The studies are in and the verdict is clear — the American public supports it; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates favors it; even the majority of our troops are cool with it. So why is there any doubt about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? And, more to the point, will congressional Republicans still try to prevent something that, by virtually every account, will strengthen our armed forces and increase national security?
On Tuesday, the Pentagon released the “Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s a long title, and it comes with a fittingly long report that basically says what has been obvious for years — DADT is outdated and needs to be ended.
While polls consistently find the American public favors repealing the law, the report includes some illuminating, if expected, findings about how repeal will affect the military. For example, it says that the
“results of the Service member survey reveal a widespread attitude among a solid majority of Service members that repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not have a negative impact on their ability to conduct their military mission.”
The study also points out that, despite DADT, many troops already knowingly serve with gay men and lesbians:
“The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today’s U.S. military, and most Service members recognize this. As stated before, 69% of the force recognizes that they have at some point served in a unit with a co-worker they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who have actually had this experience in their career, 92% stated that the unit’s ‘ability to work together’ was ‘very good,’ ‘good,’ or ‘neither good nor poor,’ while only 8% stated it was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor.’ “
The report even includes some charming quotes, including this already oft-quoted gem from a service member:
“We have a gay guy. He’s big, he’s mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay.”
The point here — that DADT needs to go away — is obvious and hardly needs restating. What will be interesting, however, is how this report impacts political attitudes.
Up until very recently, Republicans have thwarted efforts to end DADT. Just when it looked like it might end, John McCain — perhaps as part of his dramatic, pre-election flop to the far right — staged a filibuster of the National Defense Authorization Act. The act included both the budget for the Military, as well as an amendment paving the way for the repeal of DADT.
McCain was joined by other Senate Republicans (and two Democrats), many of whom have previously expressed an unwillingness to modernize the military’s policy toward homosexuality.
Though it’s unclear when national defense became a partisan issue and it’s baffling that Republicans have wanted to prevent people from fighting terrorists, the Pentagon’s report removes the last objective roadblock to ending DADT. In essence, it’s becoming impossible to argue that the policy serves national interest. If Senators want to prevent its repeal now, they have to do so out of a personal commitment to prejudice and intolerance — and at the expense of national well-being.
President Obama has already called on the Senate to actually do something and repeal DADT by the end of the year. The question now is how they will respond. Too few congressmen and women had the courage and foresight to act in the past, so hopefully this new report will give them whatever excuses, scapegoats or motivations they need to get moving now.
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