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DADT, an accountability moment, and a look ahead

It was nearly two years ago that Congress debated the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," featuring a near-hysterical Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warning of horrible consequences if gay and lesbian soldiers were permitted to serve openly.

We heard the horror stories of weakened recruiting, poor morale, a breakdown in unit cohesion, an inevitable lack of readiness during a time of war. Even after the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs endorsed the change, most Republicans said President Obama's policy was too big a risk.

In case anyone's forgotten, they were completely wrong.

One year [after the official end of the policy], the first academic study of the military's new open-service policy has found there have been no negative consequences whatsoever.

The study, published Monday by the Palm Center, a research branch of the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School, found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.

The authors of the study, who included professors at U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Marine Corps War College, arrived at this conclusion after soliciting the views of 553 generals and admirals who predicted that repeal would undermine the military, as well as with expert opponents of DADT repeal, a number of watchdog organizations and more than 60 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from every service branch.

Every prediction made by conservative critics turned out, not surprisingly, to be wrong (pdf). Across the board -- readiness, unit cohesion, morale, recruitment -- the right had the entire policy backwards.

To reiterate a point from May, I realize that the norms of our political discourse discourage accountability, but I'd love to know how someone like McCain, who fought tooth and nail to keep the discriminatory policy in place, explains how/why his predictions turned out to be so foolish. Maybe during one of his many, many Sunday show appearances, someone can ask him.

For that matter, it's also worth noting that the 2012 Republican platform, shaped in part by Mitt Romney aides, seems to suggest DADT should be brought back -- the Republican document decries "social experimentation" in the military and condemns efforts to "undermine military priorities and mission readiness," which sounds like a position in support of the old policy.

For the record, Mitt Romney was one of the only Republican presidential candidates during the GOP primaries not to endorse bringing DADT back, but he hasn't affirmatively vowed to keep it in place, either, saying in December 2011, "I'm not planning on reversing that at this stage."