Last month, General David Petraeus suggested that he may be open to supporting a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Petraeus said that he was “not sure” that most servicemembers would care about fighting alongside openly gay men and women, and that he has personally done so without any problems.
Yesterday, during an appearance on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Petraeus clarified that he served with two gay CIA officers whose orientation did not undermine their performance or mission and promised to lay out his “thinking on the matter” before the Senate Armed Services Committee this spring:
PETRAEUS: I would like to clarify what I did say. What I said is I served with CIA officers actually who were known to be gay and one who was known to be lesbian. After the ten seconds of awareness wore off, the focus was on the professional attributes of these individuals. So given, again, standards of personal conduct, focus on human behavior, a focus on proper implementation, you know, I think that this is something that can be worked through, frankly. I’ll lay this out to Congress. My thinking on this matter, I’ve been wrestling with this. [...]
ZAKARIA: It sounds to me, though, if these — if the review process of scouting out the opinions of soldiers, if they were to go to this soldier, that is, you, it sounds like what you would tell them is that under — as long as it was carefully implemented, you would be comfortable?
PETRAEUS: I’ll lay that out, again, to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lawmakers will have to wait for Petraesus’ testimony before adding him to the ‘military leader who supports repeal’ column, but these statements suggest that the general is at least skeptical about the policy. His answer also betrays a certain level of indifference towards a soldier’s sexual orientation — reiterating the fact that repeal is only controversial in the minds of conservative fundamentalists — and mirrors the reaction of General Raymnd Odierno, the current Commanding General of forces in Iraq. Last month, Odierno was “asked repeatedly” about his stance on the gays in the military, until he finally told reporters, “I don’t have time to think about it…we’re kind of busy right now, trying to do our job in Iraq.”
Significantly, in the seventeen years since Congress passed DADT, real world experiences and the multitude of Defense Department-funded studies on the effects of the policy have convinced former proponents of DADT (i.e. military leaders) to come out against it. Support for the policy has been largely relegated to the most fundamentalist but well organized elements of the conservative movement. And fortunately, these groups and their rhetoric won’t provide cover for undecided moderate lawmakers.