Yesterday, Gen. David Petraeus became the latest military leader to downplay the significance of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy on unit cohesion or military effectiveness, suggesting that he too has no problem with repealing it:
GREGORY: Do you think soldiers on the ground in the field care one way or the other if their comrade in arms are gay or lesbian?
PETRAEUS: I’m not sure that they do. … You heard Gen. 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 ago. You have 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. Frankly, you know, over time you said, hey, how’s this guy shooting or how is her analysis or what have you?
It was amusing to see Tim Pawlenty, directly after Petraeus said this on Meet the Press, argue that the military thinks the DADT policy has worked. Petraeus is just the latest of the military to say basically the opposite, that repeal would cause no major outcry. He joins the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former JCS Chair and Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney, etc., etc. There may be a few bigots left in the military leadership (we may hear from some of them this week), but they appear to be in the minority. Far from being indoctrinated or brainwashed, the leadership is simply prepared to make a change they view as no big deal.
So right at this moment, in swoops Joe Lieberman to try and take the lead in the Congress.
Just when you thought Joe Lieberman couldn’t frustrate and perplex liberals any further, he is going off to become chief sponsor of the most significant piece of socially progressive legislation that Congress will deal with this year.
Next week, the Connecticut senator will announce that he’s taking the lead on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the 1993 law that prohibits gay people from serving openly in the armed forces. Since implementation of the statute nearly 20 years ago, the military has discharged some 14,000 qualified men and women, many of them serving in critical jobs like Arabic and Persian translation.
This is a James Kirchick article, and it’s mainly written to stick liberals in the eye by lauding Lieberman as a proud man of principle, who acts on his beliefs no matter the ideological direction in which they lead. The better explanation is that he needs every man, woman and child in this country eligible to serve in his cascade of proposed military adventures.
But let’s back off the proud man of principle argument for a second. Joe Lieberman could have come out the day Obama was elected and handled this, as it was a campaign promise. Instead, the project fell to relative newcomers like Patrick Murphy in the House and Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate, because the old guard was simply afraid to address it. Now that the President, practically the entire senior leadership at the Pentagon, close to 200 House members and pretty much everyone in the Democratic caucus in the Senate have signed on, now Lieberman announces his “leadership”? That’s supposed to be a mark of boldness?
If this helps the bill along – Gillibrand is not on the committee of jurisdiction, Armed Services, and having a senior member may help – then great. And Lieberman is merely following what John McCain said all along – when the military comes to him and argues for a change, he will agree to it. At least he held to his word better than St. McCain, who’s in the middle of a primary that has pushed him further to the right. But Lieberman can get over himself on this. Others do the hard work and he enters at the last minute to hog the glory. That’s something less than leadership.