The Obama administration's convoluted approach to repealing "don't ask, don't tell" reflects a political cowardice unbecoming a government fighting two wars — conflicts in which its men and women in uniform are expected to display courage under fire.

The Obama administration's convoluted approach to repealing "don't ask, don't tell" reflects a political cowardice unbecoming a government fighting two wars — conflicts in which its men and women in uniform are expected to display courage under fire.

The original policy, adopted during the Clinton administration, was bad enough: commanders won't ask a service member if he or she is gay or lesbian, but the service member must not declare that orientation or risk involuntary discharge. That approach to the touchy subject of gays in uniform was a no-win situation for everyone.

Gays proudly serving their country were forced to remain "in the closet" for fear of discovery, and when the truth was discovered, the armed forces lost many valuable, highly trained service personnel. Last year alone, 428 servicemen and women were discharged for that reason.

Military traditionalists argued — and still argue — that morale and "unit cohesion" would be damaged if gays were allowed to serve openly. High-profile cases in the past couple of years revealed that frequently the opposite was true. When a capable, respected member of a team was dismissed from the service, morale in the person's unit plummeted.

President Obama has declared that the policy "will end on my watch," but he says he wants Congress to do it, not the courts. Forcing an end to the policy would be too disruptive, the administration argues.

After a federal judge ruled the policy unconstitutional, the administration convinced a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate DADT temporarily while the court considers the administration's appeal of a permanent injunction.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Friday that it was making it more difficult to discharge gay service members, limiting the decision to five senior military officials. But the policy was back in force.

All of this is excruciating to gays now serving in the military, and to young people wanting to begin a military career.

Speaking of young people, Americans under 30 overwhelmingly oppose 'don't ask, don't tell.' For that generation — which is the same generation fighting half a world away — homosexuality is simply not an issue.

Americans as a whole think DADT should be repealed — 60 percent of Americans, according to a September poll.

So why not end it? When the courts have struck it down, why go through the motions of appealing something you agree with?

We suspect Obama wants to have it both ways. If he can stall the courts long enough for a lame-duck Congress to push through a repeal, he can say, "See? I did what I said I would do, but I didn't let the courts force the issue."

That may make embattled Democratic office-seekers less nervous going into Tuesday's election, but it leaves dedicated service personnel in limbo that much longer.

That's just wrong.