Colin Powell To CNN: We Should Review 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was interviewed Sunday afternoon by CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria asked Powell about his thoughts on the Military's 1993 Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask about one social issue that you were associated with, which was "don't ask, don't tell," the policy toward gay people being in the military openly. Do you feel like the country has moved to a place where we could reevaluate "don't ask, don't tell"?

POWELL: We definitely should reevaluate it. It's been 15 years since we put in "don't ask, don't tell," which was a policy that became a law. I didn't want it to become a law, but it became a law. Congress felt that strongly about it.

But it's been 15 years, and attitudes have changed. And so, I think it is time for the Congress, since it is their law, to have a full review of it. And I'm quite sure that's what President-elect Obama will want to do.

But people have said to me, well, then, what do you think? I said, well, what I think is, let's review it, but I'm not going to make a judgment as to whether it should be overturned or not until I hear from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commanders who are responsible for our armed forces in a time of war.

And so, I have to hear what they think and what the secretary of defense thinks before I would come down on one side or the other.

Because I've always felt that the military is a unique institution. It is not like any other institution in our system. You are told who you will live with. You are told who you will share your most intimate accommodations with. You are told whether you will live or die.

And for that reason, the courts have always upheld the ability of the armed forces of the United States to put in procedures and rules that would not be acceptable in any other institution.

So, the Congress, I think, has an obligation to review the law, and I hope that it's a very spirited review. And I hope that President-elect Obama, in one of his first actions, will ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take a look at the policy and the law and to get their recommendations before he makes a judgment with respect to the administration position.

But times have changed. This is not 1993. It is 2008. And we should review the law.

ZAKARIA: Do you think we should consider the fact that other countries -- the Israeli army, for instance, the British army -- has gays serving openly, and it does not seem to have produced any negative effects to their morale and effectiveness?

POWELL: I certainly think we should look at all the examples of countries where this is the case, and see if it is relevant to the armed forces of the United States. We are unique not only as a country, but as an armed forces. And so, yes, I would look at all of that. But that doesn't necessarily drive the decision.

While Zakaria seems more interested in getting Powell to say that homosexuals should be able to serve openly in the military, Powell seems very careful to not go against the incoming administration's stance on the fifteen year old policy or his previous stance.

Powell may have been playing both sides of the political coin.  In a 2003 interview with teenink.com Powell defended the policy.:

 During a recent interview with the online news site TeenInk.com, Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the military's ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. While denouncing homophobia and acknowledging the work of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans at the State Department, Powell noted that "... I think it's a different matter with respect to the military, because you're essentially told who you're going to live with, who you're going to sleep next to."   

Powell said pretty much the same thing to Zakaria this weekend.

Back in April, Barack Obama pledged he would end "don't ask, don't tell," but recently Obama seems more likely to delay this move for at least several months if not until 2010. 

Given the successful passage of proposition 8 in California among other similar successful measures all over the country, the new Obama administration may find itself in a more difficult postion to scrap the fifteen year old military policy.