Of DADT and Dictators

December 1, 2010

Of DADT and Dictators

The results of the Pentagon's review of its "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy toward gay service members are in. The study concludes that allowing gays to serve openly in the military presents only a "low risk to the military's effectiveness" and 70 percent of the 115,000 soldiers surveyed "believe that the impact on their unites would be positive, mixed or of no consequence" (although marines were more opposed than the others—up to 60 percent against). And Secretary Gates is urging the lame-duck Congress to do something about it before its mandate expires. The report's co-chairs, DoD general counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, meanwhile, emphasize that they "strove for neutrality in the report," rather than "advocacy."

National Journal contributing editor Patrick Pexton compares the process of integrating homosexuals into the armed forces to the integration of African Americans and women, writing in the Washington Post that soldiers can be trained to accept them "as equally brave and valuable warriors." Blogger Adam Serwer agrees with the comparison, but thinks allowing gays and lesbians to serve "is far less divisive than racial integration of the military was at the time of its implementation." Regarding fears over the adverse effects on military readiness, Volokh conspirator Dale Carpenter mentions the phenomenon, "common" to "public policy disputes about homosexuality," that the predicted "huge and catastrophic consequences" never materialize, as "calm and ordinariness break out." And John Cole predicts the change will be greeted by big, collective "yawn."

Andrew Sullivan calls the review "extremely calm and fair" and says, "it feels in no way skewed or prejudged." Spencer Ackerman points out that "the expected demographic gap" isn't showing up—similar percentages of the older and younger generations of service members were largely in agreement, mostly accepting a repeal of DADT. AllahPundit underlines the weak support of combat units for a repeal, but says it may not have a very wide-ranging effect for gay soldiers: "Just 15 percent of those who identified as gay said they’d want everyone in their unit to know." Adam Weinstein notes that the military has kicked out more troops for being gay than for being overweight "in recent years."

Of course, bloggers also have a lot to say about Republican opposition to a repeal. Taylor Marsh thinks it's all about the GOP's desire "to make sure Pres. Obama doesn’t preside over this historic moment." Alex Pareene opines that polling soldiers prior to deciding to end the policy "is slightly at odds with the ideal of civilian leadership of the armed forces," and provides "a nice excuse" for opponents to "disregard" the review results. Steve Benen says the Republicans took "a gamble," hoping "in vain" that the report would back up their claims of widespread fear over allowing gays to serve openly. And Greg Sargent claims the review has "undercut" arguments being made by repeal opponents.

In the Huffington Post, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) calls it a "historic week," urging her colleagues to repeal the ban because "It's what the nation wants, it's what our military wants, and it's the right thing to do." Daniel Foster highlights Defense Secretary Robert Gates's comment that Congress should take up the issue before the courts, since a judicial decision would be "confusing and distracting." But Doug Mataconis wonders whether there will be enough time to overcome the obligatory hearings and a potential fillibuster led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

For those of you more interested in the latest Wikileaks commentary, look no further than the Wall Street Journal, where ex–George W. Bush adviser (and arch-neoconservative) Elliot Abrams writes that the classified-documents dump is good example of why secrecy is necessary—not for the United States, but for its autocratic allies, who can afford to "tell the truth to foreigners but not to [their own populations]." However, perhaps surprisingly (or not), Abrams is not for more transparency among the dictatorial class, saying that the "Wikileaks disclosures are less likely to promote more open government that to give aid and comfort to the enemy," (i.e., Tehran's mullahs, Hamas, Hezbollah and, last but not least, al-Qaeda).

And speaking of George W. Bush, the former president has an op-ed in the Washington Post urging America to keep up the "global fight" against AIDS, especially in Africa, where the "catastrophe" is not just a humanitarian concern, but one of national-security importance, too.