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Don’t Fret, Don’t Whine

Advance copy from the January 3 - January 10, 2011 issue.

12:00 AM, Dec 23, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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There’s been some hyperventilating among conservatives about the effects on the military of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s going to be amazingly difficult to implement, some say. It could well be the end of the U.S. military as a feared fighting force. It’s just another step in the decline of the West.

Don’t Fret, Don’t Whine

Photo Credit: Newscom

Reacting to this, Cassy Fiano, a conservative blogger whose Marine husband is serving in Afghanistan, asked last week: “At what point does concern [about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] turn into hysterics, and when does it become insulting to our honorable men and women in uniform?”

Fiano’s advice to conservatives? Cool It. We join in her suggestion.

Fiano was, as were we, opposed to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But she’s right to call out people like the “expert” commentator from the professional right who suggested that as many as half a million service members might quit as a result of repeal. And she’s right to lambaste the writer—a self-proclaimed admirer of the U.S. military—who argued that he now has no choice but to “actively encourage men and women to leave—in droves.”

Fortunately, and needless to say, our men and women in uniform will ignore such “encouragement.” They’re made of much sterner stuff than some of their self-proclaimed admirers seem to think.

As Fiano writes, it’s a “massive insult to our military” to assume that soldiers can’t handle the challenge of integrating openly gay troops. True, this is a burden they might have been spared while fighting two wars. But they’ll deal with it. As General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps and an opponent of repeal, said shortly after the legislation passed:

The Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy. I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines. On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years.

Fiano observes that Gen. Amos “is putting service before his own objections,” and comments, “Many Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen will likely do the exact same thing.”

President Obama said last week, speaking “to all Americans”: “Your country needs you, your country wants you, and we will be honored to welcome you into the ranks of the finest military the world has ever known.” Our fine servicemen and women won’t quit, they won’t whine, they won’t fret, and they won’t cause a scene. Conservatives owe it to them to conduct ourselves with the same composure and dignity.

—William Kristol

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