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Ask, don’t wait for the military to tell

I have no problem with allowing gays openly to serve in the military, provided that this change in policy would not reduce the military’s effectiveness. As to whether the change would, in fact, have such an impact, it is folks in the military who have the best sense of this.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get that sense, and the difficulties run both ways. Some in the military might baselessly claim, due to prejudice or simply out of an aversion to change, that altering current policy would impair the military. But others, especially those at the highest level, might baselessly make the contrary claim in order to curry favor with politicians and civilian officials bent on ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
This much seems clear, however: the Senate should not be voting on whether to change current policy until we have made our best effort to obtain the military’s best thinking on the subject.
Yet, the Democrats seem intent on voting to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” before the Pentagon completes its review of the matter. Under a deal brokered by the White House, repeal would occur now but would not be implemented until the Pentagon completes a study of the matter in December. But there is no excuse for repealing the policy, and thereby quite possibily creating something close to a fait accompli, on an inadequate factual record. Indeed, Obama’s own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, “continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law.”
Accordingly, Scott Brown, a veteran and a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard, will oppose repeal tomorrow when the Senate Armed Services votes:

I am keeping an open mind, but I do not support moving ahead until I am able to finish my review, the Pentagon completes its study, and we can be assured that a new policy can be implemented without jeopardizing the mission of our military.
For some time now, I have been seeking the opinions and recommendations of service chiefs, commanders in the field, and, most importantly, our junior soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. I believe we have a responsibility to the men and women of our armed forces to be thorough in our consideration of this issue and take their opinions seriously.

This is a courageous position for Brown to take. Polls show that voters in Massachusetts strongly favor ending “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
On the other hand, it’s difficult to understand how anyone, and certainly any Republican, could disagree with Brown’s common sense position that the vote should await the Pentagon study. Nonetheless, Susan Collins has said she will vote in favor of repeal. This apparently will provide the margin needed to get the proposal out of committee, despite possible opposition by several Democrats. Whether there will then be enough votes in the Senate as a whole is less clear.
It’s scandalous that liberal Democrats, along with Susan Collins, are trying to short-circuit Pentagon review on an issue this vital. Their willingness to do so strongly suggests that they view the military first and foremost as a vessel for implementing “progressive” ideas and only secondarily as the instrument through which we fight wars and protect our national security.

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