Showdown on the Hill

On the Hill yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said that after their review of a report on don't ask don't tell, it is time to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military. Mullen said, “if you look closely at this study, I think you'll find that America's military is, by and large, ready to move on.” Referring to a survey of members of the armed forces in which the majority of combat troops said that repealing the ban would be damaging, Gates said that in his view, “the concerns of combat troops as expressed in the survey do not present an insurmountable barrier to a successful repeal.”

But other top military officers and Senator John McCain, among others, beg to differ. The Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and said, “implementing repeal and assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat.” General George Casey, the U.S. Army chief of staff, said that making a change now would “add another level of stress to any already stretched force.”

In Bahrain today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that Washington hopes Iran will “engage seriously with the international community” at talks next week in Geneva. One topic she hopes Tehran will be forthright in discussing is its nuclear program. On Monday in Washington, Clinton will speak to her Japanese and South Korean counterparts about another nuclear trouble spot—North Korea.

While at a summit hosted by Bahrain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, the secretary of state also said that Washington continues to work “intensively” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Obama administration is still trying to convince Israel to put a new freeze on settlement building in the West Bank in the hopes that it will bring the two sides back to the bargaining table. Clinton also once again said that she has no plans for the presidency after her term as secretary of state ends. She expects secretary of state to be her last public position. After that, she’ll “probably go back to advocacy work, particularly on behalf of women and children and probably around the world.”