“A measured way.” That’s the latest advice given to President Obama about moving on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and it comes from a very big mouth: Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, aka Obama’s most senior military adviser. But this isn’t just a top military official telling the president to tread lightly in controversial territory. Mullen’s comments “hint” that repealing DADT isn’t about equality, but about how it would negatively impact soldiers and their families. Family values and the military? Bring it.
Here’s what Mullen told CNN in part: “It’s very clear what President Obama’s intent here is. He intends to see this law change. … I’ve had conversations with him about that. What I’ve discussed in terms of the future is I think we need to move in a measured way. … I haven’t done any kind of extensive review. And what I feel most obligated about is to make sure I tell the president, you know, my — give the president my best advice, should this law change, on the impact on our people and their families at these very challenging times.”
It’s perfectly reasonable Mullen has military families on his mind. After all, the U.S. is in the middle of two wars, with hundreds of thousands of troops serving in harm’s way. Losing just one soldier hurts military families. American families.
But his assertion here, uttered ever so slightly, is that letting gay soldiers serve openly would somehow impact military families negatively. This is, quite frankly, horseshit, of the same variety that soldiers’ religious faith are material to whether DADT should be repealed. It’s seriously mind-numbing to hear military leaders act concerned about how families back home will feel if their sons and husbands serve next to gay comrades, but send soldiers into the field without the proper armor — which goes a long way toward making sure families at home will be hurt.
Also? Mullen’s mention of “families,” evidently, does not include the families of gay soldiers. What about they way they are impacted?
As we’ve heard endlessly from folks like Air Force Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach and the National Guard’s First Lt. Dan Choi, opening the ranks to out soldiers can only strengthen our national security, which keeps our soldiers safer, and thus helps American families. This is not a question of conservative vs. liberal beliefs; it is a question of equality and safety.
It’s unfortunate, too, that as the president continues guaranteeing Americans he will repeal DADT, he’s letting his senior military advisers — like Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates — run their mouths in very harmful ways.
In Mullen’s case, the harm begins with the man’s own admission that he hasn’t “done any kind of extensive review” on repealing DADT. What we’re not hearing, then, is Obama’s military leaders echoing the president’s commitment to the gay men and women keeping America safe.