This poll result flagged by Kevin Drum really is depressing. Only 22 percent of 3,400 officers holding the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above support the idea of allowing openly gay or lesbian Americans to serve in the military as a means of boosting recruitment. Fifty-eight percent support lowering education standard, 78 percent supporting offering citizenship to foreigners willing to serve (this sounds like a terrible fall of the Roman Empire idea to me), 38 percent support a draft. This suggests that even if shifts in public opinion have taken some of the sting out of the gays in the military question as an issue of electoral politics, a President Obama or a President Clinton would still face significant resistance from within the armed forces to implementing a changed policy.
Alternatively, and more optimistically, support for a change may be so anemic because officers simply don’t think that lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would, in practice, generate a substantial number of new recruits. Insofar as that’s what people are thinking, I’m inclined to agree — lower educational standards is a far more practical way of generating additional bodies. Meanwhile, the current downturn in the labor market is likely to produce an uptick in recruiting. Fundamentally, though, the gays in the military issue is a question of justice and equity and not really an issue about recruiting.