General Petraeus has announced that he supports a review of the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy. Too bad that in his presentation to the Senate Armed Services Committee he told the Committee that eliminating DADT could negatively impact military function.
Petraeus gained support from equal rights advocates when he told Fareed Zakaria that he served with gay individuals in the CIA and that he didn't think that troops would have trouble adjusting to working with openly gay service members. Today he prepared an eight minute statement, which he was not allowed to give in its entirety, in support of a review of the military's policy regarding LGBT troops.
Instead he said he supported a careful review of Don't Ask Don't Tell. At the end of his short presentation he was asked:
"As you said I believe in my office the likely effects could go in either direction... I believe you told me, either negative or positive, the study could show."
And answered, "It could. It could."
I have written before about how offensive and unnecessary the one year study is regarding DADT. But for a top ranking general to state that this study might actually find that gay troops negatively affect military function is patently absurd.
Not only is there great international evidence that openly LGBT troops are integrated easily into military forces, Petraeus himself admitted that he served next to gay CIA officers without a problem.
The presentation today was a step backwards for Petraeus, personally, and the movement for military openness. It also made it clear that this one year study is being used by conservative forces as a potential roadblock to the repeal of DADT. With all the talk of moving slowly and carefully through reform, conservatives are hoping for a document that indicates DADT's necessity in U.S. military function.
They won't get that without some serious manipulation of the facts.
Petraeus, among others, seems to be anticipating this kind of manipulation. What we learned today is that the study is not only a waste of time and resources, it is a dangerous opportunity for a derailment of the progressive discourse surrounding LGBT rights in the military.