Re­tired gen­eral warns of ‘rush’ to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY SHAUN WATER­MAN

The newly re­tired com­man­der of Army forces in the Pa­cific says the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “rush to re­peal” the ban on openly ho­mo­sex­ual men and women serv­ing in the mil­i­tary “is mov­ing way too fast” and risks dam­ag­ing the armed forces’ fight­ing abil­ity.

Lt. Gen. Ben­jamin R. Mixon, who re­tired May 1 af­ter 35 years in the Army, told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he is con­cerned that re­peal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” pol­icy will cause prob­lems with morale and mean the mil­i­tary will be less ready and able to fight.

“There’s no ques­tion in my mind that this is driven by pol­i­tics and not mil­i­tary ne­ces­sity,” he said. “Push­ing this kind of so­cial agenda in the mil­i­tary, es­pe­cially dur­ing a time of war, is not ap­pro­pri­ate. We’re tak­ing a great risk.

“The risk is a break­down in morale and unit cohesion,” he added, re­fer­ring to the bond that war­riors share on the front lines. “Ev­ery­one has to have to­tal con­fi­dence in each other” in com­bat, he said.

Ad­vo­cates for lift­ing the ban on openly ho­mo­sex­ual ser­vice mem­bers said the gen­eral is “out of touch.”

“His frankly out­dated views are in con­tra­dic­tion to the will of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” who “over­whelm­ingly sup­port” lift- ing the ban, said J. Alexan­der Ni­chol­son III, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ser­vice­mem­bers United.

The gen­eral is the high­es­trank­ing for­mer of­fi­cer to crit­i­cize the re­peal, which was en­acted as par t of a de­fense-fund­ing bill dur­ing the lame duck session in the fi­nal days of the 111th Congress.

While still serv­ing as the three-star gen­eral com­mand­ing all Army forces in the Pa­cific the­ater last year, Gen. Mixon wrote to the news­pa­per Stars and Stripes urg­ing those who op­posed the re­peal to speak out through their chain of com­mand and write their mem­bers of Congress.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates pub­licly re­buked him, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sug­gested that he re­sign.

Gen. Mixon said the re­sponse of the top brass had a chill­ing ef­fect on dis­cus­sion of the is­sue within the mil­i­tary.

“Af­ter folks saw the re­ac­tion to my letter, there was no chance of any­one else speak­ing up,” he said. “It sent a mes­sage.”

The Pen­tagon said the re­peal will not take ef­fect un­til Adm. Mullen, Mr. Gates and Pres­i­dent Obama cer­tify that all the armed ser­vices are ready and that the change will not af­fect the mil­i­tary’s readi­ness for war or its fight­ing abil­i­ties.

“Train­ing the force is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent to en­sur­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion is con­sis­tent with these stan­dards,” Pen­tagon spokes­woman Elaine Lainez told The Times.

Gen. Mixon said he sat through and de­liv­ered pre­sen­ta­tions as part of the cas­cad­ing train­ing pro­gram to get the mil­i­tary ready for re­peal and that the pre­sen­ta­tions “left at least as many ques­tions as an­swers.”

“What I saw and ex­pe­ri­enced first­hand in the train­ing is that there were no an­swers to some of the most im­por­tant ques­tions,” he said, cit­ing hous­ing ar­range­ments as a good ex­am­ple of an un­re­solved is­sue.

The mil­i­tary gen­er­ally does not al­low male and fe­male troops to room to­gether, whether or not they are in a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship.

“Will com­man­ders have the au­thor­ity to sep­a­rate two known ho­mo­sex­ual sol­diers who are room­ing to­gether?” he asked. “Or would there have to be some ev­i­dence that they were en­gag­ing in sex­ual ac­tiv­ity?

“There are a lot of thorny is­sues down where the rub­ber meets the road,” he said.

He said he is wor­ried that the ab­sence of reg­u­la­tions about what con­sti­tutes ac­cept­able be­hav­ior once the ban is lifted would cre­ate gray ar­eas and cause prob­lems for young com­man­ders seek­ing to deal with po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive conflicts.

“I have not seen any pro­posed reg­u­la­tions,” he said. “There is a lack of clar­ity. [. . . ] What are the rules, reg­u­la­tions and poli­cies which let our sol­diers know what is ac­cept­able?”

Ms. Lainez said, “Re­peal will lead to some changes to poli­cies, but many of our poli­cies re­quire no change” be­cause they were “sex­ual-ori­en­ta­tion neu­tral.”

“We owe ab­so­lute clar­ity on these is­sues to our ju­nior lead­ers,” Gen. Mixon said.

The gen­eral said he also is con­cerned about the right to serve for peo­ple who ob­ject to ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity.

“There’s a good num­ber of peo­ple in the mil­i­tary who, whether for rea­sons of re­li­gious faith or moral con­science, view ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as un­ac­cept­able,” he said.

“How do we pro­tect those folks’ right to serve?” he asked.


‘TOO FAST’: “Push­ing this kind of so­cial agenda in the mil­i­tary, es­pe­cially dur­ing a time of war, is not ap­pro­pri­ate,” re­tired Lt. Gen. Ben­jamin R. Mixon says of the re­peal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

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