Can we please have some nuance?
It's being widely reported right now that at the Senate hearings this morning, the Service Chiefs issued very stark warnings against repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. And it's true that Army Chief of Staff George Casey and U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Amos did say negative things about repealing DADT immediately.
But come on, let's have some nuance here. What's missing from the discussion is that these same men also said that in an overall sense they do in fact favor repealing DADT. And more crucially, under subsequent questioning, they said they found it reassuring that the current repeal proposal gives Defense Secretary Robert Gates the leeway to implement repeal on a flexible timeline that would work for them.
Here, for instance, is what General Casey said:
"I believe that the law should be repealed eventually. It seemed to me that the report calls into question the basic presumption that underlies the law. And that is that the presence of a gay and lesbian service member creates unacceptable risk. I don't believe that's true. And from the surveys it appears that a large number of our service members don't believe that's true either. So eventually it should be repealed. The question for me is one of timing...I would not recommend going forward at this time."
But that last line could easily be about implementation. And Senator Joe Lieberman followed up, asking Casey if he felt reassured that if Congress does in fact repeal DADT, Gates would carry it out on a timetable that took into account his concerns. Casey replied:
"Senator, I am very comfortable with my ability to provide military advice to Secretary Gates and have it heard."
Amos, who is thought to be the most opposed to repeal, also warned against carrying it out right now, because he worries that Marines in combat already have enough on their plate. But then under subsequent questioning from Lieberman, this exchange occured:
LIEBERMAN: It's possible that Secretary Gates and the Chairman might decide not to immediately implement this for Marines or Army in combat, but to do this over a period of time. how would you respond to that, General Amos?
AMOS: That would probably be acceptable for us.
General Norton Schwartz, the chief of staff of the Air Force, did say that "full implementation in the near term" is "too risky." But he also said that "full implementation" in 2012 would be "an acceptable approach."
Bottom line: These men are concerned about the timetable of implementation of repealing DADT. But they generally support the goal, and they generally trust Gates to take their concerns about timing into account if repeal does become a reality. It's an important distinction that shouldn't get lost.
UPDATE, 1:09 p.m.: Post edited slightly for accuracy.
| December 3, 2010; 12:31 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy and national security, Senate Dems, gay rights
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