For many of us who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, the hyperbolic rhetoric from those opposed to a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is somewhat amusing. Listen to Senator John McCain or Elaine Donnelly, head of the right-wing Center for Military Readiness, and you'd think allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would trigger mass rioting in the military. To this point, those opposed have hung their hat on a survey of Military Times readers, which showed an even split on the issue (though the trend over the years has tilted towards favoring a repeal). The survey they rely on was unscientific, to say the least, because it relied fully on subscribers, who tend to be older than the military, and mostly officers. But, it was almost all anyone had to go on.
That changes today.
A new poll -- a scientific poll -- conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic pollsters of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans shows that today's military is extremely comfortable around gay and lesbian Americans, believes their sexual orientation has no effect on their ability to do a job in the military, and would overwhelmingly accept a decision to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
It's a point, I should note, that even General Petraeus seemed to indicate that he knew to be the case, as well, testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.
The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners (Democratic) and American Viewpoint (Republican) for the non-partisan Vet Voice Foundation, found that 73% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans would find a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy acceptable, with younger veterans (under age 35) showing even more acceptance (77%).
At the same time, more than seven in ten Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (73%) are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians, while hardly anyone said they were very uncomfortable (7%). Overall, 60% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans agree that sexual orientation has no bearing on one's ability to perform their duties, including 42% who strongly agree. Two-thirds of those veterans under age 35 agree (66%) with that statement, including almost half (47%) who strongly agree.
As the pollsters write in their memo on the poll findings, "Any notion that ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell would disrupt the military or that service members would be unwilling to meet the change is debunked."
That much is very true. Back to people like Senator McCain and Elaine Donnelly, it always amused me that by saying a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would disrupt the military, they were implicitly saying that service members couldn't or wouldn't handle the change -- that they weren't professional. In making their case, they're actually insulting the members of our Armed Forces.
This poll proves what we all know to be true -- our military is the most professional organization that the world has ever known. Those who wear the uniform can handle change. And, in this case, not only will service members abide by a repeal, but they'll largely accept it and move on to the task at hand.
While politicians go nuts and toss around heated words on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, those in our military are essentially saying of a repeal, "Fine. Who cares?"