Admiral Mike Mullen, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the collection of the top-ranking leader from each branch of the United States Armed Forces), caused quite a stir yesterday when he vocally and unequivocally voiced his support to repealing the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. And today, he got some unexpected support.
Gen. Colin Powell, who was Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993 when the DADT policy was enacted, issued a statement today supporting “the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
Yesterday, Adm. Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates both spoke passionately and firmly against the existing policy against gays and lesbians in the military. You might write that off as current Defense Department personnel supporting the direction of their Commander-in-Chief, which is frankly why I didn’t bother writing about it. (Not to diminish the impact of both men’s statements, but the notion that they might just be following the boss’s orders might cloud some people’s opinions.)
Still, Admiral Mullen in particular spoke in terms of morality and said it was his personal belief that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” He went on to add: “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity.” Gates added that he understood that “attitudes towards homosexuality may have changed considerably — both in society generally and in the military” since the policy was first enacted in 1993.
Even more powerfully, today Gen. Colin Powell stepped out of the philosophical debate about right and wrong, fairness and equality, and instead cut to the bottom line for the military, stating that “the principal issue has always been the effectiveness of the Armed Forces and order and discipline in the ranks.” He added: “I strongly believe that this is a judgment to be made by the current military leadership and the Commander in Chief. … It is also a judgment Congress must make … I fully support the new approach” presented yesterday by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen.
And this is coming from a Republican former Secretary of State under Pres. George W. Bush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Pres. George W. Bush (as well as Pres. Bill Clinton), and National Security Advisor under Pres. Ronald Reagan. He’s not some liberal hippie flower child, folks.
Gen. Powell and Adm. Mullen are joined by Gen. John Shalikashvili, another former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who has repeatedly said that the United States should end DADT. “As a nation built on the [principle] of equality, we should recognize and welcome change that will build a stronger, more cohesive military,” Gen. Shalikashvili recently wrote.
Personally, I feel that the opinion of three decorated and well-respected Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the current one, ought to hold a little weight when discussing military effectiveness and policy. But of course, it helps that they agree with my views in this case 🙂