Why Has Colin Powell Changed His Mind on Gays in the Military?

Just a week ago, pundits were criticizing Obama for his stance on gays in the military and quoting Colin Powell’s recommendation on “don’t ask, don’t tell” from 17 years ago.  This morning the Washington Post reported that yesterday Powell changed his mind and said that he thinks the “restrictive law” should be repealed.What caused Powell to change his mind?  The retired general ticked off three reasons for the change.  He commented that along with the generational change, came attitudinal change, and that society is increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians in the military.A second reason was that a clear majority of the 28 NATO member countries accept gays openly in the military.  That’s interesting.  Some of our Supreme Court justices don’t think we should pay the slightest attention to what other countries think or their judicial decisionmaking.Perhaps the more important reason was the fact that Powell saw the chiefs and commanders very comfortable with moving to change the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.A more intimate discussion of the issue appeared in today’s New York Times, revealing the personal decision process of Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Mullen’s conversation with the Senate Committee has been all over the tube and the web for the past 24 hours.  But as the Times indicated, moments before the Senate meeting, he surprised even his friends by changing the wording in his statement that “allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do” to “gays and lesbians”—opting for what is liable to be the most talked about sentence of his career.Admiral Mullen was very thorough in his process for arriving at the decision.  Worked through over 2009, he and his staff considered all the issues before making the recommendation.  He had also read a RAND report studying the effects of allowing gays and lesbians in the military.  The report found that with strong support from military leadership, the policy could be successfully changed.Most telling was his conclusion.  “I have served with homosexuals since l968.  Everybody in the military has.”To me, the more intriguing comment came from Senator John McCain, who rejected the recommendation of Mullen and Gates.  I’d love to get into his black box of a brain to figure out why.  Was it a personal decision, dating to the Navy’s historic attitude toward gays.  Was it a GOP party dedcision, or was it made necessary by his Arizona constituency.  I doubt we’ll ever know.  But in contrast, Barry Goldwater, who had a gay grandson, was very open about his acceptance of gays and rarely seemed to care about what anyone thought of the gay/lesbian issue.  That was a long time ago.The best summary about the gays and lesbian policy change came this morning from a former Army noncom, whose husband, daughter, son and friends serve in the army in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “Duhhhh,” she said to me.  “Gays and lesbians are already there.  It’s a done deal.  What’s the problem”?
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