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Obama Asks For Study Of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2009

Hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration, when the Democratically-controlled congress forced Bill Clinton to back down from an order allowing gays to serve openly in the military, President Barack Obama has asked the military for a comprehensive assessment of the impact of rescinding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to the Boston Globe:

At the Pentagon, officials say they have been told not to expect the administration to seek to lift the ban quickly. One senior officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said staff officers for Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been told it will be several months at the earliest – possibly not even this year – until the top brass will be formally asked to weigh in on a change in policy.

And even then, he said, the military has been assured it will have wide latitude to undertake a detailed study of how a change in the policy would affect the military.

Sources indicate that the study may be part of a strategy to win over military brass as well as congressional lawmakers for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” During his presidential campaign, Obama committed to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly, but he has not committed to a timetable.

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Emily K
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

I think this is extremely politically savvy. The study will, no doubt, conclude that the policy is unnecessary, archaic, costly, and even detrimental to our national security.

And with the results of the study, coupled with the changed attitudes of a large amount of people – even those who once fully supported the ban – DADT should be struck down within good time.

It will show that the President didn’t just “assert his political agenda” but in fact took the time to get the facts and consult the whole of Washington – and the facts are on our side.

K
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

All this does is let Obama off the hook. He’s saying, basically, that he’ll back off until the military tells him that they’re ready to integrate the services.

And when will that be, given that the senior officers (who will, remember design and conduct the “study”) are mostly homophobic older guys?

John
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Perhaps I’m too cynical after being burned by Slick Willie in the 90s, but this does seem to be a way to bury the issue. Rather like the parliamentary tricks they use in Congress to “table” an item, where it dies in committee. The military brass do not like change, it throw in an unknown variable into what they are used to and what they have planned for. I remain skeptical of this and Obama’s motives.

TJ McFisty
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

So there’s no study about allowing criminals in the military? Gays require a study, but criminals don’t. Sure.

steve
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

When will the gay community stop tolerating 2nd class citizenship?

David C.
February 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Obama cannot move forward without building a base of support within the walls of the pentagon. There are too many forces throughout government and society arrayed against gay people to assume that repeal of DADT is a given, whether it was brought to a vote tomorrow or in a year.

Everybody wants everything now and that isn’t going to happen. LGBT people and their advocates have to build the coalition needed to undertake the major strides sought and expected from this administration. It will take politics, arm-twisting, lobbying, and getting the right information into the hands of decision makers. Without these, the shrill propaganda of the anti-gay right will again drown out the reasoned voices that are on the side of gay people who want to serve their country.

All the nonsense about this or that dodge on the part of the democrats, the Obama Administration, and the military helps not in the least. Write your representatives and urge them to support repeal of DOMA, and urge your friends to do the same. If you know military personnel, either active, retired, or reservist, encourage them to support open service by gay people. Go here to get more details and learn how to really help.

Mark F.
February 3rd, 2009 | LINK

“Obama cannot move forward without building a base of support within the walls of the pentagon.”

Rubbish. Truman ordered the racial integration of the military knowing darn well that most of the military was opposed. If current officers can’t deal with a new gay policy, Obama can accept their resignations.

David C.
February 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Mark F.:

So could have Clinton, but the reason Clinton was not able to do that was that the leaders of the military had lots of friends on Capitol Hill that could derail the whole initiative. If you follow that link in my above remark, you will be led to a site where you can see that this matter is not as easy as people would like to make it seem.

Obama could sign an executive order or similar executive regulation, under Section 654(b), withholding all discharges and initiations of investigations/discharges under Section 654 at the Presidential level. Ok, so, yeah, he could render DADT effectively “inoperable”, but that might not in the final analysis be as helpful as some would imagine. Hard to say what the political fallout would be or whether it would advance the cause or timetable for repeal of DADT.

Regan DuCasse
February 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Truman signed an executive order when we still had the draft!

And after WW2 when a lot of our readiness was decimated.

Here we’ve had DADT BEFORE Iraq and Afghanistan and for twenty years or more of an ALL VOLUNTEER military.

Rather than recruit those without the educational qualifications or with criminal records, or dismiss skilled gay personnel, the military can tell a potential recruit what THEIR options are.

They can always choose not to serve with gay people, rather than we lose talent because of those who don’t want to adhere to rules of service with WHOEVER.

I never understood that we accept Muslim recruits, regardless of fighting in Muslim countries and part of the war is motivated by Muslim anti Western sentiment.
Muslims in the ranks have attacked their fellow soldiers and with tragic results.

But they won’t accept openly gay military who ALSO have the vitally needed linguistic and cultural skills to serve?

It’s the all volunteer principle that makes the option of repealing DADT easier than any other time to allow openly gay service members to do so.

Mark F.
February 4th, 2009 | LINK

It would be nice if we had a President was was more concerned about doing what was right instead of worrying about the “political fallout.” Let him issue the order and let the chips fall where they may. If the supposed pro-gay Democratic Congress blocks equality for gays, then I will blame Congress. The military will follow orders or its officers can resign. It’s as simple as that.

David C.
February 6th, 2009 | LINK

Regan D. and Mark F.:

I still think you two are thinking about this in low dimension. The repeal of DADT is a highly visible landmark on the landscape of gay-rights politics, but there are elements of that terrain rendering courses along apparently straight paths undesirable, or flat out dangerous.

We are just emerging from a period of rabidly conservative social policy that has left behind many relics and entrenched power structures enshrining anti-gay sentiment and policies. Their dismantling is something that must be done carefully, much like the demolition of a building constructed with toxic materials. Our enemies are in some cases still well positioned and capable of causing damage and slowing progress towards full rights for LGBT people. They have well oiled propaganda machines, and are organized and effective adversaries. They cannot be dismissed, and all it will take is one significant misstep and we could loose significant ground in our fight for full rights.

In the case of DADT, we must not fail to consider the safety and security of gay military personnel as well as readiness questions. The majority of lawmakers and everyday citizens have little understanding of the internal operation of the US armed services, military justice, readiness, and the challenges of military service during times of war. These complexities are enough to complicate the process of dismantling DADT. Mishandling repeal of DADT could do serious damage to the push for gay rights.

None of my remarks are intended to defend DADT, but you don’t have to like dynamite to respect it. The constellation of factors that must be managed to restructure societal perception of gay people are just now starting to be understood by gay leaders. It took a number of failures to cause gay rights activists to reappraise their approach to the problem of perception we face as gay people. Our movement has grown in sophistication enough to know that these struggles require careful consensus building, and even with potentially powerful allies in places of power, our enemies are looking for any opportunity to sabotage our progress and bring down those political leaders that stand with us.

As I have previously remarked in this forum, the enactment of hate crimes and employment non-discrimination statutes covering LGBT people are logical weigh points on the way to repeal of DADT. I have also commented that we may need to sublimate our own interests during the economic storm that is currently raging. This does not mean that we should allow the visibility of these issues to drop below some critical threshold of notice, but we should be mindful of the whole theater of war in which we are engaged. Tactics my create the illusion of winning by achieving victory in small battles, but true and complete victory requires a strategy that consistently delivers winning decisive actions.

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