Well, now, as everybody presumably knows, gays in the barracks wouldn't be an innovation. The military has always had such -- the difference between yesterday and today being, their presence in military units was inadvertent; when it was discovered, expulsion followed. Then gayness became a cause -- a standard for rallying around. Whether the military needs explicit advocates for a cultural cause is the question McCain has tried to broach, with minimal cooperation from the military bureaucrats who work for President Obama.
Nobody -- Gates, Mullen or McCain -- knows explicitly how matters might work out should gays be incorporated freely and openly into the ranks. That is the point -- nobody knows. Inferences nevertheless abound. What if McCain's suspicions are correct, and sexual tensions -- a potent enough factor with women now in the ranks -- cause dissension, putting lives in danger? Are we willing to take that chance? If so, why?
Racial integration of the services following World War II was a different kettle of fish. For one thing, sex normally outranks race as a self-identifier. For another, black and white units already existed side by side; President Truman, in 1948, merely ordered their merger. A third difference: the country was at peace, and relatively unified, at the time of the merger.
Well, the liberal response is so what, in spirit if not words, to civilized objections such as McCain raises to taking chances with military security. This whole business after all isn't about a stronger, better military. The drive to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" is about political promises to the gay rights movement and the urgency, as liberals see it, of keeping their base happy and voting liberal. Just what the country needs right now -- political and cultural warfare over who fights our wars and on what terms.