April 19, 2005

Gays in the Military

Patterico brings up the recent case of a war hero who's probably going to be dishonorably discharged for violating Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The guy was wounded by grenade shrapnel on numerous parts of the body while operating a machine gun on a humvee. That kind of duty, by the way, makes you a loud, bright target, so it's pretty brave to do it even if you never get wounded.

The question is, why should a guy, almost unquestionably a hero by most accounts (the anti-war people have little interest in turning a gay guy into a villain when he's proud to be gay) be kicked out of the service? Seems like he did his job and did it well, and he deserves a medal.

Of course, this brings up an important lessons most historians ought to know: war brings about social change, often for the better. My take on war is that it forces us to get rid of silly traditions (and sometimes good traditions) in order to better meet the task ahead. While sometimes this is horrible (like interning people for their race) often it has wonderful and far-reaching effects (like women's employment options or black integration).

World War II started giving black GIs access to college and other signs of material success, and was a partial catalyst for the black civil rights movement.

In other words, necessity is the mother of invention. War pushes necessity, and activates that principle. The good effects can be wonderful and important. It's funny that war brings about social changes that anti-war people often champion in other ways.

Of course, what's really interesting is that when the US fights wars with our allies, say Australia, the UK, Israel or almost any other Western country, it forces our troops to fight alongside soldiers that might be openly gay. So we're going to order our troops to work with gay Brits but not let them be openly gay themselves. Kind of a silly policy.

If being openly gay is so damaging to morale, then we ought to see the military taking steps to avoid openly gay European soldiers serving near US soldiers. But they don't. So in essence the policy is already circumvented. Are we really going to see a war hero booted out to serve a policy that nobody likes, everybody hates and doesn't really work anyway?

My only caveat is that we not change because of the stupid campus punks that protest (near the point of violence) military recruiters. They aren't even really concerned about gays so much as the army in general, war, Israel/Palestine and capitalism. But if anything those protestors make it harder to accept the openly gay line, because it might appear to cave to their methods.

And they're just self-centered and narrow-minded enough to think that a military force with an annual budget in the hundred of billions, many thousands of aircraft and nuclear missiles, gargantuan city-sized carriers, and several million active and reserve soldiers is going to give a damn when a few dozen smelly campus radicals decide to protest "corporate-fascist, militaristic bourgeois capitalism" for the eighth time in a month.


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