What do Bulgaria, Jordan, Poland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States have in common?
According to the recently-released Pentagon report on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), they're the only countries in the world that ban gays in the military.
Nothing against the good people from these other five countries, but that's not exactly good company to be in.
Now, I suspect that countries like, say, Saudi Arabia don't allow gays in the military either, but such countries do not generally allow gays in society either.
These six countries have explicit policies in place banning gays in the military.
I got this from Fred Kaplan's excellent piece at Slate on the Pentagon report. (I highly recommend it.) And, in case you missed it, the report's findings are definitive:
Much of the study reports and analyzes the results of a survey sent to 400,000 active-duty members of the armed services (115,052 of whom responded), as well as surveys of more than 40,000 military spouses and several workshop forums and face-to-face interviews.
The top line is that 70 percent of those surveyed say that repealing DADT -- and thus working, eating, sleeping, showering, and fighting in the same room or on the same ship, plane, or battlefield with service members who say they're gay -- will have a positive, a mixed, or no effect (in other words, won't have a bad effect) on accomplishing the mission.
Yes, there is obviously still a good deal of opposition in the military to gays being allowed to serve openly -- and John McCain and others are emphasizing that opposition to the exclusion of all else. But the numbers are actually even more definitive:
Among members of the armed forces who have actually worked with someone they believe to be gay, 92 percent say that the unit's effectiveness is very good, good, or "neither good nor poor" (in other words, at very least, not bad)...
As the report puts it, the apparent "misperception that a gay man does not 'fit' the image of a good warfighter... is almost completely erased when a gay service member is allowed to prove himself alongside fellow warfighters."
The results are overwhelming. The military is ready for gays to be allowed to serve openly. And it will be much easier for them to serve openly than it was, say, to integrate the military racially in Truman's day, when, as the report notes, there was overwhelming opposition to blacks being allowed to serve alongside whites.
The country has come a long way, the military has come a long way, and there's no good reason to keep gays out.
Though, of course, McCain and his ilk keep trying. Kaplan concludes:
The evidence, the polling data of service men and women, the testimony of senior officers, the everyday experiences of living and fighting, the imperatives of national security, as well as the obvious moral standards of contemporary life -- all point to, at the very least, a shift in the burden of proof on whether DADT should be repealed. It's no longer valid, and it's clearly a pretense, to call for further studies, further surveys, closer questioning. If McCain and the others oppose repeal, they have to come up with some new reason -- or fall back on the oldest, most unpalatable reason -- why.
But there is no "new reason" that has any validity. And so let's just spell it out. The real reason they keep up their opposition is indeed "unpalatable." It's called bigotry.
And so, for all his supposed pro-military cred, McCain finds himself in opposition not just to the military's civilian and chief military leadership (including not just Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but perhaps America's most revered current military commander, including by McCain, Gen. David Petraeus) but to the rank-and-file as well.
And, as Kaplan notes, the issue isn't just about rights but about national security (something McCain claims to care deeply about), as DADT has resulted 13,000 "involuntary discharges," including of key language experts who are essential to the military's efforts around the world. In opposing the repeal of DADT, then, McCain is not just promoting bigotry but undermining the military and weakening national security.
To be fair, President Obama and Senate Democrats have been dragging their heels, but, while Republicans will undoubtedly keep trying to put new roadblocks in the way, there's no excuse anymore. The military has spoken. It's time to repeal DADT.