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CMR Sitrep
Monday, April 13, 2009
Parsing Colin Powell

Listening to retired Army General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is difficult to figure out where the knowledge and experience of the general leaves off and personal political correctness begins. Witness the self-contradictory interview that Gen. Powell recently did with MSNBC-TV talk show host Rachel Maddow, a self-identified lesbian and liberal, on April 1.

On the day before, March 31, the Associated Press broke the news that more than 1,000 retired flag and general officers had signed and delivered to the White House, Pentagon, and Congress an open letter endorsing current law regarding homosexuals in the military. Someone at MSNBC, a notoriously liberal network that few people watch, may have brainstormed about a way to make "news" by upstaging the thousand-star-studded open letter.

If Maddow was expecting Powell to break sharply with hundreds of his former Army colleagues, she had to be disappointed. After a chat about conventional foreign policy and military matters, Maddow sprang this question on General Powell: "[D]o you still think that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is necessary for good order and discipline in the military? You have discussed the idea that it should be reviewed. Would you support the move if Congress decided to get rid of that policy?"

Powell made some comments about the history of the issue, explaining why Congress passed a law making homosexuals ineligible for the military, which prior to 1993 had been long-standing Defense Department policy. He repeated the PC-bromide about "changing times" creating the need to "review the policy," but added this: "I am withholding judgment because I am not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff anymore. And I think we have to hear from our senior military leaders about the effect of a change in the law would have on the force."

Perhaps unimpressed with Powell's response, Maddow tried the "everybody else is doing it" angle:

Maddow: "The examples of other countries that have successfully integrated openly gay people into their forces, are those good reference points for that sort of a study?"

Powell: "Those are reference points that have to be taken into account, sure. I would study every one of those cases...I don't think, however, the armed force of the United States is the same as the armed force of one of our European friends or Canadian friends. And therefore as the courts have held traditionally over the years, and the Congress has as well, the military is a unique institution with rules and regulations and a way of living in close proximity with other soldiers-and you're told whom you're going to live with-that the military can have a set of regulations and rules that would not pass any kind of legal or constitutional muster if it was in civilian society. (Emphasis added)

"And so I think because it is the quality of the force and the ability of the force to apply the nation's power wherever it's called upon to do so, we have to be careful when we change this policy. But if the military leaders think that enough time has passed since 1993 that we ought to take a look at this and perhaps change the policy, I'll be completely supportive. I'm not going to make a judgment until I hear from the chiefs."

Gen. Powell appears conflicted between his high-profile endorsement of candidate Barack Obama last fall and his past support for the 1993 law, which President Obama opposes and has promised to repeal. As CMR President Elaine Donnelly explained in an October 2008 article for National Review Online, this is not the first time that Powell spoke about this subject in a way that appeared politically correct and supportive of President Barack Obama, but actually confirmed concerns of those who support the current law, Section 654, Title 10, U.S.C.

An old saying has it that if you weigh into a debate and both sides disagree with you, you probably have the strongest argument. But the issue of gays in the military is not just an academic or philosophical argument. As more than 1,100 retired Flag and General Officers for the Military recently affirmed, "We believe strongly that this law, which Congress passed to protect good order, discipline, and morale in the unique environment of the military, deserves continued support."

Several gay activists writing on leftist websites have expressed displeasure with Powell's equivocation. Now that the 1,000-star flag and general officers have spoken out in favor of the 1993 law, that is probably as far as the general is willing to go.

Gen. Powell's widely-respected record of distinguished service to our country stands on its own. He could serve America again by affirming the difference between the civilian world and military life, without apology or the contradictory suggestion that political correctness can overcome human characteristics or military realities that remain unchanged.

-- Tommy Sears
posted by CMR Editor @ 4/13/2009 06:24:00 PM

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