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Ron Krebs 300

Ronald Krebs is an associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts.

U of M military expert available to comment on Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" survey

December 3, 2010

Today marks round two of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” report. What does the report mean and what are the dynamics at play?

A University of Minnesota expert who can comment on the key points of contention is:

Ronald Krebs, associate professor of political science, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts

Krebs says the Pentagon’s survey displays a clear generational divide. “The military service chiefs, who until now have opposed full integration of gays in the military, have overestimated how much disruption would result because they have projected their own discomfort with gays onto the far younger enlisted corps.”

He says what the Pentagon survey shows is that, with the partial exception of the Marines, younger servicemen and servicewomen are not nearly as worked up over the prospect of serving with open gays as their superiors are. “Which is not all that surprising, given the trends in society at large,” Krebs says.

Nonetheless, the views and the commitment of flag rank officers do matter, Krebs says. “The U.S. military is a hierarchical institution, and at the end of the day soldiers obey orders or they are discharged.” Krebs points out that the U.S. history with racial integration of the armed forces is that that process was relatively smooth – once the brass signed on and then enforced racial integration down the chain of command.

“That experience is instructive but also cautionary, because the brass didn’t sign on until compelled by circumstances in Korea,” Krebs says. “While the capabilities of the U.S. military in various arenas are undermined by the exclusion of skilled gay soldiers and officers, similar circumstances do not exist today. The vast majority of soldiers would transition smoothly into an orientation-blind military, but a determined minority might break the process. It will take a committed leadership to bring that minority into line.”

Krebs’ research focuses on the origins and consequences of international conflict and military service. His recently published book, “Fighting for Rights: Military Service and the Politics of Citizenship,” explores how and when the military’s participation policies shape minorities’ struggle for citizenship rights.

To interview Krebs, contact Jeff Falk at (612) 626-1720 or jfalk@umn.edu; or Tessa Eagan at (612) 625-3781 or teagan@umn.edu.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit www.unews.umn.edu. Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

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