Petraeus supports ending DADT
February 21st, 2010
When Admiral Mullen stated that it was his personal opinion that the anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy should be ended, Senator John McCain became furious.
This put McCain in a difficult position. Just three years earlier he had said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to.”
The Senator spoke sharply in opposition to changing the policy and immediately news reports noted the apparent change of position. His press agent released a “clarification”:
“One person, speaking individually, not on behalf of the Navy at all, is not going to change Senator McCain’s position,” she told the Post. “There has to be a determination from our military leaders that they think it is a good idea to change the policy. Then of course Senator McCain will listen to them.”
On the face of it, this looked like a flip-flop, but I think something else is going on here. I think that John McCain genuinely believes that the push to repeal the policy is entirely political in nature and that the real military leaders – those who are trying to win the war, not win political battles – oppose allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the Military.
It seems inconceivable to him that the military’s culture would not be homophobic. So this all seems to be political posturing which will harm the military. He’s holding out for the real military leaders.
Well, it doesn’t get much more real than General David Petraeus, commander of the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And say what you may about Petraeus, he’s not the kind of man who will put “social engineering” and “political correctness” ahead of achieving his military goals.
Which makes it particularly effective that Gen. Patreaus supports Adm. Mullen’s intentions. Speaking today on Meet the Press:
MR. GREGORY: General, with the, the military engaged in two wars, with a country fighting terrorism in other forms as well, is this an appropriate time for the military to revisit the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, there’s a process at work here now, David, and I, and I think that it is a very sound and good process. The secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs announced, when they were testifying, the creation of a review be headed by General Carter Hamm, U.S. Army four-star, and DOD General Counsel Jay Johnson. I don’t think this has gotten enough prominence frankly. It is very important to this overall process. It will provide a rigorous analysis of the views of the force on the possible change. It will suggest the policies that could be used to implement a change if it, if it does come to that, so that it could be as uneventful as it was, say, in the U.K. or the Israeli militaries or, indeed, in our own CIA and FBI. And then it will assess the effects, the possible effects on readiness, recruiting and retention.
MR. GREGORY: What do you say?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Very important for that process to move forward. We’ll hear from the chiefs, the Joint Chiefs on this I think, probably their personal assessments and personal views in the course of the next week or so…
MR. GREGORY: But…
GEN. PETRAEUS: …when they’re on Capitol Hill. And then the geographic combatant commanders, the other combatant commanders and I, will have our turn on Capitol Hill in a few weeks.
MR. GREGORY: But what, but what, what do you say, General? Should gays and lesbians be able to serve openly in the military?
GEN. PETRAEUS: Well, I’ll provide that, again, on Capitol Hill if, if asked at that time. I, I know you’d like to make some news here this morning. I support what our secretary and, and chairman have embarked on here. I will–I’m fully participating in that process. And I think it’s very important, again, that these issues be handled and discussed and addressed by this review that will be so important in informing decisions as we move forward.
MR. GREGORY: Do you think soldiers on the ground in the field care one way or the other if their comrades in arms are gay or lesbian?
GEN. PETRAEUS: I’m not sure that they do. We’ll see. Again, that’s why this review panel. You know, all we have are, are personal soundings to go on, and I’ve certainly done some of that myself. I mean, you’ve heard General Powell, who was the chairman when the policy was implemented, had a big hand in that, who said that, yes indeed, the earth has revolved around the sun a number of times since that period 15 months (sic: years) ago. And you’ve heard a variety of anecdotal input. We have experienced, certainly, in the CIA and the FBI, I know. I served in fact in combat with individuals who were gay and who were lesbian in combat situations and, frankly, you know, over time you said, “Hey, how’s, how’s this guy’s shooting?” Or “How is her analysis,” or what have you. So–but we’ll see. Again, that’s the importance of this review that will be conducted by General Hamm and also by the DOD general counsel. I think it is hugely important that we have the answers from the questions that they’ll be asking in a very methodical way, something we’ve not done before because of the emotion and the sensitivity of this issue.
Yes, Petraeus danced and put it off on the review, but ultimately he knows that soldiers in wartime care a lot more about skills and abilities than they do about sexual orientation. That concern is a luxury of legislators who are in less danger and have more free time to imagine bunking arrangements and shower configurations.