numbers of former officials of the Islamic Emirate who have already surrendered . . . or those who were at first detained by you and now are living in Kabul under surveillance are representatives of the Islamic Emirate ... then you should know that they are not.”