Monday, December 15, 2008

Powell Asks But Doesn't Tell.

Fareed Zakaria had Powell on yesterday and among other things, Zakaria asked him about "don't ask don't tell," and Powell said it should be reviewed but he goes out of his way to avoid the impression that he is advocating its repeal.  Weirdly cowardly, in my opinion.  Anyway, the interview covers a bunch of issues and is worth checking out - transcript here, video on iTunes here, segment on gays on HuPo here.  
ZAKARIA: Let me ask about one social issue that you were associated with, which was "don't ask, don't tell," the policy toward gay people being in the military openly. Do you feel like the country has moved to a place where we could reevaluate "don't ask, don't tell"?

POWELL: We definitely should reevaluate it. It's been 15 years since we put in "don't ask, don't tell," which was a policy that became a law. I didn't want it to become a law, but it became a law. Congress felt that strongly about it.

But it's been 15 years, and attitudes have changed. And so, I think it is time for the Congress, since it is their law, to have a full review of it. And I'm quite sure that's what President-elect Obama will want to do.

But people have said to me, well, then, what do you think? I said, well, what I think is, let's review it, but I'm not going to make a judgment as to whether it should be overturned or not until I hear from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commanders who are responsible for our armed forces in a time of war.

And so, I have to hear what they think and what the secretary of defense thinks before I would come down on one side or the other.

Because I've always felt that the military is a unique institution. It is not like any other institution in our system. You are told who you will live with. You are told who you will share your most intimate accommodations with. You are told whether you will live or die.

And for that reason, the courts have always upheld the ability of the armed forces of the United States to put in procedures and rules that would not be acceptable in any other institution.

So, the Congress, I think, has an obligation to review the law, and I hope that it's a very spirited review. And I hope that President-elect Obama, in one of his first actions, will ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take a look at the policy and the law and to get their recommendations before he makes a judgment with respect to the administration position.

But times have changed. This is not 1993. It is 2008. And we should review the law.

ZAKARIA: Do you think we should consider the fact that other countries -- the Israeli army, for instance, the British army -- has gays serving openly, and it does not seem to have produced any negative effects to their morale and effectiveness?

POWELL: I certainly think we should look at all the examples of countries where this is the case, and see if it is relevant to the armed forces of the United States. We are unique not only as a country, but as an armed forces. And so, yes, I would look at all of that. But that doesn't necessarily drive the decision.

I think the president will have a view on this, many people will have a view on it. But one view that we should not ignore is the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff representing not just themselves, not just a bunch of generals and admirals, but representing a very large, complex organization.

When we went through this in 1993, it wasn't just the generals, it was the chaplains, it was family members. You have issues of domicile. You have issues of marriage. And, you know, look at the debate we're having now with respect to same-sex marriage.

All of that comes in to the military, if you change the law. That may be fine. But let's study it carefully as we examine this 15- year-old law.

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