As y'all probably know, the Pentagon has finished its survey of the armed forces about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. The report's conclusions essentially say that repealing DADT won't be a big deal, though some groups of military people surveyed were unhappy about it. (In particular, Marines in combat units were especially resistant, with about 60% saying repeal would have a negative effect.)
(I've seen three different percentages quoted by different sources, so 60% is fairly approximate. But while I'm here, note that 84% of combat-unit Marines who've actually served with gay people said their unit cohesion was fine; it's the combat Marines who haven't served with gay people who are worried about it.)
(Side note: Sadly, in the font I use for entry titles on my blog, “<3” looks more like a broken heart than a heart. So just to be clear, that title was meant to indicate that I'm really pleased with Adm. Mullen this morning.)
Today's New York Times has an article about McCain's resistance to repeal. There's a great sequence where Defense Secretary Gates says “With time and adequate preparation, we can mitigate [the unhappy people's] concerns,” and McCain says no we can't, and adds, “Mr. Secretary, I speak from personal experience.” Oooh, the personal experience trump card! (It's not entirely clear from the article what exactly he meant by that—whether he's talking about personal experience with gay servicemembers or whether he's just saying “Hey, I was in the military, so my views represent all soldiers everywhere!”) But then Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says this:
I've been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career[....] I went to war with them aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. I knew they were there. They knew I knew it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on target.
Take that, John “personal experience” McCain!
(I should note that I used to have a lot of respect for McCain, but that respect has been steadily eroded over the past three years, and not much of it is left.)
The article goes on to a couple more great moments. First:
Both Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen [argued that] delaying would result in [...] the potential for repeal to be ordered by what Mr. Gates called “judicial fiat”—meaning, he said, that the military would have no time to prepare for the change. “Those that choose not to act legislatively are rolling the dice that this policy will not be abruptly overturned by the courts,” Mr. Gates said.
Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen also spoke against the argument of “not now,” voiced by many of the surveyed combat troops, that a time of two wars was not the right moment to impose social change on the force. Admiral Mullen told the committee that he had no expectation that “challenges to our national security are going to diminish in the near future, such that a more convenient time will appear.”
I hereby declare Admiral Mullen to be officially awesome. I might even go so far as to say fabulous.
And btw, Gates is showing himself to be pretty awesome too:
”I can't think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the American armed forces on a policy issue,” Mr. Gates told the panel. “Are you going to ask them if they want 15-month tours? Are you going to ask them if they want to be part of the surge in Iraq? That’s not the way our civilian-led military has ever worked in our entire history. The 'should' question is to be decided by the Congress.”
But wait, there's more! A Fox News article also quotes Mullen:
Mullen added that “there is no gray area” in the debate when it comes to standards of conduct in the military.
“We treat each other with respect or we find another place to work. Period,” he said.
Oh, and by the way, props to Lieberman, for once. In response to McCain fretting about homophobic servicemembers possibly quitting the military:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., [replied] that the policy itself had resulted in loss of soldiers—because thousands had been tossed out for admitting they are gay and because would-be gay service members have been deterred by the policy from signing up for duty.
And now back to my new hero, Admiral Mullen, for one more comment:
Saying he expects less turbulence, “even in the combat arms world,” than some would predict, Mullen added, “In fact, it may be the combat arms community that proves the most effective at managing this change, disciplined as they are. It's not only because our young ones are more tolerant. It's because they've got far more important things to worry about.”
Mullen said that U.S. military members are already working on the battlefield with NATO forces from countries where being gay is not a disqualification from service.
“I don't recall a single instance where the fact that one of them might be openly gay ever led to poor performance on the field,” he said. “Gay or straight, their troops patrolled with ours and bled with ours.”
That's all the Mullen quotes I have this morning, but there are also some good non-Mullen quotes in a CNN article.
For example, from the conclusion of the report itself:
The general lesson we take from ... transformational experiences in history is that in matters of personnel change within the military, predictions and surveys tend to overestimate negative consequences, and underestimate the U.S. military's ability to adapt and incorporate within its ranks the diversity that is reflective of American society at large.
Relatedly, R. Clarke Cooper, who the article notes is “an active duty Army reservist and head of the Log Cabin Republicans,” says:
There was not this much study or review or even a complicated process that occurred when there was racial integration of the forces back in 1948. And there wasn't even this excessive review with co-educational integration of sexes in the forces.
And along the same lines, I'll close with one more quote from a veteran:
“In the 1940s, there were a lot of predictions that senior noncommissioned officers would leave the ranks if segregation was ended,” said Aubrey Sarvis, a veteran and current executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which advocates on behalf of gay and lesbian troops. “Well, that did not come to pass. Thirty some years ago, there were dire predictions that if women were allowed to attend the service academies, there would be a mass exodus from the ranks. That, too, did not happen.”