This isn’t really aimed at the troops, I think. Rather, he and Gates have simply reached the end of their respective ropes with McCain’s endless backpedaling on “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Maverick’s chief concern at today’s hearing was that servicemen will quit in droves if forced to serve alongside gays in combat. Mullen’s reply: Oh well.

“Should repeal occur, some soldiers and Marines may want separate shower facilities. Some may ask for different berthing. Some may even quit the service,” Mullen said. “We’ll deal with that.”…

“We treat each other with respect or we find another place to work. Period,” he said…

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the biggest critics of changing current policy, noted that the study of U.S. troops found that combat forces were much more concerned about serving alongside gay members than the military population as a whole and as many as 32 percent of Marines said they would leave the service earlier than planned rather than remain alongside gay troops…

Saying he expects less turbulence, “even in the combat arms world,” than some would predict, Mullen added, “In fact, it may be the combat arms community that proves the most effective at managing this change, disciplined as they are. It’s not only because our young ones are more tolerant. It’s because they’ve got far more important things to worry about.”

As you’re about to see, Gates’s annoyance with the implications of Maverick’s logic was palpable. Mullen may be onto something too in thinking that, notwithstanding the objections of combat troops, wartime conditions might end up making integration easier, not harder. See, for instance, this chronology of military desegregation at the Truman Library. Things start slowly with studies being conducted after World War II, then Truman gives the order to desegregate in 1948. Not until the Korean War, however, do desegregation efforts really rev up as black recruits are rushed in to help reinforce white units suffering casualties. Remember also that, according to the Pentagon’s study, only 15 percent of gay troops surveyed this year said they’d reveal their orientation to everyone in their unit, so even if some combat troops are willing to retire early to avoid gay colleagues, many of them won’t ever know for sure that they’re serving alongside gays. Finally, note that the survey was conducted with the respondents knowing full well that the results would shape policy. If you’re not real keen on having gays in your unit but not so unhappy about it that you’d quit, you might be tempted to say that you would simply to throw a little fear into the brass and influence the final decision. Guess we’ll find out the hard way who was exaggerating and who wasn’t, huh?