The ongoing debate in the lame duck Congress on repeal of DADT has been buried under the media blitz on WikiLeaks. Regardless, the debate continues to rage on. Most notable Senator John McCain has taken up the flag of those who oppose repeal and has misspoken in attempts to discredit his opposition, namely Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
The most recent arguments in the anti-repeal camp stems from a Pentagon survey of 115,000 active-duty and reserve service members. While 58% of Marine and 48% of Army combat troops were opposed to repeal, the wider survey including combat and noncombat troops found that 70% believed there would be either positive impact, mixed, or no consequence by repealing DADT. (And yes, statistics are usually useless and bullshit but these highlight the various angles from which you could take this issue.)
In this clip Mullen, McCain and Gates spar on the issue. One of the key things mentioned is that throughout the history of our civilian-led military never once have troops been asked how they feel about a policy shift. No one asks if servicemen and women want 15-month terms, or if they want to go to war in country X, Y, and/or Z. The poll itself is unusual and shows that at the widest taking, there is acceptance if not encouragement to repeal DADT.
I have heard the argument that the military is not ready, that the procedures for mitigating complaints are not in place. Well of course they aren’t in place. The military will not spend time developing plans to roll back a policy that has not been repealed. Only when DADT is repealed can the military begin planning the how of it.
One of Gate’s comments was directed at the fact that many combat troops were in their early 20s and had relatively little experience in the military. While resistant to change, Gates believes their objections and concerns are not insurmountable.
The above quote indicates to me that rather than immediate reversal, Congressional repeal of DADT would be followed by serious consideration of how to implement repeal. That conversation will not and cannot take place until after the law is changed.
Gates and Mullen made the plea for Congress to repeal the law, allowing for the necessary planning to implement such a policy. If Congress does not do this, the courts could at any moment hear a case and force overturn of the law by declaring it unconstitutional – such a move would give the military no time to develop and implement repeal. Preparation would be necessary to implement repeal and only Congressional repeal allows for that time to mitigate the concerns of service members.
I couldn’t disagree more with McCain’s response to the idea of being able to mitigate, with time and preparation, the concerns expressed by service members.
“Well, I couldn’t disagree more,” Mr. McCain shot back. “We send these young people into combat; we think they’re mature enough to fight and die. I think they’re mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.”
It treads dangerously close to an anti-integration argument in my mind (not to mention an argument made time and again by 19-20 year olds for lowing the drinking age, but that's neither here nor there). Having known a number of young men who dropped out of college to join the military I do not think all of these people are mature or give much thought beyond their personal disposition toward the gay community when asked about this issue. Certainly many service members are mature, every single one here in our program is of outstanding character and intellect, but to base a policy change on the whims and prejudices of 20-year olds is ridiculous
Similarly ridiculous is McCain’s argument that speaking from personal experience makes him an authority on the matter. McCain’s military service while certainly admirable is no more so than that of Mullen who claimed to have served with gays aboard a destroyer in Vietnam and experienced no impact on the ability of the crew to carry out their missions.
The only criteria for military service should be love of this country, willingness and ability to serve. We need to continue down the path toward that standard and have our military reflect the national values of freedom which we seek to defend. Congress must give the military leaders what they are asking for: the go-head to plan and implement further integration of the armed forces to reflect the populace and values of our nation.