March 1, 2010  

Don’t lie

TO ADM. MIKE MULLEN, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for his courageous testimony to Congress on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Mullen made clear that he believes gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly; a personal belief, he said, that “comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.” By raising the integrity flag, Mullen acknowledged that “don’t ask, don’t tell” encourages lying, which is a greater threat to unit cohesion and morale than the presence of gay members. Mullen therefore seized the moral high ground in a debate that usually focuses on a different kind of morality. And he shifted the tenor of the debate from whether “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be overturned to when. But the when and the how will be critical. Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were wise to set a yearlong timetable for a Pentagon study of the issue. Success of this policy change will hinge on an unrushed and careful consideration process that clearly respects all who serve — gay and straight.