General Raymnd Odierno, the current Commanding General of forces in Iraq, has joined Gen. David Petraeus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and Collin Powell in expressing his opposition to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. But what’s surprising isn’t that Odierno thinks gay and lesbian service members can serve openly with straight soldiers without undermining unit cohesion or morale. It’s the indifference with which Odierno — a senior military leader currently leading troops in battle — discusses the matter, suggesting that allowing homosexuals to serve in the military is, well, no big deal.
The issue is ‘controversial’ only because conservatives exploit it to divide the electorate and raise money for their causes:
Asked repeatedly about his stance on the gays in the military, the top commander in Iraq told reporters at the Pentagon, “I dont have time to think about it.” General Raymond Odierno said he hasn’t been focusing on the issue because “we’re kind of busy right now, trying to do our job in Iraq.”
When pressed on his personal opinion he said, “my opinion is everyone should be allowed to serve, as long as we’re still able to fight our wars and we’re able to have forces that are capable of doing whatever we’re asked to do.”
Odierno said he supports the decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to conduct a year long review that explores repealing the current “Dont Ask Dont Tell” policy and allowing gays to openly serve. “Let’s give the soldiers a chance to give their opinion, and then move out from there.”
On the other hand, I’d like the military to do more than simply endorse a theoretical, eventual repeal in a quiet way. I’d like to hear Odierno, Powell, Petraeus and Mullen really fight for the military values they believe in and demand an end date on the policy. Their rhetorical support does lend credence and legitimacy to the cause. It places DADT repeal activists in the mainstream. But it also limits the confines of the debate. Military leaders who endorse a repeal without laying out a roadmap for ending the policy legitimize endless policy reviews and delays and zap all credibility of those who argue that repeal can’t wait another year. And so if military leaders want to be helpful, they should really be asking for more.