The Still Tricky Politics Of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

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The skepticism in some quarters that the Department and Defense and President Obama really intend to integrate gays and lesbians into the military is not without some grounding. One fear is that his Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal pledge is a way of pandering to white liberals while the president presses ahead with spending cuts. Or that the president won't fight to make sure that his intentions are turned into policy -- that if he were serious, he'd have supported the language being added to the Defense appropriations bill. Others say that, even if there is buy-in from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even if they seem to come up with a sensible integration procedure, that social conservatives will be driven into a frenzy, putting enough pressure on the Senate to prevent Congress from passing the repeal. (This would give Obama the chance to say, "Hey, I tried.")

The political class will be watching when Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen testify next week. Moving past the early stage requires Democrats to accept the fact that they are going to face some pressure, even though the issue is, for all intents and purposes, publicly settled. Most Americans think the policy is unfair. But soldiers -- enough of them -- are worried. And how easy will it be to demagogue the issue? "Our troops are fighting and dying and the president wants to play *social engineer*?? How dare he!" etc.Schwarzkopf IT general of our time -- gives a thumbs up.

The worry: if it fails, it's going to fail for a long time. It will be interesting to see whether Gen. David Petraeus  -- the Colin Powell, Norman

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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