- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
As far as I’m concerned, there are only three key points to make about the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" last week.
First, as I’ve noted before, this decision will strengthen U.S. national security. Any policy that reduces the pool of qualified candidates for military service is inherently inefficient, and makes it harder for the United States to produce the best armed forces at the least cost. The only relevant question was whether allowing gay Americans to serve openly would have deleterious effects on cohesion or morale, and the evidence that it won’t is overwhelming. By voting to repeal, the House and Senate have made America stronger.
Second, this decision is completely consistent with American ideals. Our politicians constantly proclaim their commitment to human liberty, and surely that ought to include a deeply personal trait like sexual preference. Both gay and straight personnel will of course be expected to follow appropriate rules of conduct towards others (just as the rest of us are supposed to do in civilian life), but a glaring contrast between our ideals and our practice has now been eliminated.
Third, the transition to the new policy will not occur overnight, and that’s appropriate too. As the Times noted today, any major change in personnel policy involves adjustments, and it’s better to get it done right than to get it done with undue haste. My bet is that the armed forces will handle implementation well, and in a few years we’ll look back and wonder what the whole fuss was about. ‘Bout time, too.