In his opening statement at a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell hearing today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen systematically blew apart the classic attacks on repeal.
“Repeal of the law will not prove an unacceptable risk to military readiness. Unit cohesion will not suffer,” Mullen said. “And families will not encourage their loved ones to leave the service in droves.”
“And I find the argument that war is not the time to change to be antithetical with our own experience since 2001,” he said. “War does not stifle change; it demands it.”
He destroyed Sen. John McCain’s suggestion that the opinions of the service chiefs were more important than those of Mullen. McCain had said Mullen “is not directly in charge of the troops.”Today, Mullen responded, saying, “It is true that, as Chairman, I am not in charge of troops. But I have commanded three ships, a carrier battle group and two fleets. And I was most recently a Service Chief myself. For more than 40 years I have made decisions that affected and even risked the lives of young men and women.”
The Pentagon review itself resists the classic arguments, saying that repeal would pose little risk to effectiveness and unit cohesion. But still, McCain and other Republicans bent on keeping DADT around found ways to undermine both Mullen and the report:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
McCain argued that the review hadn’t solicited the views of troops — even though more than 100,000 troops responded to surveys and the majority foresaw no negative impact to repeal. McCain said the troops were not asked the right questions. The Pentagon should have asked them directly if they support repeal, he said. When Mullen called it “an incredibly bad precedent” to ask troops to essentially vote on policy, McCain audibly scoffed and said, “Every great leader I’ve ever known consulted their subordinates for their views.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Graham, a close friend of McCain’s, made a similar argument, saying, “We should be listening, not dictating.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Chambliss said that, based on the survey, more than 250,000 servicemembers would leave the military if the ban were repealed. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, however, said that the survey also shows that those who serve alongside a gay troops are much more open to repeal and, therefore, experience with gay colleagues would drop that number significantly.
“If I believed that a quarter of a million people would leave the military immediately if given the opportunity, I would certainly have second thoughts about that,” he said. “But I don’t believe that.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
And, finally, Sessions (R-AL) argued that the debate itself has already damaged troop readiness and morale, and that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has served the military just fine.