Retired General Hugh Shelton, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is not ready to back repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 law that bans open gay service.

Speaking Sunday on ABC's This Week, Shelton said the decision should be up to the combat soldiers, who are currently being asked their thoughts on repeal in a military survey due out in December.

“If the men and women in uniform at the fighting level, particular Marines and Army, say, you know, 'It doesn't make any difference to us,' and therefore it won't break the readiness of our great armed forces …” he tells Christiane Amanpour, who interrupts to ask why Shelton believes open gay service would be disruptive to the U.S. military considering other nations with great armies allow gay troops to serve openly and gives the examples of France, Canada and Israel.

Shelton agrees, but adds, “If you check the historical records, Christiane, as you know we've never lost to any of them. We are the top of the power. We are the best in the world. And we want to stay that way.”

“And if this policy is related to combat readiness,” Shelton says. “See these guys, these individuals, don't go home at night, its not the corporate world. You and I can go home at night. We live our own lives, etcetera. These individuals are in tents, they are in barracks, they fight for one another – who's on the left, who's on the right. I think it's extremely important that we find out from them whether or not this is going to change why they fight.”

“If it does, we got a problem. If it doesn't, then we'll proceed,” he said.

Pointing to the survey's use of the outmoded word “homosexual” to describe gay men and lesbians, and its overwhelming focus on the potential drawbacks of repeal, leading groups lobbying for repeal have called the survey biased against gay troops.