Repealing DADT is going to take a year. Gates and Mullen are very clearly taking this year in order to secure as much military buy-in as they can for what will really be a contentious change. I am not gay and cannot presume to tell my gay friends whether this is an acceptable or unacceptable amount of time. But anyone who watched today’s hearing saw that the nation’s top military officer is an unshakeable ally in this effort. And I do not see how DADT survives after this afternoon.
Congressmen and members of the public should pay less attention to the many retired flag officers (average date of commission: 1835) who oppose homosexuals openly serving in the U.S. military and should instead poll serving U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. That's who Laura Miller and RAND will be polling. Their opinions, when combined with the desired policy preferences of the greater U.S. public, should be what matters. I could care less what some dude who garrisoned Shanghai in 1932 thinks.
It should go without saying that debates over homosexuality, the military, warriors, masculinity and the like are suffuse with all sorts of complex psychological influences. But one thing is clear: in American culture, there has long been a group of men (typified by Kristol and O'Hanlon) who equate toughness and masculinity with fighting wars, yet who also know that they lack the courage of their own convictions, and thus confine themselves to cheerleading for wars from afar and sending others off to fight but never fighting those wars themselves (Digby wrote the seminal post on that sorry faction back in 2005). It seems that individuals plagued by that affliction are eager to avoid having it rubbed in their faces that there are large numbers of homosexual warriors who possess the courage (the "testosterone-laden tough-guyness") which the O'Hanlons and Kristols, deep down, know they lack. Banning gay people from serving openly in the military as warriors is an excellent way of being able to deny that reality to themselves.
Here's the hopeful interpretation: we're still on track to firmly end DADT in an amendment to the Pentagon budget this year, but implementation will be left up to Gates and he'll be given until, say, January 2011 to publish new regs. The less hopeful interpretation is that Congress won't do anything until the Pentagon review is done, which would mean delaying repeal until 2011 and implementation until 2012.
[M]y judgment is that having the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs coming out in favor of repealing DADT in the first day of hearings with an accompanying media narrative that it is not “if” it will be repealed but “when” is probably a lot more helpful in attaining the long-term goal of a full repeal than Obama issuing executive orders without having his ducks in a row, causing a huge congressional and military backlash with a media narrative about nothing but Obama over-reaching his mandate and the accompanying backlash, but pleasing a small but vocal portion of the Democratic coalition.
Wow, suddenly Republicans don't believe that DOD is entitled to an opinion...