"The proposed amendment will...enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention." These words from White House budget director Peter Orszag (posted by Politico, among others) sealed a dubious deal on repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" reached today by the Obama administration, Senators Lieberman and Levin, Rep. Murphy, and Servicemembers United, Human Rights Campaign, and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
It's quite a turn of events to see these aforementioned advocates endorsing the very talking points that military brass and other opponents of repeal have consistently used since day one to prevent gay and lesbian servicemembers from serving openly. Military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention—all canards that have been debunked for years, since before the original "don't ask, don't tell" "compromise" in fact. (Look what compromising the first time around did!) As my friend and "don't ask, don't tell" expert Nathaniel Frank likes to say (as he does in this March Center for American Progress report), the policy isn't "based on sound research because no research has ever shown that openly gay service hurts the military." The military's own studies in the 1980s turned up no risks; neither did a 1993 RAND study that was totally ignored at the time.
Military leaders have never been honest brokers on this issue, despite the fact that a majority of servicemembers have no problem with gays serving openly (as shown by numerous polls). So why are our leaders, elected and de facto—who are supposed to be honest brokers—ceding all control of repeal to the military? The history of activism against the ban has been to force the military to get in line with equality. Instead, in a (rightful) rush to get repeal done as soon as possible, we're giving the military giant loopholes with no mechanism for enforcement, or a deadline for such.
Orszag's letter doesn't even call for open service by gays, or for an end to discrimination against them. Instead, it allows "our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights, and suggestions." Families? That sounds awfully close to "family values," a bogus phrase that ought have nothing to do with repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Then again, this whole "deal" is bogus. I hope it fails. Our servicemembers—all of them—deserve better.