Palm Center blasts McPeak's op-ed opposing repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

From the Palm Center's response to former Air Force chief of staff Merrill A. McPeak's March 5 op-ed in The New York Times:

Gen. McPeak also claims there is no evidence that troops will fight more effectively when the gay ban is repealed. In fact, research shows that the ban itself undermines cohesion and readiness. A bipartisan study group of Flag and General Officers which took a year to assess all of the evidence on “don't ask, don't tell” found that commanders in Iraq are ignoring the policy and choosing to keep their teams together rather than firing loyal gay troops. A recent Military Times poll confirms that many commanders know of gays and lesbians serving in their units, but choose not to discharge them, suggesting that these leaders believe that known gays help rather than hurt the force.

Finally, Gen. McPeak has acknowledged publicly that when there is a tradeoff between pursuing moral values and military effectiveness, he prefers the former, even at the expense of the latter. He opposed women in combat in the 1990s, saying he had “personal prejudices” against expanding combat roles for women, “even though logic tells us” that women can conduct combat operations just as well as men. He actually told Congress that he would choose an inferior male flight instructor over a superior female one even if it made for a “militarily less effective situation.” “I admit it doesn't make much sense,” he said, “but that's the way I feel about it.” Elsewhere he repeated that his position did not meet “strict evidence standards for logic,” but that that did not change his position, a direct contradiction to his claim that he seeks to engage in an enlightened debate.

Under the guise of protecting unit cohesion, defenders of the gay exclusion rule would have us believe that they are simply looking out for the nation's defense. What they are actually doing is using government policy to express moral animus. The reason to be disappointed by Gen. Merrill McPeak and others sharing his strategy is that their views have little to do with unit cohesion, and everything to do with an effort to encode prejudice into law and make the public believe that there is a national security rationale for doing so. That is a dangerous precedent.